Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Crier Havot


O, pardon me, thou bleeding piece of earth, 
That I am meek and gentle with these butchers!
Thou art the ruins of the noblest man 
That ever lived in the tide of times. 
Woe to the hand that shed this costly blood! 
Over thy wounds now do I prophesy 
Which like dumb mouths do ope their ruby lips
To beg the voice and utterance of my tongue, 
A curse shall light upon the limbs of men; 
Domestic fury and fierce civil strife 
Shall cumber all the parts of Italy; 
Blood and destruction shall be so in use,
And dreadful objects so familiar, 
That mothers shall but smile when they behold 
Their infants quarter’d with the hands of war;
All pity choked with custom of fell deeds, 
And Caesar’s spirit ranging for revenge,
With Atë by his side come hot from hell, 
Shall in these confines with a monarch’s voice
Cry “Havoc!” and let slip the dogs of war, 
That this foul deed shall smell above the earth 
With carrion men, groaning for burial.

~ Marcus Antonius
               from Julius Caeser - Act 3, Scene 1

“Cry Havoc is derived from the Old French Crier Havot - to send out the signal to begin pillaging.

News flash!!  It has begun.

In my unceasing devotion to find visual images to make the bad news more palatable, I looked and looked for an artistic depiction of Atë, to adorn Shakespeare’s verse - she, the Greek goddess of strife, who has been described as the spirit of delusion, infatuation, blind folly, rash action and reckless impulse...who led men down the path to ruin and specialized in vengeance and menace - out of mischief!

But I couldnt find one.  In SpencerThe Faerie Queene, a fiend from Hell disguised as a beautiful woman is called Atë and so instead, Sir Frederic Leighton’s image of Flaming June has to suffice.  Painted in 1895, his portrayal of a woman alludes to the figures of sleeping nymphs and naiads often sculpted by the Greeks.  A sprig of toxic oleander serves to remind the viewer of the tenuous connection between sleep and death.

Incredibly, the painting was deemed unstylish while up for auction in the 1960s, and failed to sell for its low reserve price of $140.  But let us turn from anecdotal curiosities back to trees and to the abundant evidence that havoc has been unleashed in myriad ways, impacting the furthest reaches of the globe...never to cease until the carrion men, groaning for burial, have ceased their begging for release - and the mothers smile to behold their quartered infants.  (Imagine how horrible the world will be when those are the conditions.)

As remarked by Catman in comments at the last post, the leaves on trees are looking somewhat better this year so far (except for those that are completely dead).  And yet there are some strangely malevolent signs.  Of course most of the leaves are properly green, but there is a disturbing variety of plants with peculiar coloring.
To review quickly - what does tropospheric ozone do to plants?  This little primer comes from the gardeningknowhow website:

“Ozone is an air pollutant that is essentially a very active form of oxygen. It forms when sunlight reacts with exhaust from internal combustion engines. Ozone damage to plants occurs when plant foliage absorbs ozone during transpiration, which is the plant’s normal breathing process. The ozone reacts with compounds inside the plant to produce toxins that affect the plant in a variety of ways. The result is reduced yields and unsightly discolorations, such as silver spots on plants.”

“Plants under stress are most likely to be seriously affected by ozone damage, and they recover slowly….Treating ozone injured plants won’t correct the damage that is already done, but it can help the plant produce new, healthy foliage and help prevent diseases and insects that normally attack weak and injured plants.”

“Ozone Plant Damage
There are a number of symptoms associated with ozone plant damage. Ozone first damages foliage that is almost mature. As it progresses, older and younger leaves may also sustain damage. The first symptoms are stippling or tiny spots on the surface of the leaves that may be light tan, yellow, red, red-brown, dark brown, black, or purple in color. Over time, the spots grow together to form large dead areas.”
“Here are some additional symptoms you may see in plants with ozone damage:
  • You may see bleached out or silver spots on plants.
  • Leaves may turn yellow, bronze or red, inhibiting their ability to perform photosynthesis.
  • Citrus and grape leaves may wither and drop off.
  • Conifers may show yellow-brown mottling and tip burn. White pines are often stunted and yellow.”
“Depending on the extent of the damage, plants may have reduced yields. Fruits and vegetables may be small because they mature too early. The plants will likely outgrow the damage if the symptoms are light.”

It is astonishing to me that more so-called experts don’t understand that any organism undergoing such stress year after year will eventually end up with serious problems.  How could it be otherwise?  So all you Ozonists and Ozonistas, keep your eyes out for those symptoms this summer season, and remember the two important things - systemic damage occurs BEFORE visible injury appears...and ozone makes plants more vulnerable to biotic pathogens (insects, disease and fungus) AND drought.
My favorite copper beech leafed out but has since dropped a large number.
The maples directly across the street are thin as well.
At Wit’s End it’s exciting to see some of the trees that I planted years ago, no more than twigs, like this river birch which has grown so much it towers over the rusted trellises and bench.
And the peas underneath that I planted are producing sweet pods.
But the older the leaves of the birch are, the more likely they are to have suspicious stippling.
That, and yellowing are indications that the stomata are damaged during photosynthesis, from absorbing air pollution.
I have noticed some other strange and unusual trends, like abrupt wilting at the tips of new growth, despite plentiful rainfall this spring, on the wisteria which rambles on the porch roof.
In addition, there are a number of plants that exhibit twisted, deformed growth after first producing normal leaves.
The buds on my spring beauty bush began shriveling before they even opened up.
There’s no lack of creepy fungal intrusions.
Even repulsive weeds like the Canadian thistle are pockmarked.
The Concord grape is at least as bad as last year if not worse.
Any day the black raspberries, which I adore, will be ripe.

I’m excited that there appears to be a bumper crop since I have largely let the woods around Wit's End go wild, but on the other hand, the older leaves are already looking ill.

Black raspberries only fruit on canes that are older than one year - but why should they look so anemic underneath the new shoots?
This is a blackberry - I don't like them nearly as much.  The leaves are diseased, or something!
From a distance the trees look lush, but peering up in this tall maple, not only are there alarming gaps inside the trunk, and splitting bark...
But the leaves are rimmed with brown, necrotic tissue.
Two tall trees have split in the woods beyond the deer fence since I last posted.
This occurred in the absence of any wind or storms.
The limbs fell onto adjacent trees where they hang precariously.
With that let’s check and and see how trees are faring elsewhere (and allow me to proffer a general thanks to all those friends and readers who forward invaluable links).  The rest of the pictures, if not from articles cited, are flowers from the remnant of what passes for a garden.  Some of them are lovely!
Also a green heron perched for an afternoon in the dying cherry tree that weeps over the pond.  This was monumentally exciting because I had never seen one before, in fact I didn't even know they existed.
A ludicrous article has been circulating, which quotes foresters who claim that a two-year drought is responsible for the death of oak trees, in Arkansas.

I’m sorry but, in the life of a tree (a century or a thousand years!), two seasons is nothing.  Like camels, trees store energy to tide them over periods of adversity - they have to, because they can’t pick up and move.  But let’s see what they have to say:

“The effect of drought in 2011 and 2012 on Arkansas oak trees will likely continue in the foreseeable future, according to an official with the Sebastian County Cooperative Extension Service of the University of Arkansas System, Division of Agriculture.”

“Sebastian County Extension Staff Chair Lance Kirkpatrick said about 90 percent of calls to his office right now are in reference to dying trees.”

“‘Two years of really, really bad drought has weakened the immune systems of trees,’ Kirkpatrick said. ‘I get calls from people saying, “My tree is sick,” and when you go out and look at it, the bark is already sloughing off and it actually died last year.’”

“Kirkpatrick was referring to a fungus call hypoxylon canker, which attacks all oak species in Arkansas from the inside out, destroying the tree’s water-conducting tissues, according to the Division of Agriculture, Research & Extension website.”

“‘While the fungus itself isn’t uncommon, drought stress compromises a tree and allows pathogens to potentially destroy it’, said Alison Lichy, urban forester for the University of Arkansas at Fort Smith.”

“‘A healthy tree will be able to pretty much fight most things off itself. But with the stress (from drought), the tree is using all its resources and nutrients and that’s how these things get into them,’ Lichy said.”
“‘Although there is a small window to save an oak affected by hypoxylon canker, most people don’t recognize a problem with the tree until it’s too late’, Lichy said.”

“Kirkpatrick said an early symptom of this fungal infection is yellowing and wilting of upper leaves, which people miss or mistake it for the tree just shucking’ its leaves with the expectation they’ll return. Ultimately the fungus causes the bark to separate from the tree.”

“The only proven cure is prevention.”

“Both Lichy and Kirkpatrick said they normally don’t recommend fertilizing trees, but during periods of drought fertilizing along with watering can help reduce stress and make trees less susceptible to pathogens.”

“‘Any time during the summer, regardless of drought conditions, if there’s no rain for a few weeks, water your trees’, Lichy said.”

“Fortunately for Arkansans, the latest U.S. Seasonal Drought Outlook the National Weather Service Climate Prediction Center released May 16, which projects through the end of August, predicts no drought for the state during that time.”

“Unfortunately, the nature of hypoxylon canker and its progression in infected oaks means there will be continued oak death throughout the state, for probably another two years, caused by drought in 2011 and 2012, said both Kirkpatrick and Lichy.”
Well, there’s nothing new about foresters ignoring the impact of air pollution on trees, or forgetting the inexorable increase in the background level of ozone.  Take the overview written by Jes Fenger of Denmark, published in Atmospheric Environment (Volume 43, Issue 1, January 2009, pp 13-22) titled Air pollution in the last 50 years - From local to global.

Following is from the Abstract:

“Air pollution in the industrialised world has in the last 50 years undergone drastic changes. Until after World War II the most important urban compound was sulphur dioxide combined with soot from the use of fossil fuels in heat and power production. When that problem was partly solved by cleaner fuels, higher stacks and flue gas cleaning in urban areas, the growing traffic gave rise to nitrogen oxides and volatile organic compounds and in some areas photochemical air pollution, which may be abated by catalytic converters. Lately the interest has centred on small particles and more exotic organic compounds that can be detected with new sophisticated analytical techniques.”
Caption:  “The 1952 smog in London. The episode lasted 4 days, pollution levels rose to unprecedented levels and more than 4000 extra death occurred.”
Caption:  “Photochemical smog in a North European City (Copenhagen). It is seen that ozone levels are high during night and in the weekend when the traffic is low. At the countryside the level is much higher.”

Globally, ozone is increasing because of the surge in energy use in Asia, coupled with the burning of land for agriculture and who knows, maybe methane release (an ozone precursor as well).

Indonesia is considering geoengineering to create rain and squelch the peat fires creating a haze far downwind.  They may be feeling pressured because of the story, Singapore fumes after pollution hits 16 year high!
Caption:  “This photo taken on Monday, June 17, 2013 shows the Marina Bay Sands hotel and the Supertrees at Gardens By The Bay covered in haze. The Pollutant Standards Index, Singapore’s main measure to determine air quality, crept into the ‘unhealthy’ classification Monday as smoke from roaring blazes on Indonesia’s Sumatra island drifted across the sea and cast a gray pall over the city-state’s skyscrapers. Photo: Wong Maye-E”

Whooooah, WAIT!  What the hell is a “Supertree”???  I found the explanation, which says:
“Stand in awe of the amazing Supertrees. These uniquely designed vertical gardens of 25 to 50-metres tall have large canopies that provide shade in the day and come alive with an exhilarating display of light and sound at night.”
“These unique trees of up to 16 storeys in height can be found all around the Gardens - twelve at the Supertree Grove, while the remaining six are placed in clusters of threes at the Golden and Silver Gardens.”
“Providing scale and dimension to the Gardens while marrying the form and function of mature trees, the Supertrees also create height to balance the tall developments in the Marina Bay area.”
“Eleven Supertrees are embedded with environmentally sustainable functions like photovoltaic cells to harvest solar energy.”

“Supertrees are made of four parts: reinforcement concrete core, trunk, planting panels of the living skin, and canopy.”
“Over 162,900 plants comprising more than 200 species and varieties of bromeliads, orchids, ferns and tropical flowering climbers are planted on the Supertrees.”

“OCBC Bank is the largest sponsor of Gardens by the Bay to date, with sponsorship of OCBC Skyway and the OCBC Garden Rhapsody. When night falls, watch as the Supertrees come alive with a dazzling myriad of light displays bursting across the sky.”
See, it's times like this I feel so silly.  Here I am worrying about real trees when the magic of technology has brought us Supertrees, that are sustainable, no less!  Why am I not surprised that a bank is sponsoring this terrific boon to the community?

Yet another story about the endangered coffee plants is blamed on global warming.

“It also serves as a bellwether on climate change, which appears to be causing temperatures to rise, taking plagues and infestations to higher elevations that once were considered too cool and dry for the rust fungus.

“At the San Pedrana Cooperative on the flanks of the Fuego Volcano southwest of Guatemala City, this country’s capital, Miguel Angel Xia turned over a leaf to display the orange, dust-like fungus that sucks nourishing sap from coffee leaves, killing the bushes.

“Rust has been around for 30 years,” Xia said. “But it was always at 3,000 feet or below. And now, it’s up to 5,000 feet. It never would’ve been this high before.”

“No one imagined that it could thrive in that environment and go airborne,” said Christian Wolthers, a past president of the Specialty Coffee Association of America who imports green coffee from his base in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.

“Coffee rust has changed history in centuries past. The fungus blighted crops in the British colony of Ceylon in the 1870s, decimating coffee exports to London and helping turn the British into a nation of tea drinkers.
“Since then, fungicides have kept coffee rust under control when it reappears.  But this time is different, experts say. The aggressive outbreak has extended to more than 70 percent of coffee bushes in Guatemala and El Salvador, 64 percent in Costa Rica, and lesser amounts in Nicaragua and Honduras, according to a May 13 report by the International Coffee Organization. Regional coffee production fell 17.1 percent in the past October-to-March season, and it is likely to fall 30 percent to 40 percent in the coming season, which begins in October.”

Well I could collect stories of unparalleled attacks on just about any species of trees or agricultural crops all day and virtually none of them will ever make the obvious connection to the global spread of pollution.

On the downward spiral, well continue to bamboozle ourselves into thinking there is some sort of epiphany awaiting.  Academics will churn out reports.  Green groups make utterly repulsive compromises with industry, the better to maintain their funding base and salaries.  In What Would John Muir Say, Dr. Glen Barry exposes the hypocrisy of the Sierra Club providing cover for the timber industry to exploit old-growth forests, and Inside Climate News reports on the anger local Illinois activists have towards national organizations such as the Natural Resources Defense Council that have cut a deal with fracking companies.  In a long and fascinating study, Cory Morningstars rapier pen lays bare the collusion of big green organizations in SumofUs are Corporate Whores/Some of Us Are Not” which deserves the time it takes to read it, as does her analysis of the errant 350 divestment strategy.

I’ll leave all that for your later perusal because one of my favorite annual junkets (to bitch about) just came into view, The Nation magazine's 16th cruise aboard Holland America Line’s msVeendam.  Last year the floating “seminars” with over 400 “progressive” participants, including the Code Pink co-founders (Let’s protest war!  Wars for Oil!  Oil for big boats!), went to the Caribbean.  Here’s the ad for the 2012 trip:

Reservations are now being taken for this coming October when the itinerary will include Boston and Quebec, with points in Maine and Nova Scotia in between.

If you go to their website you will find a revolving banner of the celebrities who will speak and with whom, for only a couple thousand dollars, you too can hobnob...people like Robert F. Kennedy, Jr., Daniel Ellsberg, Ralph Nader, Van Jones, and Naomi Klein.
What are environmental crusaders doing on a gigantic cruise ship, surely one of the most wasteful forms of recreation imaginable?  It’s so outrageously incompatible with the professed values of the participants, it’s hard to avoid the feeling that they are sneering at their readers.
For that matter, what are people who profess to be concerned about social justice and income inequality doing in a place described this way:

“Grandly proportioned, the msVeendam offers an onboard experience defined by spacious comfort. Elegant dining rooms with wide vistas of the seas, wide teak decks for strolling and spacious staterooms - many with private verandahs - all lend the msVeendam an air of elegance and comfort.

“A floral theme is expressed through the art and decor onboard ms Veendam, from classic paintings of still life flowers to the stylized flowers in the small panels on the ceiling of the Piano Bar. Other art pieces of interest are the round ceiling murals by Irish artist Wout Muller and rare tosei gusoku samurai armor from late 17th-century Japan. At the heart of the Veendam, a spectacular glass sculpture climbs through the three-story atrium. For luxury on the high seas the ms Veendam is a ship you don't want to miss.

“At the heart of every Vista-Class ship is a specially commissioned signature sculpture, suspended in a three-story atrium.  Onboard the msVeendam a striking blue and gold crystalline sculpture from Murano, Italy, dominates the dramatic three-deck atrium of this ship.
“The Pinnacle Grill offers a level of elegant sophistication unmatched anywhere on the seven seas. Beautifully appointed with Bvlgari china, Riedel stemware and Frette linens, the intimate Pinnacle Grill is ideal for a romantic dinner for two or a special group celebration. This intimate reservations-only venue offers an elegant, sophisticated dining experience. Featuring hand-selected aged Sterling Silver Beef, fresh seafood and an extensive, world-class wine list.”
Not too shabby, eh?  Hard to reconcile with the comic genius of Tom Tomorrow, who just yesterday, I mean in 2008, created this splendidly cynical cartoon:

And bitter comics like this:

As for Naomi?  Well, apparently, “She is currently at work on a new book and film on how the climate crisis can spur economic and political transformation.”

Shocking new research suggests that the extraordinary Greenland melt last summer was not from particulate matter creating dark snow after all!
Researchers from Sheffield University examine the melting edge of a Greenland glacier.
Image: Department of Geography, Sheffield University
“First: the story so far. For a few days in July 2012, almost 97% of the surface of Greenland began suddenly to thaw. This was a melt on an unprecedented scale.”

“The event was so unusual, and so unexpected, and on such a scale that nobody seriously suggested that the dramatic conversion of snow to slush was direct evidence of climate change because of human-induced global warming.”

“At first, climatologists were inclined to see the thaw as a consequence of the record-breaking heat waves and forest fires that afflicted North America last summer: snow could have been darkened by columns of soot and smoke from forest fires, just enough to start absorbing the sunlight, some reasoned.”

“Then in April a team at the University of Wisconsin-Madison suggested that freak cloud behaviour over Greenland at the time might have caused the melting. Clouds normally block sunlight and keep the terrain below them cool.”

“But these clouds could have been thin enough to let solar radiation through, but thick enough to trap the consequential infra-red radiation from the ground, and raise the local temperature levels.
Now Edward Hanna and colleagues at Sheffield report in the International Journal of Climatology that they have another explanation. Unusual atmospheric circulation and changes in the jet stream – the same changes that almost washed away summer in England – sent a blister of warm air sweeping over the ice sheet.”

“Hanna and his team analysed all the weather data collected by the Danish Meteorological Institute and by US researchers, and then employed satellite readings and a computer simulation called SnowModel to reconstruct the strange turn of events. And climate change may after all be a suspect.”

“The Greenland Ice Sheet is a highly sensitive indicator of regional and global change, and, says Prof Hanna, been undergoing rapid warming, and losing ice, for at least the last five years and probably the last 20.”


“Our research found that a ‘heat dome’ of warm southerly winds over the ice sheet led to widespread surface melting.” This was not predicted by the climate models used by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, and perhaps that indicated a deficiency in those models, he suggested.”

Oh Great - so, does this mean that so-called “creatives” Peter Sinclair and Bill McKibben will cancel the celebrity photo op trip to Greenland...and return the money donated for the Dark Snow Project?
Personally, I doubt they'll be deterred.  If you go to the website, you can watch the red plane soar over the continent as you scroll up and down, it's really fun!  And those guys will have fun going for sure:
Although personally I think they should read climate scientist Kevin Anderson’s essay titled “Hypocrites in the air: should climate change academics lead by example?” which should go at least double for activists who don't need to conduct research on ice sheets, do they?
Anderson has been quoted as saying:

“I think that the scientific community has hugely underplayed the size of the problem, knowingly, because it’s very hard to come up and say what you really think, because people don’t want to hear the message.”

At the end of the essay he asks rhetorically, 

“Is it really surprising that the hoi polloi are indifferent to our pronouncements and politicians pay only lip service to our analyses, when those of us working on climate change exhibit no desire to forego our own high-carbon lifestyles?”

The Flying Clean Alliance” is one of the latest and perhaps most bizarrely clueless example to date of how corporate-funded environmental activists cooperate with the fiction that we can buy our way out of disaster without giving up any of our toys (and just how utterly illegitimate the big so-called green organizations - 350.org, Center for Biological Diversity and Sierra Club and more - have become).  Their campaign to encourage “elite flyers” - people who log millions of miles per year! - to pressure United Airlines to reduce pollution is just embarassing.

“On June 5, United agreed to purchase fifteen million gallons of advanced biofuels over three years for their Los Angeles hub – a move forward, but one that impacts only a fraction of a percent of United’s annual fuel usage and of the annual carbon emissions reductions that would be achieved with the European climate law that United opposes.

“The New York Times recently reported that three trans-continental USA or trans-Atlantic flights produce almost as much climate change pollution as the energy use of an average American household for an entire year. Aviation would be the 7th largest emitter of climate change pollution in the world if it were a country.

Does it really need to be asked why the big green organizations don’t explain why flying should be virtually halted?

A heartbreaking example of irony is the video below, in which the filmmaker portrays dead - literally dead - Joshua trees without ever seeming to wonder WHY they are dead.  “Jeff was asked by the Lincoln Motor Company to interpret the “Hello, Again” theme by reimagining the familiar as something new and fresh. Here he explains the art of adorning fallen Joshua trees, meets a local desert dweller, and scours the Mojave for an entirely new canvas.


Augghhh!  And after I so carefully chronicled the death of Joshua Trees from pollution.

“There are a thousand hacking at the branches of evil to one who is striking at the root” 
                   ~ Henry David Thoreau

The next story - Europe's Green-Fuel Search Turns to America's Forests - would be funny if it weren't so horrible, constituting such irrefutable evidence that there is no end to our depravity.
“The U.S. logging industry is seeing a rejuvenation, thanks in part of Europe's efforts to seek out green fuel and move away from coal.

I can't embed it but it is worth clicking on the link for the sheer hilarity of watching the Wall Street Journal talking head zombies strain to put a "sustainable" spin to a story about cutting down forests, producing mountains of wood pellets, and then shipping them to Europe to be burned and qualified as carbon credits.  Despite the fact that the reporter claims that only extraneous branches are being used, it sure looks like clear-cutting of entire forest stands to me!
 An industry publication - Wood Bioenergy - can't gush enough about how terrific this opportunity is:

Of all the stupid things that prevent us from halting our plummet to disaster - selfishness, denial, hubris and so forth - the worst, because it is so pernicious, is hope.  We see hope invoked constantly, even in face of the most objectively hopeless scientific facts.  Yay humans!  So let's look at some examples, old and new.
I was reminded recently of Bill Rees lecture that so inspired me, a little over a year ago that I reproduced the entire thing.  Now I have come to see that it is mumbo-jumbo because, no matter how eloquently he frames the intractability of the problem, he adds hope with no real solution.  He cannot admit there is none.  There's no time for humans to “evolve” into creatures that make decisions based on long-term, collective well-being.  Hardin's Tragedy of the Commons is our epitaph.

I am constantly confronted with people who are objective enough to know that religion is a human-created concoction, and educated enough to realize our very existence in now in jeopardy due to our immodest myopia, but still they insist that there is, if not some “spiritual” dimension to humanity, then at the very least we are fundamentally good, cooperative, generous, and worthy of redemption and thus, there is meaning to life.  Or something.  Arg, this is frustrating to me because it’s still just belief repackaged in fantasy.  No matter how much ancient archeological evidence they are given that every previous culture has overshot its ecosystem and engaged in warfare - whether it's skeletons showing malnutrition or death by violence; or shrinking shellfish and disappearing species; or cave paintings or carvings or oral legends; or weaponry and protective armor; or defensive, fortified housing construction - it is never persuasive.

I don't think we are either inherently good or evil, any more than a raptor or a large carnivorous feral cat - we just are, and ascribing any more to it is our conceit.  Indeed, we are tribal creatures and we will share within the tribe - but when it comes to that other tribe over the hill, watch out.  They're not quite human, so it’s okay to kill them.  It appears we are incapable of recognizing the entire world as one big village, and the entire human population as one family.

So when I get so frustrated by people who ascribe some deeper cosmic meaning to it all that I almost feel I’m better off with people who are utterly oblivious, I realize that so very few people think the way I do that I almost feel like a mutant.  Then I came across this paper, titled Evolution and Culture, and I realized that, indeed, I AM a mutant, ha!  I did not get the religious gene:

“In every society known to anthropologists, there is evidence for the following: (1) beliefs in supernatural agents (God, ghosts, ancestor spirits), (2) who demand costly sacrifice (hard-to-fake public expressions of commitment in time and resources), and (3) who manage existential anxieties, such as those triggered by death, hopelessness, and loss of meaning. The ritualized coordination of these three elements yields “religion”. Thus, widespread religious beliefs and rituals can be understood as population-level manifestations of individual cognitive and motivational tendencies such as the tendency to anthropomorphize or impute agency onto the natural world, or the motivational tendency to engage in hard-to-fake expressions of commitment to one’s group.  In recent years, a growing body of research has been examining the cognitive, motivational, and communicative processes that give rise to cultural and religious beliefs.

Here’s an amazing example of what they describe, something I can’t imagine participating in:

 

From Wiki:


The Devils Miner is a 2005 documentary film directed by independent film directors Kief Davidson and Richard Ladkani. The film follows a fourteen-year-old Bolivian boy named Basilio Vargas who along with his twelve-year-old brother Bernardino work in the mines near the city of Potosí. The film includes many subtle realities of the miners lives such as the need to chew coca leaves to numb the pain of hunger and the long shifts they work regardless of age.

The film concentrates on the concerns of local workers who have fear of what they call “Tio” or devil. In the film, an elder miner claims that over 8 million people have died in the unsafe mines. The workers believe this is because “Tio” controls the mine and that Christ has no power in the mine. The workers often give offerings such as coca leaves, alcohol, cigarettes and perform sacrifices, such as slaughtering a llama and applying its blood to the mine entrance to appease a makeshift statue of "Tio". Each mine has its own Tio which all of the workers pray to upon entering so that they may find a good vein of silver and so that they may be granted protection from explosions, toxic gas, silicosis, and falling rocks. The local Catholic priest is unable to tame these fears of “Tio” although the workers often pray at the church before entering the mine. The irony which is upon these people is one of great sorrow. They worship both God and the Devil, Light and Dark, The God of the world, and the god of the earthen mine below.
Another terrific documentary is about the Amish.  One family allowed the BBC to film, in violation of Elder policy, and as the interviews progress it becomes apparent that this young couple is part of a subversive movement to split from traditional prohibitions.  They not only want more freedom to use technology like phones (and they seem to be able to eat pizza at Target despite a vow to not use electricity) but they want to proselitize.  They're the Christian fundamentalists of the Amish and they want to CONVERT YOU!  I had the uneasy impression that almost everything they said was rehearsed, regurgitated dogma, and I wondered if they could think for themselves at all.

Meanwhile, the scientist continue their feeble warnings to humanity, which are roundly ignored by citizens and politicians alike.  A recent global scientific "consensus" statement from the Stanford-based “Millenium Alliance for Humanity and the Biosphere” summarizes:

“By the time today’s children reach middle age, it is extremely likely that Earth’s life-support systems, critical for human prosperity and existence, will be irretrievably damaged by the magnitude, global extent, and combination of these human-caused environmental stressors, unless we take concrete, immediate actions to ensure a sustainable, high-quality future.

Unless?  Don’t they get that were not going to?  Anthony D. Barnosky is one of the lead authors, who sent me a pdf of his excellent paper Approaching a state shift in Earth's biosphere about tipping points but never answered any of my questions about forest decline (correspondence in posts about that here and here).

"Giving society cheap, abundant energy . . . would be the equivalent of giving an idiot child a machine gun.”  ~ Paul Ehrlich, another one of the lead authors, said elsewhere.

Should it be wonderful or depressing that so many scientists believe this:


“Earth is rapidly approaching a tipping point.  Human impacts are causing alarming levels of harm to our planet.  As scientists who study the interaction of people with the rest of the biosphere using a wide range of approaches, we agree that the evidence that humans are damaging their ecological life-support systems is overwhelming.  We further agree that, based on the best scientific information available, human quality of life will suffer substantial degradation buy the year 2050 if we continue on our current path.”
Illustration by Cheng (Lily) Li
As usual, it’s still (perpetually!) five minutes to midnight.  We’re approaching a tipping point; we've never crossed it and if these scientists keep pushing the date forward, we never will.  Things will get bad by 2050; so far they’re okay.  You can only believe that if you’re blind, which apparently the scientists are.
Although the statement includes pollution as one of the categories of problems facing humans and other species, the word ozone is never broached in the context of what it does to human health, never mind its even worse effects on vegetation.  They also neglect to mention any connection with the nitrogen cascade which is only included as to its effects on the ocean, and not the land.  Here is their sole mention of tropospheric ozone:  “Other air pollutants, such as greenhouse gases and ozone, are invisible but cause serious global-scale problems, notably climate disruption.”  This despite the obviously dead trees in their own illustration:
Caption:  “The brown haze of air pollution is pernicious in and around many cities, and causes up to six million deaths each year.  Picture is the smog accumulating south of San Francisco, California, on a cool winter day.”

Excerpts:

p. 1
“...changes, all interacting with each other, are leading humanity in dangerous directions: climate disruption, extinction of biodiversity, wholesale loss of vast ecosystems, pollution, and ever-increasing numbers of people competing for the planet’s resources.”

“The vast majority of scientists who study the interactions between people and the rest of the biosphere agree on a key conclusion: that the five interconnected dangerous trends listed above are having detrimental effects, and if continued, the already-apparent negative impacts on human quality of life will become much worse within a few decades. The multitude of sound scientific evidence to substantiate this has been summarized in many recent position papers and consensus statements (a few samples are listed on pp. 28-29), and documented in thousands of articles in the peer-reviewed scientific literature. However, the position papers and consensus statements typically focus only on a subset of the five key issues (for example, climate change, or biodiversity loss, or pollution), and access to the peer-reviewed literature is often difficult for non-scientists. As a result, policy makers faced with making critical decisions can find it cumbersome both to locate the pertinent information and to digest the thousands of pages through which it is distributed.

“Here we provide a summary intended to:
• Be useful to policy makers and others who need to understand the most serious environmental-health issues that affect both local constituencies and the entire planet. 
• Clearly voice the consensus of most scientists who study these issues that: 
Climate disruption, extinction, ecosystem loss, pollution, and population growth are serious threats to humanity’s well-being and societal stability; and 
These five major threats do not operate independently of each other.  We also outline broad-brush actions that, from a scientific perspective, will be required to mitigate the threats. The intent is to provide information that will be necessary and useful if the desire of the general public, governments, and businesses is to maximize the chance that the world of our children and grandchildren will be at least as good as the one in which we live now.
p. 13
“There are few, if any places on Earth where human-produced environmental contaminants are not being deposited. Traces of pesticides and industrial pollutants are routinely found in samples of soil or tree bark from virtually any forest in the world, in the blubber of whales, in polar bear body tissues, in fish from most rivers and oceans, and in the umbilical cords of newborn babies. Smog in many cities is far above levels considered safe. In the worst cases—such as in Beijing during January 2013—polluted air can be seen from space.


Let's take a look at the recent State of Nature” report, a collaboration which includes the Royal Society of Birds, where that chart of endangered above species originates.  It’s a bit of a hodge-podge of case studies of decline delineated by types of ecosystem habitat.  Their website says:

“For the first time ever, the UK’s wildlife organisations have joined forces to undertake a health check of nature in the UK and its Overseas Territories.”

“Working side-by-side, 25 wildlife organisations have compiled stock take of all our native wildlife. The report reveals that 60 per cent of the species studied have declined over recent decades. More than one in ten of all the species assessed are under threat of disappearing from our shores altogether.”

“However, the report illustrates that targeted conservation has produced inspiring success stories and, with sufficient determination, resources and public support, we can turn the fortunes of our wildlife around.”

Despite his melancholy, David Attenborough strains mightily to give a positive spin in the Forward to the full document.
“...even the most casual of observers may have noticed that all is not well. They may have noticed the loss of butterflies from a favourite walk, the disappearance of sparrows from their garden, or the absence of the colourful wildflower meadows of their youth. To gain a true picture of the balance of our nature, we require a broad and objective assessment of the best available evidence, and that is what we have in this groundbreaking State of Nature report.”

“…Although this report highlights what we have lost, and what we are still losing, it also gives examples of how we – as individuals, organisations, governments – can work together to stop this loss, and bring back nature where it has been lost. These examples should give us hope and inspiration.”

“We should also take encouragement from the report itself; it is heartening to see so many organisations coming together to provide a single voice, stating loud and clear what is happening to our wildlife. This partnership, backed by a combined membership of millions and enabled by the heroic efforts of thousands of volunteer recorders, provides a powerful force to bring the UK’s nature back to its former glory.”

The report is replete with powerful prose and evocative quotations:

“It is not so much for its beauty that the forest can make a claim upon men’s hearts, as for that subtle something, that quality of air, that emanation from old trees, that so wonderfully changes and renews a weary spirit.”
~ Robert Louis Stevenson, from Essays of Travel

Even Stevenson noted the air purification from trees!  Following are some excerpts from the report which, of course, doesn’t acknowledge any role of ozone in the precipitous decline of trees:

p.38
“Chalara dieback is a serious disease of ash trees caused by the fungus Chalara fraxinea (more correctly known as Hymenoscyphus pseudoalbidus) which has caused widespread damage to European ash tree populations. The disease was unknown in Great Britain until the first cases were confirmed in a tree nursery in Buckinghamshire in early 2012. By October, it had been 
confirmed in mature ash trees. Work is currently underway to determine how far the disease has spread.”

“Ash trees are an important component of our native woodlands and hedgerows; they are a common hedgerow tree and the third most common species in broadleaved woodland, accounting for 13% of trees. Across all woodlands, they account for 5% of trees.”
“They are important for fungi, invertebrates that need deadwood, and epiphytic lichens and bryophytes, although few species are totally reliant on ash. Large, mature ash trees, with their assorted cracks and hollows, also provide valuable nesting sites for many of our woodland birds, as well as roosting sites for bats.”

“Ash-dominated woodlands also tend to be rich in plants, as they let in more light than oak woods, and tend to dominate on lime-rich soils. At this stage, it is very difficult to predict what impact the disease will have on woodland in the UK. We expect some losses both directly, as a result of food and habitat loss, and indirectly through the loss of associated communities.”

“However, the increased volume and diversity of deadwood habitats may be beneficial in some circumstances.
p.23
“Lowland semi-natural grassland and heathland”

Atmospheric Pollution
Example
“Fast-growing species that respond well to nitrogen have become more abundant, while species of less fertile habitats have declined.”

p. 25
“Recent declines in the majority of species are a result of other factors, including inadequate or inappropriate land management, atmospheric pollution, habitat fragmentation and, to a lesser extent, human disturbance and the spread of invasive species.”

“One in four species of flowering plant in this habitat is threatened. Nitrogen deposition, disturbance, inadequate or inappropriate land management, and habitat loss and fragmentation all pose barriers to recovery.”

“Not all colonisers have arrived naturally though. Many new plants, fungi and animals have been imported – either accidentally or deliberately – from all over the world. This process started a long time ago with Neolithic farming; a surprisingly high proportion of the UK’s wild  flowers, including many of our most familiar species such as the common poppy and snowdrop, are “archaeophytes” (introduced pre -1500) or “neophytes” (introduced after 1500). Arable land and brownfield sites are often dominated by these plants. Whilst many of these introductions are harmless, some non-native species have a devastating effect on our native wildlife. The number of non-native species arriving as a result of human actions is increasing, and their impact on other wildlife is intensifying.”

[I love this documentation of the long, really ancient history of imported plants in the UK since it makes a mockery of the pronounced preference to blame imports for the spread of invasive diseases.  ha!]
“...A few mosses and liverworts, which are often thought of as immobile, are also rapidly colonising Britain, probably dispersed by spores on the wind.”

“…Fungi, through their airborne spores, are likely to spread further than flowering plants, but we do not yet have full knowledge of the rate at which fungi are colonising the UK.

[note:  it is so clear that spores travel long distances on their own, and yet UK arborists persist in blaming imported nursery stock for the epidemics of fungal infections in several species of trees.]

p.37
“While the changes we have seen in woodlands are many and varied (see below), their effects are often similar, in that they change woodland structure, and it is often that change in structure that is bad for wildlife. Although recent climate change has had little effect on woodland structure and composition, mobile species, such as insects and birds, have moved with the conditions, and increasing temperatures have led to faster tree growth, changes in germination success and altered phenology in some areas. Despite recent reductions in emissions, nitrogen deposition and ozone levels are still above “critical loads” for habitats such as UK Atlantic oakwoods.”

“... she looked up the valley of the heath, alive with butterflies, and with grasshoppers whose husky noises on every side formed a whispered chorus.”
~ Thomas Hardy, from The Return of the Native

Case study 
Starry Breck lichen
“The rare starry Breck lichen was known in just a few places in the Breckland of East Anglia. It was last seen around 2001, and now seems to have disappeared completely. Despite being fully protected by law, this species probably declined because of changes in its habitat. Unsuitable grazing and enrichment from nitrogen pollution are thought to have contributed to its demise. These factors still threaten other species in Breckland and throughout the UK – if we do not act, some may go the same way as the starry Breck lichen.”

Even with the limited knowledge that we have, it is clear that much of the unique biodiversity of the UKOTs is under severe threat: over 90 species are now classified as Critically Endangered globally, compared with just four species in the UK.  The last recorded global extinction in the UKOTs, of the St Helena olive tree, occurred as recently as 2003.”
“Despite conservation work in the UKOTs, huge challenges still remain. In the Turks and Caicos Islands, the national tree – the Caicos pine – is faced with local extinction due to the introduction of an invasive insect pest that has devastated the unique Caicos pine forests.”

“Pine trees on the Turks and Caicos Islands (TCI) are under threat from environmental stresses that include disturbance, water shortage and invasive insect pests.”

“…The most serious pest of these pines is the scale insect known as pine tortoise scale, Toumeyella parvicornis. An article by Malumphy et al. (2012) has recently been published reporting on the devastating impact of this invasive pest in TCI. Working with the Bahamas National Trust the UKOTS team have observed that pines in the Bahamas also suffer environmental stress due to human activity, but are relatively healthy compared to the trees in TCI. Although T. parvicornis has not yet been detected in the Bahamas, several other pests, including other scale insects, are known to be attacking the pines.”

“Scale insect pests feed on a plant’s sap causing die-back and mortality in extreme cases. Their honeydew encourages the growth of sooty moulds, which blanket the needles and impede photosynthesis. In many areas in TCI mature trees are absent because they have already been killed by the insect pests.”

“During recent fieldwork on these islands, supported by the Bentham-Moxon Trust and Kew Guild, Kew staff members Martin Hamilton, Paul Green and Marcella Corcoran collected samples of insect pests from Abaco and New Providence (Bahamas) and North Caicos, Middle Caicos and Pine Cay (TCI) for identification. One of the insects found on the pines is a ladybird, Cycloneda sanguinea, which may feed on the scale insects, and is being investigated further.”
Caption:  “Just one individual of St Helena’s endemic bastard gumwood tree survives in the wild. Hand-pollinating the bastard gumwood tree.”

Earlier this month, yet another organization has suited up and flown to a conference to stem the loss of biodiversity.  Don’t worry, if you missed that one they’re having another in December...in Turkey.  Well maybe not.  Stay tuned.  This is from their release:

“In Norway to address an elite gathering of 450 international officials with government responsibilities in the fields of biodiversity and economic planning, Zakri Abdul Hamid offered his first public remarks since being elected in January to head the new Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) -- an independent body modeled on the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.”

“...Some scientists have termed this the "sixth great extinction episode" in Earth’s history, according to Dr. Zakri, noting that the loss of biodiversity is happening faster and everywhere, even among farm animals.”

“…Breeds become rare because their characteristics either don’t suit contemporary demand or because differences in their qualities have not been recognised. When a breed population falls to about 1,000 animals, it is considered rare and endangered.”
“…Among crops, meanwhile, about 75 per cent of genetic diversity was lost in the last century as farmers worldwide switched to genetically uniform, high-yielding varieties and abandoned multiple local varieties. There are 30,000 edible plant species but only 30 crops account for 95% of human food energy, the bulk of which (60%) comes down to rice, wheat, maize, millet and sorghum.”

Anyone in business would be thrilled at their joint webpage with IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature) that explains how they will partner for “sustainable development”.  It never ceases to perplex me that so many organizations are working on conservation while meanwhile, their lofty goals are discarded like so much trash.

But wait, there’s more!

“Scientists from the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) have published a new assessment in the journal Nature.  The researchers have tried to predict the extinction threat from climate change to bird, amphibians and corals.

“Extinction Risk from Climate Change”

“Using projections of species’ distributions for future climate scenarios, we assess extinction risks for sample regions that cover some 20% of the Earth’s terrestrial surface. Exploring three approaches in which the estimated probability of extinction shows a power-law relationship with geographical range size, we predict, on the basis of mid-range climate-warming scenarios for 2050, that 15–37% of species in our sample of regions and taxa will be ‘committed to extinction’. When the average of the three methods and two dispersal scenarios is taken, minimal climate-warming scenarios produce lower projections of species committed to extinction (~18%) than mid-range (~24%) and maximum-change (~35%) scenarios. These estimates show the importance of rapid implementation of technologies to decrease greenhouse gas emissions and strategies for carbon sequestration.”

The IUCN is also compiling a new red list to focus on ecosystems rather than particular species for launch later this year.  I'm sure this novel approach will make all the difference.  If we just do more research, and devise new ways of framing the problem, no doubt that will lead to solutions.  Or at least jobs at organizations like the IUCN.  

“Based on the Red List of Threatened Species, the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) has developed a Red List of Ecosystems to assess the health of whole habitats. Ecosystems are considered threatened if they are small or shrinking, if life-support systems like soil are being lost, or if crucial processes such as predator-prey relationships are being disrupted. Combining these measures gives an estimate of how likely the ecosystem is to collapse within the next 50 years.”

These samples are from the preliminary gallery of threatened ecosystems.  I won’t hold my breath waiting to see if they include forests all around the globe imperiled by air pollution.

The first example, the Aral Sea, is what inspired this rather ludicrous assessment:

“‘In theory collapse is reversible,’ says Jon Paul Rodríguez of the Center for Ecology in Caracas, Venezuela, one of the architects of the new Red List, but many of the native species have been lost.”
Name: Aral Sea, Central Asia
Status: Collapsed 

“The Aral Sea was once one of the world’s largest lakes, and home to a host of unique species including the Aral Sea trout. But not any more.”


“In the middle of the 20th century, Soviet engineers dammed the rivers flowing into it, and the Aral Sea almost vanished, replaced by a wasteland of salt, dust and abandoned fishing boats. Some small lakes remain, but little lives in them besides algae. One of the lakes is now growing again, thanks to a World Bank project that has spent millions of dollars on funnelling water into it.”
Name: Giant kelp forests, Alaska
Status: Endangered 

“The oceans off Alaska were once dominated by vast forests of kelp, a type of seaweed. But overfishing has indirectly devastated them.” 

“A shortage of fish forced killer whales to eat sea otters, reducing the number of sea otters. The numbers of sea urchins, which the sea otters eat, exploded, and in turn, the kelp the urchins feed on was gobbled up.” 


“In many places, kelp forests have been replaced by open water. Reintroducing otters could restore the forests, but only if the killer whales can find enough food that isn’t otters.”
Name: Tapia forest, Madagascar
Status: Endangered 

“In the highlands of Madagascar, the tapia is the only tree species that can survive in the barren stony soil. The 50,000 remaining hectares of tapia forest provide a habitat and food for the Malagasy silkworm threatened by excessive wild silk collection. At the current rate, neither will be there for long.” 

“The tapia trees are being cut down and their wood used for timber, firewood and charcoal. In their place, grasslands are springing up on which animals can graze. This makes large fires more likely, and the loss of the trees increases soil erosion, says Rodríguez.” 

“If the tapia forests are to be restored, it would be better to do it sooner rather than later, before the grassland fires become a regular occurrence, says Rodríguez. ‘It gets so expensive and difficult to do later.’” 
In spite of the fervent wishes of the most sincere of environmentalists, people will become more greedy and ruthless, not less, as resources dwindle - which is perfectly in keeping with our nature.  There are so many it’s hard to choose, but among the most disgusting ritual mass slaughter is that of songbirds that migrate through the Mediterranean, as reported in July’s issue of National Geographic.  Ironically, local hunters blame climate change for the reduction in population.  It’s excruciating to read because the video clip that this image is taken from plays constantly at the top of the page, so the sound of the trapped birds’ panicked, frail fluttering pathetically puntuates a cruel breeze.  I had to turn the speakers off to get through it.  Following are some excerpts, there is much more at the link.
Last Song for Migrating Birds
From glue-covered sticks in Egypt hang two lives, and a question: How can we stop the slaughter of songbirds migrating across the Mediterranean?
By Jonathan Franzen
Photograph by David Guttenfelder



“To a visitor from North America, where bird hunting is well regulated and only naughty farm boys shoot songbirds, the situation in the Mediterranean is appalling: Every year, from one end of it to the other, hundreds of millions of songbirds and larger migrants are killed for food, profit, sport, and general amusement. The killing is substantially indiscriminate, with heavy impact on species already battered by destruction or fragmentation of their breeding habitat. Mediterraneans shoot cranes, storks, and large raptors for which governments to the north have multimillion-euro conservation projects. All across Europe bird populations are in steep decline, and the slaughter in the Mediterranean is one of the causes.”
“Italian hunters and poachers are the most notorious; for much of the year, the woods and wetlands of rural Italy crackle with gunfire and songbird traps. The food-loving French continue to eat ortolan buntings illegally, and France’s singularly long list of huntable birds includes many struggling species of shorebirds. Songbird trapping is still widespread in parts of Spain; Maltese hunters, frustrated by a lack of native quarry, blast migrating raptors out of the sky; Cypriots harvest warblers on an industrial scale and consume them by the plateful, in defiance of the law.”
The oriole is prized for tiny fat deposits reputed to enhance male sexual performance.
“…Unfortunately, the old communist joke still applies to forestry officials responsible for the protected areas: The government pretends to pay them, and they pretend to work. As a result, the laws are not enforced—a fact that Italian hunters, limited by EU regulations at home, were quick to recognize and exploit after Hoxha’s death. During my week in Albania I didn’t visit a protected area in which there were not Italian hunters, even though the hunting season had ended, even in unprotected areas. In every case the Italians were using illegal high-quality bird-sound playback equipment and shooting as much as they wanted of whatever they wanted.”

“...Albania was once ruled by Italy, and many Albanians still view Italians as models of sophistication and modernity. Beyond the very considerable immediate damage that Italian tourist hunters do in Albania, they’ve introduced both an ethic of indiscriminate slaughter and new methods of accomplishing it—in particular the use of playback, which is catastrophically effective in attracting birds. Even in provincial villages, Albanian hunters now have MP3s of duck calls on their cell phones and iPods. Their new sophistication, coupled with an estimated 100,000 shotguns (in a country of three million) and a glut of other weapons that can be used opportunistically, has turned Albania into a giant sinkhole for eastern European migratory biomass: Millions of birds fly in and very few get out alive.”
“... In northeastern Africa, unlike in the Balkans, there is also an ancient, rich, and continuous tradition of harvesting migratory birds of all sizes. (The miraculous provision of meat accompanying the manna from heaven that saved the Israelites in the Sinai is thought to have been migrating quail.) As long as the practice was pursued by traditional methods (handmade nets and lime sticks, small traps made of reeds, camels for transportation), the impact on Eurasian breeding bird populations was perhaps sustainable. The problem now is that new technology has vastly increased the harvest, while the tradition remains in place.”


Each small bird provides only a bite or two.
I was appalled to learn in a companion piece about smartphone ethics that my occasional pasttime, of playing songs from my laptop to attract birds to my porch, is the same technology being ruthlessly used by hunters to more easily lure birds into nets and massacre their prey at an unprecedented scale.  It’s even controversial among spectator birders because it distracts birds from more essential activities.  Sigh, so much for that.
The decimation of birds is all by itself, if you ask me, enough evidence that humans are uncontrollable predators without mercy or brains, but if anyone needs more you could stockpile some popcorn and watch videos like Land of the Missing Children or Trade to see just how we treat the most vulnerable of our own species.  I also recommend the BBC documentary about the exploitation of Gypsy children, who are forced by their elders to be petty thieves, all over Europe and beyond, because they are too young to be prosecuted.
The funniest part of this comes at the end when one of the more traditional leaders, back in Romania, complains disgustedly about the obscene wealth that is being amassed by this practice, leading to crass materialism.  He takes the reporter for a ride in his Mercedes, past the Gypsy-style mega-McMansions depicted here.
All the while he complains that in the modern world, Gypsy crime and theft are based not on necessity (which I guess was okay), but excessive greed.  
He describes extensive criminal networks in many countries of the world, all led by people who want to eventually come home to Romania with their fortune and build something like this:
Then again, you could go all the way back to the vociferous controversy over what role, if any, Homo sapiens sapiens had in the extinction that befell the Neanderthal species 30,000 years ago.  Naturally, the proponants of the peaceful hunter-gatherer, noble savage theory don’t want to entertain the idea that we had a direct role in the convenient disappearance of the Neanderthals.  So notice how casually it is slipped into the end of an article about a new analysis:

“The skeletal remains of an individual living in northern Italy 40,000-30,000 years ago are believed to be that of a human/Neanderthal hybrid, according to a paper in PLoS ONE.”
“If further analysis proves the theory correct, the remains belonged to the first known such hybrid, providing direct evidence that humans and Neanderthals interbred. Prior genetic research determined the DNA of people with European and Asian ancestry is 1 to 4 percent Neanderthal.”

“The genetic analysis shows that the individual’s mitochondrial DNA is Neanderthal. Since this DNA is transmitted from a mother to her child, the researchers conclude that it was a “female Neanderthal who mated with male Homo sapiens.”

“The researchers found that, although the hybridization between the two hominid species likely took place, the Neanderthals continued to uphold their own cultural traditions.  That’s an intriguing clue, because it suggests that the two populations did not simply meet, mate and merge into a single group.”
“As Condemi and her colleagues wrote, the mandible supports the theory of ‘a slow process of replacement of Neanderthals by the invading modern human populations, as well as additional evidence of the upholding of the Neanderthals’ cultural identity.’”

“Prior fossil finds indicate that modern humans were living in a southern Italy cave as early as 45,000 years ago. Modern humans and Neanderthals therefore lived in roughly the same regions for thousands of years, but the new human arrivals, from the Neanderthal perspective, might not have been welcome, and for good reason. The research team hints that the modern humans may have raped female Neanderthals, bringing to mind modern cases of ethnic cleansing.”
There is no such things as sustainable living for humans. By genetic inclination, we overshoot the population a given ecosystem can support, and then we either have a dieoff or more likely, fight with the nearest tribe. The stronger one wins. Now, there are no more ecosystems to exploit, they are all fully exploited. Even if climate change werent a disaster for most species (which it so obviously is) humans are destroying the earth by overextraction and pollution. All this talk of “sustainability” is just humans thinking they can conquer nature and wishing frantically that we haven’t come to the end of the line.

The collective WE includes the third-world villager with a tiny carbon footprint because the fact is (and this is the important part) that, GIVEN THE OPPORTUNITY, that same fellow would gladly drive a tractor to plow his fields, or shop at Walmart, or cruise around the Carribean in his very own yacht.  If by some very very slim chance he happens to feel that he would rather abstain, he has several neighbors who would eagerly embrace the luxuries of progress” instead.  (I know that sounds like the “But, China!” deniers’ argument for inaction on climate change, but it’s far more than that.  It’s “But, US”.)

Thats why “we” (as in, the human race) are inexorably destroying the living planet, despite the well-intentioned efforts of a tiny, tiny minority that is so vanishingly miniscule as to be irrelevant.

Climate change, though an existential threat, is a symptom of something much deeper and less easily eradicated, which is the human nature to over-exploit resources until there is a collapse - of civilization, of ecosystems.

Unfortunately we are now doing this on a global scale.  Our squandering of energy is merely a part of this trend.  Overfishing is another.


The only way we could address the fundamental problem would be to drastically reduce our population and consumption, and we will never voluntarily do that (which is why most mainstream climate activists never advocate it).  People would rather starve than let anyone pry away the teevee remote clutched in their fingers.
We at already know that methane is an ozone precursor, but a section of the White House Executive Order determining the social cost of carbon confirms it on page 9 (of course, it only indicates that methane is a precursor, and leaves out what ozone does to forests and the carbon sink they represent):

“Methane 
The IPCC AR4 notes a series of indirect effects of methane emissions, and has developed methods for proxying such effects when computing the global warming potential of methane (Forster et al. 2007).   FUND 3.8 now includes the same methods for incorporating the indirect effects of methane emissions.


“Specifically, the average atmospheric lifetime of methane has been set to 12 years to account for the feedback of methane emissions on its own lifetime. The radiative forcing associated with atmospheric methane has also been increased by 40% to account for its net impact on ozone production and stratospheric water vapor. All else equal, the effect of this increased radiative forcing will be to increase the estimated SCC values, due to greater projected temperature anomaly.
The Arctic News blog reports that methane has hit a new high average mean level of 1800 ppb, 1100 ppb higher than pre-industrial levels.  Whoops!!

It must be so tragic for those peak oil gurus who have written reams of books of prophesies based on slow catabolic collapse of industrial civilization.  Some of them have cultivated a not inconsiderable following based on their advice for how to survive in a post-peak-energy world...only to find that climate collapse has made them not just irrelevant but obsolete.

I am in the same pickle, because when I first started writing about trees dying from pollution, although I knew climate change inevitably means mass extinctions, I thought the decline of forests was likely going to outpace even an acceleration in chaotic weather and agricultural collapse.  I hoped maybe if people could recognize what our fuel emissions are doing to plants, right in front of us, they might be motivated to drastically curtail and conserve and thus slow climate change as well.

But now I realise my hope was based on assumptions that were wrong not once but twice.  First, people dont care that trees are dying enough to do anything differently even if they know.  In fact, that’s sort of obvious since the world round and all through history we’ve thought nothing of chopping them down or burning them.  The same can be said for mechanically harvesting the oceans, or overhunting the megafauna to extinction.  Second, amplifying feedbacks are accelerating at an exponential rate once tipping points have been crossed so fast as to be dizzying, and there are many around the world already caught in the maelstrom whether drought or flood, wind or fire.

Sam Carana at the Arctic News writes:  “From a historic perspective, greenhouse gas levels have risen abruptly to unprecedented levels. While already at a historic peak, humans have caused emissions of additional greenhouse gases. There’s no doubt that such greenhouse gas levels will lead to huge rises in temperatures. The question is how long it will take for temperatures to catch up and rise.”
Caption:  “420,000 years of ice core data from Vostok, Antarctica research station.  Current period is at left.  Bottom: Solar variation at 65 degrees N due to Milankovitch cycles, connected to 18O isotope of oxygen.  Top: Carbon dioxide levels (CO2 blue), relative temperature (red) and methane levels (CH4 green).  J.R. Petit, et al., Climate and atmospheric history of the past 420,000 years from the Vostok ice core, Antarctica’, Nature 399:429-236 (1999).  Question top right, level rise indications and recent carbon dioxide and methane levels added by Sam Carana for Arctic-news.blogspot.com”

He adds another graph and observes:


“Below is another way of looking at the hockey stick. And of course, further emissions could be added as well, such as nitrous oxide and soot.”
What’s really funny is the discovery of previously unknown methane clathrate seeps in the ocean off the East Coast.  Scientists are framing it as newly found - but what if they’re newly seeping?  hmmmmm?

“An even larger, previously unknown vent was found off the coast of Virginia, in research by Steve Ross, a scientist at the University of North Carolina at Wilmington, and Sandra Brooke, a scientist at Florida State University. Discovered near the Norfolk submarine canyon, the vent is the largest in the Atlantic, and possibly in all of the world’s oceans, Ross told LiveScience.”

“...Further imaging of the seafloor by the Okeanos Explorer last fall revealed another three gas seeps southeast of Nantucket, Mass., at a maximum depth of 1 mile (1.6 kilometers) below the ocean surface. Along with several new findings that haven’t been published yet, these newfound seeps add up to a total of about eight regions venting methane off of the East Coast, Ross said.”

“...Much of this methane appears to be coming from methane gas hydrates, a crystallized form of methane stored in frigid sediment under the relatively high pressures of the deep ocean, Brothers said. Previously it wasn’t thought that a significant amount of this methane would be released from these deposits, which only give up their methane when weakened by lower pressures or rising temperatures. It’s unclear why some of these hydrates are producing methane gas, but its not a huge amount and unlikely to be enough to currently attract commercial interest, Brothers said.”

"...not a huge amount..." - Nothing to see here folks, move along!!

However the global collapse unfolds, for the most unlucky it has already begun.  At least one person in India is blaming deforestation for the recent floods, but more generally it is assumed that heavier and earlier monsoons from climate change are the source.  Either way, it’s humans wreaking havoc on our selves, isn’t it?
From Albert Einstein:
There are moments when one feels free from ones own identification with human limitations and inadequacies. 
At such moments one imagines that one stands on some spot of a small planet, gazing in amazement at the cold yet profoundly moving beauty of the eternal, the unfathomable; 
Life and death flow into one, and there is neither evolution nor destiny; only Being.
Now not only has Turkey erupted but Brazil has as well.  This is likely to spread like wildfire.

“The end of the world will come about as a result of the misunderstanding that we and the world are separate. Tidal waves will flood coastal landmasses resulting in millions of refugees, violence, warfare and chaos. The earth will become a boiling cauldron. The human experiment will have failed.” ~ Deepak Chopra

9 comments:

  1. One of your most massive postings yet.
    Just wow, for now.

    I was wondering about the psychological effects of low concentrations of methane and ozone on humans. Just guessing: it makes us irritable and strains our intelligence.

    Low concentration of methane > 100 ppm. 1000 is the legal limit.

    Low concentration of ozone > 30 ppb

    ReplyDelete
  2. Sigh. I'm currently reading a book about food history in Canada. I'm at a part about when the first Europeans came and were amazed at the bounty of fish, game, berries, etc. And it's pretty much all gone now. And I'm sad that I never knew such a world, or who I might have been in it.

    ReplyDelete
  3. What catman said, in his first paragraph!

    I'm sick after reading about the song birds. You must warn me ahead of time not to read such things. I can't brook it.

    ReplyDelete
  4. Keep writing. Don't stop.

    ReplyDelete
  5. It's been an article of faith Gail, that I leave open the small possibility of a miracle. This article sorely tests that faith especially when I read about the mindless slaughter of the song birds. The illusion of separation is so entrenched that we have become insane in our separateness. And yet, our separateness itself must have a purpose, for how else can the divine experience herself if not through countless perspectives? How can we be one and separate is the ecological and evolutionary challenge.

    ReplyDelete
  6. michele/montrealJune 22, 2013 at 6:56 PM

    Yes, Brasil, and Turkey... But as someone said at NBL (and I thought myself before I read it), what do they want? MORE! They want MORE of everything. Not less. But there is no MORE.
    How to be more sad every day? Until when? When your only consolation is knowing nobody will survive you (even your children) to continue the massacre, there is not much joy left. Will I "get over it"? hummm, I do not think so.
    love

    ReplyDelete
  7. Thanks for the brief testament noting this most mephitic future we are the creators, and benefactors of.
    Your friend... until the end,

    David SMOG-KILLS-CHILDREN-AND-EVERYTHING-ELSE Lange

    ReplyDelete
  8. Well done. I found the following most poignant.

    "When foresters in a revolving door with the lumber industry blame bark beetles for killing trees, that is as inaccurate and misleading as to claim pneumonia killed an AIDS victim. Controlled experiments have proven that ozone weakens the immune system of trees, and debilitates their natural defenses against insects, disease, and fungus. Their wood loses flexibility and makes their branches more likely to break from wind, ice and snow. Their roots deteriorate from acid rain, which leaches essential nutrients from the soil, and makes them more likely to fall over. Mudslides are becoming more commonplace as root systems of perennial plants shrivel, and wildfires are proliferating at an unprecedented rate."

    ReplyDelete
  9. Wondrous, Gail. Steven Earl Salmony

    ReplyDelete

Blog Archive

Follow by Email

My Blog List

Search This Blog

Loading...

Followers

counter