Saturday, October 16, 2010

Hide the Decline

This post begins with a couple of pretty sights, because the rest are unremittingly grim.
Here's a comment I left on - reproduced here because it serves as a brief introduction for this blog, in case anybody new is reading:

We actually DO have a Pearl Harbor moment, but because it isn’t making loud explosions, people haven’t noticed. All of the trees are dying. This isn’t some sort of abstract or aesthetic problem, because the implications pose an existential threat. Without trees, all the species that depend upon them for food and habitat will perish. Even more crucial is that ultimately, and soon, crops will fail on a such a scale that widespread hunger will result. Scientists should stop putting their sole focus on the warming and weather destabilizing effects of CO2, and educate people about the effects of the “other” greenhouse gases instead.
Ozone from nitrous oxides and volatile organic compounds is toxic to vegetation, and travels across oceans. The background levels of tropospheric ozone are inexorably rising. Over decades, cumulative exposure means the trees are the first to go, but annual crop yields are dwindling as well. There are reams of studies going back to the 1950’s that demonstrate the damaging effects of ozone, this is not a new discovery – just something the fuel industry would rather nobody pay attention to – and they have just as actively and even more successfully funded denialism about ozone as they have climate change.
Here is a golden maple in a mixed hardwood forest.  The crown is transparent.
When examined individually, it's obvious the leaves exhibit characteristic damage from exposure to  ozone.

I have been thinking all week about the revolving door of climate change, which echoes that of finance between government employees, banks, and academics.  In the case of climate change science, there is an unseemly whirl of employment between government agency appointments, academia, and polluting industries.  Oh, and then along came this monumental report "Big Oil Goes to College", a devastating critique.

This triumvirate amounts to a stranglehold on society and makes me wonder if we live in democracy or fantasy.  Market Watch had a story helpfully informing us that the Obama EPA has approved a 50% increase in the amount of ethanol allowable in gasoline blends - to which I left the following observation:

Ethanol is folly. The emissions from burning biofuels contain peroxyacetyl nitrates, which create even more potently toxic ozone than gasoline. Ozone is killing trees at a rapidly accelerating rate. Just consider the implications. As trees die, so do all the species that depend upon them for food and habitat.

Ozone is also causing massive reductions in annual crop yields. As the background levels of tropospheric ozone inexorably increase, so will the damage to plants...and since THEY are at the bottom of the food chain, mass starvation will inevitably ensue.

Maybe we should rethink that whole burning stuff up for energy idea.

I stopped to see what these large trucks were doing on a lawn.
They were tethered to a huge old tree whose branches had already been removed.
By the time I arrived, there was one logger cautiously cutting around the base.
He stood aside as the trucks revved up and pulled the massive trunk down.
They were elated.
He appeared to have no inkling of regret.
As I explained in this post last April, nobody is researching the emissions from biofuels because "it's too expensive." That would appear to be another way of saying, no one is funding any investigation.  Based on the "Big Oil Goes to College" revelation, it occurred to me that could be because corporate money is now dictating what research universities conduct.  Now, that's just...SWEET!
This vine has been growing all summer, with plenty of flowers, but not until this week was the very first fruit set.  Whether this is from lack of pollinators, or damage from ozone, I can't say.  But whatever it is, it may be a contributor to the looming food crisis, as documented at marketskeptics.  One of the midwestern farmers he quotes reported the stench of this corn was overwhelming:
The dark streaks in the pile are moldy kernels from last year.  Did you know that farmers mix this year's crop with old moldy grain to pass it off as acceptable for consumption?  And that peanut growers do the same?  And honey is cut with corn syrup?  Humans are SO corrupt. (oh and by the way, that grass looks dead and so do the trees!)
I was momentarily elated to discover a fairy ring of parasol mushrooms - they're delicious!  Then I realized they were too small to be worth collecting - you can see from the acorn that the mushroom is barely 3 inches in height, whereas they used to be over 12...according to wiki, they can exceed 15!   I was puzzled for a second and then remembered - duh! - everything in the biosphere is shrinking.
I have absolutely no idea why these acorns are sprouting, but it seems odd.

One of Highschooler's many excellent new links (which I am still in the process of adding to the list of research on the Basic Premise page at the top of this blog) reminded me of a story in the NYTimes from 1987, which described a conference between German and American foresters.  The title is as usual misleading, "Dying forests perplex US and W Germany" since there was nothing perplexing at all about pollution killing forests even back then.  The Germans call it Waldersterben, forest death.  But the Americans obstinately chose to refer to it with the euphemism of "decline" instead, a tactic that has allowed the Forest Service, the US Department of Agriculture, and the EPA to mask what is really occurring ever since.

There is a growing certainty in my own mind, and it would appear I am not alone, that there is a concerted effort at the very top to hoodwink and exploit the public for as long as possible.

Another  example is the discovery that, as it happens, a recent study which claims bee colony collapse disorder is due to the combined impact of a fungus and a virus was actually funded by Bayer, the producer of the very pesticide implicated in the death of bees.  Imagine that!  I KNEW it was bogus!!
Conifers are turning yellow and dropping needles, just as they did last autumn.
The interior goes first, from a longer exposure to atmospheric poison.
This cryptomeria was already thin from last  year's loss.
These yellowed branches are so brittle they snap off at the slighted touch.
A pattern of deception is emerging, and the powers behind it are omnipotent, and to a terrifying degree, often in collusion.

This article describes a group of scientists known as the Jasons, and their warning about climate change 30 years ago and the subsequent institutionalization of the perversion of the science.
It's important to remember that we haven't had anything approaching a frost yet.  These trees shouldn't be losing their leaves!
In trying to learn more about the Jason group, I came across a CalTech publication that included a portrait of one member and not coincidentally, a perfect example of the fiendish convergence of government, academia, and industry:
"Steven Koonin, BS ’72, under secretary for science at the Department of Energy (DOE), is a former Caltech vice president, provost, and professor of theoretical physics. After graduating from Caltech, he received his PhD from MIT in 1975, returning to the Institute as an assistant professor that same year and remaining until 2004, when he joined BP plc (formerly British Petroleum plc) as chief scientist. There, he was responsible for long-range technology strategy regarding alternative and renewable energy sources, provided technical advice to senior executives, and managed the firm's university- based research programs. He played a key role in BP's establishing the Energy Biosciences Institute at UC BerkeleyLawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, and the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

His nomination as under secretary was confirmed by the Senate on May 19, 2009.

A fellow of the American Physical Society, the American Association for the Advancement of Science, and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, he has received the ASCIT Teaching Award, an Alfred P. Sloan Fellowship, the Senior U.S. Scientist Award (Humboldt Prize), and DOE's E. O. Lawrence Award, among other honors. He has served on numerous advisory committees and editorial boards, and is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations and the Trilateral Commission. He is also a member and past chair of the JASON Study Group, advising the U.S. government on defense science and technology.

DOE is the single largest supporter of physical-science basic research in the United States, with responsibility for research at 17 national laboratories. DOE also manages the world's most diverse portfolio of unique and powerful scientific tools, such as particle accelerators, advanced computational centers, atmospheric-monitoring facilities, and the world's only free- electron X-ray laser. In addition, there are exciting technologies in development that will help solve the nation's energy challenges."
Along these lines I reprint below, with permission, Richard Pauli's chilling assessment of the furtive motivations of deniers, originally posted as a comment on Climate Progress.  In between his observations are pairs of landscape pictures - the lower photo a closeup (if you click on them they will magically expand).  Those smoky smudges among the treetops are the bare branches of trees that have lost all of their leaves prematurely:
"They are not stupid. In order to derive intelligence behind the actions of right-wing climate denialism, we should reverse engineer a motive from looking at their actions."

"Lets suspect for a moment that they know that unified obstructionalism and denialism will make matters worse for destabilized warming on a global scale. They might secretly agree with most sane and sober scientists, that catastrophic warming and climate destabilization is inevitable. And now all actions will be in choosing the degree of severity."

"It fits the philosophy of unbridled capitalism that the population should be decimated every so often. In the past, it worked to permit vital new growth. Letting the climate do that means avoiding the expense and mess of promoting other violent conflicts."

"Seeing a chaotic world 10 to 30 years hence, it seems the goal of the current political maneuvering is to gain and secure a powerful standing in a post-apocalyptic world. Of course, the risk of this maneuver is to underestimate the destructive potential of climate change. Carbon industrialists may know that there is a slight chance that much more CO2 will kill us all. But no matter what the future, we are now forced into a world of survival struggles."

"As we combust our way forward into this chaotically destabilizing world — for those wishing to retain power, the strategic course today would be to hide the fact of the inevitable decline as much as possible; to deny, continue the plunder, and build the necessary fortresses and seed banks required for life in such a world.
Whether the human population reaches zero or merely 5% of current, the tactic would be the same – deny warming, deny human cause, continue carbon profits, push opponents to the back of the line, gather wealth and power."

"Such a unified strategy just tells me that this is a very well-thought out plan. To me, that is the only thinking that fits their behavior.
I hope there are other explanations, but crazy and stupid really does not fit right now."
And lest all the blame be heaped on deliberate deniers like the Koch brothers (humorously exposed once again in that link from Oil Watchdog - thanks to Joyce who forwarded it to me!) what will follow are some excerpts from a scathing attack on various environmental groups -"Marketing, Manipulation, and the Status Quo", published by United Progressives.  The efforts of innumerable ostensibly green organizations have proven to be completely ineffectual, and it is starting to become apparent that in some cases it's because their aims are mostly self-serving.  The amount of celebration following the 10/10/10 global work day was absurd, since by my calculation, it was an abysmal failure which garnered virtually no coverage in the mainstream media and therefore achieved nothing other than making people FEEL like they are making a difference, when in fact, we are on a collision course with unmitigated disaster.
One of the most astounding aspects of the decline of trees recently has been the rapid deterioration of their bark.  It's almost impossible to comprehend how it can rot so quickly.  Not long ago I took samples to submit for chemical testing, and I had to really whack at it to break off some pieces.  Now, all it took was a light fleck of a finger to snap pieces off this oak.  Had I wished, I could have easily picked at the trunk until the entire thing was naked, the protective layer is so loosely attached.
And no wonder - look at the leaves!  Here are sections from the article, with some trees and their trunks:
"The good intentions of participants of aside, requesting world leaders to reduce carbon emissions is unfortunately not going to work. Bill McKibben asserts that world leaders will listen “if we’re loud enough,” but that’s simply untrue. If we stick with symbolic action, the destruction will become progressively worse, and we will continuously lose ground and be reduced to begging for mercy that will never be granted. Those in power (and their political representatives) will only stop destroying the planet if they are forced to do so. The immediate threat of social disorder and economic disruption will make them listen. An immediate and serious threat to their wealth and well-being will make them listen.” - Stephanie McMillan, Code Green"

"The worst ever environmental and health catastrophe is now inevitable, and we must render a comprehensive global emergency response. Nations and NGOs who refuse to acknowledge destructive climate interference and the inherent state of global climate emergency are, in effect, supporting and perpetuating the status quo: a general state of denial of, and inaction toward, the worst crime ever committed against humanity."
"In the presence of fact and a recognizable path to global extinction, the only target that now matters is zero carbon. To save humanity, fossil fuels must be completely abandoned. Every other target, without distinction, leads to irreversible climate catastrophe."
Two maples, one dead, the other dying.
This is the trunk of the tree that still has leaves.
The leaves are singed brown on the edges.
"Yet we are told to throw a global day of action for 24 hours each year (this year, 10:10:10), no matter the challenges science purports and reality verifies. And somehow this party will grow into a new movement to take on these challenges, and this reality that no one discusses."
"For too long, the environmental movement - led by the big greens - has locked the climate movement into a two-pronged strategy comprised of lobbying partisan, corrupt politicians, and climbing into bed with any - and nearly every - corporate power, in the pursuit of symbolic victories, the ecstasy of the illusion of power, and to integrate the DC cocktail circuit. Even in this, the movement has failed."
The climate change movement is said to oppose oil giants controlled by Rockefeller and friends. Yet the foundations and charities of Rockefeller and friends generously fund progressive environmentalists with the purpose being to ultimately oversee and influence various and significant activities. Recall the fairytale in which the witch decorates her home as a gingerbread house in order to entice the children inside and ultimately cook them to kibble in a pot of boiling water. We are those children – and we are being manipulated to admire the grand illusion of democracy set before us as we march as one towards our own demise.
"Big greens want us to believe that we will fall into a pit of despair once we accept the situation as dire and will become immobilized. Is this true? No. In fact, history demonstrates time and time again that when faced with cataclysmic emergencies, people and communities pull together. Facing disaster, citizens of nations have shown they can unite for the common good. Sure, when we face the facts that now exist, despair is only human. The question is whether acknowledging our circumstances will immobilize us or give us the truth we need to face a daunting task."
"Big greens are certainly aware that we are now in a death-spiral brought about by the capitalist, consumptive, and corporate domination of society. Yet they actively choose to remain muzzled on the subject. Power structures in place today do not act, and never will act, to stop climate change, because the changes so desperately needed by those most vulnerable on the planet are in direct conflict to the needs and rapacious desires of capital. Capital has no empathy. Capital has no children to love and protect. Capital has only one imperative, and that is to grow." 
Trees with this much lichen are doomed to die within a season or two.
"Under the current economic system, the penultimate measure of success is profit. Corporations exist to maximize profits while externalizing costs. That is their nature. They cannot behave otherwise. Spewing greenhouse gases, toxins, and chemicals into the environment is a fundamental feature of capitalism employed by modern corporations and governments, and accounts for most of the pollutants directed into our air, water, and earth. Waste, pollution, and ecological destruction are built into the system."
"Why are the big greens and compromised NGOs spewing out meaningless targets for legislation which do nothing more than ensure a death sentence for humanity? It is because they have become corporations themselves. They are, in essence, subsidiaries of the very corporations that they claim to oppose. There can be no meaningful mass movement when dissent itself is generously funded by those same corporate interests who must be targets of the protest movement."
Or put another way, as one sign in Copenhagen proclaimed - "System Change Not Climate Change"
I could take thousands of pictures of trees in this horrible condition. 
It's quite unpleasant to think that the tentacles of multinational corporations, which already control media and government agencies, have reached into academia, but the tide of evidence is mounting that this is indeed the case.  Here are a few older examples: my post about the Smithsonian Environmental Research Center; Joe Romm's video about the Smithsonian Institute evolution exhibit; and this post, about the National Park Service measuring forest health by the number of dead trees!
Incredibly this maple produced leaves this season- they are littered on the ground already - even though half the trunk is eaten away.  It excruciating to witness.
For another unholy alliance, check out this article about Bill Gates, Monsanto, and Blackwater, and for even more, check out this sickening article from the NYTimes:  oil and gas company executives have been meeting with White House economists to press for fewer EPA reporting requirements.  Oh gee, why can't I get a meeting with a White House economist?
As much as I am frustrated and perplexed that people forget what a beautiful world we enjoyed until fairly recently, I suddenly realized when I saw this wild aster in bloom that I myself had completely forgotten the marvel of wildflowers in New Jersey.  When I first moved here, 30 years ago, I was absolutely amazed at the incredible number and variety of wildflowers in the woods, meadows, and along the roads.  They are typically small individually, but all sorts of them bloomed in myriad colorful masses, from early in the spring until frost, that I remember having remarked on it many times in the past - but not lately.
I hadn't even noticed that this fantastic proliferation has simply vanished.  All that is left are a few paltry, tiny, isolated specimens - with their leaves, especially the lower, older ones, damaged from ozone.  Realizing this brought fresh grief at the loss of our precious and irreplaceable natural surroundings.  I will never get used to it!
It is safer to concentrate on the ever mutable formations of clouds...
...and music.


  1. Those dead looking autumn leaves have invaded NE Georgia. Your photos could have been taken here. No colors, the leaves just turn brown. Are the trees dead or just wintering? I think if the dead leaves stay on the oak trees through the winter, the tree is dead. I hope you are wrong about 50% mortality for trees but fear you may not be far off.

    So long, it's been good to know you.

  2. Ah, Catman, one of these days rather soon, the intertubes will shut down. So let's say it now - so long, SO good to know you.

    Thank you for that song!

  3. You don't think the "chemtrails" could be having this effect on plant life? Teach yourself what a real jet contrail is and how it's formed and then start paying attention to these things. These jets are flying too low and real contrails DON'T form clouds.

  4. No, I don't think chemtrails could be having this effect. The damage is too uniform and widespread. There is no need to postulate a conspiracy that would have to have huge numbers of people complicit, especially low-level workers that would talk, when we are openly and constantly putting toxic pollutants into the atmosphere that are well known to be harmful to vegetation. It's our lifestyle, the entire construct of our culture, that is to blame - we need to figure out how to revolutionize our economy and entire society. THe ultra rich who are profiting from the current construct are not going to give away their power willingly.

  5. Keep an open mind. After imposition of the smokestack scrubbers, and the major movement of industry overseas, and the mandatory auto emission devices, and the elimination of coal furnaces, there was far less industrial pollution than 50 years ago. The air had gotten crystal clear by the time the chemtrailing started around 1998. Now its hazy even in the fall although there is practically no leaf burning, and the effects are accelerating. The spraying does result in a uniform distribution of the gray pink haze.

    Investigate chemtrails please.

  6. Not exactly. Much of the sulphur dioxide was cleaned up, and that plus particulate matter is what is visible in smog.

    The background level of tropospheric ozone, which is not visible and is the result of volatile organic compounds and nitrous oxides reacting to UV2, has been inexorably rising, and travels around the globe to affect places far from the source.

    Numerous scientific studies support this. There is constantly more ozone, and ozone is toxic to humans and vegetation. Really quite simple. It's like we're all sitting in a garage with the engine running. You can't see the carbon monoxide fumes, but they're going to kill everyone in the garage, sooner or later, if somebody doesn't turn the car off. Maybe it will run out of gas in time!