The Year the Dam of Denial Breaks – Ready for the Flood?

One thousand years ago (well, next year it will be anyway) there lived a King. A king who not only ruled over England and Scotland but a large part of Northern Europe including Denmark and Norway.

He was not, as popular history would have it, a madman but a devout Christian. When the English establishment gurus told him that any king of England had authority and command over the seas, he decided to show them that was not true by placing his throne at the English sea shore and while sitting on it (his seat of power) he spoke to the waves telling them of his authority and how they were not to come up over his land and wet him. Well, as expected, he got wet.

That was of course, King Canute (or Cnut) and the experience of that day should have settled the matter. But, not twenty years later, some barmy Pom wrote the song: ‘Rule Brittania, Brittania rule the waves…’, which the English still sing at times of either stress or national pride, with all of the gusto that they can muster.

As irrelevant and blatantly incorrect as holding on to that position and belief may be, they, or some of them, still firmly cling to it.

This is not however, a purely English trait. A prominent and pertinent example of that would be that the whole world, or those portions of its population whose lives are so entwined in the modern world economy that they require and fully expect it to continue as they have always known it, purely because they think that they own and have control of it, whether that be in a very small or a great and powerful way. They share the same mindset that held eminence in the English establishment of Cnut’s time. And that is damnably difficult to shift.

Such reticence to perceive and accept reality can usually only be shifted when it is finally overcome by a much more powerful force, often a force of nature. Much as the ocean dis-contemptuously dealt with the expectations of the English when Cnut was King.

We stand today at the foreshore of reality, firmly in the belief that our civilisation, our economy, our modern way of life, our technology, our culture, our species even, is in total control of our own destiny and that we control or hold in abeyance the forces of the Natural World. After all, we have two centuries or so of ample evidence to that effect to back up our position. We have done pretty much whatever we have damn well liked over that term and Nature has not batted an eyelid in its own defense or given any indication that it cares or is in any way worried about the situation.

Or has it? Maybe subtly at first, but growing now in intensity, Nature is letting us know that it may not always tolerate what we are doing. More overtly it is gathering its forces to potentially show us just who is in charge.

I have said in the past that the year 2014 was to be the year everything changed. I think that was our ‘Last Chance Saloon’ event. We missed it.

I have also said that this year 2015 is the year the upheaval begins, and I see no reason to change that projection. Others have also come to the same conclusion.
Here is one.

Paul Gilding, an Independent writer & advisor on sustainability and owner of The Cockatoo Chronicles blog, who, from his own bio:

“has spent 35 years trying to change the world, doing everything he can think off. He’s served in the Australian military, chased nuclear armed aircraft carriers in small inflatable boats, plugged up industrial waste discharge pipes, been global CEO of Greenpeace, taught at Cambridge University, owned and run two ground-breaking sustainability focused companies and been a close confidant and advisor to the CEOs of some the world’s largest companies.”

Paul last year published the book The Great Disruption which I have just purchased, and therefore cannot comment on until I have read it, has also just published this blog post, which is well worth the read, since it deals with what I have been talking about above. Not so much what Nature has to say to us, but how the change in global mindset is about to alter, or be altered.

We alter, or we get altered. That is where Nature comes in.  Actually I will rephrase that.  We get altered whether we alter or not.  Any upheaval will not just be down to Nature but will also emanate from the forced or voluntary move away from the fossil fuel industry, which in reality means all modern industry.  That cannot be described in any other way than by using words like ‘upheaval’ and ‘disruption”.

One quotation from this piece:

“Black and white getting blacker and whiter can’t influence those who don’t want to see.”

I think this may be the longest introduction I have ever made.

Paul Gilding

This is the year the “dam of denial” will break and the momentum for climate action will become an unstoppable flood. It will be messy, confusing and endlessly debated but with historical hindsight, 2015 will be the year. The year the world turned, primarily because the market woke up to the economic threat posed by climate change and the economic opportunity in the inevitable decline of fossil fuels. That shift will in turn unlock government policy and public opinion because the previous resistance to action argued on economic grounds, will reverse to favour action on economic grounds.

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“Messieurs, c’est les microbes qui auront le dernier mot.”

The Last Word

From the start of my involvement with blogging and social media I have built up a list of favourite quotations.  Among them is the following from Louis Pasteur the microbiologist and discoverer of the role of microbes in the process of fermentation and who played a large role in the field of immunisation and vaccinology, among other things.  He said:  “It is the microbes that will have the last word.”.

Of course Pasteur didn’t actually say that.  He was French so if he said something on that at all it would more likely have been the same as the title of my article:    “Messieurs, c’est les microbes qui auront le dernier mot (Gentlemen, it is the microbes who will have the last word.)”.

Pasteur’s view was quite prescient and may well be proven so within the foreseeable future and perhaps sooner than most of us would like to contemplate.

End Of An Era

Until I remembered Pasteur’s quote I was considering an alternative title for this post.  It would have been: “The Era Of Antibiotics Is About To End”.  This is a paraphrase of the title of an article I just read here at Get Holistic Health website.  The article refers to a current report from the premier US health agency the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).  This is not the only source of such news of course, the subject quandry has been fairly openly broadcast even on mainstream news outlets.

What does this mean?  Well, read the article, but basically it means that we have already lost the war against the microbes.  Governments know that.  Pharmaceutical corporations know that.  In fact the pharmaceutical industry has all but ceased research for new antibiotic drugs, knowing that they can’t win.  They can’t discover new and more effective remedies faster than the microbes can evolve to negate their effect.

Antibiotic remedies were first discovered a little more than eighty years ago by Alexander Fleming and only started to be introduced into medical practice not much more than seventy years ago.  Antibiotics were never going to be a long term solution for infection control.  Pasteur foresaw that.  Can a discovery that has an effective lifetime of only 70-80 years be truly called a success?  This is only a blip, an instant, a moment, in the timeline of human existence.  In fact, introduced only a handful of years before I was born, the practice of using antibiotics may not outlast my own lifetime.  They may have lasted a little longer but through overuse, misuse and abuse, their effectiveness has been ended earlier than may have been expected if utilised wisely and appropriately.

The Get Holistic Health article that I referenced previously, offers an alternative solution.  Well they would do that wouldn’t they?  That is their business, promoting holistic health.

It is common sense really.  What did humanity do to fight off infection and disease for the thousands of years prior to the seventy year blip that is the antibiotic era?  Well, they sought and found natural holistic remedies.  Otherwise they simply died.  Mostly they died.  That is the same range of choices that will face humanity in the, hopefully, thousands of years, perhaps hundreds of years or maybe only tens of years that we can look forward to as a viable species on this planet.  We will re-seek and re-find natural remedies for our ills, or we will die from them.  Many will die.

Without the support of modern medicine that has only been made possible by the abundant resources of the only slightly longer blip in our history represented by the fossil fuel era ie. oil, coal and gas (which is also coming to an end very soon), life expectancy, human mortality, will start to return to pre-industrial era levels such as it always has been.  We are living in a bubble and that bubble is about to burst.  The problem is that most of us, in fact practically all of us, have not experienced life (well, what we currently refer to as life, and we have little or no memory of any other) outside of that bubble.  Living in a bubble has its advantages but it is also virtually impossible to imagine with any real sense of perspective just what conditions are like outside of the bubble.  We are about to find out.

So, Where Am I Gong With This? (A Reconsidered Point Of View)

In the past I have written quite a bit about the state of the world, our human predicament, our history, why we are in the mess that we most definitely are in and about how I see the future playing out.  And I have enjoyed, if that is the right word, doing that.

I haven’t felt like doing more of that recently.  It is not that my writings will have much if any influence on eventual outcomes or even on persons who may stumble accidentally onto my site to read them.  So, does it matter?  Are my views out of line or perhaps somewhere near the truth?   What will be, will be, whether I or anyone else writes about it or attempts to alter the course of events.

So, I have taken the time to reconsider these things.  What conclusions have I made?

Have my views changed at all?  No, they have not.  We are still steering a course towards impending disaster no matter which way you look at it.

Do I need to keep repeating my message over and over again from slightly different angles?  Possibly not, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that I shouldn’t, or won’t.

Should I focus more on positive action, preparation for future events, recording of helpful information?  Possibly, maybe even exclusively.  I will do my best to improve in that area, but no guarantees.

What I have discovered is that there is no point laying blame on individuals or organisations or in pursuing activist type operations with the hope of changing anything.  Kudos to those who do those sort of things but in the end none of it really matters.  We are on the downward slope of societal decline without really knowing just how steep or gradual that slope may be and future history will play out its dramatic scenes the way it will, without any help from me.

It is up to individuals (we are all one of those just as much as we are collectively one body within nature) to recognise and establish their own position on these things relative to the overall group (humanity) position but we all need a starting point and guiding influences along the way.  This is where talking about these things, reading and writing about them, comes into the picture and is actually an important part of the process towards enlightenment.  Avoiding the issues, ignoring them, does not lead to clarity.  It just means blind submission to the group mentality, behaving like sheep people or ‘sheeple’.  There is a degree of comfort and safety in being sheeple but also a great danger of collectively straying off track and all going over the cliff edge together.

For these and other reasons I have ceased membership of all activist groups and have backed off from reading and commenting on most, not all, protest websites.  I think it will pay to not get too much out of touch with the signs of the times but an observer role rather than participation seems to be the way ahead for me at least.  This does not necessarily mean that I will be silent on these matters.

I have also realised, or have gained a clearer view, of what the real problem is and this will bring us back full circle, I think, to how this article started.

What Is The Real Problem That We Face?

Let me start with what the real problem is not, and proceed from there.

The real problem is not something that is outside of our capability to control.  While there are many such things, like asteroid impact, super volcano, global pandemic, that could bring about a premature end to our little show, they are merely potential problems, not to be discounted by any means but they are not the real problem that we face.

While the following are very real issues that we do have the ability to exercise control over, the real problem is not any of them:

  1. Overconsumption, the gobbling up, accumulation and use of ‘stuff’ (technical term for anything that can be obtained by any available means) which seems to be the main preoccupation for most of us in the world today.  This of course results in Resource Depletion and lays the foundation of Corporate Greed and an out of control Financial Industry and ultimately Societal Collapse.
  2. Environmental Degradation, the careless misuse of planetary assets without thought for future consequences. Included here is human induced Climate Change, Collapsing Ecosystems and the negative effects of Modern Agriculture (which is the field to which the Pharmaceutical Industry has turned to make a buck since they realised that their hold on the medical field was always doomed to end in failure).
  3. Social Elitism, the national, ethnic, religious, class and ideological groupings that separate people one from another for no better reason than flimsy ‘team’ allegiance or superiority, resulting in Global and Regional Conflict, violence, abused minorities and many other disturbing social trends.

I repeat, these are not the real problem.  They are merely symptoms of the real problem. The conclusion I have reached is that the real problem facing humanity is one that if we viewed it as such and put in place controls that do lie within our capabilities, we could overcome.  I do not think that we will do so voluntarily, but we could.

The real problem is Over-Population.

There are just too many of us around now for our own good and for the good of the planet on which we exist.

A popular myth says that  there are more humans alive now than the total of those who have ever lived before this time in all of our previous history.  This is not true of course (if it were true, you could forget about reincarnation) and while accurate estimates are difficult to establish, it is reckoned that something over 100 billion people have been born throughout history, far exceeding our current population (reincarnationists, I am one, who claim some level of previous life memory, can thank that fact for backing up, or at least not rebutting, their beliefs).

It is perfectly true though that never in our history has there been so many people (human beings, homo sapiens) alive at the same time as right now.

I do not discount the possibility that there may have been other global civilisations occupying our planet before our time here, of which there is now little or no trace as to their passing, but if there were such they would I think most likely not have been human beings.  I also do not discount that any preceding civilisations may have expired due to exactly the same reasons that we ourselves are becoming an endangered species of which just as little will remain, if anything at all remains as evidence of our own short history, for future special populations to see as we have of those who preceded our stay here.  This is mostly, though not entirely, pure conjecture of course.

Getting back on track, I hope to show that over-population is bigger than, and in fact the root cause of, all of the other problems that I mentioned earlier.  Here is my reasoning.

There is no doubt that the human population is growing.  It appears to be growing faster as time goes by, but that is simply an illusion.  Exponential growth is often thought to operate at a faster and faster rate but that is not true.  To grow exponentially, something only needs to grow at a fixed rate and that rate can be very small.  Any growth at a fixed rate over time is exponential because it will result in a doubling of that ‘something’ over a particular time period and for every subsequent repetition of that time period.  If you like to contemplate this line of reasoning then I recommend you watch the video below from Professor Albert Bartlett.

So, the population is growing.  The more it grows the more each of my three points above of controllable problems is exacerbated, becomes a bigger problem than it used to be.

  1. The more people there are, the more ‘stuff’ has to be produced to keep them happy.  The more ‘stuff’ produced, the more quickly the finite (limited, the word finite means having a limit) resources at our disposal are consumed.  A phrenetic race for the top based on profit, greed and debt ensues. Bad things start to happen.
  2. The more people there are, the more food is required to feed them and the less a share of total global food production becomes each person’s fair share.  The more people the more living space is required and the more land devoted to food production.  The planet suffers and ultimately everyone suffers.  Bad things start to happen.
  3. The more people there are, the more friction is generated as boundaries are pushed, social mores (norms, behaviours, customs, taboos) are infringed or ignored, separations into ‘have’ and ‘have not’ groupings arise (the 1% v the 99%). Discontent flourishes.  Bad things start to happen.

The reader may require more convincing evidence than what has been said here but to me this is a pretty clear picture.  Humans breed.  Just as all other living organisms do.  Breeding uncontrolled on a ball of rock that also supplies all of our needs for sustained life will eventually result in a sad ending.  Also, sadly, we may not see that ending coming until we reach the point where we each have only one square metre of land to stand on because at the point of the previous doubling of population the Earth’s land area would have been only half full.  That holds true no matter what the rate of growth is.

In the period 1950 to 1990 the world population doubled from 2.5 billion to 5 billion.  A doubling time of 40 years.  The rate of growth has slowed slightly since that time and the next doubling to 10 billion is expected by 2050, only some 36 years from now.

Can we slow down the rate of growth sufficient to avoid dangerous overcrowding?  Or are we currently at a level that can be considered as dangerous?  Should we be considering ways to actually reduce the current population for the safety of future generations?

I will not pursue those inquiries further here but it is a conversation that we must undertake globally and soon if we are to retain, some might say regain, control of our destiny.

Perhaps this quandry will be taken completely out of our hands, since we seem to have no appetite to engage in finding a solution, which brings me back to how this article began.

I think I can safely say that we are not now, never have been, nor ever will be in charge or control of our natural destiny as temporary residents of this planet.  Nature has that job and there are signs that He/She/It (depending on your view) is beginning to exercise that responsibility.  Nature after all has been controlling things here for far longer than we have been around and I suspect has gathered plenty of expertise in seeing that proper balance is somehow maintained despite the efforts of upstart species to take over.

The article concludes with this thought:  Is the evident loss of our battle against the microbes Natures move to begin adjusting the balance by reducing human population level through natural attrition that our efforts to medically prolong human life in recent decades (only decades remember) has attempted to circumvent?  Will balance be restored with us, though materially less of us, included?  Will the process end there?  Or will Nature take a look at our latest Behavoural Report Card and say “Enough is enough. They all have to go”?

The Mad Scientists At AMEG Are At It Again

It has been a while since I blogged here last.  I have been continually observing of course and have been posting some brief and interesting news items on my Facebook page but have not found the need to write an extended piece here.  That has now changed.

On April 12 I posted this on Facebook:

Well, it looks like we are well over the peak of northern hemisphere ice building for this year (courtesy of the National Snow & Ice Data Center graph of Arctic Sea Ice Extent) and about to embark on the annual melt season. I wonder if it will be another record breaking year for ice melt? Chances are good that it will be. Some scientists are expecting to see ice free Arctic Summers in the next 2-3 years. Not good news for you and me or the critters we share the planet with.

I accompanied this post with a link to the latest NSIDC graph at http://nsidc.org/arcticseaicenews/charctic-interactive-sea-ice-graph/ and added a couple of comments:

Let me explain a little about this graph. If you look at the pinkish line for ice build up in 2013 you will see that none of this ice is more than 3-4 months old. That means it will be no more than 1 metre thick. Not much when you consider it is riding on a warming ocean of water. The Arctic region is gathering heat faster than any other part of the planet. Where is the heat going? Not too much into the air, or ice would not form. It is going into the ocean and this is why we now see killer whales hunting up there in recent years. 1 metre ice is going to break up and melt real fast. Next look at the green dashed line for last year. A record low ice cover in September at the height of the melt season. This shows over 80% of existing ice had melted since the previous winter. Meaning that less than 20% of existing ice is now more than one year old and even this ‘old’ ice is being weakened by the relatively warmer water beneath it. Every year there is less and less of this ‘old’ ice remaining. A complete collapse of Arctic Sea Ice is imminently (within a few years) inevitable.

and

Here is another graphical view of the Arctic Sea Ice scenario, this time courtesy of The Cryosphere Today and the Polar Research Group of University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (UIUC). The picture is much the same but they show less ice (about 1 million sq kms less) year round than in the NSIDC chart, presumably because they have a different definition of just what constitutes the area of the Arctic region.http://arctic.atmos.uiuc.edu/cryosphere/arctic.sea.ice.interactive.html

8 days later, on April 29,  the Arctic News blog posted this, saying much the same as my earlier post: http://arctic-news.blogspot.com.au/2013/04/arctic-sea-ice-in-steep-descend-more-than-four-days-earlier-than-in-2012.html using data from the Cryosphere Today site.

Today,   I find that The Guardian has news that the US Government is beginning to sit up and take notice of the situation at the northern end of our world, in the article:  http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/earth-insight/2013/may/02/white-house-arctic-ice-death-spiral with the headline:

White House warned on imminent Arctic ice death spiral 

National security officials worried by rapid loss of Arctic summer sea ice overlook threat of permanent global food shortages

I suggest you read the whole Guardian article for yourself but here are a couple of interesting quotes from it:

“The loss of Arctic summer sea ice and the rapid warming of the Far North are altering the jet stream over North America, Europe, and Russia. Scientists are now just beginning to understand how these profound shifts may be increasing the likelihood of more persistent and extreme weather.”

and

“The weather extremes from last year are causing real problems for farmers, not only in the UK, but in the US and many grain-producing countries. World food production can be expected to decline, with mass starvation inevitable. The price of food will rise inexorably, producing global unrest and making food security even more of an issue.”

These are the sort of things that I have been warning about for some time now.  It is beginning to get real folks.  The wise will even now be taking steps to prepare and protect themselves as much as possible from these effects.

My greatest concern  is that the calls from the mad scientists at AMEG and certain others for, to quote the Guardian article again:

The AMEG statement adds that governments should consider geoengineering techniques – large-scale technological interventions in the climate system – to “cool the Arctic and save the sea ice” in order to avert catastrophe.

Madness in the extreme.   Interfering with nature is not the answer.  We have been interfering with the balance of nature on this planet for the last few centuries.  This is why we are on the edge of disaster already. More of the same, but different, is not going to help in any way.  We just have to stop what we have been doing.  And do that really quickly.  At this stage of the game, even if we all went back to stone-age living conditions it is doubtful whether the worst of the ‘inevitable’ outcomes that are foreseen can be averted.

I have said that before too, but it bears repeating.  I will probably say it again before too long.

Latest News: “Prepare for a three to five degree C warmer world”

Permafrost_pattern

Crack patterns in Arctic permafrost as viewed from a helicopter. Credit: Brocken Inaglory/cc by 3.0

Here is the text of a post I just made on my Facebook page:

This confirms what I have been saying for some time now.
Quote: “(Now) all the promises in the world, which we’re not likely to realise anyway, will not give us a world with only a two degree C rise.”.
Quote: “Prepare for a three to five degree C warmer world, said Sir Robert Watson the former chair of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). Speaking at a symposium in London Tuesday, Watson, the science director of the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research, said the world has missed its chance to stay below two degrees C.”.

…and the IPCC are notorious for underestimating the effects of climate change.

You wouldn’t be comfortable in a +2 degree C world. In a +3 to +5 degree C world it may be impossible for humans to exist.

Quote: “In 2011… research showed that the “tipping point” was just 15 to 20 years away. …that will now have to be revised. The only question is how much sooner.”.

…I am personally estimating, from my readings, sometime in the next two or three years.

The post linked to this article http://www.ipsnews.net/2013/02/thawing-permafrost-may-be-huge-factor-in-global-warming/

Just another nail in the coffin of the human species.  The human experiment is almost over.