Saturday, March 31, 2012

#Occupy -the Real Revolution Begins... Critical Constituency Rises in Rage!

TOYS EXERCISE FIRST AMENDMENT RIGHTS 
REFUSING TO BE SILENT 
#ToyProtest

MANHATTAN, NY- Toys unite - putting aside brand and color to take a stand in support of Occupy Wall Street, invoking their first amendment rights, to say "we will no longer remain silent: toys are people, too". The toys will continue their campaign throughout the month of April and ask that toys across the country and the world stand up to join the toy protest. A large yellow bird, an event organizer, who asked to be referred to as "Big Bird" stated: "After recent events, we realized that we could no longer in good conscience remain silent. Until now we have been afraid to protest. Our faces are highly visible making us recognizable worldwide, but as many activists are targeted for arrests and beaten, including most recently a sixteen year old girl brutally arrested and carried down the street exposed, we see that it is our duty to take a stand for what we believe in and to lend our popularity in support of that cause." A blue furry, self-described "cookie monster", said "I like cookies as much as the next toy. MORE, but what's happening in our economy? Ninety nine percent of the cookies being eaten by one percent of the toys is just wrong. Even to me." Adding, "Hey, do you have any cookies? Some toy already ate ALL the cookies."

When: 11am-2pm, Sunday, April 1st 
Where: F.A.O. Schwarz: 767 5th Avenue, New York, NY 10153 @11am; 
Lego store @ Rockefeller Ctr: 620 5th Avenue at 50th Street; American Girl Store: 609 Fifth Avenue at 49th Street @12pm; 
Toys R Us:1514 Broadway at 44th South, New York, NY @1pm.
The toys will be meeting at each location to protest and engage in dialogue. A long nosed elephant, called "Dumbo" another organizer added, "We believe in free speech, the right to express dissent, and to assemble and we will exercise that right in the face of any oppressive and immoral government or regime.  When asked what their primary goals are, a big eared mouse who called himself "Mickey" said, "Our concerns are the same as everyone else's. Economic and social justice, but in addition, toys face challenges others are not aware of. For example, Lego has incredibly sexist policies, often our clothes are made of cotton produced by child labor, and American Girl has taken to phasing out 'aging dolls' in favor of 'newer, fresher faces.' Our goal? To create awareness of these issues, to start a dialogue, and to encourage others to have the courage to step out- that's all folks.  A green hairy animal, going by "Oscar" and claiming to live in garbage cans added, "Look, if we can do it, anyone can and should. It's a question of conscience. After all, who is more well known than us?"

Contact - Revolutionary Games
               @revplay 
               #toyprotest
               revolutionaryplay@gmail.com
               revolutionarygames.net

Green Inc. will take Cash for Earth Hour Credits

I am so fortunate to be able to share a guest post by Tim Murray, which is a much-needed antidote to this malignant campaign on the part of the American Enterprise Institute to sabotage environmentalism with "Human Achievement Hour" - as though wrecking the environment and destroying a habitable climate is some sort of achievement.  It makes my blood boil!  Look at their despicable "alternative" as reported by MSNBC:
"Earth Hour, the annual event that turns off lights as a statement for cleaner energy, marks its fifth year this Saturday. But a free-market think tank is trying to get some traction with its alternative: the Human Achievement Hour, when people are encouraged to leave lights on to show their appreciation for inventions "and the recognition that future solutions require individual freedom not government coercion."
Do you see Michelle?  She is in the center foreground, counting her money. 
"If you’re going to vote you need at least two choices," says Michelle Minton, the Competitive Enterprise Institute fellow who came up with HAH in 2009...."Many environmentalists see humans as fundamentally destructive and want to force individuals to conserve," she adds. "Earth Hour is an attempt to convince lawmakers that the majority of the population wants them to clamp down on progress".
It's not that I think Earth Hour is anything more than symbolic.  As Tim pointed out in quoting from this articleindividual efforts are dwarfed by those of society at large to endlessly grow:

UPPING THE STAKES...Forget Shorter Showers
Why personal change does not equal political change
By Derrick Jensen
“For the past 15 years the story has been the same every year: individual consumption— residential, by private car, and so on—is never more than about a quarter of all consumption; the vast majority is commercial, industrial, corporate, by agribusiness and government [he forgot military]. So, even if we all took up cycling and wood stoves it would have a negligible impact on energy use, global warming and atmospheric pollution...The whole individualist what-you-can-do-to-save-the-earth guilt trip is a myth. We, as individuals, are not creating the crises, and we can’t solve them.” 
~ Kirkpatrick Sale
Even so, symbols matter, when they can - and sometimes they do - lead to real action, which is what Jensen describes:
"...acting decisively to stop the industrial economy, is very scary for a number of reasons, including but not restricted to the fact that we’d lose some of the luxuries (like electricity) to which we’ve grown accustomed, and the fact that those in power might try to kill us if we seriously impede their ability to exploit the world—none of which alters the fact that it’s a better option than a dead planet. Any option is a better option than a dead planet...We can follow the example of those who remembered that the role of an activist is not to navigate systems of oppressive power with as much integrity as possible, but rather to confront and take down those systems."
Here is the website for Earth Hour - please remember to turn off your lights tonight between 8:30 and 9:30 p.m...but first, go to the AEI facebook page, and tell them to go fuck themselves!  You can just go to the page, "join", and leave a comment - it's free so why not! - here was mine (wasn't I a miracle of restraint?)"
This is utterly disgusting. Shame on you. We need to conserve energy, water, and other resources for the use of future generations. We need to try to leave them a clean, unpolluted planet and a habitable climate. You are evil to encourage the notion that there are no limits.
GIANT FAIL.
And don't forget, before you turn off the power, to watch the video and then enjoy the spoof from Tim that follows:



A Guest Post by Tim Murray:

No Time For Earth Hour?

Are you overwhelmed with work and worry, unable to find the time to reflect upon the fate of our civilization? You have no time for token gestures that assume that overshoot is a matter of personal responsibility, of little people doing little things that will “all add up to something”?

Then you might be able to mark Earth Picosecond!

Are you working two jobs while trying to raise a family but you just can’t find the time to genuflect before fashionable and futile causes? You wanted to mark Earth Day but realized that you only had time to mark Earth “Hour”? And then you looked at your watch and realized that you didn’t even have an hour to spare for the planet? Rest easy. We at Green Inc. have a special offer. For a $100 donation we will do two things. We will send you our “Guide to Empty Green Gestures for Busy People” and a permit to mark “Earth Picosecond”, enough to allow you the social acceptance and moral superiority you seek in a fraction of the time that other green trendies take to prove they’re better than those meat-eating rednecks in the red states of America.

A “Picosecond”, in case you didn’t know, is one trillionth, or one millionth of one millionth of a second, or 0.000 000 000 001 seconds. A picosecond is to one second as one second is to 31,700 years. Now surely you can work a picosecond in your schedule?

If we as a nation are to succeed in an increasingly competitive global marketplace, we must endeavour to grow our economy, but be ‘smart’ and ‘efficient’ and environmentally responsible about it. We must be inspired by Earth Hour to cut back on our personal energy consumption so that the slack can be quickly picked up by population and economic growth to erase our petty sacrifice. We must “manage’ growth and ‘manage’ time. Smart growth and time management----that’s it! That is our passport to prosperity. All it takes is “planning”----the great elixir for all of our growing pains. Planning your city or your country or your day will permit you to cram more and more into less and less ad infinitum! The only limits to “more and more” are your failure to fully master the technique of time and space management!

Let’s face it. Life is getting more and more hectic all the time. And like Charlie Chaplin showed us in “Modern Times”, we must speed up to match the quickening pace that our economy sets for us. Once people had ‘siestas’, then siestas became “naps”, and now, thanks to time management, “power” naps suffice. In fact, we no longer need to sleep at all---nor indulge in time-consuming exercise or relaxation. We can “power walk” and perform “power yoga”. And a good thing too, because our global competitors will not allow us to squander our time. Nor will our customers. The only time we can afford to spend is QUALITY time. If you are equipped with time management skills, you don’t have to waste a lot of time with your family or friends---or on your favourite environmental causes. By using a picosecond effectively, you can give them all the quality time they need.

That’s fine for men, you might say, but what about people without testosterone? What about women who not only must work 50 hour weeks in the office in that cubicle underneath the glass ceiling so that their boss can get the credit for their hard work and ingenuity---but come home afterward to cook dinner and mind the kids. Surely they cannot make things happen in a picosecond.
No worries. We have a special offer for Supermoms. The “femtosecond”.

According to Wikipedia, “A femtosecond is SI unit of time equal to 10 to the negative 15th power of a second. That is one quadrillionth, or one millionth of one billionth of a second.” (And here I thought a femtosecond was the amount of time a woman would give me after I told her I didn’t like kids and I had no job.)

Remember, lost time is never found again. And the quest for higher productivity must never cease. Work, for the night is coming! John Calvin, where are you now that we need you?

~ Tim Murray March 28, 2012
Above, a supermom charged up by a power walk, a power nap and flexed by power yoga, is now ready to “seize the femtosecond” (Carpe femtosecondus) and mark a fraction of Earth Hour to signal her commitment to the concept of smart growth in the ‘eco-dense’ city of Vancouver---the “greenest city in the world’.  Growing up, growing out and growing tighter.

Friday, March 30, 2012

"Ruins of Our Own Construction" - Doomer Porn from Jared Diamond

Movie time!  The premise of this film is just plain silly - that two hundred years hence in a post-apocalyptic world, buff young scientists will not only still exist, but will have recuperated enough from the collapse of industrial society to employ advanced laser technology and a really cute desert-mobile while they investigate the sources of environmental catastrophe, the abandonment of cities and mass migration.  But setting aside the improbability of that convenient cinematic device, it's a brilliant movie all the same (and what else would you expect from Jared Diamond?).  It examines the causes of earlier historical examples of overshoot such as the Romans and Mayans, and finds there is a common progression from rapid growth, to empire...
...to deforestation leading to flash floods, soil erosion, then to famine and, inexorably, to war.  The narration points out the ravages of flailing empires inflict upon surrounding regions.  Today, add a binge on cheap energy and the fact that it is for the first time ever, a global economy, and it's not difficult to see how this movie will end...oops and then on top of that, there's rapid climate change.
There are two aspects of particular interest to me.  The first is the destruction California orchards, already underway, because fruit and nut trees require so much more water than other crops.  It wouldn't surprise me if those trees that are being removed - 90,000 of them so far - have really been dying from air pollution and the farmers don't even realize it.  For one thing, trees make rain.
The other fascinating issue comes up in the very beginning of the film when the Anasazi people, who quickly built and then even more hastily deserted the most advanced architecture in the Americas before modern times.  According to the scientists interviewed, the Chaco Canyon was abandoned because of a lack of water, beginning with a fifty-year drought followed by others over  a period of 150 years.  This has been determined by studying tree rings.

This begs the question, if the trees lived long enough to measure a 50 year drought or maybe more, then why are scientists blaming widespread tree deaths on much shorter droughts?  Hmmmm?
Compare all the other parallels between the forces that destroyed prior great and complex societies and ours and then imagine - they didn't have tropospheric ozone killing off vegetation like we do, it didn't exist...nor did the myriad other chemical pollutants that mostly derive from petroleum, nor had they exploited almost all the minerals and other rare, non-renewable elements, or acidified the oceans.  So it would appear stupid to expect anything other than a greatly magnified disaster for our global civilization than has ever occurred in the past.  Naturally, even so, the movie ends with the requisite upbeat cheer - "At least we've got a chance.  If we choose to solve the world's problems, we can do something"..."It could be that we're living through the defining moment in human evolution, the time when our civilization breaks the mold and chooses to succeed."  They keep emphasizing that we can choose, choose, choose.

Settle in with a snack and enjoy the movie anyway!

Thursday, March 29, 2012

A Game of Clue

Here it is mid-afternoon and little of consequence has been accomplished at Wit's End, other than feeding the cats and birds.  I had barely crawled out of bed this morning when tumult on the intertubes ensued, so this post is going to veer in a dizzy swinging odyssey from the political to the environmental and back again - because they are simultaneously even more inextricably entwined in the past 24 hours or so than I would have thought possible.
A couple of days ago I puzzled over my usual question about which gaseous weapon is to blame for the increasing background levels of ozone that are killing trees so quickly and virulently, and discussed the potential contribution from biofuel emissions.  Yesterday, evidence about the other primary culprit, methane, exploded from several directions, as did some inflammatory issues around policy, both foreign and domestic.
One comment to Chris Hedges' article describing his lawsuit against Obama for approving the notorious National Defense Authorization Act ("Homeland Battlefield Bill") observed that if we had better voters, we'd have a better government.  Given the abominable deceptions and mendacity from the Defense Department, the State Department, and the rest of government - all beholden to corporate interests - is that really true?  Who is guilty for the precarious mess we're in?

Is it the military?
The banksters and corporate moguls?
The ostentatious, insatiable greed of the 1%?
Those crazy scientists unleashing technology that humans are hopelessly incompetent to manage?
The unskilled, uneducated tea-partiers who vote against all logic and even their own self-interest?
Does it really matter who or what is at fault?  Isn't tomorrow just another day?
One of the first articles I read early was written by a Republican meteorologist, a self-described convert to comprehending climate change, wishing that his party would stop being full of catatonic zombie deniers (he didn't call them that, of course).  Here was my comment:
It's a good article as far as climate change goes, but I get rather tired of Republicans who seem to not understand that today's party of buffoons and haters isn't an aberration, it's the logical outcome of years of "benevolent", propaganda driven consumer-oriented fascism. Now that the empire is crumbling, it's a little more difficult for them to maintain the façade. The only reason people like Paul Douglas were able to think of themselves as nice people while propping up the right wing is because they just weren't paying attention to the seamy side, because things were temporarily so prosperous for America, they didn't have to.
Frank Rich writes about their war against women, but it's a terrific piece in more general political terms.
The notion that we are going to techno-fix our way out of the planetary emergency is just as dangerous as outright denial. There are too many people on the world. There are too many resources that are essential to industrial civilization that are irreplaceable and running out. The burden of pollution in the air and in the ocean is snuffing out life itself.
We are on a fast track for mass extinctions. If we wanted to drastically conserve - meaning, make real sacrifices in our standard of living, our ability to procreate at above replacement, our ability to travel and trade over long distances - we could buy some time and maybe spare some species from extinction.
But there is no magic wand that will fix ocean acidification, sea level rise, melting polar ice and glaciers. Those are already set in motion and unstoppable. So is ecosystem collapse if we continue to use the atmosphere as a sewer for fuel emissions, which are toxic to all forms of life.
I do realize that it's not just republicans to blame - it's an evil and exploitative system which both parties perpetuate.  Here's a striking example which I came across while still sipping my coffee, which is absolutely nauseating.  It's about the collusion of US and British governments decades ago, to forcibly evacuate the inhabitants of the island of Diego Garcia, in order to create a Navy staging ground still used for incursions into Iraq and Afganistan...as well as other nefarious activities that wouldn't stand scrutiny.  That America is a vicious imperialist nation hypocritically masquerading as a democracy is not a new notion to me, but it is still shocking to find out that something this repellent happened when I never even heard the least hint of it before.

What is particularly outrageous and shaming is to consider that, although I'm far from a historian or expert in anything, I have been an avid follower of news and politics since I first learned to read.  Before I realized that the NYT and NPR had been taken over by their advertisers' propaganda, I was a faithful follower of both, more than once a day, every day.

What got me started on the fate of this island on the other side of the world was an article circulated by an Occupier on our listserve, titled "The World War on Democracy" written by John Pilger.  I highly recommend the entire thing, and his other investigative reports.  When I first read this with mounting dismay  - especially the scene about the pet dogs - I thought perhaps it was some sort of exaggeration or hyperbole.  Then I googled it and learned this well-known sordid episode is no longer secret, and the litigation is ongoing - although the woman quoted, Lizette, has recently died:

"In the early 1960s, the Labour government of Harold Wilson secretly agreed to a demand from Washington that the Chagos archipelago, a British colony, be 'swept' and 'sanitised' of its 2,500 inhabitants so that a military base could be built on the principal island, Diego Garcia.  'They knew we were inseparable from our pets,' said Lizette, 'When the American soldiers arrived to build the base, they backed their big trucks against the brick shed where we prepared the coconuts; hundreds of our dogs had been rounded up and imprisoned there.  Then they gassed them through tubes from the trucks' exhausts. You could hear them crying.'" 

"Lisette and her family and hundreds of islanders were forced on to a rusting steamer bound for Mauritius, a distance of 2,500 miles. They were made to sleep in the hold on a cargo of fertiliser: bird shit.  The weather was rough; everyone was ill; two women miscarried. Dumped on the docks at Port Louis, Lizette's youngest children, Jollice, and Regis, died within a week of each other. 'They died of sadness,' she said. 'They had heard all the talk and seen the horror of what had happened to the dogs. They knew they were leaving their home forever. The doctor in Mauritius said he could not treat sadness.'" 

"This act of mass kidnapping was carried out in high secrecy. In one official file, under the heading, 'Maintaining the fiction', the Foreign Office legal adviser exhorts his colleagues to cover their actions by 're-classifying' the population as 'floating' and to 'make up the rules as we go along'. Article 7 of the statute of the International Criminal Court says the 'deportation or forcible transfer of population' is a crime against humanity. That Britain had committed such a crime -- in exchange for a $14 million discount off an American Polaris nuclear submarine - was not on the agenda of a group of British 'defence' correspondents flown to the Chagos by the Ministry of Defence when the US base was completed. 'There is nothing in our files,' said a ministry official, 'about inhabitants or an evacuation.'" 

"Today, Diego Garcia is crucial to America's and Britain's war on democracy. The heaviest bombing of Iraq and Afghanistan was launched from its vast airstrips, beyond which the islanders' abandoned cemetery and church stand like archaeological ruins. The terraced garden where Lisette laughed for the camera is now a fortress housing the 'bunker-busting' bombs carried by bat-shaped B-2 aircraft to targets in two continents; an attack on Iran will start here. As if to complete the emblem of rampant, criminal power, the CIA added a Guantanamo-style prison for its rendition victims and called it Camp Justice."

"What was done to Lisette's paradise has an urgent and universal meaning, for it represents the violent, ruthless nature of a whole system behind its democratic facade, and the scale of our own indoctrination to its messianic assumptions, described by Harold Pinter as a 'brilliant, even witty, highly successful act of hypnosis.'  Longer and bloodier than any war since 1945, waged with demonic weapons and a gangsterism dressed as economic policy and sometimes known as globalisation, the war on democracy is unmentionable in western elite circles. As Pinter wrote, 'it never happened even while it was happening'.  Last July, American historian William Blum published his 'updated summary of the record of US foreign policy'.  Since the Second World War, the US has: 

- Attempted to overthrow more than 50 governments, most of them democratically-elected.
- Attempted to suppress a populist or national movement in 20 countries.
- Grossly interfered in democratic elections in at least 30 countries.
- Dropped bombs on the people of more than 30 countries.
- Attempted to assassinate more than 50 foreign leaders."

The link I next came across was this one "Diego Garcia: British–American Legal Black Hole in the Indian Ocean?", an analysis of the legal cover used to shield secret renditions and stockpiles of illicit land mines - and the tragic nexus between these shadowy military evasions of the laws with the concurrent destruction of the fragile tropical ecosystem:

"Environmental risks from US military construction on the atoll of Diego Garcia (British Indian Ocean Territory) since 1971 include damage caused by large-scale ‘coral mining’, the introduction of invasive alien plant species, continuous transits of nuclear material and unreported major fuel spills; these risks are now compounded by those of sea-level rise and ocean acidification due to global climate change. The US and UK governments have evaded accountability by way of a persistent ‘black hole’ strategy, contending that some national laws and international treaties for the protection of human rights and the environment do not apply to the island—a position confirmed by a controversial appellate judgment of the House of Lords in October 2008, essentially relying on ‘prerogative’ colonial law. This article draws attention to the fallacy of the black-hole syndrome, and to its potentially fatal consequences for the British claim to a 200-mile environment protection zone in the Chagos Archipelago."

As it turns out, scathing criticism was also written in the UK Guardian by Fred Pearce, exposing the capitulation to pressure by the IUCN and other supposedly conservation-oriented NGO's.  They declared the area around Diego Garcia a "nature reserve", on the pretext of preserving the environment - when plainly the intent of the designation was to prevent the indigenous people from returning.  That, too is worthy of a full read but since this blog is about ozone killing trees, can it be merely coincidence that just yesterday the same Fred Pearce published an interview, about - can you believe the cosmic circularity of this? - Methane.  Here it is:

"Peter Cox at the University of Exeter, UK, was speaking at the Planet Under Pressure meeting in London, where more than 2800 scientists gathered to discuss fears that Earth's life-support systems are under intense stress from human activity."

"The trick, he says, is to widen our attack on greenhouse gases from carbon dioxide to include the second most significant greenhouse gas - methane. 'Methane is a more important control on global temperature than previously realised. The gas's influence is much greater than its direct effect on the atmosphere,' says Cox. Curbing methane, he adds, may now be the only way to prevent dangerous warming."

"We release methane in many ways - leaks from gas pipelines and coal mines, from landfills, the guts of livestock and rice paddies. Curbing these emissions would bring a manifold benefit for climate, says Cox."

"He has studied the way CO2 and methane influence plant growth, and says that these feedback mechanisms mean action on methane could have twice the expected punch."

"An atmosphere containing less methane but more CO2 would encourage forests and other vegetation on land to absorb more carbon. This would happen in two ways. First, the extra CO2 would itself act as a fertiliser for vegetation, so it would grow faster and absorb more CO2. Second, less methane would minimise the formation of tropospheric ozone, which damages plant growth.
These mechanisms are well known, but Cox is the first person to calculate their collective impact on the amount of CO2 that can be released while keeping global warming below 2 °C - the widely accepted threshold for dangerous climate change."

"He told the conference that a 40 per cent reduction in human-caused methane emissions would permit the release of an extra 500 gigatonnes of CO2 - a third more than previously thought - before we exceeded 2 °C warming. 'That is a 15-year breathing space at current CO2 emission rates,' says Cox, who admits there are uncertainties in his calculations."

"'It looks extremely unlikely that we can stop global warming at 2 °C just by reducing CO2 emissions,' he told New Scientist. 'That probably requires peaking emissions by 2020. But drastic action on methane would make the task much more feasible.'"

"Cox says most governments have become fixated on combating CO2 emissions, and while that remains essential, the benefits of action on other greenhouses gases have been ignored. He stresses that this is not an excuse to burn more coal. 'Nothing in the study contradicts the view that stabilising climate will require large reductions in CO2 emissions, but it does show the unexpectedly large importance of other gases.'"

"Cutting methane emissions is cheaper than cutting CO2 emissions, and brings other benefits.  Besides boosting vegetation, reduced tropospheric ozone will increase growth rates for many crops and cut health risks, such as asthma, from air pollution."

"John Reilly, an expert on non-CO2 greenhouse gases at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, agrees that a 40 per cent cut in methane emissions is feasible at relatively low costs. It could be done primarily by curbing leaks from gas fields and pipelines, and emissions from coal mines and landfills. But he warned that to limit warming to 2 °C, 'we need to accelerate our efforts on everything'. Even allowing for a 15-year breathing space, Reilly says, 'it's not either CO2 or methane, it has to be both'."

"If the good news is that reducing methane emissions can have a better-than-expected effect on curtailing global warming, then the bad news from Cox's calculations is that a continued rise in methane emissions would have a more damaging effect than previously supposed. If you let methane go up a lot, then less carbon can be stored in land sinks, Cox warns. Methane is, in effect, the unseen control on how much CO2 can be safely put into the atmosphere."

By another pure coincidence I had written to a scientist at NOAA yesterday morning, about methane.  He quickly replied.  Our correspondence is copied below (minus his real name):
Dear Dr. Dolittle, 
I am writing to ask if you know of any graph like the [2006] attached that is up-to-date with more recent data?  I saw it in the NOAA archives and if you have the time, can you also tell me if you think that background ozone from methane - as described in the excerpt copied below - could have a significant role in the reduction of crops which you described in your paper "Global Crop Yield Reduction" of last year?  I'm particularly interested in this topic of background ozone derived from fugitive methane emissions from fracking, possibly, as it would appear that trees are rather abruptly and rapidly dying off (which I have been documenting to the best of my ability here and here). 
"Until recently, methane was considered irrelevant for addressing surface ozone pollution because its long atmospheric lifetime (8-9 years) prevents it from contributing to the rapid photochemical production which leads to high ozone episodes. Rather, methane plays a role in contributing to background tropospheric ozone. Increases in methane will thus raise the baseline ozone level in air globally, including at the surface. Ozone episodes, fueled by the traditional short-lived ozone precursors that are regulated in the United States (nitrogen oxides and non-methane hydrocarbons), then build on top of this baseline." 
Thanking you in advance for your attention, etc. 
His answer was as follows:

"Hi Gail,

There is an updated version of this plot available at NOAA's website:

As you can see from the plot, observed methane concentrations have been increasing over the past few years, after having leveled off for a few years.

"As we said in our paper, ozone produced from methane elevates the background concentrations of ozone. Any enhancement from local pollution adds to this background. So, the background does contribute to peak concentrations of ozone, and would likely have an effect on crops (and other vegetation), which respond to integrated exposure to ozone concentrations over a certain threshold."

"Thanks for sending me the links to your website and blog. It looks like you have posted a lot of interesting material there."

"By the way, I see that you are from Oldwick. The farmland up there is just beautiful -- I have relatives in Tewksbury, and love getting to visit the area."

/s/
Dr. Dolittle

I left the personal notes in just because it's so nice (and rare!) to see that there might be a scientist who doesn't seem to think I'm a complete lunatic.  In fact maybe he even thinks there is something to the idea that trees are dying from ozone but can't come out and say so.  I will probably never know.
I later asked him where the bulk of methane is coming from and he replied that is uncertain, but referred me to an article in the NYTimes about fugitive emissions from fracking, and also answered my question about variations with this:

"As for the seasonal cycle shown in the graph, this is mostly from the effects of the methane loss rate. Methane loss (by reaction with the hydroxyl radical, OH) is fastest in the summer and slowest in the winter, driven by the amount of sunlight. So, the seasonal cycle mostly reflects changes in the sink (loss) of methane, not the source (emissions)".

It's also important that he wrote of the effects of ozone on vegetation:  "...which respond to integrated exposure to ozone concentrations over a certain threshold" because according to John Reilly, who was also quoted in the article by Fred Pearce above, that "certain threshold" of background level above which plants are damaged is 40 ppb, which happens to have been breached in many if not most places, even remote rural regions, on earth already.

So as usual, from the interview - "...reduced ozone will boost vegetation and increase growth rates..." - the scientific perspective is afflicted with optimism bias, by emphasizing the calculus of what we will SAVE or GAIN by regulating emissions, and steering clear of the reality of what we are currently losing and will lose absent drastic and immediate reductions.

I think of this perspective as a malevolent (albeit unintentionally so) version of the delectable upside-down Tarte Tatin, which if you are so deprived you don't know, is a sublime culinary concoction that begins with a layer of hard caramelized butter and sugar, coating the bottom of a well-seasoned cast iron skillet, covered with sliced apples, topped with a round of puff pastry which is all baked until golden, and then, with careless abandon, flipped onto a serving platter, the luscious caramelized syrup frothing in hot rivulets down the crispy edges.

Only this methane recipe doesn't taste nearly as good.

False hope walks in lock-step with denial and results in either inaction, or misplaced, well-meant...inaction.  Following is a charming but vapid production from the conference "Planet Under Pressure", where Cox presented his methane results, which wound up in London today:



Welcome to the Anthropocene from WelcomeAnthropocene on Vimeo.

The mere fact that anyone would WANT to be welcomed into the Anthropocene strikes me as surreal.  An earlier article by Hedges is more to the point, "Murder is Not an Anomaly in War", which was accompanied by a Mr. Fish illustration (who is, by the way, brilliant - browse his comics and videos here).
Because here's the thing.  The official reaction revealed in the following clip from "A Fierce Green Fire" - a soon to be released history of environmental activism - is typical of the past, and approximates what can be expected in future, when citizens turn to their leaders for relief.  Nada.


photo credits here, here, here, here , here

FIRE!

...INCREASED FIRE WEATHER THREAT TODAY...

THE COMBINATION OF WIND GUSTS TO 35 MPH...LOW RELATIVE HUMIDITIES
AND DRY FINE FUELS WILL RESULT IN AN ELEVATED RISK FOR THE SPREAD
OF WILDFIRES TODAY. THE GREATEST RISK WILL OCCUR FROM LATE MORNING
THROUGH THE MID TO LATE AFTERNOON...WHEN RELATIVE HUMIDITIES WILL
BE AT THEIR LOWEST.
The above warning is for Oldwick, New Jersey today.  These "Severe Weather Alerts" used to appear rarely on Yahoo weather, and were typically related to thunderstorms, flash floods, or foggy driving conditions and very rarely, a tornado watch.  Now, anytime there is any wind at all lately, we get a fire watch...and if it's really gusty, we get a "Red Alert".  This is what you would expect when trees and other plants are desiccated and dying from ozone pollution.  The photograph is from the insane wildfire currently raging in Colorado.  The headline to the article in the Daily Mail shrieks, "...wildfire scorches more than 4,000 acres of land and destroys dozens of homes as 900 flee in terror...".

This is going to get even worse, very quickly, all over the world.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

One Blatant, Rank Injustice After Another, in America

Embedded below is video of Rep. Bobby Rush, who was just thrown off the House floor for speaking while wearing a hoodie.  Personally, I am perplexed by the rush to portray Trayvon as a thug.  Let's suppose for a minute (although I don't believe it) that Trayvon DID punch Zimmerman on the nose and bang his head on the ground.  Well, if Zimmerman is justified in SHOOTING when he feels threatened, surely Trayvon is justified in defending himself too?  It is still a situation where a man with a gun shot and killed a kid armed with skittles.  The right wing is screaming that the liberal-biased press is in an indecent rush to convict Zimmerman in the court of public opinion, and then the abominable Michelle Malkin was forced to publish this retraction - of a fake photo of Travyon lifted from a neo-nazi website!

My dad, professor emeritus from Boston University, sent the following comment about the Trayvon Martin murder to the New York Times, which was published online:

"One of the most radical ideas of our framers was the separation of powers. This meant, at a minimum, no person could be the judge of his own case. In the criminal justice system the functions of justice are placed into the hands of different organizations and people. However, the Florida law subverts this separation because it permits a licensed gun owner to become: the arresting officer, the investigating officer, the defense attorney, the prosecutor, the judge, the jury, the jailer, and in this case, the executioner."

"Obviously, the check on the abuse of power of which the framers were deeply concerned is eliminated by the Florida law. In effect, that law as written asserts that there is no abuse of power if an armed citizen acts under what he believes is a threat requiring a resort to force. Thus we have citizens who have no training in recognizing threats much less defusing them, who have been empowered by a legislature to hold the power of life or death in their hands. The Supreme Court needs to rexamine the 2d amendment cases and strike a balance that protects those citizens who are threatened by legal gun owners, whose capacity to act reasonably is subject only to their will power and emotions which may or may not be under control."

Tim DeChristoper is being persecuted by an anonymous politician, while incarcerated for a non-crime.  PLEASE, read up on the circumstances of his confinement and make a phone call or two to support him.



And if you have a little time, watch the amazing story of Charlie Grapski.  He is currently under house arrest, after a bitter history of opposing corrupt cronyism in backwater Florida by trying to, for example, find out why a small municipality had written a check for over $1.2 million from taxpayer money...to itself.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

"...soon came a Woodman in leathern guise"


 "...with this tree and others they made a good ship.
The ship, it was launched; but in sight of the land
Such a storm there did rise as no ship would withstand.
It bulged on a rock, and the waves rush'd in fast;
Round and round flew the Raven, and cawed to the blast.
He heard the last shriek of the perishing souls--
See! see! o'er the topmast the mad water rolls!
Right glad was the Raven, and off he went fleet,
And Death riding home on a cloud he did meet,
And he thank'd him again and again for this treat:
They had taken his all, and REVENGE IT WAS SWEET!"
    ~ Samuel Taylor Coleridge, The Raven, 1798

Loss of Arctic Ice from 15 computer model estimates.
Black line is average predicted.  Red line is actual observations.
Video
The news from the climate science frontier - and other venues of sustainability investigations, such as the "Planet Under Pressure" conference going on right now in London - is soooooo much worse than predictions that I sometimes question whether there is any point in worrying about trees dying from ozone pollution.  Over the weekend I went to Longwood Garden for their orchid exhibit, which has to be one of the most incredible flower shows in the world.  The variety is just overwhelming, and humbling, and thrilling.  I took lots of pictures of them, which is liable to generate some cognitive dissonance given Earth's abysmal  prognosis!
Most of this post will consist of two essays that I'm appropriating (with permission) about the broader "challenges" (don't you love that word?) looming ahead.  I hadn't meant to write about the trees but then I saw the bonsai.  To be honest, when I first realized a few years ago that the ultimate extinction of trees is assured if we continue to emit toxic precursors, their demise already seemed so abrupt and dramatic, I expected them to be pretty much completely dead by now.  They surprised me - they have a resilience and tenacity that is quite impressive.
When you think about it that makes perfect sense, from an evolutionary standpoint, for any perennial plant - especially the very longest-lived species.  These are organisms that can't pick up and travel when there are natural variations in temperature or precipitation - they can't follow the monsoons, or migrate to higher elevations during heat waves. They are stuck where they are, so like camels with humps, they have to store huge amounts of energy and nutrients for protracted periods of time when the weather is adverse.  It is why sometimes, even after trees blow down, they will produce leaves the next season.
Temperature divergence from global warming has increased the most at the highest latitudes, yet climate scientists persist in blaming forest decline closer to the equator on anything but pollution. Even though there are trees that have lived to be 1,000 years or more, and experienced more extreme megadroughts than we have (so far) seen from climate change, drought remains the fall-back explanation.  Not one forester I have written to has ever explained why trees from hotter climates being grown at the very northern part of their range - like mimosa or southern magnolia here in New Jersey - being watered by landscaping companies, are dying just as fast as trees in their native habitat.  I'm sure the pictures in this post won't sway their preconceived notions either.
But here is a little comparative study anyway, of the famous bonsai collection at Longwood, because I have to admit, it shocked even me when I came home and looked at older photographs.  These diminutive masterpieces of pruning range from 30 to over 100 years old.  I found earlier shots on the web, of the same trees I photographed yesterday and have labeled them each with the date (all the 2012 are mine from Saturday).  Arguably, you wouldn't expect the deciduous trees in March to be fully leafed out yet, although it looks already like they won't have crowns as full as in the past.
2008
For instance, some branches on the hornbeam below are lagging behind others, and a few have no bud activity at all.  Either they are dead or they are uneven because they are struggling.
2012
2008
This maple crown has developed large gaps in cover since 2008, even though the leaves are full size.
2012
The deterioration is most obvious this time of year with the thinning evergreens.
2008
The inner needles, exposed to cumulative injury over seasons, have fallen off, giving the branches a tufted appearance - a classic symptom of ozone damage.  The bark is corroding, turning black, and this one even has the lichen that is plastering the woods outside.
2012
There are three shots of the following tree, all of which were found on google.  The progressive transparency over the past few years is apparent - in particular, the rapid losses after 2008, when I originally noticed widespread tree decline.
2005
2008
2010
I absolutely defy anyone to tell me these evergreens, that were lush and healthy for decades being coddled and pampered in their indoor, controlled setting, are now scrawny and gaunt due to long-term drought, or insects, or even acid rain.  There is only one outside element they are exposed to, and that is the composition of the atmosphere.  Watch how the black corrosion of the trunk has progressed too, and note the obvious accelerating deterioration in less than five months:
November 2011, my photo
2012, last Sunday
The greenhouses are enormous and meticulously groomed.  It is no doubt staggeringly laborious to switch the exhibits with the seasons, depending on what is in bloom (last fall was the spectacular chrysanthemum festival).  But there are a certain number of permanent residents in the visitors' sections - vines that grow up columns, the hibiscus, rose and camelia beds, bamboo - and for those it must be hard for staff to keep up with removing the dying, yellowing, chlorotic foliage.
Here are a couple of examples, I could find them easily looking under the new green leaves.  But I didn't want to dwell on it so the rest of the pictures are just pretty flowers.

The entry to the greenhouses is stunning.  The designers are very skilled at mixing textures and colors for dramatic effect.
Before we get to those essays I want to mention biofuel, because I often wonder if biofuel emissions aren't a major factor behind the increase in ozone damage to trees.  There are other possibilities - a surpassed tipping point of persistant background levels, contributed to from rising emissions in Asia and/or fugitive emissions from fracking, or escaping methane from melting permafrost.  But certainly, the increase in use of biofuels has been dramatic and recent.
Almost always, whenever I read about this topic, every article or study I can find reports that ethanol is better than fossil fuels in terms of CO2 and other emissions, except for oxides of nitrogen (which is of course the source of ozone).  Next though, the authors always insist without dwelling upon it, that NOx is not a problem either, because the technology exists to reduce it below baseline.  But it occurred to me, that doesn't mean the technology is actually being used!  Following is a perfect, typical example but just about any article I've seen from industry, researchers or the EPA says the same sort of thing, NOx "will" be reduced, as opposed to increased, IF certain adjustments are made (you can just skim the italicized portions to see what I mean):
"Nitrogen oxide emissions with biodiesel, taken from various scientific and industry studies."

1. "Adjustment of injection timing and engine operating temperature will result in these levels [of nitrogen oxides with biodiesel] being reduced below mineral diesel levels." -- Dr Kerr Walker, Scottish Agricultural College, 1994, in "Biodiesel from Rapeseed", Journal of the Royal Agricultural Society of England, Volume 155, p. 43-4.
2. "Nitrous Oxides (NOx) are reported by several researchers to be increased with Biodiesel. However, our own data shows a reduction in nitrous oxides, very consistently, throughout all these [dynamometer] tests. NOx started at 6.2 gm/mile for diesel and goes down to around 5.6 gm/mile with 100% ester (Biodiesel), with slightly more reduction with REE (rapeseed ethyl ester) than RME (rapeseed methyl ester)... Emissions results for 100 percent ester compared with diesel control fuel show a 53% reduction in HC (Hydrocarbons), a 50% reduction in CO (Carbon monoxide), 10% reduction in NOx and 13.6% increase in PM (particulate matter)." -- "Toxicology, Biodegradability and Environmental Benefits of Biodiesel", Charles L. Peterson and Daryl Reece, Professor and Engineering Technician, Department of Agricultural Engineering, University of Idaho, 1994
3. "Fueling with biodiesel/diesel fuel blends reduced particulate matter (PM), total hydrocarbons (THC), and carbon monoxide (CO), while increasing oxides of nitrogen (NOx). Retarded fuel injection timing reduced NOx emissions while maintaining the other emissions reductions." -- "6V-92TA DDC Engine Exhaust Emission Tests using Methyl Ester [Biodiesel]", L. G. Schumacher (Department of Agricultural Engineering at the University of Missouri), D. Fosseen, W. Goetz, S. C. Borgelt, W. G. Hires (1995) in Bioresource Technology, 1995
4. "As the concentration of biodiesel increased, the oxides of nitrogen [NOx] emissions increased. The B20A20 fuel blend effectively reduced the oxides of nitrogen emissions below that of baseline diesel fuel. Retarding the timing was an effective way of reducing NOx emissions when fueling with the biodiesel blends. Oxides of nitrogen emissions ... can be successfully reduced below that of baseline diesel fuel by either retarding injection timing or replacing 20 percent of the baseline diesel fuel of the B20 blend with heavy alkylate." -- "Engine Exhaust Emissions Evaluation of a Cummins L10E When Fueled with a Biodiesel Blend", William Marshall, Leon G. Schumacher, Steve Howell (1995), Society of Automotive Engineers, SAE Paper # 952363
5. "Nitrogen Oxides (NOx) emissions from biodiesel increase or decrease depending on the engine family and testing procedures. NOx emissions (a contributing factor in the localized formation of smog and ozone) from pure (100%) biodiesel increased in this test by 13 percent. However, biodiesel's lack of sulfur allows the use of NOx control technologies that cannot be used with conventional diesel. So, biodiesel NOx emissions can be effectively managed and efficiently eliminated as a concern of the fuel's use." -- US National Biodiesel Board, Biodiesel Report, April 1998, "Biodiesel First Alternative Fuel to Meet EPA Health Effects Requirement -- Positive environmental and health effects results for Biodiesel"
[Sulphur poisons catalytic converters. Sulphur content of low-sulphur conventional diesel fuel: 0.05 percentage weight. Sulphur content of methyl ester biodiesel: less than 0.001 percentage weight.]
6. "There are reliable, proven methods for baselining or even reducing Nitrous Oxides (NOx) produced when using biodiesel. I have certified emissions for the urban bus retrofit program with EPA (US Environmental Protection Agency) using this technology. This package included use of an oxidation catalyst to maximize Particulate Matter (PM) reductions (taking advantage of the high soluble organic fraction of biodiesel) and a timing change to give up some PM reductions while reducing NOx to baseline or even past baseline -- the best case was a 28% NOx reduction with a 25% PM reduction." -- (From a personal communication, Ming Tseng, Aiko Associates LLC, USA, biodiesel suppliers)
So, I have a bad feeling that because there "is" technology to reduce NOx, it's been deemed okay to mandate burning biofuels...whether or not we're actually using the technology!  Another annoying thing as is well demonstrated in that article quoted above is that so much of the research on emissions is terribly out of date.  Nobody seems to want to look into it anymore...wonder why!  Oh well, let's get back to the more generalized eco-pocalypse...the Ravens are waiting impatiently.
I'm very appreciative that author Tim Murray has allowed me to reprint one of his recent posts, which will be followed by an equally fascinating article courtesy of Dr. Albert Bartlett, Professor Emeritus of Physics at Colorado State University.

Tim's blog:  (We) Can Do Better
By Tim Murray

"To be truly radical is to make hope possible, rather than despair convincing. "
Raymond Henry Williams
(Slogan for Mike Nickerson's "The Sustainability Project", Lanark, Ontario)
Is there any better summation of the environmental "justice" coalition than this? Need there be any further question about why "progressive" publishers like New Society Publishers and Clarity Press demand manuscripts that end with a happy ending---even if it contradicts the logic of the evidence presented by the author? Their mission is not to seek the truth, but offer hope that through activism "we" can "make a difference".
This is the prevailing ethic in Sierra Disney World, the island of flakes, the community where I live.(Slogan, "Make a wish upon a star...."). The attitude here is, "If you can't offer a solution, then shut up". Every problem MUST have a solution. No wonder "Solutions" is such a popular website. To say that there is no solution, no "fix" for industrial civilization is tantamount to treason. I am letting the side down by undermining morale. I am the Tokyo Rose and Lord Haw Haw of Greendom, preaching defeatism. The possibility that the facts agree with me is irrelevant. It is The Cause which is important.
I would make the same point that Steve Kurtz made. "I do not believe that fantasizing is a solution except in one's mind. The hundreds of people I've encountered in 25 years of population-environment are not doing nothing if they debunk false hopes and strategies. They are also doing something if they soldier on with politically correct, but non-effective career paths: they are wasting time and energy and money. If there were no expanding problem, they might be out of a job."
The most disturbing possibility that emerges from the recent spate of doomsday books with absurdly happy endings is that authors may even be customizing their conclusions to fit the requirements of publishers rather than fit the reality of our predicament. A case in point would be Dale Pfeiffer’s article, “Eating Fossil Fuels, which formed the basis of a subsequent book of the same title published by New Society Publishers.
Pfeiffer’s concluding remarks offer a reason why NSP published his book. NSP, like other “progressive” publishers, see their mandate as one that endeavours to offer “inspiration for the daily struggle” and hope that through activism, people can find solutions cooperatively.

Pfeiffer says: “I am by nature positive and optimistic. In spite of this article, I continue to believe that we can find a positive solution to the multiple crises bearing down upon us. Though this article may provoke a flood of hate mail, it is simply a factual report of data and the obvious conclusions that follow from it.” This statement is inherently contradictory. His belief that “we can find a positive solution to the multiple crises bearing down upon us” is not an “obvious conclusion” that would follow from his “factual report of data”. As Pfeiffer concedes, it is a conclusion made “in spite of this article.”
I make this point not to be critical of Pfeiffer---a brilliant mind who has written a great many outstanding essays in addition to the one referred to---but to illustrate what I think is the fatal bias of the publishing world toward optimism. It is a bias that is commercially rewarding because it panders to our cultural and neurological need for false hope. The problem is, while optimism may be a good coping strategy on a personal level, it could be a calamitous approach for humanity to take on a collective level. If the crises we face are as challenging as the science indicates, we need first to fully understand how challenging they really are, as opposed to what we are comfortable with acknowledging. In other words, we need realism, not optimism. Before there can be a ‘call to action’, we have to understand the scope and nature of the problem we want to solve. Or do mass demonstrations and Occupy protests address geological constraints? What set of demands can we present to Mother Nature that would persuade her to yield more low-hanging fruit?
What progressives don't get is that by definition, being 'radical' ---as opposed to being 'militant', 'committed', 'passionate' or 'progressive'----is to be determined to find the "root" cause of our predicament. If it is found there are no solutions to address the root cause, then anyone who shies away from this conclusion is not being 'radical', but being in denial. Attacking the symptoms and manifestations of the root cause because of an unwillingness or inability to address it can only be regarded as displacement behaviour, 'busy work' to assuage anxiety. But that essentially is what "environmentalism" today is all about. Polishing the wooden furniture while the house is burning down. Dashing around trying to put out brush fires while ignoring the major conflagration. "OK, maybe you can't save the world but you feel good about yourself". Anything to banish all the guilt we must feel for being white, privileged and greedy. Sin, guilt and expiation---it was the successful Christian formula for millennia, and so it makes sense that it should work for Christianity's heir apparent, the new secular religion of environmentalism.
Here's a newsflash for true believers and anyone else who works exclusively from their right brain:
Nature doesn't care about our emotional state, and objective reality is not a function of my "mood". Optimism and pessimism are not material to the issue of overshoot. "Morale" has no impact on EROIs. Just as religion has no place in a science class, the Human Potential Movement has no place in ecological analysis. The "you-can-do-anything-if-you-put-your-mind-to-it" philosophy has no relevance to our problem. Nevertheless, it seems that the environmental movement is being guided by the shibboleths of Wayne Dyer ("The Sky is the Limit") rather than the insights of William Catton.
One wonders how Dyer's "lifestyle coaching" could help people deal with the collapse or incineration of industrial civilization. I know, that mushroom cloud could be "perceived" differently. A mass die-off from starvation, disease and conflict doesn't have to be my reality if I can focus inward. Reality can be anything we perceive it to be. Ad nauseam. It is amazing that Self-Help gurus have made so much money for so many years preaching this bullshit. But then, look at Greenpeace and the Sierra Club or Nature Conservancy. There is big money to be had in promising false hope and salvation. The trick is to tell people (and corporate donors) what they would like to hear. Soothing lies.
Perhaps I do have at least one 'solution'. I have a scheme to generate money for a book publishing house that would print the unwelcome truth. I would set up a "progressive" publishing house to rival all others called "Dis-Connect Press" ("Connecting all the dots except the last one"), whereby steady-staters, volunteer family planning-only advocates, "Eco-socialists", Hartmannite feminists, and environmentalists could publish books that end on a note of idiot optimism ( “Yes there is a 14 foot gash on the starboard side, yes the pumps can't keep up with the incoming water, yes the ship will go down in two hours, BUT there is hope if we....”) . Since the market for false hope is insatiable, I would expect that sales would be brisk, and the money would roll in. With that money, "Reality Press" would be up and running......Its slogan? "Reality is socially unacceptable and the truth seldom politically correct".
Tim Murray
March17, 2012 ( Happy Potato Famine day!)
"The Meaning of Sustainability"

by Albert A. Bartlett
Professor Emeritus, Department of Physics, University of Colorado at Boulder
Originally published at:
Teacher's Clearinghouse for Science and Society Education Newsletter
Volume 31, No. 1, Winter 2012, Pg. 1
Sponsored by the Association of Teachers in Independent Schools
Affiliated with the Triangle Coalition for Science and Technology Education.
Editor-in-Chief; John Roeder, The Calhoun School, 433 West End Avenue, New York City 10024

NOTE:   This text was developed from an invited paper of the same title that was presented August 1, 2011 at the National Summer Meeting of the American Association of Physics Teachers held in Omaha, Nebraska
Background on Sustainability
           
    In the 1960s and 1970s, it became apparent to many thoughtful individuals that global populations, rates of resource use and environmental degradation were all increasing so rapidly that these increases would soon encounter the limits imposed by the finite productivity of the global ecosphere and the geological availability of mineral and fossil fuel resources.
     Perhaps most prominent among the publications that introduced the reality of limits in hard quantitative terms was the book Limits to Growth (1) which, in 1972, reported the results of computer simulations of the global economy that were carried out by a systems analysis group at MIT.  The simulation recorded five parameters for the global economy (population, agricultural production, natural resources, industrial production and pollution) for the period of time from 1900 to 1970 and then projected the computer-generated values of these parameters for the period from 1970 to 2100. For a wide range of input assumptions, the projections predicted a major collapse of world population in the mid-twenty first century. The computed results seemed to show that sustainability of life as we know it may not be an option.
    Limits to Growth evoked admiration from scientists and environmentalists who were comfortable with quantitative analysis. The study evoked consternation from less quantitative types who tend not to believe in limits. Limits to Growth precipitated immediate and urgent rebuttals from the global economic community which proclaimed that human ingenuity can overcome all shortages so that, in effect, there are no limits. (2, 3)  The book Limits to Growth got people thinking about sustainability.
The Definition of Sustainability

    We must be clear on the meaning of sustainability before we make any more use the term. A very commonly used definition of sustainability is implied in the following definition of sustainable development which is found in the report of the Brundtland Commission of the United Nations (4):
Sustainable development is development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.

We must note two important things.  First, “future generations” (plural) implies “for a very long time,” where long means long compared to a human lifetime.” Second, the arithmetic of steady growth shows that steady growth of populations or of rates of resource consumption for modest periods of time leads to sizes of these quantities that become so large as to be impossible. The combination of these two observations leads us to the First Law of Sustainability (5):
Population growth and/or growth in the rates of consumption of resources cannot be sustained.

The First Law is based on arithmetic so it is absolute. Science is not democratic, so the First Law of Sustainability is not debatable; it can not be modified or repealed by professional societies, by congresses or by parliaments.  The First Law implies that the term “Sustainable Growth” is an oxymoron.  This is true when this term is used by an untutored person on the street, by an economics professor, or by the President of the United States. (6)
The Brundtland Definition of Sustainability

    The Brundtland definition of sustainability is appealing because it has both virtue and vagueness.  It is virtuous to give the impression that one is thinking of the wellbeing of future generations, but the definition itself is vague; it gives no specifics or hints about the nature of a sustainable society or about how we must conduct our society in order to become sustainable. This vagueness of definition opens the door for people to use the term “sustainability” to mean anything they want it to mean.  It’s straight from Alice in Wonderland where Humpty Dumpty proclaims (7), “When I use a word, it means just what I choose it to mean, neither more nor less.”  With the freedom supplied by the vagueness, anyone can become an expert on sustainability.

    Unfortunately, the Brundtland definition contains a flaw. It focuses first on the needs of the present, which have nothing to do with sustainability, and secondarily it mentions the needs of future generations which are vital for sustainability.  This sets the stage for intergenerational conflict in which the present generation wins and future generations lose.  We need to rephrase the Brundtland definition as follows:

Sustainable development is development that does not compromise the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.
Peak Petroleum Production and Global Climate Change

    Today we face two major global threats to our way of life: the two threats are related and both are predictable consequences of a single cause; overpopulation.  The first threat is the peaking of the production (tons per year) of fossil fuels, particularly petroleum.  The second threat is the rapidly developing global climate change.  As these threats develop, each will have a profound effect on life as we know it. To understand the first threat we need to know about the Hubbert Curve.
The Hubbert Curve

    Back in the 1950s the geophysicist M. King Hubbert noted that a couple of centuries ago the production (in tons per year) of a finite non-renewable resource, such as petroleum, was essentially zero. He reasoned that production would rise to one or more maxima after which it would decline back to zero in another century or two. No matter how erratic the production turns out to be, the curve of production (tons per year) vs. time (years) can be approximated by the Gaussian Error Curve which starts at zero, rises to a maximum and then returns to zero.  The area under the curve from zero to infinity is equal to the ultimate size R of the recoverable resource measured in tons.  This curve is known at the Hubbert Curve. The important parameter of the curve is the date of the maximum.  In the case of petroleum production in the U.S., the peak occurred in 1971, just as Hubbert had predicted years earlier.
    The mathematical exercise of fitting a Gaussian Curve to the world petroleum production data shows that if the world’s ultimate recoverable quantity of conventional petroleum is 2000 billion barrels, then the peak of world petroleum production could be expected around the year 2004 and the peak moves to a later date at the rate of 5.5 days for every billion barrels that is added to the estimated world supply.(8), (9)  In the case of world petroleum today (2012), there is debate among petroleum experts as to whether or not the world peak may have already passed. (10)
    The passing of the world peak of petroleum production will be a major milestone for human life on Earth because it will mean that the tons per year of petroleum being produced world-wide will start to decline in its inevitable but erratic descent toward zero. At the same time the world population is projected to be increasing and the world per capita demand for petroleum can also be expected to be increasing. Supplies are decreasing but demand is increasing.
    Almost all aspects of our industrial society depend on petroleum, so that, as Richard Heinberg has pointed out, peak petroleum will be quickly followed by Peak Everything. (11)  In particular, modern agriculture is completely dependent on petroleum, so the peak of world petroleum production will be followed by the peak of world food production.  We will then be facing the specter of declining world food production while at the same time the world population is expected to continue to grow.  This is a recipe for famine and conflict.
The Transition From Production Controlled by Demand
to Production Controlled by Supply

    Most discussions of sustainability, especially scientific discussions, tell repeatedly of experts who advocate major programs to increase supplies (“Drill baby, drill!”) to meet the demands of growing populations.  In this scenario, production is governed largely by demand.  The more you need, the more you can have.  But now, as the peak of global production of petroleum is near, the world is making the transition from the left side of the Hubbert Curve to the right side.  On the left side the quantity produced each year is determined largely by demand while on the right side the quantity produced each year is falling so that the quantity produced will be governed mainly by the availability of supplies.  As we pass the peak, Nature changes the game.  On the left side of the peak, resource shortages are met by increasing production, so the cost of a barrel of petroleum tends over time to rise only slowly.  On the right side of the peak, production (barrels per year) is constrained by the availability of supplies of petroleum so that shortages develop and prices rise rapidly.
    The discipline of economics has long been accustomed to dealing with life on the rising left side of the Hubbert Curve for most critical resources.  On the rising left side we have worked hard to increase resource production in order to meet the growing demand.  The big question is, will economics be able to adapt to the completely changed conditions on the right side of the Hubbert Curve where production is determined, not by what we want, but rather by what is available?  Will we continue to try to apply left side economics to the right side of the Hubbert Curve?
Global Climate Change

    With regard to the second major threat, global climate change, we can note that (12):

If any fraction of the observed global climate change can be attributed to the actions of humans, this is positive proof that the human population, living as we do, has already exceeded the carrying capacity of the Earth.

This condition is unsustainable.  This observation provides a direct identification of overpopulation as the main cause of global climate change.  Strangely few, if any, of the experts on global climate change have spoken out to call public attention to the obvious and clear cause and effect connection between overpopulation and global climate change.
The Cause and Effect Connection Between Overpopulation and Global Climate Change

    To the first approximation, the magnitude of the effect of humans in producing global climate change is proportional to the product of the size of the global population P and the average per capita annual consumption of resources, A (tons per (person-year)). The product of P times A is the total annual consumption of resources (tons per year). Already this product appears to have exceeded the carrying capacity of the Earth and the world is briefly in overshoot.
If we are serious about reducing the causes of global climate change,
we must reduce both P and A simultaneously and rapidly throughout the world.

This defines the task before us.  Reduction of P brings us in conflict with the business community that sees more people as more customers.  Reduction of P brings us in conflict with various religious groups that oppose any reduction of births and that regard unrestricted reproduction as a basic human right.  The reduction in A must be done equitably, recognizing that today (2012) the average annual per capita consumption of resources A, varies by one or two orders of magnitude between our well-to-do western societies and the world’s poorest societies.
The Problem Stated

    The problem is apparent at once.  Reducing either P or A is completely contrary to the foundations of our religious and economic systems.  We are given the impression by “experts” that both P and A must increase continuously if we are to have a “healthy society.”  How small must P become to be sustainable? David Pimentel, a global agricultural scientist at CornellUniversity has estimated that a sustainable world population, living at the dietary level of the average American, is about 2 billion people. (13)  The world population in late 2011 is estimated to have reached 7 billion people and was growing at the rate of approximately 1% per year!  The annual increase of world population in 2012 is thus something like 70 million per year. 

Stopping population growth and stopping the growth of rates of consumption of resources are both necessary, but are not sufficient, conditions for sustainability.
The Insufficiency of Popular Prescriptions for Achieving Sustainability

    Thousands of individuals and groups are working worldwide on hundreds of aspects of “sustainability.”  When you look at this work you quickly conclude that all of the usual sustainability prescriptions are valuable, but when you add them all up their sum is much less than what is needed.  The reason?  All of these efforts fail to address overpopulation!  These usual sustainability endeavors include all manner of big research projects and thousands of smaller efforts such as promoting the use of more efficient light bulbs, more efficient automobiles, more efficient homes, expanding and improving the efficiency of the national electric power transmission grid, etc.
Back to the Fundamentals:  Malthus

     Malthus observed some 200 years ago that population growth has the mathematical power to overcome the limited potential of increasing food supplies.  By implication, the meaning of the message of Malthus is that, given sufficient time, population growth has the mathematical power to overcome or negate the limited advances that result from all of the technical achievements of our scientific and engineering establishments.

    And if you’re wondering where do you get the greatest reduction in greenhouse gas emissions per dollar spent, it is interesting to note that one probably gets more reduction per dollar spent if you spend that dollar on family planning as compared to spending them on any of the “engineering type” solutions that are so popular and widespread.  It has been estimated that a dollar spent on family planning will yield about five or more times the reduction of the emission of global greenhouse gases than you get when that dollar is spent on engineering “solutions” that are aimed at reducing the emission of greenhouse gases. (14)
Growth as the Centerpiece of Our Economy

    In our custom of taking care of ourselves before we think of the future, we are supported by the overwhelming devotion of our society to endless growth which is often called “Sustainable Growth.”  This oxymoronic concept is the centerpiece of our entire society, in which almost all leaders in our business, governing, and economic communities ignore or deny the existence of limits.  The universality of the economic belief that there are no limits to growth gives the present generation reason to believe that there will always be plenty for future generations so that, as a consequence, we need not inconvenience ourselves now by accepting restrictions on our consumption or reductions in our population growth rates. As has been prominently asserted (15),

The American way of life is not negotiable!
Nuclear Fission and Fusion

    In what follows I am assuming that there will be no major scientific or technological breakthroughs in the energy sector in the next century or so.  I am uncertain about the role conventional nuclear fission power will play during the next hundred years.  In the U.S. we have failed to provide the promised long-term storage for spent nuclear fuel and there seems to be little support in Washington, DC, to find an answer to the problems of what to do with the existing and predictable future quantities of high-level nuclear waste.  Nevada has said that it does not want the Yucca Flats nuclear waste depository located in its borders.  It could be expected that, if asked, the people in the other 49 states would say that they do not want the nuclear waste to be stored in their states, either.  Unless some way can be found around this impasse, the future of nuclear power in the U.S. does not seem to be very bright.  Yet if the lights don’t come on when one turns on the switch, people will quickly develop strong support for electrical power from nuclear fission.
    Conventional nuclear plants are extremely expensive to construct and to operate and they are very complex.  They are subject to occasional accidents, which frequently turn out to be very serious. The finite nature of the supply of uranium suggests that nuclear power is not sustainable. So I don’t include nuclear fission as a big player in my view of the distant future.
    I have even less hope that there will be the successful development and widespread application of nuclear fusion within the next century or two.  Fusion research has been continuing since the end of World War II with the hope that fusion will produce large quantities of low-cost electricity.  Judging from the size of today’s experimental fusion facilities, any plant using fusion to generate electricity will be very large, very complex and very expensive.  Fusion still has a long way to go before it can be expected to meet the demands of the electricity market, which requires reliable electric power 24 hours a day and 365 days a year.  The uncertainties are so large that I feel that it would be unwise to count on the widespread availability of fusion-generated electricity on any proposed timetable.  Therefore, I leave fission and fusion out of the following discussion of sustainability.
Sustainability of the Solar Society

    In the long run, a century or more from now, if our society survives the catastrophic collapse predicted by Limits to Growth, the surviving society will be powered solely by solar energy, which includes wind, waterpower, and tidal energy.  All of the easily available fossil fuels will have been used to the point where more extraction is uneconomic.  Geothermal energy may provide a small fraction of the energy needed by the surviving society.  This sounds pretty austere, but the solar society was anticipated with optimism by the famous American inventor Thomas A. Edison many years ago (16):

I’d put my money on the sun and solar energy.  What a source of power!  I hope we don't have to wait until oil and coal run out before we tackle that.

Sustained Availability

    But it is not all doom and gloom.  The concept of “Sustained Availability” gives us some freedom to make limited use of fuel and mineral resources during the transition period between the present and the distant future.
    Do you remember from calculus that the integral from zero to infinity of exp(-kt) is finite and has the value 1/k. This mathematical fact has a useful consequence. Suppose that P is the annual production of a resource in tons per year and that P varies with time according to the equation

                        P = P(0) exp (-kt)

where t is the time in years, P(0) is the present rate of production and k is the fractional change inP per year.
                        k = - (dP/P)/dt
For a declining curve, dP is negative.  The graph of production in tons per year vs. time will be a declining exponential, of the same form as the decay curve for a sample of a radioactive material.  The area under the complete curve of tons per year vs. years from zero (the present time) to infinity is the total amount of the resource (tons) that is consumed in all of the future. This can be set equal to the estimated size R of the total remaining resource in tons to give a special value of k for which the total resource consumption between now and infinity on the declining exponential curve is equal to the present size R of the resource.  In other words, a special value of k can be found for the reserves of a resource so that the production of the resource declines steadily but R lasts forever!
    What is the particular value of the constant k which will allow the resource to last forever? This can be answered by example.  It has been stated that world petroleum will last 40 years at present rates of consumption.  In this case the particular value of k to make world petroleum last forever is (k = 1/40 = 0.025).  So if the global use of petroleum is made to decline 2.5% per year the petroleum will last forever! This decay curve has a “half life” of 28 years. 
    It’s important to note that:

At every point on the decaying production curve, the life expectancy of the then remaining resource will be 40 years at the then current rate of production.

This has been called “Sustained Availability” (SA).  The concept and the options available to a producing country that is following SA to divide production between domestic consumption and export were all examined in mathematical detail in 1986. (17)
    More recently, and completely independent of this earlier work, the concept of SA, without the mathematics, has been reinvented and applied to world petroleum production.  In the petroleum business, the present rate of production divided by the size of the estimated remaining resourceP(0)/R at a given time is called the “Depletion Rate.”  This is the fraction of the remaining resource that is produced this year; it is the reciprocal of the life expectancy of the resource “at present rates of consumption.”  World petroleum today (2012) is estimated to last about “40 years at present rates of consumption.” The depletion rate is then 2.5% per year.

    In 2004 the geologist Colin Campbell of Ireland and the physicist Kjell Aleklett of UppsalaUniversity in Sweden proposed “The Uppsala Protocol” which called for oil producing countries to agree voluntarily to an accord (18):
No country shall produce oil at above its current Depletion Rate, such being defined as annual production as a percentage of the estimated amount left to produce.

Thus, qualitatively Campbell and Aleklett independently re-invented the concept of Sustained Availability that had been published eighteen years earlier.

    The concept of Sustained Availability (the Uppsala Protocol) can be applied to the finite reserves of any non-renewable fuel or mineral resource.  The rate of decline, k, can be adjusted at any time based on new evaluations of the life expectancy of the resource “at present rates of consumption.”
    This is pretty good.  We can use finite resources, such as petroleum, on declining curves in a way that allows future generations to access the resources just as the present generation does but in declining amounts each year.  This path for resource production has the unique feature, noted above, that at every point on the declining exponential curve, the life expectancy of the then remaining petroleum at the then present rate of consumption will be 40 years!

    We now have a “bridge” between our present society with its lavish use of non-renewable energy and the society of the future which will have to live pretty much exclusively on solar energy.
Sustainability:  Living Solely on Solar Energy

    Here are some scattered thoughts on the central challenge of sustainability: Living solely on solar energy.  To understand the challenge of sustainability we might first ask what societies in this world today are closest to sustainability?  I think we would have to answer that the most sustainable societies today are the primitive societies such as those in remote regions in Africa, Asia, Australia, etc.  If our society crumbles, these primitive societies will probably go on living their hard and difficult lives being little touched by the collapse of the civilized world.
    But as we strive for sustainability, our goal can’t be to go back to a primitive way of life. People would simply not accept this.  But there is an important lesson here; increasing the technological complexity of our society is probably not the path to follow if we want to move to a more sustainable society.  So let’s not go back thousands of years; let’s look at things 200 years ago.  The North American society of 200 years ago got along using mainly solar energy.  First, and most important, the population was much, much smaller than today’s population.  Second, the society was an agrarian society with most of the population employed directly or indirectly in agriculture.  Draft animals, windmills, and small amounts of water power provided essentially all of the non-human energy used on the farm.  The draft animals provided most of the fertilizers that were used. We can see approximately this sort of living today in the Amish communities of western Pennsylvania and eastern Ohio.  I suspect that the Amish communities are the closest to sustainability of any of today’s American communities.
    The Amish communities are mainly agrarian.  The people are guided by religious beliefs:  in general they use little or no electricity or petroleum and they use little in the way of engineering and technology. Their children are educated perhaps through the 8th grade, which is sufficient for their agricultural work and for their interactions with the world around them.  They are very successful in their agricultural pursuits.  Their life is simple and austere and their communities contribute very little in the way of global warming gases.  As individuals, they have a very small ecological footprint.  On the other side of the sustainability ledger, they tend to have a high fertility rate, which is certainly unsustainable.
    Now we can see the fundamental question of sustainability:

Can we transform our society to a solar-based society which will probably have to be mainly an agrarian society, while keeping and sharing throughout the world the benefits of modern medicine and technology?

The first observation is that to do this we will have to have a much smaller population than the 7 billion plus that we have today (2012).
Sustainability and Science, Engineering, and Technology

    A major consequence of our much heralded science, engineering and technology has been to allow more people to live in regions that once supported only smaller populations.  Ever since the age of hunters and gatherers, the population has grown slowly and humans have gradually invented science, engineering and technology to meet the needs of the growing populations. When the needs were not met, growing populations and civilizations were in trouble. Archaeologists today study the ruins of societies that failed and disappeared.  A factor of the demise of these failed societies was the inability of the societies to provide sufficient food for their populations.  The societies that persisted did so because they used science and technology to increase agricultural production and to allow urbanization and the rise of cities.
    Science, engineering and technology have made today’s big cities possible, so that in 2012 something like 82% of Americans live in cities.  All over the world people are leaving their poor but marginally sustainable rural agricultural life to crowd into the world’s massive and increasingly unmanageable cities.
    Cities have near zero ecological productivity.  In the ecological sense, our cities are deserts and wastelands!  They are the human equivalent of the cattle feedlots (and other “high efficiency” facilities for the production of pigs and chickens) that one sees throughout America.  In the feedlots the animals are confined: Petroleum is used to haul food to the animals and then more petroleum is used to haul away the waste products.  So it is in our cities.  The people are confined.  Petroleum is used to haul in food and energy and to haul out waste.  The human cities and the cattle feedlots are both made possible by science, engineering, technology and by abundant low-cost energy.  By making cities possible, science, engineering and technology have supported and encouraged population growth, and the movement of people away from agriculture, which is the exactly the opposite of what is required for sustainability.
Sustainability and Scientists, Engineers, and Technologists

    As we contemplate how we should deal with the threat of global warming, it is distressing to read a statement by “a professor…who studies international climate policy…” saying that “The way we reduce emissions is through technology.” (19) Why is it that engineers, scientists and technologists almost never recommend stopping population growth as the solution to the problems of reducing global greenhouse gas emissions? Is this solution too obvious?

    By ignoring overpopulation, scientists, engineers and technologists put society in a deep hole, yet they seem to forget the old adage:

When you find yourself in a hole - stop digging!
Throughout the world, our mega-technologists (albeit with a deep sense of responsibility and public service) recommend that we work hard to use science, engineering and technology to accommodate the growth of populations.  Providing food for the expected population increase is presented as a great challenge, even though meeting the challenge will make the population problems worse.  Here is a popular national newspaper columnist writing on the problems of overpopulation in the U.S. (20): 

The United States has its population challenges at home – building the infrastructure from schools to roads to food supply – for a predicted 100 million more people [in the U.S.] by 2040.
The prevailing reaction of our leaders seems to be to speed up our digging. If we raise taxes and spend heavily and build the public infrastructure needed to accommodate the predicted population growth, then the people will appear. We have trapped ourselves in a self-fulfilling prediction.
Can it be that scientists, engineers and technologists are impeding the movement of our society toward sustainability?

Science, engineering and technology have made it possible for populations to grow so large that by our largeness we are threatening the global ecosphere.  Is this what we want from our science and technology?
The Role of Science, Engineering, and Technology in a Sustainable Society

    There is a role for science, engineering, and technology in a sustainable society.  This is because the sustainable society will operate from electricity with large amounts coming from solar cells and wind turbines, with smaller amounts coming from hydroelectric and geothermal sources.  Science, engineering, and technology will be needed to improve the efficiency of the generation, transmission, and use of the electrical energy.
Sustainability and Politics

    We deplore the scientific illiteracy of members of Congress because many members don’t understand the implications of the large scale of things created by our science, engineering and technology. Should the members of Congress be criticized for their scientific illiteracy because they don’t recognize the problems that are developing so rapidly, or should we criticize ourselves for not recognizing that the overpopulation created by all of our actions has caused these predictable problems?   Carl Sagan observed that (21):
We've arranged a global civilization in which most crucial elements – transportation, communications, and all other industries; agriculture, medicine, education, entertainment, protecting the environment; and even the key democratic institution of voting – profoundly depend on science and technology. We have also arranged things so that almost no one understands science and technology. This is a prescription for disaster. We might get away with it for a while, but sooner or later this combustible mixture of ignorance and power is going to blow up in our faces.
Sustainability and Geoengineering

    One of the most alarming technological trends today is the eagerness with which technologists and many nonscientists, in the name of sustainability, are endorsing megaprojects of geoengineering that are intended to allow the continued growth of our growth-based society.  For instance, we see proposals to mess with the Earth’s atmosphere globally by a program of continuous injection of particulates in the upper atmosphere to scatter sunlight away from the Earth in order to reduce global warming.  These technologists who offer geoengineering as a solution to the problem of global warming seem to ignore Eric Sevareid’s Law (22):
The chief cause of problems is solutions.

Has there been a comprehensive evaluation of the many problems that will result if we start a global project of injecting small particles into the upper atmosphere?  And what about the problems that we don’t anticipate in advance?
Sustainability and Desertec

    A megascale high-tech “environmentally friendly” project called Desertec is currently gaining support in Europe.  It is proposed to cover large parts of the Sahara Desert in Africa with solar collectors which will be used to generate electricity that will then be sent to Europe via electrical transmission lines and cables under the Mediterranean.  This might work in a peaceful world, but long lonely transmission lines are tempting targets for terrorists, as are undersea cables. (23)
    People have forgotten that with the opening of the first World War almost 100 years ago, the first thing the British did was to send out naval raiding parties to destroy German undersea cables and remote relay stations that provided communications between Germany and its African colonies. At the same time the Germans were sending out naval raiding parties to attack and destroy British undersea cables and relay stations that kept Britain in communication with its world-wide empire. (24)  Our mega-technologists today seem to forget that

Those who don’t know history are destined to repeat it. (25)
Sustainability and Smart Growth

   Planners sometimes promote “Smart Growth” as the solution to the problem of sustainability. Smart Growth applies to new developments which are built to accommodate growth. It calls for development on a human scale with places of work, shopping and recreation all being located within walking or bicycling distances from the residences. This is very pleasant indeed. But we must note that:
           
Dumb growth destroys the environment.
Smart growth destroys the environment.
The difference is that smart growth
destroys the environment with good taste.
So it’s like buying a ticket on the TITANIC.
If you’re smart you go first class
If you’re dumb you go steerage.
Either way the result is the same.
Sustainability and Localization

    “Peak Petroleum” will cause rapid increases of transportation costs and thus make it more difficult to move fresh food half way around the world to the shelves in our supermarkets. Sustainability will require that the bulk of our food be produced locally near its point of consumption.  We have the opposite of this in the world today in which items of food are transported to the wealthy countries from all parts of the world.  World trade agreements will be reduced in importance because of a reduction of international trade.
Sustainability and Education

    Throughout the country, colleges and universities are introducing courses and educational programs in topics such as “Sustainability Studies.” (26)  It would be interesting to know how many, if any, of these programs stress the fundamental requirement of the First Law of Sustainability and point out that stopping population growth is a necessary (but not a sufficient) condition for sustainability.

Academic research proposals that contain the word “sustainability” abound and many receive generous support. But do these programs actually advance significantly the cause of sustainability or do they serve mainly to advance narrower goals?  A simple test will answer this question for any particular program:   Does the program acknowledge that overpopulation is the root cause of our present problems and then go on to address overpopulation in a significant way?  If the answer is “No,” then, no matter what the proponents of the program may say, the program is not likely to contribute in a significant way to the achievement of sustainability.  There’s more money and glamour in the high-tech research programs than there is in working to make family planning assistance available to all who want it so that population sizes can be reduced to sustainable levels.
Sustainability and War

    Modern warfare is extremely dependent on fossil fuels and minerals; hence, war can’t be a part of a sustainable society.  The world in 2012 seems to have a deep commitment to perpetual war. In today’s wasteful and destructive environment of unceasing hostility we can have little or no hope of achieving global sustainability.   In seeking to abolish war we must remember that overpopulation is a major factor that drives people to make war.
The Gift That Keeps on Giving

    Fertility reduction is the gift that keeps on giving.  One avoided birth today will result in many more avoided births in the succession of future generations.  The People’s Republic of China has boasted that its (very coercive) “One child per family” policy has avoided over 300 million births (27) and that as a consequence, China claims that it has done more to reduce its emission of global greenhouse gases than any other country has done.
What We Need to Do

    As a start, here are twelve things that are urgent: 

In our classrooms and in our lives as scientists,

1) We must acknowledge that overpopulation is the world’s most serious and threatening problem and that this problem requires immediate and urgent attention.

2) We must teach about the arithmetic and consequences of growth as they apply to our present rates of consumption of resources and to our current national and global conditions of overpopulation.
3) We must seek to educate elected officials at all governmental levels about the severe present problems of overpopulation in our own local communities, in the United States and the world. We treasure our democracy but we must remember the words of Isaac Asimov (28):  “Democracy cannot survive overpopulation.”

4) We must break down the mental and other blocks that keep most of our environmental organizations, large and small, from addressing overpopulation on the local and national levels.

5) We need to get all of our mainline scientific associations and societies to act on the recognition that overpopulation is a threat to the stable societies.  Science can thrive only in a stable society. The long-term survival of science is threatened by overpopulation.
6) We should seek to get the U.S. and other governments to support major programs of family planning in the U.S. and throughout the world. These programs should make high quality family planning assistance available worldwide at no cost to all individuals who request it.  The goal of the family planning program should be that “Every child is a wanted child.”  Rapid population decrease is essential to achieving sustainability.

7) We must expend great efforts worldwide in the education and emancipation of women, giving women freedom to make their own health, reproductive, economic and political decisions.

8) We should work to guide production of fossil fuels and mineral resources in accord with the concept of “Sustained Availability,” (The Uppsala Protocol) thinking of it as a program of Equal Opportunity for Future Generations.
9) We must continue our efforts to use science and technology to greatly improve the efficiency with which we use energy and mineral resources within the framework of Sustained Availability.

10) We must continue research on the development of alternative fuels, being careful to see that these alternative fuels are not competing with the development of food supplies as is the case in 2012 with production of ethanol in the U.S.               

11) We must encourage the transition from our present inefficient mega-agriculture (29) to localized agriculture that operates solely from solar power and from human and animal labor.
12) We must seek to re-orient science, technology and engineering away from their present roles that support population growth and redirect them to work for more modest, less glamorous and less complex roles that can improve the quality of life for human beings. The model might be that which is found in the book Small is Beautiful by E.F. Schumacher. (30)

As one can see, the creation of a sustainable society will be both difficult and challenging.

End of essay by Dr. Bartlett
There are two more essays I recommend, both from Orion magazine - the first is written by Sandra Steingraber, in which she reveals the unforgivable duplicity of the Sierra Club, which has been quietly taking money from the fossil fuel industry.  It's not the only major environmental group that has provided greenwashing for corporate polluters, but she has reasons to be especially perturbed.
The next, I realized to my astonishment after I had read it through, is from an Orion edition all the way back in 2007, by Janisse Ray.  It asks the still seldom-posed query, "Are we being change, or are we just talking about change?"  This question rarely arises, let alone is debated, by environmental activists and climate scientists - perhaps most egregiously, the prominent and influential, who fly around the world to attend conferences, giving lectures and autographing books.

It's no wonder deniers don't take the dangers seriously.

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