[LINK] Surviving Climate Change

Frank O'Connor francisoconnor3 at bigpond.com
Fri Jan 23 21:45:50 AEDT 2015

Personally, I don't have a lot of time for either the 'What a Work is Man' argument or the sanctity of Nature arguments.

The bottom line is that if we were even remotely collectively intelligent we would realise that you can't keep dumping your garbage in a closed system (the world), and you can't keep using up its resources faster than they can be replaced, and expect to have a long term future in that closed environment.

Any remotely intelligent race would realise that you effectively have three choices in such an eventuality ... pollute yourself into an ever more resource scarce environment in which you end up with the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse potentially controlling things, make plans to leave that closed system for 'greener pastures' as they say, or control and conserve what you've got to eke out a few more years. And I don't see the third strategy as a viable one, for what I think of as the long term.

But we seem incapable of controlling our population, and everyone wants the 'lifestyle' that the current generation of 'privileged' have - or better lives for their children, and our perspective is such that we are pretty much short-term thinkers (we may make plans that cover 10 years ... but rarely think ahead more than that), bound by the extent our short brutish lives (our 50-80 years is NOTHING in the context of the planet - which has supported life in one form or another for nearly 2 billion years).

Mankind has been around in its current homo sapiens (and I'm convinced that species name was ironic) form for about 150,000 years (again nothing in the context of life on Earth) and as far as I can see is much more ruled by its genes than the collective neurons of its members. But every time it comes down to it, we fall back on the instincts of those plains ape ancestors of 2 or 3 million years ago. The behavioural similarities between any group of humans and the average troop of chimpanzees are astonishing.

In an evolutionary sense, there is NOTHING special about us. We are still the same old opportunistic omnivores who make hay whilst the sunshines with little thought for the long term future (say 50,000 years or more on). 

If we were intelligent, we'd either be conserving the closed system we live in, or making plans to leave it for greener pastures

The problem with both arguments is that they don't look long-term enough. They don't try and extrapolate what would happen to the species if either strategy was adopted - and believe me there are many many downsides to either. 

On one extreme you could look forward to a hunter-gatherer future of rustic simplicity for a population of maybe 100-150 million (and probably much less) world wide - and even that may be too many. On the other you can write off the Earth, and become techno bunnies living in sterile solar powered space habitats and other on-world sealed enclaves, and off-world colonies. In between, which is the area I tend to favour you can pursue energy efficiencies (and in the final analysis the whole problem really is about energy availability and usage), recycling of resources, technology and research to eke out a reasonable standard of life whilst we determine the optimum level of population and colonisation that the planet can support to extend the life of our species.

My bet however is on the Four Horsemen. As soon as economic and environmental stresses hit, we'll do what we've always done ... we'll squabble over what's there, get into Wars, create Famines, let Diseases get out of control, and ultimately Death and a great Dying will reduce the load we're putting on the planet.

And within a few generations, we'll do it all over again.

At some stage we may push the environment into a new climate equilibrium ... which would be bad, and which at the moment we have very few means of reversing ... which probably won't kill all of us, but it will environmentally stress us out (a bit like the dinosaurs were by vulcanism and other Continental Drift side-effects at the end of the Cretaceous) ... and we are ever more vulnerable to extinction level events in those times of stress. We evolved in a relatively benign period of Earth's climate ... and it remains to be seen how well we would adapt to significantly warmer, and perhaps more environmentally hostile conditions.

The Permian Extinction of 280 million years ago started relatively benignly ... massive vulcanism in Siberia leaked green house gases into the atmosphere, the Earth warmed by a couple of degrees, there was a die off of many of the algae and other oxygen producing organisms in the sea, large areas of the ocean effectively died and exuded more greenhouse gases (methane and other products of the die off), temperatures increased some more land based vegetation began to die off in huge swathes, ogygen generation dried up and the carbon sinks disappeared, the carbon-cycle (where carbon dioxide is absorbed) failed. And it warmed some more. After 80,000 years more than 70% of Earth's species had died off, and finally the warming oceans tipped the point at the depths that saw the huge reserves of methane hydrates (in ice form) boil away to release massive amounts of methane (an even better greenhouse gas than CO2) into the atmosphere, and the final Permian mean temperature reached an average of 10-12 degrees higher than the pre-Extinction temperature. 95% of life on Earth was extinct. 97% of life in the seas was killed off.

And we're not culturally, developmentally or otherwise special, hundreds of relatively advanced civilisations have failed and disappeared on this planet in the past, and there is no way we are equipped at present to surmount many of the problems that destroyed those civilisations. In many ways we are more vulnerable now, because of the complexity of our society, its technology and its resource interactions and economy than they ever were in any of those 'ancient' civilisations ... it would not take a lot to tip the balance today.

But I can't agree that we should give up, and make our priority 'down-sizing' - because a hell of a lot of the 6 billion bodies on this planet would die without the science, engineering and technology that makes their lives possible today. And I'm not willing to sanction the deaths of billions of people on the altar of 'sustainability' ...

Just my 2 cents worth ...
> On 23 Jan 2015, at 8:18 pm, jore <community at thoughtmaybe.com> wrote:
> On 23/01/2015 1:10 PM, Jim Birch wrote:
>> It is certainly what allows some the "advanced" life of humans...
> Hey Jim,
> I can see what you're saying, but I still disagree with your human
> supremacist views. We can agree to disagree.
> But beyond that, we're still talking about this culture. For instance,
> you almost had it here:
> On 23/01/2015 3:22 PM, Jim Birch wrote:
>> Have you ever heard of the "Fertile Crescent"?
> Yeah, and as you rightly suggest, agriculture (devised by this culture
> some 10,000 years ago), again as you rightly say, is the reason this
> area is now a desert. Because agriculture is the most destructive thing
> this culture has ever done (and continues to do) to the
> planet---especially industrial agriculture. Again, see many others for
> this. Jared Diamond, for one, comes to mind.  It's the epitome of this
> culture's exploitative mindset.
> But I understand. It can be hard to see outside this culture and
> overlook all this because all these notions, as I'm trying to point out,
> have been deeply internalised and metabolised into in the way this
> culture inculcates us to see the world.
> To drive the point: There have been many previous human
> societies---other cultures, particularly indigenous and aboriginal---who
> existed and still exist without agriculture. And even after its arrival
> by this culture (only some 10,000 years ago), agriculture was most often
> still not taken up by other societies until it was imposed on those
> societies by force or coercion by the colonisers and imperialists (us).
> Again, what does that say about cooperation or exploitation? What does
> that say about whose behaviour? Whom is exploiting whom?  Picture it:
> The societies and cultures that have lived there for millennia had their
> land invaded, stolen, and they were then put to work as slaves (in the
> new agriculture systems that require slavery) by this culture, etc etc
> etc. Again, do I even need to say this? We all know what happened (and
> is still happening).
> And the small point: Sure, maybe it happened without capitalism all the
> way back then, but it's beside the fact that in every case some form of
> selfish social system inevitably emerges with the imposition of
> agriculture (as you need a military to stop people from messing with
> your crops, for one thing). Cite your examples the Mayans, Romans and so on.
> And that's the point: These destructive and exploitative cultures
> collapsed because they were destructive and exploitative (surprised?) as
> opposed to other cultures that are not based on domination,
> exploitation, selfishness or destruction (and are not civilisations
> by-the-way) that still exist, or are struggling to exist. Examples? Say
> your Mayans/Romans as opposed to the Tolowa, or Indigenous Australians,
> for one.
> Again, what does all this say about us, about our situation? We're at
> the thinking of a 5 year old again: If your culture and society is not
> sustainable, it will collapse; and if the culture is based on
> exploitation, then exploitation is what you'll get, to the death. As we
> see. The point is that it wasn't always this way, it's not inevitable,
> it doesn't have to be this way, etc; and the first thing we can do is
> drop our allegiance to this culture and it's destructive mindset.
> And this takes us to what I'm trying to tack on to as the original point
> about climate change and the situation we face because of what this
> dominant culture has done to the planet: we need to stop this
> exploitative and destructive culture yesterday.   This civilisation is
> collapsing (like others before it) because it's unsustainable (and can
> exploitation can /never/ be sustainable).  The difference this time is
> that it's a global civilisation, which makes the drawdown and ecological
> damage global too (not least the (attempted) globalisation of the mindset).
> TLDR: The crux for all following this thread, not just Jim, and it's not
> a rhetorical question: Is your allegiance to this culture or the real
> world?  If we can't agree on that, then we don't have much else to say
> to each other.   Further: If you care more about the real world than a
> destructive social system, will you do everything you can to stop that
> system from killing the planet, or not?
> Sane questions and effective answers can flow on from there.
> All the best, earnestly,
> Jore.
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