The whole world is burning

By   /   February 18, 2017  /   27 Comments

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‘On the last day of the world / I would want to plant a tree’ wrote US Poet Laureate WS Merwin. Indeed, sometimes it feels like the whole world is burning, and to act in the spirit of hope is to plant a whole forest.


‘On the last day of the world / I would want to plant a tree’ wrote US Poet Laureate WS Merwin. Indeed, sometimes it feels like the whole world is burning, and to act in the spirit of hope is to plant a whole forest.

An everyday review of news headlines reports fires across the globe – record temperatures, drought. Australia’s a classic example of an extreme environment made even more extreme by both local land and energy use, and anthropogenic climate change at global level. Unfortunately for Australia, as one of the worst contributors per capita to climate change and greenhouse gas emissions through its reliance on coal fired power generation, its chickens are coming home to roost. It’s more surprising, and a scary portent, that the Port Hills of Christchurch have been aflame this week, along with parts of Hawke’s Bay. Many of us are used to seeing the backdrop to Christchurch dry as cardboard in summer, but when it’s on fire and burning houses, you realise human environmental impacts and climate change got real.

A huge mass of ice sheet is about to cleave off Antarctica, and last year, the Arctic was up to 20 degrees warmer than in the more stable recent past. Even the ocean’s deepest places, the Mariana and Kermadec trenches, are host to the world’s worst chemicals, at a scale equal to the world’s most polluted industrial sites, according to scientists in the Guardian. A news report showed a can of spam on the seabed 5km deep. The crustaceans from the deepest trenches contain 10 times the industrial pollution of the average earthworm. Recent reports calculated that there are about 6000 pieces of rubbish per km2 even in the Arctic.

At various locations around the world, sudden tree collapse is killing hundreds of thousands of trees – whole forests. Manmade deforestation of course kills a whole lot more. Then there’s the very finite nature of global species, and depopulation – extinction – of much of the world’s wild living wonder. Leopards are just one of the recent high profile species added to the long ‘going, going, gone’ list of endangered biodiversity in the current era. Previously common animals like the polar bear, hippo and gazelle are now threatened. Some scientists reckon extinctions will peak around 2060, because there will be hardly any more species to lose. We’re losing them before many are even discovered. Once species are lost, they’re gone forever.

Meanwhile, closer to home, swimming at many of Auckland’s beaches poses a health risk because of our unreformed habit of flushing toilet waste into streams and harbours. South Island lakes and rivers have dried up into algal cess pits devoid of life, and neither ‘wadeable’, or ‘swimmable’, diminished because of our habit of denuding landscapes, using land right up to rivers’ edges, indirectly flushing agricultural waste into streams and rivers.

Even if the many perpetrators of these environmental and social crimes had the best intentions, these issues would take as long to repair as they have taken to create – about since the industrial revolution, and especially since the second world war. Halting our destruction of nature would require champions, sacrifice from most of us, ‘buy-in’, major long-term commitment, action toward reducing environmental harm. But we’re in a profit driven economy where land and water and life are commodified and at the same time, go largely unpriced, undervalued, invisible; gifts from the world to the capitalists. Repair, would require a whole different model.
The whole planet seems overpopulated with people but wealth and health are distributed unevenly. Anger, fear and greed are fostered by ‘leaders’ in the media and society. What’s the future for human and non-human life and ecosystems?

Today’s problems are systemic and seem intractable. The ‘human asteroid’ is on a full speed collision course with a sustainable future. Human behaviour has caused a tragic distortion to the biosphere; the Anthropocene, now in a ‘great acceleration’ of change.

I’m going outside to plant some trees.

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27 Comments

  1. Afewknowthetruth says:

    Industrial civilization, which is predicated on the burning of fossil fuels and cannot function without the burning of fossil fuels, and which is driven by the fraudulent money system, has now reached the stage that can best be described as a terminal illness, akin to cancer, which will kill its host. And it has infected the bulk of NZ society and much of the rest of the world.

    The present system is an ongoing catastrophe which increases in magnitude as time passes because all the systems of governance are geared to making matters worse, and are geared to preventing even discussion of reality, let alone strategies to deal with it, as those of us who have attempted to bring reality to the ‘table’ have discovered.

    Couple the avoidance of discussion of reality with the fact that most institutions in NZ are headed by self-serving liars and fuckwits who will happily destroy their own children’s futures for the sake of money and power, and it is easy to see why there is no hope whatsoever with respect to bringing about change. City, district and regional council continue to serve short-term vested interest groups, and continue to promote meltdown of the planet and eventual human extinction. They spend ratepayer money promoting meltdown of the planet and human extinction!

    And the corporate media continue to serve short-tem vested interest groups and promote meltdown of the planet and eventual human extinction, because the political-economic systems demand that they do.

    What is more, we have known for decades (since the early 1970s at the latest, though there is plenty of evidence well before that, M.King Hubbert, Admiral Rickover, Charles (Dave) Keeling and others) that industrial civilization is totally unsustainable in the long term, since it is predicated on the burning of fossil fuels and is predicated on destabilizing the geochemical systems that make life-as-we-know-it possible.

    https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2014/sep/02/limits-to-growth-was-right-new-research-shows-were-nearing-collapse

    And what has happened in the 3 years since ‘Limits to Growth was right. New research shows we’re nearing collapse’?

    Just more of the same old crap from politicians, just more of the same old crap from economists, just more of the same old crap from business leaders, and just more of the same old crap from bulk of Internet bloggers.

    Thanks, Chrisitine, for keep the most important issues of all time in the spotlight, even if planting trees won’t make a scrap of difference because the political system is rotten to the core.

  2. Dave Brown says:

    Plantings trees isnt going to do it. Massive technical intervention to remove carbon above the dangerous level could.
    Its not industry that’s the problem but industry owned by capitalist bosses.
    New technology implemented immediately can mitigate the effects of climate collapse without an industrial collapse.
    But without a revolution that overthrows the capitalist ruling classes, that have no self-interest in saving humanity, and implements a crash program for survival socialism, we may as well learn to love our extinction.

    • Afewknowthetruth says:

      ‘Massive technical intervention to remove carbon above the dangerous level could.’

      Afraid not. No ‘technical intervention’ to removing carbon (presumably you mean carbon dioxide) from the atmosphere exists. Nor can it ever exist because of the laws of chemistry and the laws of thermodynamics.

      It takes energy to construct and operate anything. Only plants have the capacity to take simple chemicals and convert them into chemical substances that capture solar energy and do it using solar energy. Everything that humans do exacerbates the CO2 predicament.

      By the way, the current rate of addition of anthropogenic carbon dioxide to the atmosphere and oceans is around 35 gigatonnes (35 billion tonnes) a year.

      • Afewknowthetruth says:

        An edit function to correct errors would be good.

        ‘remove’, not ‘removing’.

        I started my response with ‘there is no way of removing CO2’, then changed it and overlooked the grammatical error. Sorry.

      • Nitrium Nitrium says:

        You’re forgetting nuclear energy, which has a near zero carbon footprint. If commercial fusion reactors could be built, for example, then using these to scrub the atmosphere of carbon is technically feasible.

        • Afewknowthetruth says:

          Nuclear energy having a ‘near zero’ carbon is yet another lie promulgated by the ‘Empire of Lies’, and established as a commonly-believed myth in the largely-scientifically-illiterate society we live in..

          1. diesel is used to operate the mining equipment require to extract uranium from the earth.

          2. Diesel is used to transport uranium ore to processing facilities.

          3. Diesel is used to construct and operate ore processing facilities.

          4. Diesel is used to extract the iron ore needed to make steel.

          5. Coal is used to make steel from iron ore.

          6. Huge amounts of CO2 are emitted in the manufacture of concrete -a key component of nuclear facilities.

          7. Diesel is used to transport all the materials to construction sites.

          8. Diesel is used to feed the construction workers and feed the people who operate nuclear facilities.

          9. Diesel and petrol are sued to transport workers to and from work.

          10. Diesel is used in the decommissioning of nuclear plants and in the transport and storage of waste.

          11. Diesel is used in the construction and maintenance of electricity grids.

          And if all that were not enough, it has been stated that the cost of constructing, operating and decommissioning Britain’s nuclear power stations exceeds the value of all the electricity ever generated.

          Fusion reactors have been ‘on the horizon’ since the early 1950s, and ‘we’ are no closer to constructing them now than ‘we’ were in 1955.

          ‘fusion reactors could be built, for example, then using these to scrub the atmosphere of carbon is technically feasible’

          Please explain the chemistry of that statement, because that would be the biggest transgression of the laws of chemistry and thermodynamics since they were formulated.

  3. It should be said, long before Europeans got here, humans were using fires to clear vegetation in New Zealand. And before that, lightning strikes would start fires that would burn off vast tracts of forest.

    That said, I agree with the sentiments. Especially after spending most of a week watching square kilometre after square kilometre of the Port Hills burn.

  4. CLEANGREEN says:

    It now appears that humans cant control their future any more since the advent of the automobile it seems.
    Since we got hooked to petrol/diesel we have slowly been destroying our planet and our chances of survival.

    I grew up in the 1940’s when the divide occurred, as we had a 1925 convertible Oldsmobile with wooden wheels and it was only used once a week as we biked everywhere and this vehicle was for family trips only.

    We had just bought our first kelvinator refrigerator as we all previously had an icebox fridge before that with a big block of ice placed in it twice every week.

    For washing clothes we had a ‘copper’ (a large copper bowl inside a concrete block with a fire underneath) where we would boil our clothes and wash then in it and hang them out to dry.

    Yes you get the drift!!!!!

    We lived Spartan as our forefathers and mothers did back before the 1940’s but now we are immersed in automatic power hungry utilities and every family member drives a car every day even down to the corner store!!!!!

    We are really stuffed as we have lost the will to go back to the past where we come from so that is where it is now.

    We all need a real wakeup call here, as we have very little time now as the plant will become un-liveable in 5 to 10 yrs.

    CO2 levels rising by the day and we will not be able to breathe when it rises above 450 parts per million Currently sits bat 406.7 https://www.co2.earth/ as that is toxic to our bodies above 450.

    Today the level is rising faster and faster every year.

    The level was only 312 parts per million in 1955.

    Get some survival gear if you want to last a little longer.

    If you notice you get exhausted quicker and loose your breath it is because the oxygen level is getting lower as CO2 levels rise.

    The writing is on the wall now folks.

    • Afewknowthetruth says:

      I agree with your sentiments. I grew up in the 1950s, and there was only one car in the entire street! And nobody went on overseas holidays by plane. Practically everybody walked, cycled or used public transport locally, and a big trip was an hour or two on a train or coach.

      Missing from your narrative is that America was awash with oil in the early years of the twentieth century and they really didn’t know what to do with it. Then a cabal of manufacturers worked out that if they bought-up electric tram systems and closed them down they could force people into cars (or automobiles as Americans call them). Such was the power of corporations that, after World Ear Two, when the government called for a national transport strategy, the motor industry was given the go ahead to construct a system totally dependent on petroleum.

      Now that global extraction of conventional oil is well past peak and into decline, and now that the devastating effects of burning fossil fuels is blatantly obvious, people are STILL persuade (by corporations and by the government) to behave as though the world is awash with oil and burning it has no ill effects.

      I must correct a couple of things you have written, though.

      ‘CO2 levels rising by the day and we will not be able to breathe when it rises above 450 parts per million’

      Humans can tolerate up to about 2% CO2 or 20,000 ppm (think of a crowded room with poor ventilation) before noticing ill effects.

      Exposure limits
      (% in air)
       
      Health Effects
      2-3
      Unnoticed at rest, but on exertion there may be marked shortness of breath
      3
      Breathing becomes noticeably deeper and more frequent at rest
      3-5
      Breathing rhythm accelerates. Repeated exposure provokes headaches
      5
      Breathing becomes extremely laboured, headaches, sweating and bounding pulse
      7.5
      Rapid breathing, increased heart rate, headaches, sweating, dizziness, shortness of breath, muscular weakness, loss of mental abilities, drowsiness, and ringing in the ears
      8-15
      Headache, vertigo, vomiting, loss of consciousness and possibly death if the patient is not immediately given oxygen
      10
      Respiratory distress develops rapidly with loss of consciousness in 10-15 minutes
      15
      Lethal concentration, exposure to levels above this are intolerable
      25+
      Convulsions occur and rapid loss of consciousness ensues after a few breaths. Death will occur if level is maintained

      http://www.ivhhn.org/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=84

      It would be a damned good thing if CO2 were more immediately toxic to humans. They might then stop behaving like idiots. The fact that CO2 is not toxic at the levels normally encountered allows industrial humans to behave like idiots.

      There is no evidence the planet will become uninhabitable in 5 to 10 years. However, there is plenty of evidence it will become largely uninhabitable by mid-century.

      It will therefore be the period 2020 to 2050 that will be particularly gruesome to attempt to live through, as industrially produced food become less available, as the oceans become increasing toxic (acidification and the general build-up of pollutants) and increasing dead, and as the average temperature of the Earth rises, with commensurate sea level rise wiping out much currently habitable land.

      Yes, ‘the writing is on the wall’. And governments and people in general willfully ignore it.

      • CLEANGREEN says:

        Yes thanks for that Afewknowthetruth

        But there are other unintended and so far unspoken consequences that also come with CO2 increases.

        These firstly are such as plant growth disturbances that causes chemical changes and less uptake of nutrients in plants with increased CO2 levels.

        This is actually at the centre of concerns about how our plants will handle CO2 increases and will plants continue to shed some of the CO2 at the rate that it currently does today.

        Secondly is the reduction in Global oxygen levels being monitored, as the developing science now states, there is a direct linkage between CO@ increase and Oxygen level decrease that used to be considered “stable” but now appears to be reducing now from 21% to 19% and in some locals globally measurements have been surveyed down to 16% oxygen.

        Also there has been a marked oxygen drop in ocean models who predict a decline in the dissolved oxygen inventory of the global ocean of one to seven per cent by the year 2100

        These trends are at the heart of subtle changes (the scientists state) that now need to be considered as serious to human health.

        Incidentally the global oxygen level was near to 35-40% back during the dinosaur era so we are heading down the slope faster than we realised sadly.

        That is one thing even TPPA/Bilderberg has not considered DAVID SEE-MORE, so take your spin to somewhere else.

      • CLEANGREEN says:

        Yes thanks for that Afewknowthetruth

        But there are other unintended and so far unspoken consequences that also come with CO2 increases.

        These firstly are such as plant growth disturbances that causes chemical changes and less uptake of nutrients in plants with increased CO2 levels.

        This is actually at the centre of concerns about how our plants will handle CO2 increases and will plants continue to shed some of the CO2 at the rate that it currently does today.

        Secondly is the reduction in Global oxygen levels being monitored, as the developing science now states, there is a direct linkage between CO@ increase and Oxygen level decrease that used to be considered “stable” but now appears to be reducing now from 21% to 19% and in some locals globally measurements have been surveyed down to 16% oxygen.

        Also there has been a marked oxygen drop in ocean models who predict a decline in the dissolved oxygen inventory of the global ocean of one to seven per cent by the year 2100

        These trends are at the heart of subtle changes (the scientists state) that now need to be considered as serious to human health.

        Incidentally the global oxygen level was near to 35-40% back during the dinosaur era so we are heading down the slope faster than we realised sadly.

        That is one thing even TPPA/Bilderberg has not considered DAVID SEE-MORE, so take your spin to somewhere else.

  5. David See-More says:

    You know what would fix the environment Christine Rose?

    Reviving TPPA and voting ACT for your party vote at the next election.

    By reading Act’s environment policies http://www.act.org.nz/policies/environment (which I might add are being plagiarized by other parties), and voting ACT, these acts alone will fix all of this.

    • Afewknowthetruth says:

      ACT: peddlers of lies.

      Promoters of ACT: self-serving liars who would happily see their own progeny suffer premature death in a very unpleasant manner that ever say one honest thing.

    • countryboy says:

      Oh my God. Clearly, not all drugs are good drugs. What are you on??
      I met a guy once who, it was said of him, took LSD and after that, was always a bit ‘ special’. What he realised, however, was that if this was an LSD high? Then fuck reality! Fair enough I say.
      @ David See-More? Go and try LSD, get high then stay up there man. It’ll do wonders for you, so I’m told.
      Mind you, anything might. Rat poison, sniff petrol, fly spray, paint thinners, your own underwear, anything must be better than being in a small room with roger douglas with its stink and its energy. Look what it’s done to you??
      Personally? I’ve never tried drugs, did drugs, or know people personally who did, done or do drugs. Nope siree. Like my virginity, saving my brain for the Baby Jesus.

      Speaking of flies? You ever notice that, if one leaves all the windows and all doors open that will open, the fly will spend all its air time finding the one door or the one window that can”t be opened then spend all it’s fly hours on Gods Good Earth trying to walk its way to freedom? Do flies come back as those humans who try to walk up the down elevator??? Deeeeep !

      The fly seems to deliberately sabotage itself by steadfastly trying to find fly solutions in a closed window.

      @ David See-More? If this sounds familiar to you, perhaps you are, in fact, a fly?? Think about it?
      Sound advice? Avoid elevators.

  6. Quicksilver says:

    If you are lucky enough to have access to a bit of land, get good at growing your own food, firewood etc. Learn how to save seed for replanting, coppicing trees, and collecting rainwater.
    If you don’t own a patch of dirt, make contact with your local community garden or marae and establish links with the people there.
    I suppose you could go all “prepper” and hoard medicines, guns and ammo but that implies a total breakdown of society and I believe that under stress, we’ll come together once social media stops working and people are forced to lift their heads from their dead screens, look each other in the face, and talk.
    And just gotta’ say, David See-More, if ACT is the answer, then the question is “which party best represents the thinking that got us into this mess in the first place?” Nice troll attempt though.

  7. Mike in Auckland says:

    So where is the message to those that need to receive it? The government continues to promote and boast about economic growth, and car sales in NZ are reaching record numbers:

    http://www.stuff.co.nz/motoring/news/83885903/new-zealand-new-vehicle-sales-accelerating-towards-a-record-finish

    https://www.nbr.co.nz/article/car-sales-drive-retail-sales-08-december-quarter-b-199646

    Few of those will be electric, hybrid or similarly powered vehicles, most will be the usual fossil fuel burning ones.

    New Zealand is a wasteland, the media is a wasteland, as environmental concerns go under while economic growth news and stock exchange courses dominate the news cycle. That this is largely due to immigration and increased consumption, that is another story.

    Also do I note the Greens sit at around 11 percent in the polls and do not seem to reach more out there, as otherwise they should get more support.

    It shows again, the dumbing down has serious effects and consequences.

  8. Iain Mclean says:

    To all those hammering it out above;

    Fusion energy is here already. No dangerous materials and waste involved.

    France is in the process of building a plant now.(And others.)
    50kw in. 500kw out. Bigger differentials are possible.

    https://focusfusion.org/

    Focus Fusion Society
    https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCsaktL4fdAiJ1CcDS3XhoXw
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=abvdXZfUHIg

    Safire Project – Thunderbolts
    https://www.youtube.com/results?search_query=safire+project+2015

    https://www.thunderbolts.info/wp/

    ITER Being built in France now. 50Kw in. 500kw out.
    http://www.euronuclear.org/info/encyclopedia/i/iter.htm

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/ITER

    “Special Report: Gov’t Suppressing Cold Fusion Discovery”
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MLcSE0bmvug

    Cheers.

    • frank says:

      “Bernard Bigot, the director general of Iter, is certain it will produce plentiful power, “but what is not granted so far is that this technology will be simple and efficient enough that it could be industrialised,” he says.”

      and construction began 2013…it is hoped first generation 2025…

      https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2016/dec/02/after-60-years-is-nuclear-fusion-finally-poised-to-deliver

      would you gamble your life on the success of this project????

      • Iain Mclean says:

        Frank;

        Thanks for your very interesting Guardian article that prompted further reading through their links and more.

        To your question “would you gamble your life on the success of this project????” my answer is certainly NOT.

        I believe it will be a ‘white elephant’ that is very complex and expensive that still has a few problems to sort out. Extreme temperatures and radiation to contain,at this stage anyway, is why I think Hot Fusion is not the way forward.

        My links above were intended to show that there are many system designs that will achieve fusion, thus energy gain. The science has been known for decades.

        To tie up vast amounts of capital on a project such as ITER, when far cheaper and simpler designs are available, only confirms my suspicions that oligarchs don’t want cheap energy for all but to control any new technology themselves to meter for gain.

        Stating the obvious, of course, as Tesla soon discovered.

        Short of plugging into the ionosphere (Tesla’s idea) COLD FUSION seems to be the future at this stage, and because this science is so disruptive to the Established Status Quo no wonder lack of development and investment money has been holding this project back.

        I was surprised that so many countries and companies were involved in
        this research called Low Energy Nuclear Reactions (LENR)

        One enterprise, as at August 2016, was ready for manufacture of two models.
        For home and commercial. Relatively cheap, safe and portable.
        1Ltr of water fuel for home version lasts 10-15yrs. 30/1 gain.
        See my last link above.

        http://brillouinenergy.com/

        http://brillouinenergy.com/technology/products/

        Numbers involved.
        http://kb.e-catworld.com/index.php?title=Organizations

        If I was a young lad today I would be studying Plasma Physics, Electro-magnetism and Electrical Engineering.

        Cheers.

        It has been stated that Trump wants the latest technology released for the people.
        Developed in America and exported under license to the rest of the world.
        Fingers crossed.



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