Tag Archives: consumerism and the environment

The Great Acceleration….

Our current epoch has now come to be known as the ‘Anthropocene’  for the impacts man has had on our planetary environment. It is also called “The Great Acceleration..”;  being the sixth  event in the life of this  planet  where species loss has become so pervasive and devastating.

A May 2017 study for the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America was entitled “Biological annihilation via the ongoing sixth mass extinction signaled by vertebrate population losses and declines”.  The paper notes in conclusion that: “The massive loss of populations is already damaging the services ecosystems provide to (human) civilization…Thus, we emphasize that the sixth mass extinction is already here and the window for effective action is very short, probably two or three decades at most.. All signs point to ever more powerful assaults on biodiversity in the next two decades, painting a dismal picture of the future of life, including human life. .” In other words, without the survival of significant complex bio-systems of multiple species, each with sustainable population numbers, humans too are rapidly headed towards extinction.

While  we talk  (and talk) about global  warming, what we also ignore is the combined impacts of  man-made emissions into the atmosphere  with the steady  destruction of the biosphere  through human “progress’  –   the literal cancer of inert dead non-organic edifices being  built  over the top and at the expense  of  the natural  world that make up  humans’  cities and towns  and transportation systems,  agribusiness destroying countless wilderness  areas into  single species ‘dead’  environments, the ongoing deforestation of native habitats, increasing  wildfires, needless human consumption,  acidification and over-fishing of the oceans, human over-population,  meat-production, war,   pollution, global  warming, water-loss ..  the list goes on  and on…  Incrementally, humans are destroying the liveability for all species on the planet at an ever increasing rate, with carbon monoxide production being just one aspect of our ongoing destruction of this planet.

Wikileaks notesAt present, the rate of extinction of species is estimated at 100 to 1,000 times higher than the “base” or historically typical rate of extinction (in terms of the natural evolution of the planet)[14][15][16] and also the current rate of extinction is, therefore, 10 to 100 times higher than any of the previous mass extinctions in the history of Earth.

What is urgently needed is a recognition of this fact by humans, and an understanding that the model of human’ progress’ we have espoused for the past few thousand years is killing our planet. An understanding that all life- regardless of species, is inherently sacred and our  mutual survival is intertwined, and that  consequently  human ‘needs’  must be balanced against  the rights of other species. One small step to delay or even possibly reverse this destruction,  is the urgent massive scale planting of native vegetation in every possible locality and an end to our model of human  “progress”.


Links

http://www.pnas.org/content/early/2017/07/05/1704949114.full

Supporting appendix to  Biological annihilation via the ongoing sixth mass extinction signaled by vertebrate population losses and declines

Scientists Say Sixth Mass Extinction Is Under Way

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

Gaia and the Joys of Collective Psychosis

In Ukraine we see good Ukraine citizens believing that  ‘slant-eyed’  Russians ( perhaps Mongols from  the 12th century?)  have invaded their peaceful country, and along with a tiny number of Ukrainian traitors, have managed to  fend off the advances of the peace-loving Kiev government army  and  neo-nazi Right Sektor militias to return Eastern Ukraine to the fold. We need no  evidence-  we simply know that this is the case.

In Syria, every  good Sunni  knows that  it was Assad’s government that created ISIS;  where else could it have come from? -in order   that  evil  Shi-ite Persians and Lebanese  Hezbollah  could invade their country.  Clearly Sunni Saudi Arabia and their Wahabbist   crazies had nothing to do  with it!

In America every  good Democrat  knows that  it was only because of Russian intervention and ‘hacking’  that  Donald Trump  won  the election. How else could he have won?

And in the U.K. and in Poland the Russians are coming,  if they  are not already here! Russia’s aging  long range bombers and their sole smoking  aircraft  carrier are ready  at any moment to bring apocalyptic doom to  those good democratic shores..

I  am once again  reminded of my great great  grandfather’s time here in sleepy New Zealand, when  in  the 1890s, a  Russian Empire rust-bucket of a warship  managed to creep  this far south in  the Pacific to  to cause chaos and concern amongst us gentle white folks.  Vast  sums were raised to buy ( from British  armament factories) long range   guns to  install  on every  headland to  forestall  the imminent threat of a Russian  invasion. The Russo-Japanese brief  naval  and land army  altercation of 1904 was to  quickly prove how much  of a threat those Russian  warships  and armed forces actually were..

So-  those are  a few tangible examples of collective pyschosis –  how we as humans can so  easily be swayed into  believing an alternative reality-  because everyone else is believing it too.

However –  much much bigger than  those relatively small  events,  is humankind’s current conviction (since at  least the ‘industrial  revolution’) that  destroying all  of the  living things on this planet is ‘progress’ .  And, decade after decade, each  one of the remaining indigenous cultures have been sucked into  this ‘word-view’  that  we  humans must   produce things  to  make us humans happy and  ‘progress somewhere’ . Every one of the material things that  we produce  comes at  the expense of another living thing…

The evidence is very much out there-  and has been increasingly obvious over the past fifty years,  that  we as humans are  incrementally, and  at an ever faster pace ,  destroying the capacity of this planet to provide a sustainable habitat to not only ourselves, but  to  all of earth’s living things. But  we are still  ‘locked in’  to  ‘progress’  –  destroying  life for another bauble that will inevitably  self-destruct in  a few  months or years…

Perhaps, just perhaps, if we had had a slow motion time-lapse video which had showed   the world’s life steadily being steadily and rapidly drained away over the past 2000  years –  year upon year  –  then just maybe we might have done something about it.  Instead, we talk  about it;  we pretend that our machines of ‘progress’  can  redress the problems,  when the reality is that only other life, other species, can  reverse the  apocalypse-  if we have time.

And  that  – as we  all  know-  is not going to happen. Because human ‘progress’ its believed,   is going to  save us with more technology, more  ‘progress’  (and  more destruction of living things)…

A mammoth global  campaign to  plant and grow trees everywhere –  to revert  all  our feedstock lands to  forest, to plant trees on  every  available inch  of land  that is not absolutely necessary  to provide  humans with  a meagre  vegetable diet;  might permit this planet to  survive as a living entity….but the odds look  very very slim….Trees not only once almost  entirely covered the landmass of our little planet,  they provided a home for a huge biodiversity of other plants  insects and animals that  kept our planet viable  flexible  and   adaptable to  climactic and other  planetary  changes. That capacity to  adapt through  species diversification  is now being squeezed from  this planet.

Lovelock had it right the first time.  Our planet is  indeed a  single living entity –  Gaia -composed of  millions of different living  interlocking entities-  much  the same way as the human organism functions.

We are killing her…


Links

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

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Russo-Japanese_War

https://ourworldindata.org/forest-cover/#very-long-term-perspective-on-deforestation-in-specific-regions

Reclaiming the Earth- The Mapuche Dilemma

As the Earth  rapidly approaches the point where  the  trajectory  towards  intense global  warming and  near total species  loss becomes inevitable, we now, more than ever, need the wisdom  of the indigenous peoples’  connection with  nature and acknowledgement of the reality that  the earth is   a living entity;  to  save our planet. It may  already  be too  late- but we need to  try!

Nothing;  despite all  the research  and  incremental  indelible evidence  of  ever-increasing species extinction , has changed our current trajectory  of devastating the planet for a few cheap  baubles. We appear to be locked into  an  insane path of self-destruction which  takes the rest of the planet  with us. Have we reached the ‘tipping-point’? – we will  not know until it is too  late.

That is not to  say  the indigenous peoples like the Mapuche of southern  Chile or Maori  in New Zealand or the other still surviving remnants of indigenous cultures , have  all the answers, or are even  innocent of harming the planet themselves. But they  do have a philosophy  and  wisdom  from  the past which  acknowledges the reality that,  as just  one more species on this planet ,  humans are inextricably linked to  what  we   strangely call “nature’  -ie our fellow living things.  And  that we are also solidly linked to  all the non-sentient elements of this world.

 

Mapuche Shaman’s Drum; Courtesy of the Collections of the National Museum of the American Indian http://nmai.si.edu/exhibitions/infinityofnations/patagonia/177322.html

If we are to  survive as a species;  if the planet  is to  survive,  we must  restore this fundamental  core understanding to all humans – without  which we will  most certainly perish- if not within  decades,  then  certainly within  this  new  two centuries.

Our first and immediate step  is to restore power and authority to those cultures who  do in  fact  respect  the earth  and all  its living inhabitants  above  “progress’  and the production of  commodities. The next is to  produce a world wide covenant that  values other species  as equal  to our own and our obligation as a species to  truly become protective guardians of this living planet, given our  unique capacity to  manipulate our environment.

We must let the voice of all  those cultures who  call  us back  to  our roots -to be heard,  respected and  urgently responded to.

The shaman’s drum calls  us back  to  our re-connection with our  world.

 

 

 

 


Links

https://www.rt.com/in-motion/374127-mapuche-demand-release-prisoners/

https://www.google.com/url?hl=en-GB&q=http://www.telesurtv.net/english/news/Indigenous-Groups-Demand-Freedom-of-Mapuche-Leader-in-Chile-20161212-0024.html&source=gmail&ust=1484889158716000&usg=AFQjCNFxrOXHP7sSOc1tFMtFjA-Ne4bFnQ

http://www.mapuche-nation.org/english/html/news/n-66.htm

Our People Are Unstoppable’: Chile’s Jailed Indigenous Mapuche

 

The Cumulative Footprints of Humans

I often hear people, who   appear to be  otherwise rational  human beings,  adamantly stating that anthropogenic global  warming doesn’t exist-if there is warming they  argue -it has to be some other source than man;  why?

Perhaps  partly because  they  cannot  comprehend that  their own small  actions in a big world could  have such  a huge  impact  on  the planet. Which   is in  fact   of course, correct.

It is our capacity  as a  social  species  to  collaborate and cooperate which  is destroying this planet. If James Watt  had invented the steam engine, but  no-one had helped him build the tracks, let alone design and build another-and then another  locomotive;  then  the planet  would  have much more of its natural   green cover on it and  far less carbon  dioxide in  the atmosphere!

It is our capacity to  firstly  manipulate our environment to  suit our immediate needs at  the expense of other species, which  has created what  is looking increasingly likely as  a dead-end street  for ourselves and  the multiple species that  live  with us on this little blue ball.

Secondly it is  our incapacity to  anticipate the cumulative impacts of our actions  on the planet ( one locomotive has no  impact;  100,000  locomotives do; tar-sealing one car-park has little impact on the planet, but 500, 000  mall  car-parks do.) .

Thirdly,  it  is the inherited  presumption that  homo sapiens have a God-given right to  hold domain over the world. A handy  but incredibly foolish assumption for any species to adhere to!- particularly when that  species doesn’t understand  what  it is doing as it manipulates its environment, other  than making  and distributing little shiny baubles  that its members  are attracted to.

And fourthly, it is our short-sightedness;  we do  not see how over time, humans have radically altered for the worse, the liveable bio-sphere on this planet. What  was once, for instance in New Zealand,  several islands almost entirely  covered with tall  trees  and dense vegetation, has been in less than  two hundred years, transformed into millions of acres of  grassland feeding  various animal species  imported from  Europe, for the purpose of slaughtering them and sending the dead bodies overseas or  to extract their milk.

Many many thousands of species have been  destroyed or pushed to  the brink  of extinction in this  process of ‘human progress’, and those ancient forest  trees  are forever gone, except in  a few national parks where humans can get  a small  glimpse of what  the world was like before humans devastated it. No  longer is the dawn chorus of birds deafening,  as it once was when Europeans first  arrived on  those New Zealand  shores 200  years ago: we may be  lucky in  our  urban environments to hear one European blackbird  or a sparrow call as the sun  rises.

Deforestation across the world has been pervasive- both for agricultural  farming and for industrial  exploitation.

In the image below you an see the inexorable deforestation (loss of green) of  Europe -only attenuated briefly by  the Black  Death. That  process of deforestation has been occurring all  over the word at various rates and stages, but is now nearing the point where only a few natural  national parks will  remain across the world. And while they  certainly act  as carbon  sinks, those forested areas were (once) far more than that; they  were areas of intense species  diversity that  vitally kept our planet  alive.

 

'The prehistoric and pre-industrial deforestation of Europe" -Jm Kaplan, KM Krumhardt, and N Zimmerman ( 2009)
‘The prehistoric and pre-industrial deforestation of Europe” -Jm Kaplan, KM Krumhardt, and N Zimmerman (2009)

We have as  a species, perhaps irremediably, lost our way- and sadly all  the other species on  this planet may be lost too as a result.


Postscript

And as Pete Dolack  writes at  Systemic Disorder, environmental  collapse is a major challenge to  the capitalistic system!  How dare our world disintegrate before our eyes when we have the greatest system of profiteering the world has ever seen!

 

The Beginning of the End of ‘Progress’ ?

The Baltic Dry  Index,  which  measures the price of shipping  dry  goods globally, has dropped to  its lowest  known point in  the past few days at 402. Other indicators too are pointing to  a rapid downturn in export shipping volumes.

ClipboarBDI12-1-16

On its own,  the BDI low  index may  reflect  nothing more than  an oversupply of shipping ,  but taken  with other data  measures, indications are that international   trade is slowing at a rapid rate globally.

If this is the case, then  we are likely to see a further deterioration in commodity prices, particularly oil prices, as demand slumps, an increase in  unemployment in  the industrial  sectors globally and an increasing shrinkage in  consumer spending.

And naturally, that  decrease i   trade globally is simply because people are buying less! Here’s a neat  little Bloomberg graph  which  shows  the trend for retail  sales in the United States.. People simply seem to be buying less ‘stuff’

Because the human world’s current survival  culture is predicated on  continuous growth  in  production of things, such  a reversal  will have significant implications for poverty, hopelessness and hunger in  the short to medium term.  It will  require no  less than  a massive restructuring of what  it means to be human  on this planet, for us all  to  get  to  a state of sustainable equilibrium, and to  finally recognise our equality with  the other species we co-habit the world with.

On the bright side, the  elimination of ‘growth’ or even a reversal  in growth, will  be a significant bonus to the world’s environment.  marsThe diminishing need to  use more coal  and gas, to  mine more  minerals, to  build more cities, dwellings  and transport networks and  consume more generally, will  mean less of what  is left of our natural  environment will  become despoiled.

As the ‘Geography of Transport Systems ‘ notes succinctly, there are many factors which influence the BDI price; lowering  oil prices for ships ( bunker oil), too  many ships in the market and lastly and likely most significantly, lowering demand for  bulk  goods. OIl process are approximately 40% of the price and there certainly has been  a glut in   bulk tankers, but we also  know bulk  commodity prices  ( iron ore, copper etc etc) have dropped precipitously due to   much  reduced demand from  primarily China. But a drop of this magnitude foretells something much  bigger in  the wind…


 

Postscript

And here’s the BDI at 29th January …

BalticDry29-1-16

And even  Bloomberg might be coming to  a similar consensus as of 29th  January…

http://www.bloombergview.com/articles/2016-01-28/shipping-news-says-world-economy-is-toast

 

 

Links

http://physics.ucsd.edu/do-the-math/2011/07/can-economic-growth-last/

http://www.global-briefing.org/2012/07/the-steady-state-economy-life-after-growth/

http://www.paecon.net/PAEReview/issue57/Trainer57.pdf

http://robertdfeinman.com/society/no_growth.html

http://www.americanshipper.com/Main/News/Drewry_Container_shipping_companies_to_lose_5b_in_62624.aspx?source=MostPopul

http://www.business-standard.com/article/economy-policy/more-bad-news-for-ocean-trade-116011300352_1.htmlar

http://www.zerohedge.com/news/2016-01-11/nothing-moving-baltic-dry-crashes-insiders-warn-commerce-has-come-halt

http://www.hellenicshippingnews.com/baltic-sea-index-hits-all-time-low-as-shipping-crisis-deepens/

http://www.marketoracle.co.uk/Article53707.html

This World is not a Commodity: The Planet versus the Trans Pacific Partnership

The latest Wikileaks  release  outlines the secret  deals being conducted by   Western  state  on behalf of international  companies under the Trans Pacific Partnership deal, to  ensure those companies can  engage in whatever malpractice and destruction of the environment they  choose to . If those companies object  to  anything a local  state is doing to  restrict  their trade or profits, that  state entity can be sued in  a  highly partial  court of law without  any  jurisprudence standing (ie i totally biased without safety measures against conflict  of interest  of the legal  agents involved.

If the consequences of the TPP were not so  incredibly damaging for the environment and the future of this planet-this piece of  negotiation would be seen  as pure farce and another mighty demonstration of the woeful  lack of intelligence of the political  parties and individuals involved.

Common Dreams describes the bill  as a “Fast track to Hell”; which  in many respects,  the deal is.

A Hell  of climate hothouse change and  unfettered environmental  and species destruction; let alone  a hell  for human “consumers” of unregulated and unsafe products and significantly reduced capacity to  respond to  public health issues like  rates of tobacco  consumption . But more particularly it is a madhouse.

A truly insane drive to  destroy the planet  with  unregulated commodification before any of us get  the smallest  opportunity to  save  our species and the other remaining species on  this planet  that  are “useful” to us, from  the wholesale destruction of this planet  through  the insanity of  “market forces” .

That   supposedly sane  negotiators from  all  those Pacific countries could seriously  consider this Partnership  deal  as some thing  worthwhile to  even consider for a moment is deeply disturbing, and  is  a spectacularly horrifying litmus test  of how  irrevocably  the human species has departed from  any sense of connection with the planet  it depends upon  to  survive.

The  signing of  the TPP  will surely show that  the human species really  doesn’t deserve this planet.

Postscript

Common Dreams identifies a further draft  international  treaty,  the Trade in Services Agreement (TiSA), which will  further  strengthen  the power of the international  corporates.

All  of this would make perfect  sense if the only  thing that mattered on this planet was making money  (for the rich)….

And if any of us need a reminder, a Stanford University study,  released June 19th 2015 notes  what  should be blindingly obvious to  any one who  looks around beyond their smartphone; that  we have entered a massive  species loss period which  is likely to  result in  the extinction of our own species . Sawing off the limb we are sitting on,  is the  comment made by Paul Ehrlich , the lead  researcher for the study…


Links

Analysis of the TPP Investment Charter

https://wikileaks.org/tpp-investment/TPP-Investment-Chapter-Analysis/page-4.html

 Fast track  to  Hell-Common Dreams

http://www.commondreams.org/news/2015/04/16/fast-track-hell-trade-bill-officially-introduced-congress

We’re treating soil like dirt. It’s a fatal mistake, as our lives depend on it– 

The Rise and Fall of BITs
http://www.otago.ac.nz/politics/otago061036.pdf

It’s Our Future
http://www.itsourfuture.org.nz/what-is-the-tppa/

A Gunpowder Plot Against Democracy-George Monbiot
http://www.monbiot.com/2014/11/04/a-gunpowder-plot-against-democracy/

Stop TTIP!
https://stop-ttip.org/

http://www.commondreams.org/news/2015/06/03/wikileaks-strikes-again-leaked-tisa-docs-expose-corporate-plan-reshaping-global

Stanford researcher declares that the sixth mass extinction is here
http://news.stanford.edu/news/2015/june/mass-extinction-ehrlich-061915.html