2017-02-18

Doom-dee-doom


Abrupt climate change and consequent near-term human extinction are minefields of their own. For most people I encounter they are next to ungraspable as concepts, and completely unimaginable as a reality. The kind of action me and some other folks from the so-called “doomer community” are proposing is yet another very difficult topic to bring across. We are using scientific data as means to point out the predicament we as a species have manoeuvered ourselves into; at the same time we reject science and technology as means to “solve the problem”. Why do we feel this way?

In an interview with Peter Melton, Zhiwa Woodbury argues:

"We allow ourselves to get bogged down in the debate over what the science says and what it doesn't say. It's the same kind of technological approach to the natural world that got us into this mess. it's all about trajectories and predictions and scientific models, acquiring knowledge, learning about the climate crisis as if it is not us that is in crisis. What we need to consider and focus on is not, how all the pieces of the climate puzzle fit together into our model of externalities but rather the cycle of trauma and dissociation that is implicit in our own subjective and dysfunctional relationship to the natural world which is crying out to us in distress. Then, only then, will we begin to discover insights into how to respond to the crisis."Viewing the Climate Crisis Through the Lens of Cultural Trauma, Extinction Radio ep. 47, Feb. 12 2016

First issue here is, as Guy McPherson likes to point out, a problem has solutions; a predicament hasn't. (Why we better to consider ourselves being confronted with a predicament has been explained in previous articles here.)
Accordingly, further meddling with Earth's systems, so-called geo-engineering, will fail to achieve the intended result, as quite a number of scientific reports show, or even worsen the predicament. Our goal is not some sort of escape from the consequences of our actions as a species, but rather the acceptance of our role in the uglification and destruction of the living planet, and surrender to our not-quite-unlikely demise. Among the aims of the not-actually-gloomy-minded doomers are, reconnecting to the natural world, living with passion, and the effort to soften the impact on our fellow humans and non-human species as many of us go extinct.

Secondly, to understand that it has been technology that brought about our predicament, and that this technology is nearing the end of its ability to handle the climate situation – or any complex situation at all – is absolutely necessary for being able to open up to more fruitful paths of action. Like a rapist is hardly able to soothe his victim, so is technology not exactly a good choice when we think about healing the wounds it has torn into body and soul of the planet. Seen from this angle, again, geo-engineering cannot be regarded as an option. The patient, Earth's biosphere, is about to die. Another surgery will not do, and surely not another face-lift, painkiller pill, or band-aid. If some of the planetary life force is supposed to survive civilization's onslaught, it takes less, not more, technology interfering with its functioning. In other words, we need to learn again how to live as one species among millions of others, and in the appropriate way for humans; this certainly means slower, simpler, lower-tech, more respectful and humble, and face to face, in smaller groups.

Thirdly, the deeper reason for why science and technology won't be able to help the situation is, they are based on the false assumption that the world 'out there' is a pile of mindless 'resources', that it is driven by an indifferent set of 'mechanisms', and that it can be manipulated and put to use at will, by humans. As a result, human activity, in its totality, has altered the chemistry and physics of the atmosphere and the oceans to a degree where they can function no longer the way we were used to. In effect, we unwittingly did perform an experiment in geo-engineering with the aim of rendering the planet inhabitable; all went well and we are supposed to go extinct within the next decade or so. While some may try and reverse the upward trend in global average temperature, many of us just don't believe in this kind of 'saving the Earth' any longer. How many of those wanting to preserve civilization have ever asked what we need it for, in the first place? All this knowledge piled up, all those gadgets surrounding us, all that progress people try to achieve – what are they good for when they come at the price of our lives having become pointless and the planet going to shreds? What makes you think this is going to change if only we hold on a little longer?
There is no golden age right around the corner. There never was. Let's face it: Our culture has let itself get lost in a nightmare of ever increasing, ever faster destruction from which we cannot see a way out because we got our premises wrong.

The dark side of modern science, and unfortunately it has one, does not arise from science itself, still less from any of the facts of nature. It arises from the impression we allow science to give us: the impression that we are merely biological machines in a meaningless material universe.”--Is there no other way?, by Michael N. Nagler, 2001.

Overcoming the false assumptions at the foundation of our crises might make the kind of difference that matters. It is not only the climate that has come off-balance; so many things and processes within and without our culture have suffered severe damage, and all for the same reasons: our obsession with separation and control.
Even former US secretary of defense, under Clinton, from 1993 to 1997, William J. Perry, who seemingly does not have spiritual understandings in mind says, in his memoirs,

"technical innovation, private profit and tax dollars, civilian gadgetry and weapons of mass destruction, satellite technology, computers, and ever-expanding surveillance are interconnected." --My journey at the nuclear brink, 2016

The politician also thinks that nuclear strategies are “surreal thinking”, and I concur in both of these statements. Our whole civilization is one vast surreal thought that disturbs our perception of what is really real. Our responses to the crises therefore are inappropriate, even adding to the destruction, and will eventually lead to our fall. When and how that happens, and how deep we fall depends to a certain degree on our collective ability to let go of our perceived entitlement to grid energy, supermarkets, automobility, and tap water.

If we fail to 'save' mankind from its fate, the demise of the biosphere can at least take on rather gentle than brutal form. While the world is certainly under no-one's control, the state of awakening will be crucial to how it is all going to unfold. Healing one's relationship with the world has a profound effect on everything and everyone around us, allowing for everyone to leave this life in peace.

In order to bring this essay to its conclusion, it needs to be said that it doesn't take science if we want to understand the predicament as such. The damage done can be seen and felt in other ways as well; it is present within all of us as a background fear or pain. Referring to scientific facts, though, helps with waking up those who firmly believe that science represents the only way to grasp reality. There is more to the story, though. Aspects of life besides our physical existence are affected, and layers of reality beyond the scientifically observable are involved.

Science has every right to confine its attention to the physical, i.e. the outside world. It has no right to say, when it has done so, that it has given us the whole story”, says Michael N. Nagler in his book Is there no other way?

Science has contributed its share to dividing the world into the human and non-human realm. While it has been our deliberate separation from nature that has brought about our predicament, the perception of separateness is only an illusion. At no point have we ever been out of touch with the 'objects' we observed, or independent from the community of life we require for our survival; we need the bacteria in our intestines, the oxygen that green beings created, the food that consists of other life forms, and gazillions of other things made out of, or created by, other living beings. And that is just the physical aspect of life. We have been born as parts of this world and we do have an innate understanding of its workings. Our connection to the Source and our ability for wisdom never went away. We may trust our personal observations of the real world, and we should as well trust our gut feelings and intuitions about the situation we are facing. Looking at details, it sure seems complicated. Yet the grand picture is simple enough -

Our world stands before a severe change. Every human being should, from now on, try to live joyfully and peacefully for the rest of his or her life. This would really be the best. Everything else is meaningless and useless and there is no benefit in trying to think your way out of it […]
Humanity has arrived at a moment in time from when on our prayers – no matter whom to – will no longer be heard. There is no stopping what we are up against, no matter how hard we cry. --The Three-Body Problem, by Cixin Liu.

As paradoxical as it may seem, in this moment of profound powerlessness, the final hour of a brief epoch called Anthropocene, when we get shaken up, tossed around, and beaten down by the inescapable consequences of our deeds, there is the unique chance of taking back responsibility for how we live. In the words of conservation biologist and climate researcher Guy McPherson,

Let’s give freely of our time, wisdom, and material possessions. Let’s throw ourselves into humanity and the living planet. Let’s act with compassion and courage. Let’s endow ourselves with dignity.
Even if all the data, models, assessments, and forecasts about abrupt climate change are incorrect, even if Earth can support infinite growth on a finite planet with no adverse consequences, I remain unconvinced there is a better way to live.” --Extinction dialogs: How to live with death in mind, 2015

2017-02-08

India without monsoon is like a fish without water

What climate change looks like on the ground in Southern India, in the federate states of Karnataka, Kerala, and Tamil Nadu. With crops failing catastrophically, and fisheries getting suffocated and depleted, what are people going to eat?


- “The situation is certainly going from bad to worse. At this rate, the water will last for only the next 90 days in most places. We are taking all possible measures, but irrigation is perhaps the last thing on our minds now as we need to save water for all other purposes [...] The [Kerala] government decided to, for the first time ever, impose a water rationing system across households and industries."

"Farmers in Mandya district, part of the Krishnaraja Sagar dam ayacut area [Karnataka], have failed to harvest even a single paddy crop this year."

[In Tamil Nadu], "around 40 farmers protested outside the Trichy collector’s office, holding dead rats in their mouths, stating that over 47 farmers had committed suicide in the state in the last two months. [Chief minister] Panneerselvam declared all 32 districts drought-affected [...] with the deficit [rainfall] ranging from 35% to 81%"

"The numbers in the three states have raised alarm bells everywhere, and what is even more worrying is what they indisputably portend -- the coming water wars that will stem from Tamil Nadu’s dependence on its neighbours."
This is just for starters. We didn't have a Blue Ocean Event yet, and we have merely seen a 1.6°C rise in global average temperature. 

Beside seafood and grains, the third leg of human nutrition, veggies and fruits, is in decline as well, thanks to pollinator's struggle for survival.
People need to be prepared, carefully, to expect this, and worse, to extend into the forseeable future, and to find ways to live on less. And not just in India -- also in all other countries in the world, especially the industrialised regions. No one is going to deliver food into the cities when farmers are starving, themselves.