Goodbye Goldilocks Planet?

Is it time to say goodbye to the Goldilocks Planet? I hope not, because the next-nearest one yet discovered is 600 light years away! However, if we are indeed now passing a tipping point (i.e. as the widespread rapid thawing of Siberian permafrost suggests) both mitigation and adaptation will be almost impossible. Therefore, if we cannot reverse the damage already done (i.e. how can we make permafrost re-freeze or reverse the retreat of mountain glaciers?), we may have to accept that temperatures will eventually rise to a level at which the Antarctic first became glaciated 35 million years ago; and that sea levels will now rise continuously for several centuries – making any permanent settlement anywhere near the coast impossible (see James Hansen in Storms of my Grandchildren). If your response to all this is to accuse me of being alarmist, all I can say is that I am afraid denial is definitely not a good evolutionary survival mechanism. Furthermore, as American high school science teacher – and now climate change activist – Greg Craven has said, “Unfortunately, the experiment is already running; and we are all in the test-tube!” I believe we must therefore hope that humanity will not repeat the folly of the former inhabitants of Easter Island; who chopped down all their trees for firewood and allowed all the decent soil to be washed away so they could not grow anything. I think it is fair to say that 2011 was a difficult year for humanity and the planet; and 2012 could be worse. We now seem to be facing both a financial and an environmental crisis: Even at the tender age of 46, I can appreciate that the prospect of 6 years of austerity measures (here in the UK) is completely without precedent; worse even than the great depression of the 1920s. In the UK, public sector workers have been demanding a better pension! What about a better economic system, or even a better planet? If necessary, please forgive my impertinence but, how can people demand justice for themselves whilst ignoring all the injustices we are inflicting on those least able to adapt; and/or bequeathing to our descendants? This is almost as pessimistic as my recent answer on ClimateSight to the question “Why are people who want to reduce – and possibly eliminate pollution – and create a safer world, considered obstructionist naysayers?“, which is… “If everyone lived as we do in ‘the West’, the planet’s ecological carrying capacity would only be about 3 billion [Paul and Anne Ehrlich (1996)]. Therefore we cannot solve poverty without allowing a lot of people to die or by wealthy people agreeing to moderate their over-consumption of the Earth’s resources. Sorry to be so blunt but, this is the simple answer to the question.” …Despite what detractors say this is not misanthropic eco-Socialism, it is reality. There is not enough decent farmland and/or resources of every kind for 7 billion people or more to live like we currently do in ‘the West’. If we are not going to deny the legitimate aspirations of poorer peoples to attain a better standard of living, we will have to moderate our over-consumption and/or pollution of the Earth’s resources. We cannot have it both ways. Conclusion If we continue to burn all the Earth’s fossil fuels – just because they are there and because we can – we will most certainly have to say good bye to our Goldilocks Planet. However, now that we know that what we are doing is causing the problem, would it not be a good idea to stop doing it? You know: When in a hole, stop digging, etc… As the Good Book says, “As a dog returns to its vomit, so a fool repeats his folly” (Proverbs 26:11). Suggested New Year’s Resolution: If we want things to change, I believe we must acknowledge that Clive Hamilton is right: climate change is a failure of modern politics – representative democracy is not working! Therefore, we must all take a much more active role in the process of government – this is called participatory democracy – and we must start by demanding that our politicians dismantle (or at least stop being misled by) the fossil fuel lobby who do not want their business as usual programme interrupted. Having said all that, I would still like to sincerely wish you all the best for 2012 (although I hope the Mayan Calendar is wrong).


About Rick Altman

Possibly just another 'Climate Cassandra' crying 'Wolf' in cyberspace. However, the moral of the old children's story is that the Wolf eventually turned up!
This entry was posted in Betrayal of Science and Reason, Civilisation, Climate Science, Ecological Modernisation, Energy Crisis, Environment, Politics, Scepticism and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to Goodbye Goldilocks Planet?

  1. Well written, Rick. All the best to you and your readers for 2012.


  2. Pingback: The Goldilocks Planet. « Learning from Dogs

  3. weatherdem says:

    I will mimic the previous commenter: Well written, Rick. I do hope that your interest in this topic leads you towards some type of optimism and action, as your last paragraph suggests is likely. At the very least we should not be sitting around waiting until conditions change significantly. I do believe there are things we can do within the climate problem we face. I therefore think it is incumbent upon us all individually to participate in whatever action we feel is necessary: from blogging to direct political engagement. Here’s hoping 2012 is better than we all think it might be.


    • Rick_Altman says:

      This reads like a very politely worded rebuke to someone who talks the talk but does not walk the walk? Or, if you prefer, someone who is doing a lot of complaining and not taking much action? Well, in a sense this is a legitimate criticism. This post was intended as a summary of much that I have written in the last 9 months; and this blog was set up (as was its predecessor) out of frustration with those who say we do not have a problem. I believe – as do many others – that humanity is sleepwalking into a planetary catastrophe. However, having spent 20-odd years being part of the problem, I am now determined to be part of the solution. However, my first priority is – and must be – to end my current unemployment. But, since I do not feel that I am suited to a commercial, profit-oriented job – and due to the current Civil Service recruitment freeze (also affecting the Environment Agency) – my options appear to be very limited. Whilst I admire people in the Occupy movement, I really do not understand how they can live without any obvious source of income. I would love to turn writing or blogging into a viable source of income but, that too seems highly unlikely to happen. Meanwhile, if we are to stand any chance of avoiding disaster, people like James Delingpole must be exposed as intellectually bankrupt. Even in the absence of a conventional job, I see this as something I can – and therefore must – do…


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