All things are still connected

Apologies for the dearth of blog posts recently, which is due to Anthropocene Reality being affected by a lack of health: I have not known an illness like it for some years and, although I am beginning to feel a bit better, I am a long way from being well again. If I was as hypocritical as sceptics, I would of course overlook the fact that extreme weather of all kinds is to be expected; and blame my infection on climate change (i.e. the mild Winter we are having). In reality, of course, we are more-than-likely to have a delayed Winter (as the worst of the weather in the UK has typically come between February and April in recent years). However, if we should turn out to have no Winter at all, I will unashamedly jump on the bandwagon and claim it as evidence of anthropogenic global warming (AGW). Fortunately, those of us who accept that AGW is real do not have to rely on such circular, self-referential and unfalsifiable arguments; as there is now a large number of empirical data sets indicating that we have a problem. So many, in fact, that only a fool could ignore them. For some people, this is the problem – we seem to be governed by fools. But this is very unfair, our politicians and civil servants are not fools, they are just guilty of trying to please two Masters at the same time: The Environmental Lobby and the Fossil Fuel Lobby. Unfortunately, I think Jesus was right, this is impossible (Matthew 6:24). This schizophrenia is not good; and this was not what Petra Kelly, the brilliant leader of the German Green Party in the 1980s, meant when she famously said, “If we don’t do the impossible, we shall be faced with the unthinkable…“! However, is it possible that Kelly was in fact wrong? Should she, in fact have said: If we don’t do the unthinkable, we shall be faced with the impossible? Let me explain what I mean: If we don’t do the unthinkable… For at least 20 years now: — Our politicians have been trying to keep two groups of people happy, namely (1) those whose main concern is the environmental impact that humanity is having on the planet and (2) those whose sole aim is to limit the financial impact that concern for the environment may have on their business. — We have tried to decouple environmental degradation from economic growth. We have played around with ideas such as sustainable development and ecological modernisation, and we have embraced the need to minimise waste production (through campaigns to reduce, re-use and recycle, etc) but, at the end of the day, Jevons’ Paradox has been proven right; rates of resource consumption have continued to increase (e.g. building more roads does not alleviate congestion – it encourages more traffic). — We have continued to ignore that humanity does not exist in a vacuum… It is almost impossible for the human mind to comprehend it but, since its creation in the Big Bang 13.7 billion years ago, the Universe has created an ever-expanding space itself. That is to say, it has not expanded into anything because there was nothing there for it to expand into. However, it is now essential that humanity urgently accept that our Earthly reality is not like this: As Herman E Daly put it, “the Earth may be developing but it is not growing“. The Earth has a finite capacity to assimilate and/or process our waste and, with respect to carbon dioxide, we have undoubtedly exceeded that capacity. Furthermore, in cutting down 20% of the Amazon Rainforest, yes 20% – one fifth of it, we have undoubtedly made matters worse. In fact, deforestation is bad for at least three reasons: (1) it reduces the capacity of the planet to recycle CO2 through photosynthesis, (2) it reduces the capacity of forests to assimilate carbon in the trees themselves, and (3) clearing the forest for agriculture releases extra CO2 into the atmosphere through burning of unwanted vegetation. If you equate our presence on the planet to that of the ill-fated crew of Apollo 13, it is as if, having inadvertently ruptured the oxygen tanks, we have followed through by destroying 20% of the equipment from which we might have been able to construct CO2 filters, and started to repeatedly use the sodastream to provide everyone on board with lots of carbonated drinks. Yes, that’s right, we must all be clinically insane. …we shall be faced with the impossible. In order to put an end to Jevons’ Paradox, halt environmental degradation, and avoid as much AGW as possible, we need to decouple politicians from the Fossil Fuel Lobby. Almost unthinkable, this is now essential, or we will be faced with unstoppable AGW, which will, in all likelihood, make human civilisation as we know it impossible. Just as the Occupy movement is trying to force our politicians to dismantle Crony Capitalism, we must force our politicians to dismantle the Fossil Fuel Lobby; and admit to themselves, the lobbyists, and the general public that the business-as-usual presumption that humanity shall burn all fossil fuels simply because we can is not a survivable option: As the engineer Scotty from Star Trek would have said, “The Earth canny take it Captain!” The same applies to Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS). As I have said before, if ever proven feasible, CCS would be more dangerous than burying nuclear waste and, in the interim, it is merely an excuse for policy inaction. To put it bluntly, humanity needs to stop behaving like a herd of pigs or else we will eventually drown in a cess pit of our own making: I think we have been adequately warned.


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 Anthropocene, Carbon Capture and Storage, Civilisation, Climate Science, Ecological Modernisation, Economics, Environment, Ethics, Fossil Fuels, Growthmania, Limits to Growth, Modernity, Politics, Scepticism, Sustainable development and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to All things are still connected

  1. Pingback: Nature is not your enemy (but it may bite if you are unkind to it) « Anthropocene Reality

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