WHAT IS TO BE DONE?

Posted by on November 22nd, 2012

In 1978 William S. Burroughs opened the Nova Convention (a truly Weird Nodal Point) with these words:

All this has happened before. Like in Maya:

The ancient Maya in this hilly and riverless region confronted long-term climatic aridification, experienced decadal to century-level or longer droughts amplified by the landscape changes that they made, including large-scale deforestation indicated in the paleoecological record.

Previous to the collapse, the Maya occupied the area for more than 2,000 years, noted researchers, “a time in which they developed a sophisticated understanding of their environment, built and sustained intensive production [and water] systems, and withstood at least two long-term episodes of aridity.”

The researchers noted that the Maya case lends insights for the use of paleo- and historical analogs to inform contemporary global environment change and sustainability.

They described the Classic Period of the Lowland Maya (CE 300-800) as a “highly complex civilization organized into networks of city-states,” in their perspective article published in the online Early Edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Just not on this scale; worldwide Collapse. Thankfully, it’s not like there isn’t some new “Cold War”, Arctic oil grab a-coming:

Major powers like the the US, China and Russia are still waiting for the Arctic ice to hurry up and melt away. And that process is moving along at a pace that makes the average environmentalist want to sign yet another petition during Nat Geo Channel commercial breaks and bong hits. The Arctic is said to have up to 25% of the world’s oil and gas sitting like Inca gold under all that pesky ice and, with current global oil production maxed out and prices rising fast, the North Pole sure has the potential to be proxy resource war central in the increasingly tense 21st century

They won’t be waiting long…

The Arctic ice cap is on course for a record-breaking melt session following a summer of unstable conditions, says the National Snow and Ice Data Center.

The center, based at the University of Colorado, has been comparing the data against 2007 sea ice levels, when the Arctic cap shrank to a record low of 4.25 million square kilometres. That rapid decrease was expected and explainable because of enduring patterns of high pressure over the central Arctic Ocean combined with low pressure over the northern Eurasian coast. Throughout 2012, however, conditions have not been consistent — from the end of June the rate of loss was recorded as being 100,000 square kilometers per day, but this figure dramatically doubled for several days in August when a cyclone brought warm winds to the region, with the expanse of open water in the Atlantic continually contributing to the loss. Over the course of just a few days, 200,000 square kilometers of ice disappeared in the East Siberian Sea alone.

While predictions of a total melt during the summer months and its potentially devastating effects on the planet has many worried (Serreze says the rapid melting may have contributed to severe storms in the US in recent years), commercial enterprises are busily jumping at the opportunity to open shop in the Northern Passage. China sent its first vessel along the Arctic route in August, trimming its usual route length by 40 percent, while Germany and Russia are already established players.

And that was in August! Then there’s these thoughts, within David Brin’s (author of the highly relevant EARTH) longread, How Will the World End?

What about those “collapses?” Failure modes that would not wipe out humanity, but might kill millions, even billions? Even with survivors scratching out a bare existence, would there forever after be harsh limits to the range of human hopes?

This category is where we’d assign most punishments for mismanaging the world. For carelessly cutting down forests and spilling garbage in the sea. For poisoning aquifers and ruining habitats. For changing the very air we breathe. For causing temperatures to soar, glaciers to melt, seas to rise and deserts to spread. For letting the planet’s web of life get winnowed down, through biodiversity loss, till it’s a fragile lattice, torn by any breeze.

Most animals have the sense not to foul their own nests.

In his prescient novel “The Cool War,” Frederik Pohl showed a chillingly plausible failure mode in which our nations and factions do not dare wage open conflict, and so they settle for tit-for-tat patterns of reciprocal sabotage, each attempting to ruin the other’s infrastructure and economy. Naturally, this sends civilization on a slow death-spiral of degrading hopes.

Sound depressing? It makes one wonder — what fraction of the “accidents” that we see have nothing to do with luck?

Oh sure, there are always conspiracy theories. Super-efficient engines that were kept off the market by greedy energy companies. Disease cures, suppressed by profit-hungry pharmaceutical giants. Knaves, monopolists and fat-cats who use intellectual property to repress knowledge growth instead of spurring it.

But those dark rumors don’t hold a candle to this one — that we’re sliding toward despair because all the efforts of good, skilled men and women are for naught. Their labors are deliberately spiked, because some ruling elites see themselves engaged in a secret struggle on our behalf. And this tit-for-tat, negative-sum game is all about the most dismal human pastime.

War.

If that’s not bleak enough, imagine a world without coffee!

Rising global temperatures and subtle changes in seasonal conditions could make 99.7 per cent of Arabica-growing areas unsuitable for the plant by 2080, according to a new study by researchers from Kew Gardens.

Although commercial growers could still grow their own crops by watering and artificially cooling them, the wild type has much greater genetic diversity which is essential to help plantations overcome threats like pests and disease.

Identifying new sites where arabica could be grown away from its natural home in the mountains of Ethiopia and South Sudan could be the only way of preventing the demise of the species, researchers said.

Justin Moat, one of the report’s authors, said: “The worst case scenario, as drawn from our analyses, is that wild Arabica could be extinct by 2080. This should alert decision makers to the fragility of the species.”

Arabica is one of only two species of bean used to make coffee and is by far the most popular, accounting for 70 per cent of the global market

We can do better. And I don’t mean polluting the Earth better:

Carbon dioxide levels rose to 390.9 parts per million (ppm) in 2011, a 40% increase on levels in 1750. Other greenhouse gases such as methane and nitrous oxide also reached record levels. Michel Jarrud, secretary-general of the WMO warned that billions of tonnes of additional carbon dioxide would remain in the atmosphere for centuries: “…causing our planet to warm further and impacting on all aspects of life on earth.”

“We have already seen that the oceans are becoming more acidic as a result of the carbon dioxide uptake, with potential repercussions for the underwater food chain and coral reefs. There are many additional interactions between greenhouse gases, Earth’s biosphere and oceans, and we need to boost our monitoring capability and scientific knowledge in order to better understand these,” says Jarraud.

Understanding the role of carbon sinks is key to understanding how increasing levels of greenhouse gases in our atmosphere will contribute to rising global temperatures.

It’s not like our oceans are filled with wonder and unknown species and…

The first official register of what lives in the oceans has revealed that the marine environment may be home to as many as a million species of animals and plants, but only about a quarter of them have actually been formally described.

Previous estimates of the number of species living in the oceans have ranged wildly from a few hundred thousand of several million, but the latest estimate is based on the first proper attempt to draw up an accurate inventory of marine life.

Although more ocean species have been discovered in the past decade than in any previous 10-year period – and about 65,000 newly “discovered” species are still waiting to be given formal scientific names – scientists believe that at least a third of all the marine life forms may be completely unknown to science.

Fuck it, let ‘em soak up the carbon instead…

More than 1,000 coal-fired power plants are being planned worldwide, new research has revealed.

Coal plants are the most polluting of all power stations and the World Resources Institute (WRI) identified 1,200 coal plants in planning across 59 countries, with about three-quarters in China and India. The capacity of the new plants add up to 1,400GW to global greenhouse gas emissions, the equivalent of adding another China – the world’s biggest emitter. India is planning 455 new plants compared to 363 in China, which is seeing a slowdown in its coal investments after a vast building programme in the past decade.

This is what hope looks like, people actually admitting there’s a problem:

According to a new Rasmussen poll conducted a day before the election and released this morning, 68 percent of American voters said that global warming is either a “very serious” or “somewhat serious” problem. This represents a major increase over the last few years. In 2009, Rasmussen reported that only 46 percent of Americans believed that global warming is a problem. (Interestingly, while more people say they are concerned about the problem, there was a drop in the number of people who say it’s human caused).

And that brings us back to Ontological Warfare and the Nova Conspiracy.


Time travellin’ with Werner Herzog

Posted by on February 7th, 2012

In a forbidden recess of the cave there is the footprint of an eight year-old boy next to the footprint of a wolf. Did a hungry wolf stalk the boy, or did they walk together as friends? Or were their tracks made thousands of years apart?

There’s a rule futurists use: go back twice as far as you wish to predict forwards. I have a new theory though, that’s hinted at by the popularity of Atemporality: the further we progress with our technology, the more all of time itself can (effectively) exist at the same time.

Pleistocene Rewilding, for instance, is one of the better strategies I’ve seen to help ‘fix’ climate change (by preventing the release of methane in the arctic tundra). And as the Chairman himself noted in the Art+Enviroment conference keynote, this Anthropocenic period increasingly resembles the Pleistocene.

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Which is why Werner Herzog’s documentary Cave of Forgotten Dreams is near mandatory viewing. The above quote is one of the more mind-boggling parts. As is the evidence that two adjoining cave paintings were made FIVE THOUSAND YEARS apart. Just hold that thought in your mind, instead of wondering what’s in the next iPhone.

For a glimpse, here’s the experimental archeologist Wulf Hein playing a flute carved from the arm of a vulture (wearing the skins of reindeers, thought to be the ‘fashion’ at the time). This is the music of 30K B.C.:

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We can’t honestly consider the future of humanity, without looking honestly back at its beginning and assessing how we got this far to begin with.

BONUS CONTENT:

Joseph Campbell on the Origins of Man and Myth:

http://www.vimeo.com/27168211

BONUS LULZ:

  • a very on-topic SMBC