Avoiding The “first Great Extermination”

George Monbiot in this Guardian opinion piece article suggests that what is known as the Sixth Great Extinction (massive die-off of species) should instead be called the First Great Extermination because it is being conducted wilfully by one species that is continuing to burn fossil fuels that result in global warming. The article draw on Roger Hallam’s book Common Sense for the 21st Century. Hallam is a leader of the Extinction Rebellion (XR).

“just 20 fossil fuel companies, some owned by states, some by shareholders, have produced 35% of the carbon dioxide and methane released by human activities since 1965.

The oil and gas industry intends to accelerate production, spending nearly $5tn in the next 10 years on developing new reserves. It is committed to ecocide.

We are guided by an ideology so familiar and pervasive that we do not even recognise it as an ideology. It is called consumerism. It has been crafted with the help of skilful advertisers and marketers, by corporate celebrity culture, and by a media that casts us as the recipients of goods and services rather than the creators of political reality. It’s the system we need to change, rather than the products of the system. It is as citizens that we must act, rather than as consumers. Only mass political disruption, out of which can be built new and more responsive democratic structures, can deliver the necessary transformation. Ten thousand people breaking the law has historically had more impact than small-scale, high-risk activism.” The key challenge is to organise actions that encourage as many people as possible to join. This means they should be openly planned, inclusive, entertaining, peaceful and actively respectful.

this approach offers at least a possibility of breaking the infrastructure of lies the fossil fuel companies have created, and developing a politics matched to the scale of the challenges we face. It is difficult and uncertain of success. But the chances that politics as usual will meet our massive predicament with effective action are zero. Mass dilemma actions could be our last, best chance of preventing the great extermination.”

George Monbiot speaks at the XR event in London

World Meteorological Organisation report

This 24 page pdf from a leading scientific source adds to the alarm that is stimulating the recent burst of publicity about climate emergency facing humanity following the global strikes for climate and the UN Climate Action Summit in September 2109.

The WMO report is featured in this article from The Conversation: The impacts of climate breakdown are accelerating. The planet has warmed by 1.1°C since 1850-79, but 0.2°C of this warming happened between 2011 and 2015 alone. The last four years were the warmest in the global temperature record.

What to expect with global temperature increases

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) – the UN body responsible for communicating the science of climate breakdown – has released its long-awaited Special Report on the Ocean and Cryosphere in a Changing Climate.

This article is the Atlantic take on the IPCC report: The headline finding of this report is that sea-level rise could be worse than we thought.

What if we stopped pretending?

Jonathan Franzen, the great American novelist, wrote an article for the New Yorker Magazine published on 9 September with the title above. His answer is convincingly honest and critical of the widespread claims that there is a solution to the now inevitable and irreparable climate catastrophe that will lead to gradual breakdown of order. However, he encourages the strengthening of communities and social justice and continuing efforts to slow down the rush to disaster. Here are a few extracts:

Today, the scientific evidence verges on irrefutable. If you’re younger than sixty, you have a good chance of witnessing the radical destabilization of life on earth—massive crop failures, apocalyptic fires, imploding economies, epic flooding, hundreds of millions of refugees fleeing regions made uninhabitable by extreme heat or permanent drought. If you’re under thirty, you’re all but guaranteed to witness it….

Overwhelming numbers of human beings, including millions of government-hating Americans, need to accept high taxes and severe curtailment of their familiar life styles without revolting. They must accept the reality of climate change and have faith in the extreme measures taken to combat it. They can’t dismiss news they dislike as fake. They have to set aside nationalism and class and racial resentments. They have to make sacrifices for distant threatened nations and distant future generations. They have to be permanently terrified by hotter summers and more frequent natural disasters, rather than just getting used to them. Every day, instead of thinking about breakfast, they have to think about death.

Although the actions of one individual have zero effect on the climate, this doesn’t mean that they’re meaningless. Each of us has an ethical choice to make. I can respect the planet, and care about the people with whom I share it, without believing that it will save me. … any movement toward a more just and civil society can now be considered a meaningful climate action. Securing fair elections is a climate action. Combating extreme wealth inequality is a climate action. Shutting down the hate machines on social media is a climate action. Instituting humane immigration policy, advocating for racial and gender equality, promoting respect for laws and their enforcement, supporting a free and independent press, ridding the country of assault weapons—these are all meaningful climate actions. To survive rising temperatures, every system, whether of the natural world or of the human world, will need to be as strong and healthy as we can make it

Franzen’s article has stimulated considerable criticism as this short Guardian piece exemplifies.

Naomi Klein’s passionate new book”On fire” is reviewed here.

Review: “This civilisation is finished”

Jeremy Williams here on his blog reviews the new book by Rupert Read and Samuel Alexander.

This short book is a dialogue between the two. It takes in climate chaos, civilisational collapse, civil disobedience and the delusions of technology, among many other things.

It’s a wide-ranging and erudite conversation, written in opening questions and responses. What really marks it out is the “uncompromised honesty” that characterises their debate. They commit to saying what they honestly think, not what is popular or necessary or politically expedient. There is no pretence, no self-censoring to keep things optimistic. Hence the opening chapter, which is titled ‘gazing into the abyss’.

In a similar but more heated polemical way, Chris Hedges in this piece writes:

There is nothing new to our story. The flagrant lies and imbecilities of the inept and corrupt leader. The inability to halt the costly, endless wars and curb the gargantuan expenditures on the military. The looting of a beleaguered populace by the rich. The destruction of the ecosystem. The decay and abandonment of a once-efficient infrastructure. The implosion of the institutions, from education to diplomacy, that sustain a functioning state. The world has seen it before. It is the familiar disease of the end of a civilization. At first it is grimly entertaining, even amid the mounting suffering. But no one will be laughing at the end.

Human nature does not change. It follows its familiar and cyclical patterns. Yes, this time, when we go down the whole planet will go with us. But until then we will be mesmerized by fools and con artists. What are demagogues like Donald Trump and Boris Johnsonpositive psychologists and Candide-like prognosticators such as Steven Pinker other than charlatans who insist the tragedy facing us is not real? What are the technocrats and scientists arguing that education and Western civilization can turn us into rational beings other than shamans? What are the corporate titans who make their fortunes off the arms, chemical, fossil fuel and animal agriculture industries that are destroying the natural world other than high priests demanding human sacrifice?

There is one human story. Dressed in new clothing and using new tools, we endlessly relive it. If we still read philosophy, literature, history, poetry and theology we would not be surprised that greed, hedonism and hubris have easily defeated empathy and reason. But because we do not, because we spend hours each day getting little bursts of dopamine from electronic screens, we think we are unique in human existence. We are unable to see that the climate conditions that allowed civilizations to flourish during the last 10,000 years will soon be replaced by a savage struggle to survive.

... the messiahs of hope assure us that all will be right in the end. Only it won’t. We will not be able to adapt. Those who sell you the false hope that we can adapt are as self-deluded as those who brand global warming a hoax. And, at least subconsciously, many people know it.

… no more than 3% to 5% of the population need be engaged to challenge despotic power. This means, first, naming and accepting reality. It will not be easy. It means grieving for what is to come, for there is certain to be mass death. It means acting, even if defeat is certain, to thwart those who would extinguish us. Extinction Rebellion plans to occupy and shut down major city centers around the globe in October. This is a good place to start. By defying the forces of death, we affirm life.

This article from The Atlantic offers a geological perspective that criticises the anthropocentric nature of calling the short-lived human appearance on the planet the Anthropocene Epoch. The writer argues, with a good case, that our species will leave barely a trace as geological time unfolds.

green growth – a dubious concept

This article points to the basic error in assuming that economic growth can be ‘green’ when it is, in fact, the driver of ecological destruction, now at a level of overshoot that probably cannot be retrieved without major social breakdown. The academic author concludes her analysis as follows:

Proposals for green growth that rely solely on technology to solve the climate crisis are based on a flawed idea. This is, that the limits to the world’s physical systems are flexible, but the structure of its economies are not. This seems entirely backwards and more a reflection of the importance of politics and power in determining what solutions are deemed viable, than any reflection of reality.

Bernie Sanders places a Green New Deal 10-year plan at the centre of his bid for nomination as a US presidential candidate. Report from Common Dreams, the independent news source 23 August 2019. Democratic party aspirants to the nomination are avoiding a debate about climate change in their next televised encounter.

So society should ask, are these global institutions promoting green growth because they believe it’s the most promising way of avoiding climate breakdown? Or is it because they believe it’s simply not politically feasible to talk about the alternatives?