Scientists Warn of Global Dangers
“Humanity is on a collision course with Nature.
A damaged Nature will survive. We may not.
We must change course to avert an ecological disaster.”
“Humanity is on a collision course with Nature.
A damaged Nature will survive. We may not.
We must change course to avert an ecological disaster.”
GR–Ode to concerned scientists: They see the danger, they blow the horns and clang the bells, and they wait. But the ramparts remain empty. They turn to their family and friends, but dreamlike their voices are too soft and none respond.
“Fifteen thousand scientists have issued a dire warning to humanity about impending collapse but virtually no-one takes notice. Ultimately, our global systems, which are designed for perpetual growth, need to be fundamentally restructured to avoid the worst-case outcome.
“For a moment, the most important news in the entire world flashed across the media like a shooting star in the night sky. Then it was gone. In November, over fifteen thousand scientists from 184 countries issued a dire warning to humanity. Because of our overconsumption of the world’s resources, they declared, we are facing “widespread misery and catastrophic biodiversity loss.” They warned that time is running out: “Soon it will be too late to shift course away from our failing trajectory.”
“This is not the first such notice. Twenty-five years ago, in 1992, 1,700 scientists (including the majority of living Nobel laureates) sent a similarly worded warning to governmental leaders around the world. In ringing tones, they called for a recognition of the earth’s fragility and a new ethic arising from the realization that “we all have but one lifeboat.”
“This second warning contains a series of charts showing how utterly the world’s leaders ignored what they were told twenty-five years earlier. Whether it’s CO2 emissions, temperature change, ocean dead zones, freshwater resources, vertebrate species, or total forest cover, the grim charts virtually all point in the same dismal direction, indicating continued momentum toward doomsday. The chart for marine catch shows something even scarier: in 1996, the catch peaked at 130 million tonnes and in spite of massively increased industrial fishing, it’s been declining ever since—a harbinger of the kind of overshoot that unsustainable exploitation threatens across the board.” –Jeremy Lent (What Will It Really Take to Avoid Collapse?).
In recent posts, I described the warnings of impending disaster. I didn’t expect to have an impact, and I wasn’t wrong. As Jeremy Lint points out in the article above, the media avoidance of unappetizing topics is too complete. And of course, our leaders in power avoid the subject in their subservience to wealth. My first hint that good advice for avoiding collapse would be futile was the minimal response to my discovery of the simple and inexpensive means for everyone to switch their homes from fossil fuel energy to renewable energy. Like Pangloss, I’ve remained hopeful. But I read that book, and now I’ve turned to a more practical concern; the post-anthropocene survivors, the weeds, have absorbed my attention. Today’s weed is Shepherdspurse, a foreign but familiar little mustard that feeds butterflies and yields medicines for us humans.
GR: This is the 25-year update of the warning scientists gave in 1992.
“More than 15,000 scientists have signed a chilling article titled “World Scientists’ Warning to Humanity: A Second Notice,” urging global leaders to save the planet from environmental catastrophe.
“The plea, published Monday in the international journal BioScience, is likely the largest-ever formal support by scientists for a journal article with 15,372 total signatories, Motherboard noted. The scientists represent 184 countries and have a range of scientific backgrounds. Prominent signatories include Jane Goodall, E.O. Wilson and James Hansen.
“The “Second Notice”—an update to the original version published 25 years ago by the Union of Concerned Scientists and signed by 1,700 scientists then—underscores the lack of progress from the original document.
“The first notice started with this statement: “Human beings and the natural world are on a collision course.” It described trends such as the growing hole in the ozone layer, pollution and depletion of freshwater sources, overfishing, deforestation, plummeting wildlife populations, as well as unsustainable rises in greenhouse gas emissions, global temperatures and human population levels.
“Unfortunately, the authors of the current article said that humanity has failed to progress on most of the measures.
“They ominously warned, “time is running out.”
“William J. Ripple, lead author of the current article and a distinguished professor of ecology at Oregon State University, told the Associated Press he was stunned by the level of support for the manuscript.
“I initially sent it out to 40 of my colleagues,” he explained. “After 24 hours there were 600 scientists who signed it. Within two days, there were 1,200. There were so many people signing that our website crashed a couple of times.”
“According to the AP, the researchers document a number of alarming trends from 1992 to 2016, such as a 28.9 percent reduction of vertebrate wildlife, a 62.1 percent increase in CO2 emissions, a 167.6 percent rise in global average annual temperature change and a 35.5 percent increase in the global population (about 2 billion people).” –Lorraine Chow (More: https://www.ecowatch.com/scientists-environmental-warning-2509347840.html.)
GR: The 1973 U. S. Endangered Species Act (ESA) should have been a first step on the path to effective nature conservation. If the corporatists hadn’t been in charge of our country, the Act would have formed the core of a true nature conservation program. Instead, the Act has always been too subject to political influence to be very effective. It only protects a small percentage of truly endangered species.
The leaders in the impending attack on the ESA aren’t the only members of congress receiving money from the extractive industries; they’re just the ones that were chosen to lead the attack. However, they top the list of nature’s enemies. And by extension, they are the enemies of us all. Here’s a link for ideas on removing them from positions of power.
“A small yet vocal group of congressmen are gearing up this summer to dismantle the Endangered Species Act (ESA). Campaign finance records of these lawmakers reveal that they have all taken significant money from extractive industries frustrated by the law’s protection of critical habitat for endangered species.
“The ESA has proven to be a powerful, effective conservation safeguard. More than 99 percent of species that have been designated for federal protection continue to exist in the wild today, including the bald eagle, grizzly bear, the leatherback sea turtle and the Florida manatee.
“But the work of the ESA has only grown more urgent as many scientists agree that the planet is either on the cusp of or already experiencing a sixth mass wave of extinction. A study last week by Stanford scientists found that a significant number of plant and wildlife populations are growing dangerously thin.
Earthjustice is working with coalition partners to oppose efforts on Capitol Hill to weaken protections for endangered species. The public can also make a difference in this fight—despite the big money from fossil fuel industries funding opponents of the ESA—by contacting their Congressional offices (use this call-in tool to reach your Senator).
“The assault on the ESA comes in the form of dozens of legislative proposals and amendments tacked onto spending bills. One bill that’s expected to be introduced in a matter of weeks is the handiwork of Sen. John Barrasso (R-WY), chair of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee.” –Rebecca Bowe (Continue: Here’s Who’s Getting Paid to Destroy the Endangered Species Act.)
GR: As the world’s wildlife species fade out of existence, government agencies responsible for their protection push them back to allow tourists to cover the land and for-profit companies to fill their place with domestic livestock. The political pressure on heads of government agencies comes from companies that give money to our elected representatives. And of course, almost all of our representatives are there dancing up and down with their little hands stretched out like beggars in a Calcutta alley. Here’s an excellent article from George Wuerthner that exposes the government lies. (Link to more about grizzlies)
“The Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) has decided to delist the Yellowstone grizzly bears, removing them from the protection afforded by the Endangered Species Act (ESA). And state wildlife agencies in Wyoming and Montana are anxious to start sport hunting the bears.
“If you follow environmental politics, it is very clear why industries like the oil and gas industry, livestock industry and timber industry and the politicians they elect to represent their interests are anxious to see the bear delisted. Without ESA listing, environmentally destructive practices will have fewer restrictions, hence greater profits at the expense of the bear and its habitat.
“Delisting is opposed by a number of environmental groups, including Center for Biodiversity, Western Watersheds, WildEarth Guardians, Alliance for Wild Rockies, Humane Society, as well as more than 100 tribal people. Conspicuously absent from the list of organizations opposing delisting is the Greater Yellowstone Coalition.
“Proponents of delisting, including the FWS, argue that with as many as 700 grizzlies in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem, thus ensuring the bears are now safe from extinction. Seven hundred bears may sound like a big number. But this figure lacks context.
“Consider that the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem is nearly 28 million acres in total area. That is nearly the same acreage as the state of New York. Now ask yourself if 700 bears spread over an area the size of New York sounds like a lot of bears?
“Many population ecologists believe 700 bears is far too small a number of animals to ensure long-term population viability. Rather than hundreds, we need several thousand bears.
“Keep in mind that the Yellowstone Grizzlies went through a genetic bottleneck when their population was reduced to an estimated 136 animals. Indeed, the Yellowstone grizzlies have the lowest genetic diversity of any bear population.
“This lack of diversity is exacerbated because dominant male grizzlies tend to breed with multiple female partners, further reducing the genetic diversity in the population.
“Add to this biological limitation is the changing food structure for the bear. Major food resources from elk to whitebark pine to spawning trout in Yellowstone have all declined, challenging bears to find new food resources.
“Plus, state wildlife management agencies are generally hostile to predators, seeing them hindering production of elk, deer, moose, and other animals desired by hunters.
“Without the protection of the ESA, and the loosening of restrictions on the killing of bears, more grizzlies will be killed for livestock depredations, as well as potentially by trophy hunters.
“Most predator biologists recognize that killing dominant animals, whether it is bears, wolves or cougars disrupts the social ecology of these animals, leading to more livestock depredation.
“In ecology, there is the “precautionary principle” which admonishes all of us to err on the side of caution. Instead of using the minimum estimates of what constitutes a “recovered” population, we should be careful and not rush to eliminate protections for an animal whose biological potential is low and is slow to recover from any declines.” –George Wuerthner (Why delisting of grizzly bears is premature | The Extinction Chronicles)
George Wuerthner is an ecologist who has authored 38 books, including “Wildfire: A Century of Failed Forest Policy.” He divides his time between Bend, Oregon, and Livingston, Montana.
GR: Destroying a nature refuge to satisfy a campaign promise is probably more than Trump’s fellow phobes wanted. But there is no limit to the damage Trump will do to get some approval. This isn’t the first time we’ve heard about the harm from such a wall. Perhaps we can help some of Trump’s supporters see the truth by sharing this bit of nasty outcome.
An official told the Texas Observer that construction would “essentially destroy the refuge.”
“U.S. Customs and Border Patrol has begun preparations to construct the first leg of the Trump administration’s border wall through the Santa Ana Wildlife Refuge in South Texas, according to the Texas Observer.
“The Santa Ana Wildlife Refuge comprises 2,088-acres along the U.S.-Mexico border, and was established in 1943 for the protection of migratory birds.
“Federal officials told the Texas Observer that the wall would consist of an 18-foot levee wall that would stretch for three miles in the wildlife refuge. The construction plan would require building a road south of the wall, as well as clearing land on either side. Such construction would “essentially destroy the refuge,” an official told the Texas Observer.
“Congress is still debating funding for the billion-dollar wall, but a federal official told the Texas Observer that funds could be transferred from within the Department of Homeland Security to pay for construction at the refuge. Construction within the refuge could begin as early as winter of 2018.” –Natasha Geiling (The first piece of Trump’s wall is set to go through a Texas wildlife refuge)
GR: Here’s a thoughtful article about the absolute necessity to reject the global “growth at all costs” philosophy that dominates our businesses, governments, and churches. Because we have failed to choose our actions objectively, we are approaching major “tipping points” where choices will slip away. We might still avoid the crash by learning to use basic reasoning. Our children (and adults) should learn to recognize the many forms of faulty reasoning, the fallacies, that obscure truth. We must all learn the value of skepticism and we must learn to ask how (will we get Mexico to pay for the wall) and why (do we need a wall), and we must learn to insist on verifiable facts offered as proof.
“Techno-industrial society is in dangerous ecological overshoot—the human ecological footprint is at least 60% larger than the planet can support sustainably (Wackernagel et al. 2002; Rees 2013; WWF 2016). The global economy is using even renewable and replenishable resources faster than ecosystems can regenerate and filling waste sinks beyond nature’s capacity to assimilate (Steffen et al. 2007; Rockström et al. 2009; Barnosky et al. 2012). (Even climate change is a waste management problem—carbon dioxide is the single greatest waste by weight of industrial economies.) Despite the accumulating evidence of impending crisis, the world community seems incapable of responding effectively. This situation is clearly unsustainable and, if present trends continue, will likely lead in this century to runaway climate change, the collapse of major biophysical systems, global strife and therefore diminished prospects for continued civilized existence (Tainter 1987; Diamond 2005; Turner 2014; Motesharrei et al. 2014).
“The proximate drivers are excess economic production/consumption and over-population—human impact on the ecosphere is a product of population multiplied by average per capita consumption—exacerbated by an increasingly global compound myth of perpetual economic growth propelled by continuous technological progress (Victor 2008; Rees 2013). While there is evidence of some ‘decoupling’ of economic production from nature, this is often an artifact of faulty accounting and trade (e.g., wealthy countries are ‘off-shoring’ their ecological impacts onto poorer countries). Overall, economic throughput (energy and material consumption and waste production) is increasing with population and GDP growth (Wiedmann et al 2013; Giljum et al. 2014). Consequently, carbon dioxide is accumulating at an accelerating rate in the atmosphere (NOAA 2017) and the years 2014, 2015 and 2016 sequentially shared the distinction of being the warmest years in the instrumental record (Hansen et al. 2017).
“There is widespread general support for the notion of ‘clean production and consumption’ but in present circumstances, this must soon translate into less production and consumption by fewer people (Rees 2014). It complicates matters that modern society remains highly dependent on abundant cheap energy still mostly supplied by carbon-based fuels. Despite rapid technological advances and falling costs, it is still not clear that renewable energy alternatives, including wind and photovoltaic electricity, can replace fossil fuels in such major uses as transportation and space/water heating in the foreseeable future. Nevertheless, in the absence of effective carbon sequestration technologies, reducing fossil fuel use remains essential to avoiding catastrophic climate change. Resolving this energy-climate conundrum will require major conservation efforts, the prioritizing of essential non-substitutable uses of fossil fuels and the banning of frivolous ones.
GR: People have eradicated inconvenient social groups and wildlife many times; it’s what we do. We haven’t prevented the growth of our own population, but we have a firm grip on the Earth’s wildlife. About half of all animals are gone, replaced by people.
The Prairie Dog was present around Prescott, AZ for thousands of years before the city appeared. Apparently, nature got along just fine with Prairie Dogs and without us. Today, the Prairie Dogs are over most of Arizona, but they still survive in spots in the region. A few people work to help them continue surviving.
Eradicating the Prairie Dog
“For a rodent, they are undeniably cute. But to farmers and ranchers they’re a horrible pest. Where there are prairie dogs, agricultural output decreases 25-85%. (*1)
“Yavapai County once had 1.5 million acres “infested” with prairie dogs. (2) When Prescott’s airport was first being laid-out, workers “went up and down both runways with shovels leveling the mounds and filling up the holes made by the hundreds of prairie dogs that infested the field.”(3)
“So, what happened to them?
“It must be remembered,” the newspaper wrote, “that these rodents destroy a vast amount of forage, which, if saved, could be used for the production of beef and mutton. In many cases, the prairie dogs permanently injure the range by eating the roots of plants which bind the soil and prevent erosion. In many localities, the destruction of plant life has been caused by extensive washing away of the soil after the summer rains.” (*4) –Drew Desmond (Prescott, Arizona History: Prescott Used to Have Countless Prairie Dogs).
Our turtle population is doing well. I photographed the Sonora Mud Turtle at top left in 2014 and the others today (March 18, 2017). Four of them were basking on one log, but I couldn’t get the shot–perhaps tomorrow.
The turtle at top right is also a Sonora Mud Turtle, but I’m not sure about the two below. All of them are too wary to approach closely. I made these shots with a Nikon Coolpix P510 with the 42x lens fully extended. I’ll update this post if I learn more.
Arizona has only six native turtle species and three recognized subspecies. A southern Arizona subspecies of the Sonora Mud Turtle (Kinosternon sonoriense longifemorale) is of critical concern and may soon be added to the U. S. Endangered Species List (or not, sad). All of Arizona’s native and five introduced species are in danger from human activities. Full list with conservation status.
GR: How can 235 wolves be too many when Finland has 5,500,000 humans? Does nature hold no value in our eyes? E. O. Wilson’s recommendation that we dedicate half of the Earth to wildlife would insure that moose, wolves, ravens, and other wildlife would survive, and so would we. The tiny part of the ecosystem these far-north creatures represent is an essential part of the natural processes that allow humans and other creatures to live on Earth. The alternative of a farm-and-concrete-covered world just isn’t sustainable and it’s not at all attractive.
The following article becomes more of a report than a question if you compare wolf kills to automobile kills or if you would like to preserve nature on Earth.
“The story of a kill is told in the snow. On the Finnish island of Porosaari, we find the first paw print. “That’s a male,” says Asko Kettunen, retired border guard, hunter and tracker. How can he be sure? “It’s big.”
“Five ravens rise from dark pines, croaking in the icy silence; they will scavenge anything caught by the wolves. We wade through knee-deep snow. There’s a spot of vivid blood and a tuft of moose hair, cleanly cut, which Kettunen deduces has been ripped from a living animal. This, he says, is the moment the wolves made contact. First they try to puncture the intestines; if they succeed, the moose may run on, but the damage is done.
“We find moose tracks, each hoof print far apart: the animal was running. Kettunen points to wolf prints on either side, to where a second and third wolf joined the chase. There are blood spots and more hair and a pine sapling snapped in two. “The moose collided with a tree, so it was not that well,” Kettunen says, with Finnish understatement.
“There are spots of blood by every moose print now. Finally, up the hill, is the kill zone. A young moose has been reduced to two front legs and a skin detached precisely from the body, intestines that spill like butcher’s sausages and a mound of freshly chewed grass where its stomach once was. Kettunen thinks that five wolves feasted here the previous night. We find faeces and a curved bed of snow where a contented wolf took a postprandial doze.
“Finland has a wolf problem. Five and a half million humans share the country with an estimated 235 wolves, and that’s too many, say rural Finns, whose livestock and hunting dogs are being killed. Some parents are scared that wolves will attack their children. “Before, wolves were afraid of people,” Kettunen tells me. “Now people are afraid of wolves.” For the past three years, the government has assuaged these fears with a wolf cull. Last winter, 43 wolves were killed in a “management hunt”, while total fatalities numbered 78, including “problem” wolves shot by police and road casualties.” –Patrick Barkham (Continue reading: ‘It’s very scary in the forest’: should Finland’s wolves be culled? | World news | The Guardian.)