Renowned Scientist Says Global Collapse “Likely”

(graph by net_efekt/flickr)

(graph by net_efekt/flickr)

According to a paper appearing in the March Proceedings of the Royal Society, “Now, for the first time, a global collapse [of civilization] appears likely.” The paper makes, in a scholarly, peer-reviewed manner, many of the same points about the existential threats that I made in my book Brace for Impact:Surviving the Crash of the Industrial Age. According to Paul R. Ehrlich’s paper, titled “Can a collapse of global civilization be avoided?” the threats include  toxic pollution, land degradation, scarcity of water and oil, plagues, resource wars (perhaps nuclear), over-consumption, overpopulation and the overarching threat multiplier, climate change.

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Running Out of Water and Time

Drought-stricken corn under a hot and rainless Iowa sky last week. Two more studies say, things are going to get worse. (Photo by USDA)

The train is coming at 80 miles per hour. Children are playing on the railroad tracks, oblivious. The train is closer now. The children are not aware of it. You can hear the train, people are yelling at you that it is coming, and you, my friend, stand there near the children, not moving, thinking of other things. Thus climate change bears down on us, thus peak oil comes closer at 80 miles per hour, and thus does our water run out. Two shouted warnings about water just this week. Continue reading

USGS: World on Really Bad Acid Trip

/Flickr)”]The US Geological Survey has been getting things right since at least the 1930s, when it correctly identified the Dust Bowl — while it was occurring — as a human-caused, not natural, event. Few people recognized the implications at the time, few know them today, and not many paid attention last fall when the USGS told us something else it knows about what we are doing to the world that nourishes us: industrial activities are turning the world to acid.

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Water Scientists say Brace for Impact

A cow’s carcass in Northern Kenya, photographed last week, testifies to the reality of what happens when the water runs out. And it is running out. (Photo courtesy CIAT The International Center for Tropical Agriculture/Flickr)

The burgeoning world population, already grown far beyond the numbers the planet can sustain, is increasing its consumption of water twice as fast as it is growing, according to the World Resources Institute. In a world already profoundly short of clean water, where the number of people is ratcheting upward past seven billion, in which global climate change is spreading drought across vast areas, this means, in the words of a WRI expert, that “we have a significant challenge on our hands.” To translate from the scientese: her hair’s on fire and she’s screaming “Brace for Impact!”

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Saudis Try Drinking Oil, Burning Water, Eating Money

An oil-and-water cocktail is hard to burn and nasty to drink, but the Saudis, running out of both, are drinking hard and burning bright. (Photo by Yortw/Flickr)

While the industrialized world approaches the brink of peak oil — the point at which supply can no longer, ever, meet demand — the supplier of much of that oil, Saudi Arabia, is teetering on the brink of peak water. With increasing desperation, the kingdom is juggling the rising, competing demands for its limited water supplies, and trying to repeal the iron laws of supply and demand.

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Experts Shout “Fire!” in Crowded Planet. Crowd Ignores Them

Some experts believe, although not without contradiction from other experts, that increased temperatures in the place where we live may be a cause for some level of concern. (Photo by Ada Be/Flickr)

A conference in London this past weekend on climate and health concluded that the “alarming speed” of the depletion of natural resources around the world, now being accelerated by climate change, poses “an immediate, growing and grave threat” to health and security everywhere. The medical, academic and military experts predicted imminent increases in hunger, conflict, social unrest and species extinction worldwide. Continue reading

Report: Trawlers Scraping Last Life from Oceans

A new study details how factory trawlers such as the Northern Osprey are stripping the deep oceans of fish that cannot replace themselves. (Photo by Dennis Jarvis/Flickr)

A perfunctory article deep inside yesterday’s Washington Post paints a horrifying picture of exhausted oceans — described as “more akin to a watery desert” —  being scraped clean of the last traces of marine life by pitiless, gargantuan deep-water trawlers operating beyond the law and beyond sanity.  The story is based on a new study of the world’s fisheries published in the journal Marine Policy (“Scientists call for end to deep-sea fishing”). (The article upholds the new Standards of Fair and Balanced Journalism set by Fox News by somehow, somewhere finding an academic mooch who sees no problem with that.)

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Energy Industries Rush to Sell Out Their Country

1252 people were arrested for demonstrating against a proposed tar-sands pipeline from Canada. Meanwhile, the real crimes wre being committed elsewhere. (Photo by tarsandsaction/flickr)

The most real and present danger to the security — indeed, the survival — of the United States is the advent of peak oil (the time when the oil-producing nations’ declining output can no longer meet the rising demand of the oil-consuming nations). The condition is imminent (even Forbes Magazine admits the possibility: “Has Peak Oil Come To The Non-Opec World? Maybe.”) and its effects will be catastrophic. The sudden absence, or extreme cost, of a substance whose abundance and cheapness provide the foundation of our entire economy can hardly be imagined. So the American energy industry, aided and abetted by its wholly-owned politicians, is doing everything possible to make it worse. Continue reading

The Mother of All Fracking Lies

Water from one of the wells never harmed by fracking explodes, in a scene from the documentary "Gasland."

The claim that not one single water well has been harmed by hydraulic fracturing for natural gas is the anthem of the oil and gas industry as it presses its case to perforate the shale formations of the world without regard for the vital water resources also to be found there. The current administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Lisa Jackson, sings from the same sheet music. But even in a world where public statements have little relationship to reality, this is a remarkable Big Lie. Continue reading

A New Tragedy of the Commons: Water Banks

The tragedy of the commons is that herdsmen will overgraze a common pasture unless constrained. The same, it seems, applies to water. (Photo by Srinivasa Krishna/Flickr)

If you liked what investment bankers and hedge-fund managers did to our economy in recent years, you’re going to love what water banks are doing to our ecosystem. The same, time-tested methods are in play: unleash unrestrained greed on a commodity that everyone needs in order to make obscene profits from it while destroying it. This new chapter in the Tragedy of the Commons sounds perfectly reasonable, with respectable water banks working to smooth out the vagaries of nature. But let’s try calling it by its proper name: hoarding. Continue reading