A growing fear that the environment is on the brink of collapse is making many greens less willing to compromise, even with each other. And George Bushâ€™s departure from the White House has removed a common adversary.
Politicians like Mr Schwarzenegger tend to believe that energy projects should be judged on whether they improve on current practice. Activists, by contrast, prefer to measure them against an environmental ideal. â€œA little bit better than the status quo isnâ€™t good enough,â€ explains Bill Magavern, the Sierra Clubâ€™s California director.
Although no big environmental group is unconcerned with global warming, they view the threat in different ways. The big divide is between those who fret about measurable changes in greenhouse-gas emissions and those who worry more about harm to natural habitats, whether caused by global warming or anything else. The first groupâ€”call them the environmental nerdsâ€”includes people like Al Gore and Mr Schwarzenegger. The second groupâ€”call them the tree-huggersâ€”includes the Sierra Club, the Centre for Biological Diversity and other established conservation groups.
So we have no plan, because we can’t agree whether to take a structural approach (fix the way we live) or incremental approach (make the way we live better).
I guess it’s time to pick either one and hammer on it like the dickens however:
The pace of global warming is likely to be much faster than recent predictions, because industrial greenhouse gas emissions have increased more quickly than expected and higher temperatures are triggering self-reinforcing feedback mechanisms in global ecosystems, scientists said Saturday.
“We are basically looking now at a future climate that’s beyond anything we’ve considered seriously in climate model simulations,” Christopher Field, founding director of the Carnegie Institution’s Department of Global Ecology at Stanford University, said at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.
Field, a member of the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, said emissions from burning fossil fuels since 2000 have largely outpaced the estimates used in the U.N. panel’s 2007 reports. The higher emissions are largely the result of the increased burning of coal in developing countries, he said.
Now, take this with a grain of salt: scientists research what pays and report what’s as close to popular as they can get, because scientists too are part of our economic system. The number of numbly nodding heads that buy your product, vote for you, or approve of your friendship determines success in the social economy, and that’s what in turn dictates our populist politics and economics. (Oddly enough, that’s utilitarian — as in bare, generic, boring, functional — taken to its logical extreme.)
However, it doesn’t look good. Even assuming they’re half-right, we’ve got a problem.
Luckily, nature has a solution — us and our planet are expendable. If we destroy ourselves, someone else might not. Think about it this way: every dandelion has 136 seeds with the hopes that one will germinate. Probably, for ever 136 planets like Earth, there’s one that will survive beyond the technological stage, and the others will be hum-drum like third world states: they’re all about the same, they’re all dysfunctional wastelands and all of them had a shot at greatness once.
So far, telescopes have been able to detect just over 300 planets outside our Solar System.
Very few of these would be capable of supporting life, however. Most are gas giants like our Jupiter; and many orbit so close to their parent stars that any microbes would have to survive roasting temperatures.
But, based on the limited numbers of planets found so far, Dr Boss has estimated that each Sun-like star has on average one “Earth-like” planet.
This simple calculation means there would be huge numbers capable of supporting life.
“Not only are they probably habitable but they probably are also going to be inhabited,” Dr Boss told BBC News. “But I think that most likely the nearby ‘Earths’ are going to be inhabited with things which are perhaps more common to what Earth was like three or four billion years ago.” That means bacterial lifeforms.
So if we screw up and eliminate ourselves, there’s another round in the clip. And another after that. At some point, one is going to produce an intelligent species that can also regulate itself, and so they will inherit the universe.
What’s amazing about it all is that every single indicator suggests we should know better. We have seen civilizations fail in the past by localized ecocide. We have seen how when we as societies do destructive things, we get depressed and self-destructive as individuals. In religion, we know we should revere life and earth. In science, we know we depend on our environment and have barely begun exploring it.
And also, we can see how we benefit from the greater wisdom of natural design versus our own primitive, wasteful engineering:
A U.S. scientist says people living on tree-lined streets are happier, healthier and less likely to be victims of crime.
Frances Kuo of the University of Illinois reviewed studies on the effect of trees, The Daily Telegraph said. She reported her findings to the American Association for the Advancement of Science conference in Chicago.
“Nature calms people and it also helps them psychologically rejuvenate,” she said. “They are better able to handle challenges which come their way.”
Kuo said study after study shows benefits from living near trees and grass. In Japan, researchers found that the elderly have higher life expectancy if they live within walking distance of a park.
And in contrast:
Children born in areas heavy traffic areas could be at greater risk of developing asthma due to genetic changes brought on by pollution and acquired in the womb, a new study suggests.
In a study of umbilical cord blood from New York City children, researchers found a change in a gene called ACSL3 that is associated with prenatal exposure to chemical pollutants called polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), which are byproducts of incomplete combustion from carbon-containing fuels, resulting in high levels in heavy-traffic areas.
Exposure to PAHs has previously been linked to diseases such as cancer and childhood asthma.
…our industry, designed for a single purpose — production — and ignoring all context, such as the pollution that’s left over or the effects of mindless labor on ourselves, wrecks our environment and wrecks us. Sounds like a winner.
Humanity seems to suffer from an endemic case of bad design. We do this because we limit ourselves before we even get to the design stage. We limit ourselves because the fear of individuals — I might not be included, or I might be evolutionarily pushed out of the process — causes them to bond together in mobs that demand individuals be held above accountability. The result is selfishness and self-devourment.
We need to remember instead that we’re cheap. We’re not the only smart species on the block. Life itself arises in many planets. None of us matter except for the role we play in life — and none of us is so exceptional that we should place ourselves above others. The exception is that if our abilities are superior, we should serve a different role than others, and beat them down so that superior abilities thrive. This is natural selection. It’s also socially unacceptable. It’s also the only thing that can save us.
Life is a property of the universe, and that makes us unexceptional:
A strange, new genetic code a lot like that found in all terrestrial life is sitting in a beaker full of oily water in a laboratory in Florida, a scientist said today, calling it the first example of an artificial chemical system that is capable of Darwinian evolution.
The system is made of the four molecules that are the basic building blocks of our DNA along with eight synthetic modifications of them, said biochemist Steven A. Benner of the Foundation for Applied Molecular Evolution in Gainesville.
The building blocks of DNA are four chemicals called nucleotides that are referred to as A, C, T and G, for short. The nucleotides pair up and bond in predictable ways to form the double helix structure of DNA. Benner’s new nucleotides, which he and his colleagues have named Z, P, V, J, Iso-C, Iso-G, X and K, are reshufflings of the constituents of those molecules found in our DNA.
The molecules are “fed” and grow via a process called the polymerase chain reaction (PCR) that allows the molecules to make copies of themselves. Once the replication of the molecules in Benner’s system is self-catalyzed, without PCR, the process is self-sustaining. Benner claims, “then it’s artificial life.”
So life is a mathematical property of the universe. Not the exception, the rule. It arises at certain levels of complexity. It has no guarantees; in fact, most life forms die out. Only those that can organize themselves as well under their own rule as nature organized them with natural selection will prevail.
How the next human population bottleneck may occur:
Researchers at the University of Birmingham found that 630 million years ago the earth had a warm atmosphere full of carbon dioxide but was completely covered with ice.
The scientists studied limestone rocks and found evidence that large amounts of greenhouse gas coincided with a prolonged period of freezing temperatures.
While pollution in the air is thought to trap the sun’s heat in the atmosphere, causing the planet to heat up, this new research suggests it could also have the opposite effect reflecting rays back into space.
In that strange way nature inverts direction when passing over boundaries, the effects of sky on earth are opposite of what they seem. Pollution at first traps heat, then starts reflecting sunlight, so over time heat levels drop radically.
We can’t claim we’re not warned. Nor that it’s an unreasonable response: if so many people in your species are so delusional that they put their own interests before that of the environment that created and sustains them, they’re delusional, like people defecating where they eat, and need to be removed. It’s just natural selection.
Natural selection also works on whole species. Much as our technology eliminated other species, it could eliminate us — all because we cannot control ourselves.
Or can we?