Up until recently the general scientific consensus was that the large ice sheets of Greenland and Antarctica would melt at a rate that would cause a very limited rise in sea levels this century. The predictions for sea level rise used by the United Nations International Panel on Climate Change (I.P.C.C.) have used a relatively linear rise in sea levels to 2100 – resulting in the societal consensus of about 1 metre in the 21st century. Recent research has shown that the rate of sea level rise has accelerated, from an average of 1.2mm per year from 1900 to 1990, to 3mm per year since then . Given this observed acceleration in the past two decades, together with the possible non-linear responses of natural systems, the consensus view could be deeply flawed. The biggest variable that will drive sea level rise is the speed at which the ice shelves in Greenland and Antarctica will melt. Continue reading
When looking at the predicament facing humanity, it can be comforting to take an individually positive piece of information as proof that things may not be so bad. Unfortunately, such false optimism is not warranted even though it tends to predominate in much of the media. This false optimism is dependent upon the information that is left out, as well as a lack of integration with other relevant information. Continue reading
My latest book, “The Schizophrenic Society”, is now available from Friesen Press and Amazon at C$9.99 for the electronic version (a little more for those wanting a physical book). It took 6 months of writing, and 6 months of editing – a year of my life. I feel that it really covers our predicament in a clear, and concise, way. Please buy a copy and let me know what you think of it by leaving a comment when you are finished.
Human society seems unable to move away from the exponential economic growth that is the underlying cause of the unfolding crises of climate change, ecological destruction and resource depletion. Instead, it works to adapt itself to the early manifestations of those crises while ignoring the fundamental changes that are required for long-term viability. Changes that will be wrenching, and extremely threatening to those that hold the most power, wealth and privilege. Continued economic growth helps ameliorate the problems created by extreme social and economic inequalities within, and between, countries. It also helps fund future promises of pensions and other incomes without excessive claims on current incomes. The recent responses to droughts, which may be a harbinger of much worse to come, tend to show the inability or reluctance of society’s to address the underlying issues rather than just the symptoms of those issues. Continue reading
The creation of what we now call capitalism, with its deification of private property and free (if “free” simply means free of democratic oversight) markets, has been a conscious project spanning a number of centuries. Central to that project has been the eradication, and marginalization, of competing ownership and business models. Continue reading
The dictionary defines the word “undulating” as having a wave-like appearance. In nature, nothing ever moves in a straight line. There may be a general trend, but things will undulate around that trend. Sometimes above the trend, sometimes below the trend. Human beings are not good at keeping track of the trend as the environment around them undulates around it. The immediate visceral reality can overwhelm any understanding of the trend. Continue reading
In the past year I have been stumbling through life, making both wonderful choices and awful mistakes, accompanied by a dark friend that sometimes recedes and sometimes bursts wholesale into my consciousness. Grief for a world that currently exists, but is being slowly destroyed as I look on, and will not be there for younger generations. Being surrounded by much younger souls, in the college where I am studying, only intensifies the experience of this dark friend. In many cases, they will never experience the richness and sheer comfort of the world which I have already experienced. The images of my nephews, in their twenties, pass through my mind. I sit here in an English pub, watching the cars go by and the customers arriving for their Saturday afternoon drinks and food. Life goes on with little, or no, thought to resource depletion, ecological limits and financial precipices. There is also no thought to the extinction of countless species, and the destruction of the living earth of which we are but a part. Continue reading
Panarchy is a model that seeks to explain the evolution of complex systems, developed firstly by Buzz Holling through his observation of the adaptive cycle of forests. The forest cycle follows a process of growth/exploitation, conservation, release and reorganization/renewal. At first, there is rapid growth as new species establish themselves in a recently disturbed environment. As the vegetation becomes denser, and the linkages within the system proliferate, the forest moves into a slower-growing state of conservation. It becomes increasingly stable within, and highly adapted to, a limited number of conditions. Efficiency, through the reuse of existing structures and increased connectivity, is traded for lower resilience. A disturbance that exceeds the reduced bounds of resilience then causes the forest to “crash” to a simpler state that releases the material and energy accumulated in the earlier adaptive phases. A highly uncertain phase of renewal can then start, during which novel combinations of species may establish themselves. These can then rapidly develop during a new growth phase. This adaptive cycle has been found to operate across many different natural systems. Continue reading
During the peak of the financial crisis during 2008 and 2009, there was a window of opportunity for a fundamental remaking and realignment of the massively over-sized and dysfunctional global financial system. Perhaps, also a questioning of the consensus that supports general deregulation and globalization. This opportunity was not taken, and instead the status quo was supported. Now, five years later, the insanity continues. Just a few stories from a single issue of the Financial Times (October 28th, 2014) pay testament to this ….