Can't do nothing no more

EOS magazine has an article on the receding ice in the Arctic. Mike Davis comments:

For almost 30 years, Arctic sea ice has been thinning and shrinking so dramatically that "a summer ice-free Arctic Ocean within a century is a real possibility." The scientists, however, add a new observation -- that this process is probably irreversible.

It's not really the melting of the Arctic ice, but the completely unknown effects it will have on the Golf stream and the glaciers in Greenland (which, if melted completely, might rise sea levels up to 6 meters).

(Via Boing Boing.)


And this will be a big benefit to people who live near the coast but not on the beach. Instantly, their property will be beachfront property and, therefore, worth more. Of course, this is all at the expense of humanity in general...

--Joel, 11-Oct-2005

It is a sad sign of this time and age, when people faced with issues of this importance can only crack tired old jokes. Personal Survival strategy yes, but wise? Don't think so.

More on the issue, I recommend you get your hands on 'Global Dimming' Documentary (BBC, Horizon series, 2005).

Very interesting, although alarmist in it's tone.

We're probably in for one hell of a change in our lifetimes.

And the keys to the transformation lie in USA / AUS / Japan / China, who are not really doing anything, except living in denial.

--vasra, 11-Oct-2005

I haven't seen that particular program, but there's a decent article in Wikipedia.

Many Finns that I have talked to usually just joke about the whole thing. They say "well, it's good that it gets warmer here", or "well, that means that our forestry and agriculture will benefit from the heat". Unfortunately, it's not that simple. You cannot change something as big as the global climate without people getting hurt. And that includes all Finns as well.

To me it looks like almost everybody is living in denial still.

--JanneJalkanen, 11-Oct-2005

Humor has always been a human defense mechanism. I don't see it as sad, but, rather, as reality. It's worth noting that just because I reacted to a statement with humor doesn't mean that humor is the only thing I am doing. Also, given George W Bush, if I didn't have humor, I'd probably have either jumped over a cliff or moved to some other country by now.

Change happens. Sometimes it is our fault; other times it isn't. Sometimes it is good; other times bad. Regardless, it will happen. A good book to read on the subject is "Collapse" by Jared Diamond. The point of the book is to look at why some civilizations collapsed and others didn't when faced with the same or similar environmental conditions and change. Probably the best part of the book, in my opinion, is about Greenland and how the Vikings and Inuit arrived there at a similar time and 500 years later the Vikings died out and the Inuit survived. Why? Because the Inuit adapted to their environment and the Vikings denied their environment (they tried to live like they were in the Scandinavian climate when they weren't - and, they didn't eat fish). The proximate cause of the Viking demise in Greenland was climate change (it got colder) and whereas they were living in a barely sustainable manner for hundreds of years, when it got colder "barely sustainable" became unsustainable and they all starved to death.

I have two points. First, we should all do our best to minimize our negative impact to the planet. This is the only sane thing to do in a resouce limited place. Second, when change happens, we need to be prepared to change with it. I think that the main problems we are facing today are related to a denial of the problem that we are part of. This manifests itself in prolonging the problem and delaying the development of technologies to mitigate the problem.

On a related note, one of my favorite authors is Philip K Dick. He wrote many science fiction stories during the cold war. One short story which I've always found quite prophetic describes Earth as a place that we've somehow destroyed (either through pollution or war, I forget which) and humans get into a bunch of space ships and go to Mars. Upon their arrival on Mars they find the remnants of a civilization long gone. The previous civilization left a note to anybody who would discover them saying "through our neglect, we destroyed this planet and went to Earth".

--Joel, 11-Oct-2005

Joel, you are of course right (humour, not excluding other forms of thought).

The Danish have a saying:

"We are all going to hell, but at least WE are going in 1st class."

I think that pretty much sums it up.

We've known now for c. 30 years that we need to cut down on our energy and material consumption to something like 1/20 or 1/30 of what it is now, to be sustainable in the long run (estimates differ).

However, which of the industrialised (or developing) nations will be the first to announce their withdrawal from the modern age?

So, the it's not really a problem, until the situation becomes untenable (the offshoot scenario).

After that it's, probably too late already.

Ecosystem processes are systemic and cannot be changed in their course by slow societal transformations. It's like a ship that turns slow, but sails ahead at an increasing speed. You can't slow it down and you should be able to steer well in advance, and not when the you are about to hit shoreline or an iceberg.

If one wants to subscribe to the idea "there's nothing we can much do, it's gonna happen anyway, let's just adapt" - point of view, another good book on the issues is "Spirit in the Gene", especially the part on the pre-history of the ecosystem of earth.

It really teaches you how insignificant humans are on the long run and how adapatability of a species means nothing, if they completely and utterly destroy their own means of survival.

Here's hoping Peak Oil will get to us first and FORCE us to downscale again: goodbye globalisation, good bye air travel, good bye cheap imported goods, goodbye exploiting 3rd world for marginal profits, goodbye risk of worldwide epidemics, cheap cars, cheap local travel, cheap food, cheap clothes, cheap everything...

That's the only realistically possible I see, because I tend not to subsribe to wishful thinking or self-delusional imaginary views of how science will just solve all the problems we'll face.

That's about the only even remotely possible scale-down scenario (excluding a world-wide lethal epidemic) that could make humanity adapt quickly enough.

PS The notion of explore-plunder-explore-something-new-to-plunder-again notion of frontier is a very American (USA) mindset. Most other people have lived in one and the same place for thousands of years and lack a great story of any such frontier. They have one place to live on, which gives them life, and they must respect it. Frontier is part of your history and as such understandable. However, there's not many places on earth to plunder anymore and Moon is way too barren and way too far :)

--vasra, 12-Oct-2005

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