Sunday, December 20, 2015

OpEd: The Climapocalypse won't be televised but it will start out that way.

The Climapocalypse won't be televised but it will start out that way. Basically we're doomed,  doomed, as a species but the end won't come for at least another 500 years or so,  about 30 more generations of human families and their offspring.  There is no getting around this.  There will be no escape. 

But what we can do now,  in this current generation and in the next, 29 as well,  is prepare ourselves, and our descendants, mentally and pysychologically and spiritually, to accept humanity's tragic and unfortunate demise around 2500 A. D. or so and learn ways of dying with grace and dignity as the Great Dismal sweeps the human species off the planet forever. 

There will be no human survivors. But the Earth shall abide.  Accept this,  plan for this, prepare for this.  There is no other way. 

Take heart that we came this far with our humanity intact,  and that we did our best,  given the circumstances of our DNA hardwiring.  We soon will be history.  Did we give our best shot? We did.  But we failed miserably,  in the end.  C'est la  vie.

I  say all this, above, with a heavy heart but also with concious joy that we came so far as a species and achieved many great things,  from social justice, to Mozart and Beethoven to planetary observations of the cosmos,  from which we came as stardust ourselves. Vini, Vidi, Victi. Sort of.

And again, I write and say and publish the above words and thoughts not to try to persuade anyone to my point of view, just to share my point of view so that others might know it. But most people, especially the risk analysts and climate activists who depend on government and corporate grants and professors and PhD academics whose careers and jobs depend on their saying and writing popular and positive things about finding solutions to man-man global warming -- and just about everybody else on the planet: of the 7 billion souls on Earth now, I am sure my realistic viewpoint above is shared by about ten other people worldwide, and the other 6.9999999999999999 billion people disagree heartily with what I have just written and said out loud.

I don't mind disagreement here. Like I said, I am not trying to push my POV on anyone or trying to persuade anyone to accept my point of view or trying to upset the apple cart. I just thinking out loud here and I do not expect anyone to agree with me. But we should entertain my thoughts, too, as I am not paif by any corporation or university or think tank or government grant to spout positive solutions to describe utopian view of the future. We are doomed, doomed. I can say that because my career does not depend on saying positive things in order to keep the paychecks coming in.

Check back with me in 500 years. You will see that I was right. And I do not want to be right. But you will see, in 30 more generations, I was right. We are doomed, doomed, no matter what Joe Romm or Bill Chameides or Marc Morano or Anthony Watts or Mark Lynas or George Monbiot or Tim Flannery or Bill McKibben or David Roberts or COP21 says. Face the facts. Face reality.

Is this what cli-fi is? No, cli-fi can be anything it wants to be and cli-fi novels and movies can go in any direction their creators and authors and directors want to go in. I am open to all POV and iterations, both positive and negative. The next 500 years will be ..... INTERESTING!



1. ''Dear Dan, You've earned the nickname Dan Doom ;-) ....IMO, even if there is no hope, there is nobility in remaining optimistic til the end.''


3. ''Things to take into account: How to work with two contrasting scenarios: the doomsday one and the hopeful one, and the difference between seeing the climate issue as a problem to be solved vs a relationship to be healed.''

James Lovelock: 'Saving the planet is a foolish, romantic extravagance'

Scientist James Lovelock

Jim Lovelock, environmentalist, scientist, and celebrated proposer of the Gaia hypothesis, has always taken the long view of Earth's future. So it feels appropriate that he should have retired to a coastguard's cottage perched above Chesil Beach on Dorset's Jurassic Coast – so called because 180 million years of geological history lie exposed along its cliffs and coves.

This shoreline is constantly eroding. In the winter storms of 2013, Lovelock's cottage was cut off for four days when the road leading to it was washed into the sea – not that Lovelock, whose latest book is entitled A Rough Ride to the Future, needed any reminder of the precariousness of our world. A decade ago, he predicted that billions would be wiped out by floods, drought and famine by 2040. He is more circumspect about that date these days, but he has not changed his underlying belief that the consequences of global warming will catch up with us eventually. His conviction that humans are incapable of reversing them – and that it is in any case too late to try – is also unaltered. In the week when the Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change reported that the world is still miles off meeting its 2030 carbon emission targets, Lovelock cannot easily be dismissed.

There are other doomsayers. What makes this one so unusual is his confounding cheerfulness about the approaching apocalypse. His optimism rests on his faith in Gaia – his revolutionary theory, first formulated in the 1970s, that our planet is not just a rock but a complex, self-regulating organism geared to the long-term sustenance of life. This means, among other things, that if there are too many people for the Earth to support, Gaia – Earth – will find a way to get rid of the excess, and carry on.

Lovelock's concern is less with the survival of humanity than with the continuation of life itself.

Against that imperative, the decimation of nations is almost inconsequential to him. "You know, I look with a great deal of equanimity on some sort of happening – not too rapid – that reduces our population down to about a billion," he says, five minutes into our meeting. "I think the Earth would be happier ... A population in England of five or 10 million? Yes, I think that sounds about right." To him, even the prospect of nuclear holocaust has its upside. "The civilisations of the northern hemisphere would be utterly destroyed, no doubt about it," he says, "but it would give life elsewhere a chance to recover. I think actually that Gaia might heave a sigh of relief."

Like Gaia, he has evidently developed certain stratagems for the sustenance of life. One would not guess from his appearance that he will be 96 this year. With his American wife Sandy, who is 20 years his junior, he still walks to the village shops each Saturday, a round-trip of six miles; and his intellectual vigour is so unimpaired that conversing with him soon makes the head spin.
While the 2011 Japan earthquake caused devastation, Lovelock observes that "zero" have died of radiation from Fukushima
He contends that the end of the world as we know it began in 1712, the year the Devonshire blacksmith Thomas Newcomen invented the coal-powered steam engine. It was the first time that stored solar energy had been harnessed in any serious way, with effects that now "grip us and our world in a series of unstoppable events. We are like the sorcerer's apprentice, trapped in the consequences of our meddling". Newcomen's discovery set in train more than just the era of industrial development. It also marked the start of a new geological epoch, the "Anthropocene", the most significant characteristic of which, Lovelock believes, has been the emergence of "an entirely new form of evolution" that is one million times faster than the old process of Darwinian natural selection.

But first, of course, mankind has to survive the immediate global warming crisis.
German windmills, Dessau
Lovelock says wind power is a "great big German scam"
"What gets my goat are the lies peddled about Fukushima [the Japanese nuclear reactor disaster of 2011]. Do you know how many people died of radiation? Zero. Not one – although there were 50-odd suicides among people driven to it by fear. Nuclear energy is actually 10 times safer, per GigaWatt hour of production, than wind power. Yet France and Germany responded to Fukushima by temporarily shutting down their entire nuclear industries. It makes no sense." The reason, he thinks, is public ignorance, combined with a form of green politics that amounts to a "new religion – the same force that drives jihadists in Syria". It is, he agrees, a paradox that the new accessibility of information brought about by the internet revolution has intensified, not diminished, the old battle between science and superstition. "There's a campaign in our village to stop a new mobile phone mast. The electromagnetic radiation it will emit is trivial. It's comparable to a household television. Yet the campaigners say it can give you cancer. This is about fear – not facts."
With one or two exceptions such as Margaret Thatcher and Germany's Angela Merkel, both of whom studied chemistry, he thinks our leaders are just as bad. "If you talk to any politician, American or British or European, they are absolutely blind on matters of science," he says. He reserves special ire for Tony Blair, "the really mad prime minister" who, swayed by green ideology and the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament, passed legislation subsidising the renewable energy sector, which made fresh investment in the nuclear industry almost impossible. (This, he argues, is one reason why the heating costs of an average house in the UK are up to 10 times greater than in America, which, overall, has a colder climate. For many years, he asserts, the Lovelocks wintered in St Louis, Missouri, purely in order to avoid British heating bills.)
But even a wholesale switch to nuclear power, in his view, would come too late to solve humanity's principal problem, which is overpopulation. The old post-war goal of sustainable development, he says, has become an oxymoron and should be abandoned in favour of a strategy of sustainable retreat. He is scathing about the very idea of "saving the planet", which he calls "the foolish extravagance of romantic Northern ideologues". The vast sums of money being invested in renewable energy would be much better spent on strategies designed to help us survive and adapt, such as flood defences.
Above all, he thinks that we should embrace the ongoing global shift towards urban living. It would, he insists, be far easier and more economic to regulate the climate of cities than our current strategy of attempting to control the temperature of an entire planet. The regions beyond the cities would then be left to Gaia to regulate for herself. It seems a sci-fi fantasy, rather like Mega-City One from the pages of Judge Dredd, a post-apocalypse megalopolis shielded from the "Cursed Earth" beyond by massive boundary walls. But, in fact, the concept is not so futuristic. Noah, arguably, had a similar idea when he built the ark.
It is certainly not a new concept to Lovelock, who wrote a paper for the oil multinational, Shell, as far back as 1966 in which he predicted that the cities of the future would become much denser, and that Shell would be making plenty of money out of "the avoidance of ecological disaster". The fictional Mega-City One held 800 million citizens, and incorporated the entire eastern seaboard of the United States. Lovelock points that the average population density of England is higher than that of greater Boston. His 1966 paper, which was recently reprinted by Shell, no longer looks as fantastical as it once did.
Singapore, he suggests, shows us how a city can succeed in an overheated climate. The trend there for building underground, as well as in places like Japan and even London (albeit for different reasons), might be part of the same process of adaptation. Architectural practices from the past might also offer clues to a sustainable retreat in the future. The streets of the medieval Dalmatian island town of Korcula, for instance, follow a unique herringbone plan designed to capture and channel the prevailing, cooling sea breeze.
Nature offers models for future city architecture, too. Lovelock is much taken at the moment with termites. Their mounds, he says, are built like the cities of the future might be. Like Korcula, they are oriented towards the prevailing wind. They also tend to lean towards the zenith of the sun, to minimise exposure to its rays at the hottest time of the day – a stratagem that perhaps has its analogue in a recent suggestion by the Scottish nationalist politician Rob Gibson, who wants all new housing estates to be orientated towards the south in order to maximise the efficiency of rooftop solar panels.
(In London, meanwhile, the architects NBBJ recently proposed building the world's first "shadowless skyscraper" by building two towers – one to block out the sun, the other to reflect light down into the shadow of the first).

This is, to be sure, a reductive view of human existence. A man in the twilight of his years, as Lovelock is, might feel a sense of futility. Instead he maintains a steady wonder at what he calls "the ineffable: a lovely word, don't you think?" while apparently seeking no earthly legacy beyond a modest hope that he will be remembered as having been consistent in his arguments.

As a man of science, he remains agnostic on the subject of God. And yet, he says, "I am beginning to swing round, to think more and more, that there's something in Barrow and Tipler's cosmic-anthropic principle – the idea that the universe was set up in such a way that the formation of intelligent life on some planet somewhere was inevitable ... The more you look at the universe, the more puzzling it is that all the figures are just right for the appearance on this planet of people like us."

For the time being our species may be, as he has written, "scared and confused, like a colony of red ants exposed when we lift the garden slab that is the lid of their nest". But he is also content to be one of those ants, because he sees a kind of beauty in that confusion – and perhaps even some sort of grand design. "Humanity may be as important to Earth, to Gaia, as the first photo-synthesisers," he thinks. "We are the first species to harvest information ... that is something very special."

Above all he is convinced that mankind can recover itself – and in this he may be a product of his vanishing generation. Some years ago, at a lecture in Edinburgh, I heard him reminisce how marvellously the British nation had pulled together when threatened by Nazi invasion, but that it had taken that existential threat to make them do so. When the climate crisis finally breaks, he believes, the world's differences will again be put aside – and our species, for all its present idiocies, will pull together in a way that will astonish the cynics among us. 

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