Eminent Australian scientist Professor Frank Fenner predicts Homo sapiens will not be able to survive the population explosion and “unbridled consumption,” and will become extinct, perhaps within 100 years, along with many other species.
He said he believes the situation is irreversible, and it is too late because the effects we have had on Earth since industrialization (a period now known to scientists unofficially as the Anthropocene) rivals any effects of ice ages or comet impacts.
Fenner said that climate change is only at its beginning, but is likely to be the cause of our extinction. “We’ll undergo the same fate as the people on Easter Island,” he said. More people means fewer resources, and Fenner predicts “there will be a lot more wars over food.”
Easter Island is famous for its massive stone statues. Polynesian people settled there, around the middle of the first millennium AD. As the population grew the forests were wiped out and all the tree animals became extinct, both with devastating consequences. After about 1600 the civilization began to collapse, and had virtually disappeared by the mid-19th century. Evolutionary biologist Jared Diamond said the parallels between what happened on Easter Island and what is occurring today on the planet as a whole are “chillingly obvious.”
While many scientists are also pessimistic, others are more optimistic. Among the latter is a colleague of Professor Fenner, retired professor Stephen Boyden, who said he still hopes awareness of the problems will rise and the required revolutionary changes will be made to achieve ecological sustainability. “While there’s a glimmer of hope, it’s worth working to solve the problem. We have the scientific knowledge to do it but we don’t have the political will,” Boyden said.
In this week’s 30 minutes of contrarian fun I ask some good solid questions as to why this world is the best we can do—why our leaders and experts have gotten us to the world we live in today—the mess that it is. Have a listen and let me know what you think!
The world is gripped in an unprecedented heatwave. The recent East Coast weather pattern has led to 10 days of over 90º F temperatures.
This is a worldwide phenomenon, which is beling largely unreported by the papers here in the US. Here’s a May 30 2010 Guardian piece on the Indian heat wave:
Record temperatures in northern India have claimed hundreds of lives in what is believed to be the hottest summer in the country since records began in the late 1800s.
The death toll is expected to rise with experts forecasting temperatures approaching 50C (122F) in coming weeks. More than 100 people are reported to have died in the state of Gujarat where the mercury topped at 48.5C last week. At least 90 died in Maharashtra, 35 in Rajasthan and 34 in Bihar.
And it’s even worse in Africa and West Asia, as reported by Jeff Masters on 24 June:
A withering heat wave of unprecedented intensity and areal covered has smashed all-time high temperatures in four nations in the Middle East and Africa over the past week. Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Chad, and Niger all set new records for their hottest temperatures of all time, and several other Middle East nations came within a degree of their hottest temperatures ever. The heat was the most intense in Iraq, which had its hottest day in history on June 14, 2010, when the mercury hit 52.0°C (125.6°F) in Basra. Iraq’s previous record was 51.7°C (125.1°F) set August 8, 1937, in Ash Shu’aybah. It was also incredibly hot in Saudi Arabia, which had its hottest temperature ever on Tuesday (June 22): 52.0°C (125.6°F), measured in Jeddah, the second largest city in Saudi Arabia. The previous record was 51.7°C (125.1°F), at Abqaiq, date unknown. The record heat was accompanied by a sandstorm, which caused eight power plants to go offline, resulting in blackouts to several Saudi cities.
In Africa, Chad had its hottest day in history on Tuesday (June 22), when the temperature reached 47.6°C (117.7°F) at Faya. The previous record was 47.4°C (117.3°F) at Faya on June 3 and June 9, 1961. Niger tied its record for hottest day in history on Tuesday (June 22), when the temperature reached 47.1°C (116.8°F) at Bilma. That record stood for just one day, as Bilma broke the record again on Wednesday (June 23), when the mercury topped out at 48.2°C (118.8°F). The previous record was 47.1°C on May 24, 1998, also at Bilma.
Three countries came within a degree of their all time hottest temperature on record during the heat wave. Bahrain had its hottest June temperature ever, 46.9°C, on June 20, missing the all-time record of 47.5°C (117.5°F), set July 14, 2000. Temperatures in Quatar reached 48.8°C (119.8°F) on June 20. Quatar’s all-time record hottest temperature was 49.6°C (121.3°F) set on July 9, 2000. It was also very hot in Kuwait, with temperatures reaching 51°C (123.8°F) in the capital on June 15. Kuwait’s all-time hottest temperature was 51.9°C (125.4°F), on July 27,2007, at Abdaly. According to Essa Ramadan, a Kuwaiti meteorologist from Civil Aviation, Matrabah, Kuwait smashed this record and had Asia’s hottest temperature in history on June 15 this year, when the mercury hit 54.0°C (129.2°F). However, data from this station is notoriously bad, and each year bogus record highs have to be corrected, according to an email I received from weather record researcher Maximiliano Herrera. Asia’s hottest temperature in history will very likely remain the 53.5°C (128.3°F) recorded at MohenjuDaro, Pakistan on May 26 this year.
Commentary We’ve now had six countries in Asia and Africa that have beaten their all-time hottest temperature record during the past two months. As I discussed in my blog about Pakistan’s May 26 record, Southeast Asia also had its all-time hottest temperature in May, when the mercury hit 47°C (116.6°F) in Myinmu, Myanmar on May 12. All of these records are unofficial, and will need to be certified by the World Meteorological Organization (WMO). According to Chris Burt, author of Extreme Weather, setting four national heat records in one month is not unprecedented—in August 2003, five countries (the UK, France, Portugal, Germany, Switzerland, and Liechtenstein) all broke their all-time heat records during that year’s notorious summer heat wave. Fortunately, the residents of the countries affected by this week’s heat wave are more adapted to extreme high temperatures, and we are not seeing the kind of death tolls experienced during the 2003 European heat wave (30,000 killed.) This week’s heat wave in Africa and the Middle East is partially a consequence of the fact that Earth has now seen three straight months with its warmest temperatures on record, according to NOAA’s National Climatic Data Center. It will be interesting to see if the demise of El Niño in May will keep June from becoming the globe’s fourth straight warmest month on record.
Not an especially great record to set.
The facts are pretty clear: high temperatures in all parts of the world, and months of hottest temperatures ever.
The oceans are warmer than ever too, so expect — along with drought — an increase in hurricane and typhoons.
But why isn’t the global heat wave newsworthy? Why does the Washington Post run a story on the heat wave there, and not talk to one climate scientist? They had like 8 reporters working on the story, but no one could call NOAA?
It’s fodder: reading about someone’s German Shepherd suffering from the DC heat is fun, in a way. But having someone thread the needle about global temperature at at all time high — hot enough to kill tens or hundreds of thousands of people, if things continue — is nowhere to be found.
There’s this thing called “the tipping point” where the ocean will run out of space for more CO2. I wonder if we’ve passed that. I also wonder if there are other “tipping points” where once there’s less than a certain amount of ice on the planet (or less than a certain number of cool areas on the planet) hot “dominoes” will begin to fall for the entire planet.
It’s a real shame that our “experts” are morons and our leaders and the media care only for themselves.
“A leader does not like clutter. He likes to know where and when things are for quick access and use. His favorite shape is the straight line, not the circle. He groans in meetings that do not move from premises to conclusions but rather go in irrelevant circles. When something must be done he sees a three-step plan for getting it done and lays it out. A leader sees the links between a board decision and its implementation. He sees ways to use time to the full and shapes his schedule to maximize his usefulness. He saves himself large blocks of time for his major productive activities. He uses little pieces of time lest they go to waste. (For example, what do you do while you are brushing your teeth? Could you set a magazine on the towel rack and read an article?) A leader takes time to plan his days and weeks and months and years. Even though it is God who ultimately directs the steps of the leader, he should plan his path. A leader is not a jellyfish that gets tossed around by the waves, nor is he an oyster that is immovable. The leader is the dolphin of the sea and can swim against the stream or with the stream as he plans.”—
Just so long as the leader follows God’s path. Because, like, a leader that doesn’t follow G—uh, hang on a sec… man, religion is confusing!!
I was all into this quote until the God part—then I felt like I had been Rick-rolled. >_<
NO: a LEADER LEADS. HE chooses to lead, NOT Him. Got it?
A leader does not follow. That wouldn’t make any sense.
And you can’t say that “A leader is not a jellyfish that gets tossed around by the waves” because God creates the waves, right?
You also can’t say “Even though it is God who ultimately directs the steps of the leader, he should plan his path.”
That’s a little bit like casting God as that shitty boss we’ve all had who makes you do all the work but turns around takes credit for it.
"Let me see your plan!" He eyes your plan and then speaks. "Yes, this is fine, I’ve done a good job with this—now go do it!"
So, we’re supposed to be OK with God being a douchebag?
It’s so much easier to just take personal responsibility for your own actions and be thankful that things worked out the way they did. Trying to rationalize everything in line with some “God” belief just seems needlessly complicated, and frankly, contradictory.
WTF is that supposed to mean? Christianity teaches that everyone who is not a christian will burn in hell eternally. How on earth is that “bringing light to His glory”? It’s rank bigotry, ignorance and stupidity - that’s what it is.
Most Christians in America completely ignore the astounding nature of the universe as uncovered by science. They think the universe is 6,000 years old instead of ~14 *billion* years. They think mankind was made out of clay as an afterthought to creation, rather than being one teensy thread of a mind-bogglingly intricate tapestry of evolution. They think the sole purpose of life is to “glorify” some imaginary friend who is supposedly “all loving” and “all powerful” but in actual fact is petty, jealous and capricious. They think morality is “unchanging”, based on a earth-shatteringly pig-ignorant view of their own history.
You say “bringing light to His glory”. I say GTFO.
Christians often have a funny way of looking at things—it’s as though they think they’re 100% right! >_<
That said, I pretty much agree with Contrarian. However, there are loads of contradictions that you have to ignore with just about any belief system—even science. Most folks don’t think of science as a belief system but it is for most of us. Most of us have no means (or know-how) to independently reproduce what science tells us it proves. So, we have to put our “faith” in scientists. Since scientists are people, too, it follows that they are flawed.
It took an apple falling from a tree for a scientist to “discover” gravity. Really? So, no one noticed it before then? Or thought about it? And that one scientist is so cool because he was the first to define gravity? Like no one else would notice how we all stick to the ground and try to theorize why this was? Ooo, Issac, you’re so COOL!
If anything, the fact that it took humans over a hundred-thousand years to get around to defining something so obvious as gravity should be an embarrassment, than anything else. Science gets it wrong so often, it’s frustrating that there are still so many cocky-bastard scientists out there who are so sure of themselves that they forget their own humanity (aka fallibility). Apparently, Newton was also a Christian.
See what I mean?
All that said, I’d trust scientists long before I’d trust some dude in a costume who says he knows what the creator of the universe wants from us.
“One of my favorite examples for biblical literalism is there is a text that says “You must take all you have and give it to the poor.” I don’t know anyone who says ‘I believe that to be God’s word, and therefore I will close my bank accounts, I will give all of my money away and I will give it to the poor.’”—
“Why are there 40 million poor people in America? When you begin to ask that question, you are raising questions about the economic system, about a broader distribution of wealth. When you ask that question, you begin to question the capitalistic economy.”—
“There are four ways in which you can spend money. You can spend your own money on yourself. When you do that, why then you really watch out what you’re doing, and you try to get the most for your money. Then you can spend your own money on somebody else. For example, I buy a birthday present for someone. Well, then I’m not so careful about the content of the present, but I’m very careful about the cost. Then, I can spend somebody else’s money on myself. And if I spend somebody else’s money on myself, then I’m sure going to have a good lunch! Finally, I can spend somebody else’s money on somebody else. And if I spend somebody else’s money on somebody else, I’m not concerned about how much it is, and I’m not concerned about what I get.”
Wrong, wrong and wrong (and wrong and wrong) Anyone who trusts anyone with some sort of universal rules for or of money is asking for trouble.
1) There are plenty of ways to spend money. What about spending money donated to you? What about spending money given to you? What about spending money inherited by you? All of these aspects can have very significant social ramifications and can effect how you (or at least I) decide to spend said money.
2) When I spend money on myself I don’t think in terms of “really watching out what I’m doing” nor do I think in terms of “getting the most for my money.” I weigh what I need against what I want against what I need to spend my money on. Sometimes I waste money for fun, sometimes I buy only useful things. Deciding how everyone uses their own money is a mistake because I’ll prove you wrong, because I don’t think about money like that.
3) When I spend my money on friends or family, say, for a birthday present, I usually make something for them, buy something I *know* they’ll like or want, or I just give them a gift card—in short, I give them something I’ve thought about. I do care about the content and depending on how much money I have to spend, I generally don’t care for the cost.
4) When I spend someone else’s money on myself I am more responsible than I am with my own money. Someone else shows trust in my decision making ability—I’m going to earn that trust by choosing how I spend that money well.
5) When I spend someone else’s money on someone else, then I treat it the same way as if I’m spending on myself. With respect and I try to make the best purchase, weighing value, against usefulness, against need.
Milton Friedman is widely regarded as a master of economy. Have a look around at the economies of the developed world—still think he’s someone to trust?
Of course, that’s just my ¥2—I’m no economist and that means I might be wrong, too.
The important thing is that you think for yourself—challenge everything. Don’t believe anyone wholesale.
Episode 11 of the 666cast for June 20, 2010! This week it’s all about pushing the envelope! Why don’t more people do it? It’s sad when experts say “throwing golf balls at it” is the solution to a problem—why does no one offer truly groundbreaking ideas for saving the Gulf of Mexico, our economy or any of the other big problems facing us today? This week, I offer up my suggestions for what I think should be done to stop the oil from continuing to flow into the Gulf and what should be done to stop it in its tracks.
Listen to me rant and let me know what you think! Reply to this post or @ reply @thepete or @website666 on Twitter.
I just wrote this because it’s one of the subjects that always astounds me, and it’s one of the things that ultimately turned me into an atheist. Religion is so quick to try to explain everything so simplistically, and I’m sure that’s a huge comfort to people because it makes them feel like they have an understanding of reality, but it cuts them off at the knees. So many people defend religion through the assumed miracle of humanity and how special and important we must all be, but in the scope of things we’re not only insignificant, but potentially just a product of chance.
For me it dismisses religion as the final answer for existential questions of purpose and I think it makes our significance in our role on our planet more important and personal.
The fact that we’re alive against the backdrop of an incredibly vast universe makes me cherish humanity all the more—if we truly understood how amazing it is that we’re alive at all we wouldn’t be wasting time worrying about who is believing in God and who isn’t, or who’s sleeping with who, or whatever.
We’re alive despite the randomness, despite the vastness of space and we are worried about the most stupid of things 90% of the time.
Every single one of use is wasting our time in the universe. :\