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The Fall






Civilization-will-end, by Roger Fritz, 6-3-14

From: NASA Study Concludes When Civilization Will End, And It's Not Looking Good for Us, by Tom McKay of policymic.com, March 18, 2014:

Civilization was pretty great while it lasted, wasn't it? Too bad it's not going to for much longer. According to a new study we only have a few decades left before everything we know and hold dear collapses.

The report, written by applied mathematician Safa Motesharrei of the National Socio-Environmental Synthesis Center along with a team of natural and social scientists, explains that modern civilization is doomed. And there's not just one particular group to blame, but the entire fundamental structure and nature of our society.

Analyzing five risk factors for societal collapse (population, climate, water, agriculture and energy), the report says that the sudden downfall of complicated societal structures can follow when these factors converge to form two important criteria. Motesharrei's report says that all societal collapses over the past 5,000 years have involved both "the stretching of resources due to the strain placed on the ecological carrying capacity" and "the economic stratification of society into Elites [rich] and Masses (or "Commoners") [poor]." This "Elite" population restricts the flow of resources accessible to the "Masses", accumulating a surplus for themselves that is high enough to strain natural resources. Eventually this situation will inevitably result in the destruction of society.

The worst-case scenarios predicted by Motesharrei are pretty dire, involving sudden collapse due to famine or a drawn-out breakdown of society due to the over-consumption of natural resources. The best-case scenario involves recognition of the looming catastrophe by Elites and a more equitable restructuring of society, but who really believes that is going to happen?

According to Canadian Wildlife Service biologist Neil Dawe:

"Economic growth is the biggest destroyer of the ecology. Those people who think you can have a growing economy and a healthy environment are wrong. If we don't reduce our numbers, nature will do it for us ... Everything is worse and we’re still doing the same things. Because ecosystems are so resilient, they don’t exact immediate punishment on the stupid."

From: Good Job, Humanity: As Of Today We Are Consuming More Than Earth Can Replenish This Year, by Lindsey Kratochwill, 8-20-2013 on popsci.com:

We consume natural resources at a rate beyond which our planet can replenish, and we produce more waste than can be reabsorbed, according to the Global Footprint Network, a think tank based in the U.S., Switzerland, and Belgium. Humanity first went into overshoot in 1970.

Writes Nafeez Ahmed at The Guardian:

"Although the study is largely theoretical, a number of other more empirically-focused studies — by KPMG and the UK Government Office of Science for instance — have warned that the convergence of food, water and energy crises could create a 'perfect storm' within about fifteen years. But these 'business as usual' forecasts could be very conservative."

From: FOOD, ENERGY, WATER AND THE CLIMATE: A PERFECT STORM OF GLOBAL EVENTS? By John Beddington CMG FRS, Chief Scientific Adviser to HM Government:

The perfect storm scenario is this: it is predicted that by 2030 the world will need to produce around 50 per cent more food and 50 per cent more energy, together with 30 per cent more fresh water, whilst mitigating and adapting to climate change.

How dangerous is climate change? Very, but not right away. It would take five degrees of warming to trigger runaway methane release. Averaged over all land and ocean surfaces, temperatures warmed roughly 1.53°F (0.85ºC) from 1880 to 2012, according to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change

From: The Coming ‘Instant Planetary Emergency', by Dahr Jamail on December 17, 2013, at tomdispatch.com:

Scientists are warning us about a looming disaster, especially involving Arctic methane releases. In the atmosphere, methane is a greenhouse gas that, on a relatively short-term time scale, is far more destructive than carbon dioxide (CO2). It is twenty-three times as powerful as CO2 per molecule on a 100-year timescale, 105 times more potent when it comes to heating the planet on a twenty-year timescale—and the Arctic permafrost, onshore and off, is packed with the stuff. "The seabed," says Wadham, "is offshore permafrost, but is now warming and melting. We are now seeing great plumes of methane bubbling up in the Siberian Sea…millions of square miles where methane cover is being released."

How serious is the potential global methane build-up? Ira Leifer, an atmospheric and marine scientist at the University of California, Santa Barbara, and one of the authors of the recent Arctic Methane study, pointed out that "the Permian mass extinction that occurred 250 million years ago is related to methane and thought to be the key to what caused the extinction of most species on the planet."

Also known as "the Great Dying," it was triggered by a massive lava flow in an area of Siberia that led to an increase in global temperatures of six degrees Celsius. That, in turn, caused the melting of frozen methane deposits under the seas. Released into the atmosphere, it caused temperatures to skyrocket another six degrees. It is estimated that 95 percent of all species were wiped out.

For more information on methane release, see The Last Hours of Humanity, Warming the World to Extinction, by Thom Hartmann, available free online in a pdf version.