AuthorTopic: The Environment Board  (Read 16903 times)

Offline John of Wallan

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Re: The Environment Board
« Reply #105 on: August 08, 2018, 02:29:54 PM »
Well said Eddie.
My thoughts exactly.
Disruption is coming, its just the timing that's in dispute.
Shit is starting to happen all at once all around the world right now. Smells a bit like climate change to me, but also a product of population overshoot. We just hit 25 million here in Oz. Big country with not many people, but probably already more than we can sustain. We have a lot of deserts.

Guy could be right.
I hope he is not.
Better to do something now than find out in 2030 he was more accurate than hoped.


JOW
PS: Despite what is said, nice cigars and cognac are definitely an antidote to despair!
 

Online Eddie

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Re: The Environment Board
« Reply #106 on: August 08, 2018, 02:44:56 PM »
I hate to advocate drugs, alcohol, violence, or insanity to anyone, but they've always worked for me.

                 Hunter S. Thompson----
What makes the desert beautiful is that somewhere it hides a well.

Offline Surly1

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Note: the original includes embedded tweets which do not reproduce well in SMS.

A 'Hothouse' Future for Humanity: Scientists Behind Terrifying Climate Analysis Hope They Are Wrong

"This is, by far, the biggest political issue in the world. It is the one thing that will affect everyone on the planet for centuries to come. Why isn't everyone shouting it from the rooftops?"

A West Covina firefighter looks on while a horse barn burns as the River Fire moves through the area on July 31, 2018 in Lakeport, California. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

Warning of a possible domino effect as multiple climate feedback loops are triggered within a dynamic cascade of rising temperatures and warming oceans, scientists behind a frightening new study say that for the sake of humanity's future they hope scenarios explored in their new models do not come to pass.

"This study effectively suggests the human race could become extinct this century and it's not even the top story on the fucking Guardian."

"I do hope we are wrong, but as scientists we have a responsibility to explore whether this is real," Johan Rockström, executive director of the Stockholm Resilience Centre, where the research was done, told the Guardian. "We need to know now. It's so urgent. This is one of the most existential questions in science."

Published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, the new study, while not conclusive in its findings, warns that humanity may be just 1°C away from creatinga series of dynamic feedback loops that could push the world into a climate scenario not seen since the dawn of the Helocene Period, nearly 12,000 years ago.

The research, according to its abstract, explores "the risk that self-reinforcing feedbacks could push the Earth System toward a planetary threshold that, if crossed, could prevent stabilization of the climate at intermediate temperature rises and cause continued warming on a 'Hothouse Earth' pathway even as human emissions are reduced. Crossing the threshold would lead to a much higher global average temperature than any interglacial in the past 1.2 million years and to sea levels significantly higher than at any time in the Holocene."

As Rockström explains, the "tipping elements" examined in the research "can potentially act like a row of dominoes. Once one is pushed over, it pushes Earth towards another." And in an interview with the BBC, he added, "What we are saying is that when we reach 2 degrees of warming, we may be at a point where we hand over the control mechanism to Planet Earth herself. We are the ones in control right now, but once we go past 2 degrees, we see that the Earth system tips over from being a friend to a foe. We totally hand over our fate to an Earth system that starts rolling out of equilibrium."

tipping_points.jpg

Such feedback occurences, the authors of the study write, would pose "severe risks for health, economies, political stability, and ultimately, the habitability of the planet for humans."

With Arctic ice and glaciers melting away; increasingly powerful and frequent storms in the Atlantic and Pacific; coral reefs dying from warming oceans; record-setting wildfires in the U.S.; unprecedented heatwaves in Europe, the Middle East, and elsewhere—climate researchers have been at the forefront of sounding the alarms about the frightening path humanity is now following.

"In the context of the summer of 2018, this is definitely not a case of crying wolf, raising a false alarm: the wolves are now in sight," said Dr. Phil Williamson, a climate researcher at the University of East Anglia, about the latest study. "The authors argue that we need to be much more proactive in that regard, not just ending greenhouse gas emissions as rapidly as possible, but also building resilience in the context of complex Earth system processes that we might not fully understand until it is too late."

In order to avoid the worst-case scenarios, the researchers behind the study say that "collective human action is required" to steer planet's systems away from dangerous tipping points. "Such action," they write, "entails stewardship of the entire Earth System—biosphere, climate, and societies—and could include decarbonization of the global economy, enhancement of biosphere carbon sinks, behavioral changes, technological innovations, new governance arrangements, and transformed social values."

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 License

"It is difficult to write a paradiso when all the superficial indications are that you ought to write an apocalypse." -Ezra Pound

Online Eddie

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Note: the original includes embedded tweets which do not reproduce well in SMS.

A 'Hothouse' Future for Humanity: Scientists Behind Terrifying Climate Analysis Hope They Are Wrong

"This is, by far, the biggest political issue in the world. It is the one thing that will affect everyone on the planet for centuries to come. Why isn't everyone shouting it from the rooftops?"

A West Covina firefighter looks on while a horse barn burns as the River Fire moves through the area on July 31, 2018 in Lakeport, California. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

Warning of a possible domino effect as multiple climate feedback loops are triggered within a dynamic cascade of rising temperatures and warming oceans, scientists behind a frightening new study say that for the sake of humanity's future they hope scenarios explored in their new models do not come to pass.

"This study effectively suggests the human race could become extinct this century and it's not even the top story on the fucking Guardian."

"I do hope we are wrong, but as scientists we have a responsibility to explore whether this is real," Johan Rockström, executive director of the Stockholm Resilience Centre, where the research was done, told the Guardian. "We need to know now. It's so urgent. This is one of the most existential questions in science."

Published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, the new study, while not conclusive in its findings, warns that humanity may be just 1°C away from creatinga series of dynamic feedback loops that could push the world into a climate scenario not seen since the dawn of the Helocene Period, nearly 12,000 years ago.

The research, according to its abstract, explores "the risk that self-reinforcing feedbacks could push the Earth System toward a planetary threshold that, if crossed, could prevent stabilization of the climate at intermediate temperature rises and cause continued warming on a 'Hothouse Earth' pathway even as human emissions are reduced. Crossing the threshold would lead to a much higher global average temperature than any interglacial in the past 1.2 million years and to sea levels significantly higher than at any time in the Holocene."

As Rockström explains, the "tipping elements" examined in the research "can potentially act like a row of dominoes. Once one is pushed over, it pushes Earth towards another." And in an interview with the BBC, he added, "What we are saying is that when we reach 2 degrees of warming, we may be at a point where we hand over the control mechanism to Planet Earth herself. We are the ones in control right now, but once we go past 2 degrees, we see that the Earth system tips over from being a friend to a foe. We totally hand over our fate to an Earth system that starts rolling out of equilibrium."

tipping_points.jpg

Such feedback occurences, the authors of the study write, would pose "severe risks for health, economies, political stability, and ultimately, the habitability of the planet for humans."

With Arctic ice and glaciers melting away; increasingly powerful and frequent storms in the Atlantic and Pacific; coral reefs dying from warming oceans; record-setting wildfires in the U.S.; unprecedented heatwaves in Europe, the Middle East, and elsewhere—climate researchers have been at the forefront of sounding the alarms about the frightening path humanity is now following.

"In the context of the summer of 2018, this is definitely not a case of crying wolf, raising a false alarm: the wolves are now in sight," said Dr. Phil Williamson, a climate researcher at the University of East Anglia, about the latest study. "The authors argue that we need to be much more proactive in that regard, not just ending greenhouse gas emissions as rapidly as possible, but also building resilience in the context of complex Earth system processes that we might not fully understand until it is too late."

In order to avoid the worst-case scenarios, the researchers behind the study say that "collective human action is required" to steer planet's systems away from dangerous tipping points. "Such action," they write, "entails stewardship of the entire Earth System—biosphere, climate, and societies—and could include decarbonization of the global economy, enhancement of biosphere carbon sinks, behavioral changes, technological innovations, new governance arrangements, and transformed social values."

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 License


I have certainly noticed this one reverberating through the media outlets over the past few days. Most of the commentary I've heard has been pretty good, although the experts that my NPR station brought on are more than willing to stop short of the rather ugly conclusions that all of us came to  four or five years ago.

That is , that even if we were actively trying to achieve the goals of the Paris Accord (which we have of course abandoned completely under Trump the Destroyer of Worlds) it would almost certainly not be nearly enough to save us from boiling the ocean into a dead zone.

At least I didn't hear any experts really attacking the conclusions as way off base, more like the "hope is better than no hope" kind of argument.
What makes the desert beautiful is that somewhere it hides a well.

Offline RE

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🍺 The bad news about your favorite Mexican beers
« Reply #109 on: September 03, 2018, 03:38:55 AM »
https://grist.org/article/the-bad-news-about-your-favorite-mexican-beers/

climate desk
The bad news about your favorite Mexican beers
By Tom Philpott   on Sep 1, 2018


This story was originally published by Mother Jones and is reproduced here as part of the Climate Desk collaboration.

Best enjoyed ice cold, the beers of Mexico are red-hot in the United States. Between 2013 and 2017, sales of brews from south of the border surged 44 percent, even as domestic beer sales dipped 3.5 percent. A single company benefits most from this cerveza boom: New York-based beverage giant Constella­tion Brands, which bought the U.S. rights to Mexican megabrands Corona, Modelo, Victoria, and Pacifico as part of a $4.8 billion deal back in 2013.

Constellation’s properties now account for about 1 in 11 brews sold in the United States. For investors, this fact has gone down like a frosty Corona on a broiling beach: Since June 2012, when Constellation first signaled it would take over U.S. distribution, the company’s stock has risen seven times over, driven largely by the explosive growth of its beer division.

But Constellation’s Mexican beer assets are complicated. The company can only sell the products in the United States (the Belgian-Brazilian behemoth AB InBev owns the Mexican rights), but the beer must be made in Mexico. To minimize hauling costs, the Constellation megabreweries are situated along the border. The company touts its flagship facility in Nava, Coahuila, less than 30 miles south of Eagle Pass, Texas, as “one of the world’s largest and most automated breweries,” churning out one case of beer for every drinking-age U.S. adult a year, as a promotional video puts it.

As U.S. demand for Constellation’s beer grows, the company plans to invest $1.8 billion in expansion over the next three years. A big chunk of that will go toward a massive new beer factory in Mexicali, a midsize city at the northeastern corner of Baja California. Mexicali sits in a blistering-hot desert that gets an average of three inches of rain per year and relies on the overtaxed Colorado River for its water needs. That’s not a great situation, given that the once-mighty waterway’s average annual flow between 2000 and 2014 was nearly 20 percent less than it was in the 20th century, a trend that will likely continue over the next decades as the climate changes. And some of Mexico’s portion of that water goes to Tijuana (pop. 1.8 million), as well as one of the country’s more productive farming regions. According to Mexico’s federal water agency, the Mexicali Valley water table is overstressed, with annual withdrawals far exceeding recharge.

Once it’s up and running in about two years, the Constellation brewery in Mexicali plans to make more than 132 million gallons of beer each year. A Constellation spokesman says the company’s breweries typically require about three gallons of water for every gallon of finished product. That’s at least 396 million gallons of water per year — the same amount it would take to supply more than 14,000 people with running water, at a time when about 200,000 Baja Californians already lack access to this basic necessity.

The company insists water shortages aren’t likely — the spokesperson said the new brewery will draw from Mexicali’s municipal waterworks and require at most 2 percent of the water supply annually. But in its yearly report, Constellation acknowledged that “there is no guarantee” there will be sufficient water for beer production. Indeed, back in 2016, the mayor of a town near Constellation’s Nava plant accused the brewery of taking so much water that his residents’ taps went dry. (Constellation says the water problems in the area were the result of poor infrastructure.)

Meanwhile, Constellation hails the economic impact of the new project, claiming it will create more than 500 permanent jobs. But the brewery will also use some U.S.-grown hops and barley, meaning limited benefit for the local farm economy. In short, our Mexican beer is brewed under a maquiladora model that has thrived along the border for decades: Factories import many of the components of manufacturing, slap them together with low-wage Mexican labor, and send them north, providing little long-term economic development — and in this case, potential ecological trouble.

In early 2017, a group called Mexicali Resiste began to oppose construction of the brewery, accusing local government officials of giving Constellation a sweetheart deal on water access. Several confrontations this year between protesters and police at the construction site have turned violent. No one can deny the appeal of a cold Corona on a long, hot summer day. But water-stressed Baja Californians are wondering what’s in it for them.
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Offline RE

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😤 Our Planet Is Angry
« Reply #110 on: September 18, 2018, 02:25:30 AM »
https://www.truthdig.com/articles/our-planet-is-angry/

Sep 13, 2018
TD originals
Our Planet Is Angry 


Hurricane Florence, as seen from space on Thursday. (NASA via YouTube)

“Storm of a lifetime” is how the National Weather Service in Wilmington, N.C., described Hurricane Florence as it came lumbering across the Atlantic to hurl its ferocious winds and rain onto that coastal state. Pointing to the storm’s unusual path, one meteorologist said, “There’s virtually no precedent for a hurricane moving southwest for some time along the Carolina coast.” Florence is expected to slow down as it hits the coast, dumping a catastrophic amount of water over a small area instead of spreading rain far and wide. What that means for North Carolina’s numerous hog farms, coal ash pits and nuclear reactors is anyone’s guess, but there is a high likelihood of an environmental disaster unfolding.

We aren’t necessarily seeing more large storms. We’re seeing the usual storm activity jumping into overdrive, as The Washington Post’s Chris Mooney described how “n little more than a day, Hurricane Florence exploded in strength, jumping from a Category 1 to a Category 4 behemoth with 140 mph winds.”

On the other side of the planet an even stronger storm, with wind speeds greater than Florence, Super Typhoon Mangkhut, is heading right toward the Philippines and China. Geographically, between Florence and Mangkhut lie the islands of Hawaii that got battered by Hurricane Olivia just weeks after being hit by Hurricane Lane. And only weeks ago, large swaths of the planet were struck by debilitating and record-breaking heat waves, fueling out-of-control wildfires up and down California’s coast. We have barely recovered from Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico and Hurricane Harvey in Houston last year, and before we know it, worse climate-related disasters will be upon us.

The earth is trying to tell us something: We are a species in deep, deep trouble. No matter how much our politicians dismiss the reality of global warming, minimize its impact or offer false solutions, the rapidly intensifying storms and their unpredictable paths are screaming out that our climate is changing. Heat waves are cooking the ground we walk on. No longer is a melting glacier in a far-off location the worst sign of our changing climate—the signs are happening here and now.
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A warmer planet cares little for an invasive species called “Homo sapiens” that has colonized its surface and poisoned it. We may as well think of global warming as a planetary fever intended to cast us off as one would a pesky and persistent virus. It’s just physics, after all—something that ought to be grasped by anyone who understands why the inside of their enclosed car gets scorching hot after even a few minutes of sitting in the sun.

At a time when we should be heeding the earth’s angry response to our greenhouse gas emissions, Donald Trump’s administration is steadily unraveling our modest protections from climate change. On Monday, news emerged that the Environmental Protection Agency would make it easier for energy companies to dump methane into the atmosphere. Methane is a far more potent greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide. According to The New York Times, the proposal would be the “third major step this year to roll back federal efforts to fight climate change.” Just when we should be rapidly and dramatically scaling back all fossil fuel extraction and consumption, we are literally going backward.

Even in California, which has led the charge against Trump’s ill-fated decision to ignore climate change, and where Gov. Jerry Brown just signed an ambitious clean energy bill into law, we are not doing nearly enough. Gov. Brown and the California state Legislature have led the way on climate actions, but the federal bar is so low that California is able to preserve and even expand its oil and gas extraction industries and still claim to be leading the way on climate change.

The earth is doing its best to purge us, yet those in power are not listening. But the rest of us are. We’re listening and acting, as 30,000 people did in San Francisco last Saturday, joining hundreds of thousands of others all over the world as part of the Rise for Climate Jobs and Justice marches, and as activists are doing right now in confronting Gov. Brown at his Global Climate Summit. We are marching and rallying, screaming our throats hoarse, blocking traffic, getting arrested, chaining ourselves to equipment, and being attacked by dogs, pepper spray, tear gas and more.

Not only are we acting, we the people are the primary victims of a changing climate and the extreme weather events that are its hallmark. Trump, who boasted of the federal government’s response to Maria’s devastation of Puerto Rico by calling it an “unsung success,” has effectively told us that he considers 3,000 deaths a measure of success. On Thursday he went even further, denying that there were that many deaths in Puerto Rico and claiming it was all a Democrat-led conspiracy to smear him. He has decided that 20,000 pallets of bottled water that were found rotting in the sun for a year instead of being distributed to needy survivors is what constitutes an adequate response by the government. What, then, are we to expect from the response to Hurricane Florence, and to all the hurricanes, wildfires and heat waves that will follow, thick and fast?

Eventually governments will run out of money, resources and first responders to tackle the extreme weather events on our roasting planet. Ordinary people will be left on their own as elites go laughing all the way to the bank, enriched by the wealth of our fossil fuel economy.

The French Revolution of the 1780s and ’90s is one of many revolutions in history that demonstrated how people who are pushed too far can and will use violence to reorganize society. Obviously, in our current age we cannot consider killing off those politicians and corporate executives who are dooming us to climate-related suffering and death as they satiate their greed. But we can foment an alternative to bloody revolutions by stripping elites of their power by any nonviolent means necessary, such as elections, political actions and all other forms of people power. The fate of our species hangs in the balance. We are many and they are few. That is all that we can do now in the face of our climate apocalypse.
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Offline RE

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🏭 The deadly cost of DR Congo's pollution
« Reply #111 on: October 03, 2018, 03:01:39 AM »
<a href="http://www.youtube.com/v/gNtIv-TrlBE" target="_blank" class="new_win">http://www.youtube.com/v/gNtIv-TrlBE</a>
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Offline RE

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🌴 Collapsing Rainforest Ecosystems
« Reply #112 on: October 31, 2018, 03:03:32 AM »
https://www.greanvillepost.com/2018/10/30/collapsing-rainforest-ecosystems/

Collapsing Rainforest Ecosystems
October 30, 2018 Patrice de Bergeracpas


HELP ENLIGHTEN YOUR FELLOWS. BE SURE TO PASS THIS ON. SURVIVAL DEPENDS ON IT.

We share this planet; we do not own it.
WHAT HAVE YOU DONE TO HELP THE PLANET TODAY?

by Robert Hunziker


The Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences recently issued a report on the status of arthropods in rainforests (Bradford C. Lister and Andres Garcia, Climate-Driven Declines in Arthropod Abundance Restructure a Rainforest Food Web, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 2018 https://doi.org/10.1073/pnas.1722477115).

The report’s shocking analysis discovered a collapsing food web in tropical rainforests. Oh please! Can ecological news get any worse than this?

Biologists Brad Lister and Andres Garcia of the Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México returned to Puerto Rico’s Luquillo Rainforest after 40 years, and what they found blew them away. The abundance of insects, and arthropods in general, declined by as much as 60-fold and average temps had risen by 2°C over the past four decades. According to the scientists, global warming is impacting the rainforest with distinctive gusto.

According to Lister: “It was just a collapse in the insect community. A really dramatic change… The insect populations in the Luquillo forest are crashing.” (Source: Climate-Driven Crash in a Rainforest Food Web, Every Day Matters, Oct. 22, 2018).

It doesn’t get much worse than “crashing” of ecosystem support systems, i.e., insects and arthropods in general, which are in the phylum Euarthropoda, inclusive of insects, arachnids, myriapods, and crustaceans. This equates to a loss of basic structures of biosphere life forces.

The research team believes they are already seeing today what the recent IPCC report predicted for climate change in 2040. In their words: “It’s a harbinger of a global unraveling of natural systems.”

“The central question addressed by our research is why simultaneous, long-term declines in arthropods, lizards, frogs, and birds have occurred over the past four decades in the relatively undisturbed rainforests of northeastern Puerto Rico. Our analyses provide strong support for the hypothesis that climate warming has been a major factor driving reductions in arthropod abundance, and that these declines have in turn precipitated decreases in forest insectivores in a classic bottom-up cascade.” (Lister)

Lister and Garcia also compared insect abundance studies conducted in the Chamela-Cuixmala Biosphere Reserve in western Mexico in 1980 to the year 2014, finding temps increased 2.4°C and biomass of insects, and arthropods in general, declined 8-fold.

Their report prompts all kinds of questions about the health and stability of the world’s ecosystems. For one, tropical rainforests are the final frontier of pristine wilderness in the world. People do not live there and other than scientists, few people visit.

Therefore, if arthropods or invertebrate animals like insects and spiders are crashing in abundance, then something is horribly amiss. After all, the Luquillo is a protected rainforest, but alas, that doesn’t prevent the impact of global warming, which is on the rise in the tropics.

According to the scientists: “Our results suggest that the effects of climate warming in tropical forests may be even greater than anticipated.” (Source: Mountain Research Initiative)

Already, it was reported back in March of 2018 that insect losses of 40% up to 80% were happening around the world outside of and beyond tropical rainforests. (Ref: Insect Decimation Upstages Global Warming by Robert Hunziker, March 27, 2018)

Now, it appears that insect loss is truly global, not missing a corner of the planet. It’s everywhere. That’s worse than bad news; it’s dreadful. It’s indicative of a living planet in its early stages of dying throes but still hanging in there. Nobody knows for how much longer.

The big question is: What are the consequences of loss of large portions of insect life? Answer: All living things in the food chain above insects also decrease in abundance or in plain English, they die, e.g. frogs, lizards, and birds and ultimately Homo sapiens, assuming ecosystems eventually crumble.

Significantly, insects are the primary source for ecosystem creation and support. The world literally disintegrates without mischievous burrowing, forming new soil, aerating soil, pollinating food crops, etc. Nutrition for humans happens because insects pollinate.

After all, 97% of the Animal Kingdom consists of invertebrates such as insects, crabs, lobsters, clams, octopuses, jellyfish, and worms.  Meanwhile, insects of the world are getting the ole one-two punch as global warming hits the tropical rainforests whilst excessive use of chemicals hits broad-reaching continents, everywhere.

The underlying message is that the world’s ecosystems are under tremendous stress from aberrant forces such as (1) out of ordinary temperature rises, aka global warming, and (2) toxic chemicals, e.g.: “Industrial toxins are now routinely found in new-born babies, in mother’s milk, in the food chain, in domestic drinking water, in deep-water squid, at Mt. Everest’s basecamp, in fact, worldwide… Humans emit more than 250 billion tonnes of chemical substances a year, in a toxic avalanche that is harming people and life everywhere on the planet.” (Source: Scientist Categorize Earth as a Toxic Planet, Phys Org, February 7th 2017)

Here’s an excellent video about the insect dilemma on YouTube by Ben Guarino of the Washington Post: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EAOnySPnt3E

Postscript: NOAA has issued a warning as of 10-25-2018 that the entire Great Barrier Reef from November 2018 to February 2019 is at heightened risk of massive bleaching and coral death because of heat stress. If the models prove accurate, it would mean the entire Great Barrier Reef would be damaged by climate change and coral populations would trend towards very low levels, affecting the reef’s tourism and fishing industries and the employment they support. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s recent 1.5C report warned coral reefs were especially vulnerable to climate change. At even 1.5C of warming it estimated the planet would lose 80% of its coral reefs. At 2C they would all be wiped out.

About the Author
 Robert Hunziker lives in Los Angeles and can be reached at rlhunziker@gmail.com.
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Offline RE

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https://www.globalresearch.ca/climate-human-delusion-and-our-destruction-of-the-biosphere-we-arent-even-trying/5661126

Climate, Human Delusion and Our Destruction of the Biosphere: We Aren’t Even Trying!
By Robert J. Burrowes
Global Research, November 27, 2018
Theme: Environment
In-depth Report: Climate Change


Have you heard the expression ‘climate change’? That lovely expression that suggests a holiday in a place with a more pleasant climate.

Unfortunately, only the rarest individual has the capacity to see through the elite-promulgated delusion that generated this benign expression and its twin notions that 1.5 degrees celsius (above the preindustrial level) is an acceptable upper limit for an increase in global temperature and that the timeframe for extinction-threatening outcomes of this ‘climate change’ is the ‘end of the century’.

If you believe that this 1.5 degree increase is achievable or even viable for sustaining life on Earth and that the ‘end of the century’ is our timeframe then you are the victim of your own fear, which is suppressing your capacity to seek out, analyze and comprehend the evidence that is readily available and to then behave powerfully in response to it. For an explanation, see ‘Why Violence?’ and ‘Fearless Psychology and Fearful Psychology: Principles and Practice’.

Therefore, your fear, rather than the climate catastrophe and other critical assaults on Earth’s biosphere, is the real problem.

The most casual perusal of the evidence in relation to what is happening to Earth’s biosphere – as distinct from the propaganda that is endlessly promulgated in the global elite’s corporate media – clearly indicates that the cataclysmic assault on our biosphere in a wide range of synergistic ways is now driving the sixth mass extinction event in Earth’s history and that, as a direct result of our relentless and rampaging destruction of habitat, it will take down humanity with it. Well within 10 years. See ‘Human Extinction by 2026? A Last Ditch Strategy to Fight for Human Survival’.

Now if your fear hasn’t already been triggered so that you ceased reading this article, let me offer the barest outline of the nature and extent of the assault on Earth’s biosphere and why the climate catastrophe is only one part of it which nonetheless needs to be seriously, rather than tokenistically, addressed, as is usually suggested whether by most climate lobby groups or, of course, elite-controlled governments and the IPCC.

But before ranging beyond the climate to highlight other threats to the biosphere, did you know that governments and corporations around the world are currently planning or have under construction 1,380 new coal plants?That’s right. 1,380 new coal plants. In 59 countries. See ‘NGOs Release List of World’s Top Coal Plant Developers’ and ‘2018 Coal Plant Developers List’.

For just a taste of the detail on this rapid coal expansion, try the report ‘Tsunami Warning: Can China’s Central Authorities Stop a Massive Surge in New Coal Plants Caused by Provincial Overpermitting?’ and ‘The World Needs to Quit Coal. Why Is It So Hard?’

So if we are deluding ourselves about coal, what about oil? Can we expect a dramatic reduction in oil use to compensate for the substantial increase in coal use? Well, according to the just-released report of the International Energy Agency (IEA), while there is some projected improvement in fuel economy for cars and a projected increase in the number of electric vehicles, cars only account for about one-quarter of the world’s oil consumption and there is no projected reduction in the oil used to fuel freight trucks, ships and airplanes; for heating; and to make plastics and other petrochemicals. ‘As a result, the agency expects global oil demand to keep rising through 2040.’

To summarize: the IEA report notes that global carbon dioxide emissions rose 1.6% in 2017 and are on track to climb again in 2018 and, on the current trajectory, emissions will keep rising until 2040. See ‘World Energy Outlook 2018’ and ‘Clean Energy Is Surging, but Not Fast Enough to Solve Global Warming’.

So, given that we are led to believe that there is supposed to be some sort of international consensus to limit the global temperature increase to 1.5 (which is far too high in any case) above the preindustrial level, why is this happening? Well, in relation to coal: ‘Powerful companies, backed by powerful governments, often in the form of subsidies, are in a rush to grow their markets before it is too late. Banks still profit from it. Big national electricity grids were designed for it.’ See ‘The World Needs to Quit Coal. Why Is It So Hard?’

And just to illustrate what those of us who are genuinely concerned are up against, if you want to read the latest breathtakingly delusional account of the state of the world’s climate which prodigiously underestimates the nature of the climate catastrophe and utterly fails to consider the synergistic impact of other critical environmental destruction, you can do so in the US government’s just-released report ‘Fourth National Climate Assessment Volume II: Impacts, Risks, and Adaptation in the United States’ which is summarized here: ‘Fourth National Climate Assessment Volume II: Impacts, Risks, and Adaptation in the United States; Report-in-Brief’.

This report is presented in one of the global elite’s primary propaganda outlets as follows: ‘A major scientific report issued by 13 federal agencies on [23 November 2018] presents the starkest warnings to date of the consequences of climate change for the United States, predicting that if significant steps are not taken to rein in global warming, the damage will knock as much as 10 percent off the size of the American economy by century’s end.’ See ‘U.S. Climate Report Warns of Damaged Environment and Shrinking Economy’.

At this point I must confess that despite my substantial knowledge of human psychology and widespread human insanity (and the fear that drives it), certainly afflicting the global elite, sometimes even I am impressed with the level of delusion that elites can propagate and have so many believe. See ‘The Global Elite is Insane Revisited’.

Image below: Goebbels giving a speech in Lustgarten, Berlin, August 1934. This hand gesture was used while delivering a warning or threat. (Source: CC BY-SA 3.0 de)

Still, as Joseph Goebbels, Nazi Minister of Propaganda and Public Enlightenment under Adolf Hitler once noted:

    ‘If you tell a lie big enough and keep repeating it, people will eventually come to believe it. The lie can be maintained only for such time as the State can shield the people from the political, economic and/or military consequences of the lie. It thus becomes vitally important for the State to use all of its powers to repress dissent, for the truth is the mortal enemy of the lie, and thus by extension, the truth is the greatest enemy of the State.’

What Goebbels didn’t know is that someone must be terrified – as we terrorize our children – so that they can be so victimized by propaganda as adults.

Anyway, apart from our destruction of Earth’s climate by burning coal and oil, not to mention gas, elites use geoengineering to wage war on Earth’s climate, environment and ultimately us. For the latest update on the geoengineering assault on Earth’s biosphere, listen to Dane Wigington’s latest superb ‘Geoengineering Watch Global Alert News, #172’ and read, watch and listen to the vast documentary record available on the Geoengineering Watch website which remind us how climate engineering is annihilating plants, toxifying soils and water, and destroying the ozone layer among many other outcomes. For a video explaining the role of geoengineering in the latest wildfires in California, see ‘Climate Engineering Total Desperation, Engineering Catastrophic Wildfires To Temporarily Cool Earth’.

All of the above is happening despite the existing temperature increase (about one degree) triggering the now-endless succession of deadly wildfires, droughts, cold snaps, floods, heat waves and catastrophic hurricanes (often in parts of the world where the corporate media can ignore them), as well as the out-of-control methane releases into the atmosphere that are occurring. See ‘7,000 underground gas bubbles poised to “explode” in Arctic’ and ‘Release of Arctic Methane “May Be Apocalyptic,” Study Warns’.

Moreover, these methane releases coupled with other ongoing climate impacts such as sea ice melt and permafrost thawing in the Arctic – summarized in ‘Will humans be extinct by 2026?’– which has led to the ‘Arctic’s strongest sea ice break[ing] up for first time on record’ and the dramatic weakening of the Gulf Stream – see ‘Anomalously weak Labrador Sea convection and Atlantic overturning during the past 150 years’, ‘Observed fingerprint of a weakening Atlantic Ocean overturning circulation’ and ‘Gulf Stream current at its weakest in 1,600 years, studies show’– threaten imminent human extinction.
Destruction of the Biosphere, Timeframe of Global Climate Change: A Last Ditch Strategy to Fight for Human Survival

So do you think we are even trying? Or are we tinkering around the edges of this accelerating catastrophe and deluding ourselves that we are doing enough?

But this is far from the end of it. There are other critical threats to Earth’s biosphere that horribly complicate the nature and extent of this catastrophe. What are these threats?

Well, to leave aside a series of threats only marginally less drastic, here are some of the key ones, all of which seriously degrade (or destroy outright) vital components of the interrelated ecosystems (‘the web of life’) that make life on Earth possible.

Rainforests

We are currently destroying the world’s rainforests, mainly by logging them for timber and burning them down to make way for cattle ranches or palm oil plantations. In an extensive academic study, more than 150 joint authors of a report advised that ‘most of the world’s >40,000 tropical tree species now qualify as globally threatened’. See ‘Estimating the global conservation status of more than 15,000 Amazonian tree species’.

Why are more than 40,000 tropical tree species threatened with extinction? Because ‘Upwards of 80,000 acres of rainforest are destroyed across the world each day, taking with them over 130 species of plants, animals and insects.’ See ‘Half of Amazon Tree Species Face Extinction’ and ‘Measuring the Daily Destruction of the World’s Rainforests’. If you missed that, it was 80,000 acres of rainforest destroyed each day.

Oceans

We are destroying the Earth’s oceans by dumping into them everything ranging from excess carbon dioxide and vast amounts of synthetic poisons to plastic and the radioactive contamination from Fukushima. The oceans absorb carbon dioxide as one manifestation of the climate catastrophe and, among other outcomes, this accelerates ocean acidification, adversely impacting coral reefs and the species that depend on these reefs.

In addition, a vast runoff of agricultural poisons, fossil fuels and other wastes is discharged into the ocean, adversely impacting life at all ocean depths – see ‘Staggering level of toxic chemicals found in creatures at the bottom of the sea, scientists say’– and generating ocean ‘dead zones’: regions that have too little oxygen to support marine organisms. See ‘Our Planet Is Exploding With Marine “Dead Zones”’.

Since the Fukushima nuclear reactor disaster in 2011, and despite the ongoing official coverup, vast quantities of radioactive materials are being ongoingly discharged into the Pacific Ocean, irradiating everything in its path. See ‘Fukushima: A Nuclear War without a War: The Unspoken Crisis of Worldwide Nuclear Radiation’.

Finally, you may not be aware that there are up to 70 ‘still functional’ nuclear weapons as well as nine nuclear reactors lying on the ocean floor as a result of accidents involving nuclear warships and submarines. See ‘Naval Nuclear Accidents: The Secret Story’ and ‘A Nuclear Needle in a Haystack: The Cold War’s Missing Atom Bombs’.

Soil

But not all of our destruction is as visible as our vanishing rainforests and contaminated oceans. Have you considered the Earth’s soil recently? Apart from depleting it, for example, by washing it away (sometimes in dramatic mudslides but usually unobtrusively) because we have logged the rainforest that held it in place, we also dump vast quantities of both inorganic and organic pollutants into it as well. Some of the main toxic substances in waste are inorganic constituents such as heavy metals, including cadmium, chromium, lead, mercury, nickel and zinc. Mining and smelting activities and the spreading of metal-laden sewage sludge are the two main culprits responsible for the pollution of soils with heavy metals. See ‘Soil-net’.

Far more common, however, is our destruction of the soil with organic based pollutants associated with industrial chemicals. Thousands of synthetic chemicals reach the soil by direct or indirect means, often in the form of fertilizers, pesticides, herbicides and other poisons that destroy the soil, by reducing the nutrients and killing the microbes, in which we grow our food (which many people actually eat, at great cost to their health). See, for example, ‘Glyphosate effects on soil rhizosphere-associated bacterial communities’.

Using genetically modified organisms, and the chemical poisons on which they rely, exacerbate this problem terribly. But two other outcomes of the use of such poisons are that the depleted soil can no longer sequester carbon and the poisons also kill many of the beneficial insects, such as bees, that play a part in plant pollination and growth.

And, of course, military contamination and destruction of soil is prodigious ranging from the radioactive contamination of vast areas to the extensive and multifaceted chemical contamination that occurs at military bases.

Partly related to military violence but also a product of using nuclear power, humans generate vast amounts of waste from exploitation of the nuclear fuel cycle. This ranges from the pollution generated by mining uranium to the radioactive waste generated by producing nuclear power or firing a nuclear weapon. But it also includes the nuclear waste generated by accidents such as that at Chernobyl and Fukushima.

Again, for just a taste of the monumental nature of this problem, see ‘Emergency Declared at Nuclear Waste Site in Washington State’, ‘Disposing of Nuclear Waste is a Challenge for Humanity’ and ‘Three Years Since the Kitty Litter Disaster at Waste Isolation Pilot Plant’.

Like destroying the rainforests and oceans, destroying the soil is an ongoing investment in future extinctions. And so is our overconsumption and contamination of the Earth’s finite fresh water supply.

Fresh Water

Whether wetland, river, creek, lake or acquifer, Earth’s fresh water is under siege. Given corporate negligence, this includes all of the chemical poisons and heavy metals used in corporate farming and mining operations, as well as, in many cases around the world where rubbish removal is poorly organized, the sewage and all other forms of ‘domestic’ waste discharged from households. Contamination of the world’s creeks, rivers, lakes and wetlands is now so advanced that many are no longer able to fully support marine life. For one summary of the problem, see ‘Pollution in Our Waterways is Harming People and Animals – How Can You Stop This!’

Beyond this, however, Earth’s groundwater supplies (located in many underground aquifers such as the Ogallala Aquifer in the United States) are also being progressively contaminated by gasoline, oil and chemicals from leaking storage tanks; bacteria, viruses and household chemicals from faulty septic systems; hazardous wastes from abandoned and uncontrolled hazardous waste sites (of which there are over 20,000 in the USA alone); leaks from landfill items such as car battery acid, paint and household cleaners; and the pesticides, herbicides and other poisons used on farms and home gardens. See ‘Groundwater contamination’.

Moreover, while notably absent from the list above, these contaminants also include radioactive waste from nuclear tests – see ‘Groundwater drunk by BILLIONS of people may be contaminated by radioactive material spread across the world by nuclear testing in the 1950s’– and the chemical contamination caused by hydraulic fracturing (fracking) in search of shale gas, for which about 750 chemicals and components, some extremely toxic and carcinogenic like lead and benzene, have been used. See ‘Fracking chemicals’.

By the way, if you didn’t know it, our purchase and use of all of those hitech products – cars, computers, mobile phones, televisions… – coupled with our consumption of intensively-farmed animal products, all of which are produced using huge quantities of fresh, clean water, is rapidly depleting and degrading the remaining fresh water on Earth, as well as savagely exploiting the people from whose countries we take the strategic minerals and water necessary for such production. See, for example, ‘500 Years is Long Enough! Human Depravity in the Congo’.

War

In addition to the above (and many other biosphere-destroying activities not mentioned), relying on our ignorance and fearful complicity, elites have a budget of hundreds of billions of dollars annually – see the US budget for war in ‘Costs of Post-9/11 U.S. Wars to 2019: $5.9 Trillion’– to kill huge numbers of our fellow human beings but also to destroy vast areas of Earth’s biosphere through war and other military violence. See, for example, the Toxic Remnants of War Project and the film ‘Scarred Lands & Wounded Lives’.

Unfortunately, too few activists have the awareness and courage to acknowledge the role that war plays in destroying the climate and environment, and include anti-war efforts in their campaigns. Campaigns that will fail dismally, and spectacularly, if the threatened nuclear war should eventuate. See ‘The War to End War 100 Years On: An Evaluation and Reorientation of our Resistance to War’.

Extinction beckons

In summary, our multifaceted, monumental and unrelenting assault on Earth’s biosphere is generating an extinction rate of 200 species (plants, birds, animals, fish, amphibians, insects and reptiles) each daywith another 26,000 species already identified as ‘under threat’ – see ‘Red list research finds 26,000 global species under extinction threat’– with some prominent scholars explaining how even these figures mask a vital component of the rapidly accelerating catastrophe of species extinctions: the demise of local populations of a species. See ‘Biological annihilation via the ongoing sixth mass extinction signaled by vertebrate population losses and declines’.

For further evidence from the vast literature on this subject touching only on impacts in relation to insects and its subsequent impact on birds, see ‘Death and Extinction of the Bees’, ‘Insectageddon: farming is more catastrophic than climate breakdown’ and ‘“Decimated”: Germany’s birds disappear as insect abundance plummets 76%’.

So severe is this assault on the biosphere that recent research warns that the ‘alarming loss of insects will likely take down humanity before global warming hits maximum velocity…. The worldwide loss of insects is simply staggering with some reports of 75% up to 90%, happening much faster than the paleoclimate record rate of the past five major extinction events’. Without insects ‘burrowing, forming new soil, aerating soil, pollinating food crops…’ and providing food for many bird species, the biosphere simply collapses. See ‘Insect Decimation Upstages Global Warming’.

So what can we do?

If you are genuinely powerful, you can stop lobbying governments to tinker with their policies, for example, in the direction of renewable energy (which, alone, cannot solve the multiplicity of ecological crises).

Governments are not the problem. And they simply do as elites direct them in any case. (If you believe that voters decide governments and their policies, and that lobbying them is effective, then your fear is deluding you again.)

The real problem is you and me.We have swallowed one of the ‘big lies’ that Joseph Goebbels talked about: we have believed and acted on the capitalist imperative to endlessly overconsume so that economic growth can rise perpetually in our finite world: a planet that has ecological limits.

But, as I noted above, the big lie only works because our fear makes us believe delusion. Why? Because we were terrorized as children into accepting material goods as substitutes for our capacity to be our unique and powerful Self. See ‘Love Denied: The Psychology of Materialism, Violence and War’.

The monstrous assault on Earth’s biosphere, that goes far beyond the climate catastrophe, is the outcome of each of us consuming more than we need and then fearfully deluding ourselves that it is necessary (or that the harm it caused was too little to matter or justified by some other consideration). Well, you can delude yourself as much as you like but it is still just that: a fearful delusion.

And the point is simply that you can choose differently and powerfully, if you have the courage. For a start, you can forego all air travel. You can travel without owning your own car. You can eat well without consuming meat or fish (and eating biodynamically/organically grown vegetarian/vegan food instead). In essence: If the demand for planet-destroying products is reduced, corporations will not produce them (and destroy the Earth in doing so).This is how the law of supply and demand works under capitalism.

Beyond these simple but vital measures, you can consider many other powerful options, particularly including (accelerated) participation in the fifteen-year strategy outlined in ‘The Flame Tree Project to Save Life on Earth’ which provides a simple plan for people to systematically reduce their consumption, by at least 80%, involving both energy and resources of every kind – water, household energy, transport fuels, metals, meat, paper and plastic – while dramatically expanding their individual and community self-reliance in 16 areas, so that all environmental concerns are effectively addressed.

The Flame Tree Project was inspired by Mohandas K. Gandhi who identified the environmental crisis decades before it became an issue in the West, and who lived his own life in extraordinary simplicity and self-reliance, symbolized by his daily spinning of khadi. ‘Earth provides enough for every person’s need but not for every person’s greed.’ He also invited us to powerfully follow our conscience, reminding us that ‘Hesitating to act because others do not yet see the way only hinders progress.’

But, critically important though he believed personal action to be, Gandhi was also an extraordinary political strategist and he knew that we needed to do more than transform our own personal lives. We need to provide opportunities that compel others to consider doing the same.

So if your passion is campaigning for change, consider doing it strategically as outlined in Nonviolent Campaign Strategy. For example, see the Nonviolent Strategy Wheel and the list of strategic goals necessary to halt the climate catastrophe and end war. Choose one or a few goals appropriate to your circumstances and conduct a strategically-oriented nonviolent campaign, as explained on the same website, to achieve those goals.

Sound strategy is vital given the insanity driving elite behaviour (such as planning/building 1,380 new coal plants). As mentioned above, see ‘The Global Elite is Insane Revisited’.

If your fear makes it difficult to do things such as those suggested above, consider healing as explained in ‘Putting Feelings First’.

If you want your children to be able to respond powerfully in the face of the biosphere’s progressive collapse, consider making ‘My Promise to Children’.

And if you want to join the worldwide movement to end all violence against humans and the biosphere, you can do so by signing the online pledge of ‘The People’s Charter to Create a Nonviolent World’.

The bottom line is this. You can systematically and rapidly reduce your personal consumption and, one way or another, mobilize others or nonviolently compel them to do the same. Or you can let your fear delude you that the ongoing destruction of Earth’s biosphere is somehow unrelated to your personal choices about consumption and the choices of those around you.

Extinction beckons. The choice is yours.

*

Note to readers: please click the share buttons above. Forward this article to your email lists. Crosspost on your blog site, internet forums. etc.

Robert J. Burrowes has a lifetime commitment to understanding and ending human violence. He has done extensive research since 1966 in an effort to understand why human beings are violent and has been a nonviolent activist since 1981. He is the author of ‘Why Violence?’ His email address is flametree@riseup.net and his website is here. He is a frequent contributor to Global Research.
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🐻 Manifest Destiny and the Land Ethic: On Aldo Leopold, Escudilla and the Big
« Reply #114 on: December 06, 2018, 01:45:03 AM »
https://www.counterpunch.org/2018/12/05/manifest-destiny-and-the-land-ethic-on-aldo-leopold-escudilla-and-the-big-white-bear/

December 5, 2018
Manifest Destiny and the Land Ethic: On Aldo Leopold, Escudilla and the Big White Bear
by Louisa Willcox


Escudilla was once more than just a mountain. To Aldo Leopold, writing in Sand County Almanac, the massif in Arizona’s White Mountains was defined by the grizzly bear, “the outstanding achievement of… the pageant of evolution.” Leopold tells the tragic tale of how Old Bigfoot, one of the last grizzly bears in Arizona, was killed on Escudilla: “The government trapper who took the grizzly knew he had made Escudilla safe for cows. He did not know he had toppled the spire off an edifice a-building since the morning stars sang together… Escudilla still hangs on the horizon, but when you see it you no longer think of bears. It’s only a mountain now.”

I remember where I was, in a college library, when I first encountered Aldo Leopold and this essay. Unwittingly, I have since followed the trail that he helped blaze. It has been instructive, upon rereading his many writings, to better understand how his own route through the fields of ecology, wildlife management (which he helped invent), and conservation was something of a bushwhack—not unlike my journey.

Growing up at a time when predators were widely viewed as “varmints,” Leopold did not start out with reverence for bears, wolves, or mountain lions. In fact, as part of his first job as a ranger for the US Forest Service in the Southwest, he was charged with killing predators, especially wolves. In a 1920 essay, Leopold wrote of predators as “the common enemy of both the stockman and the conservationist.”

I have long been fascinated with Leopold’s conversion in his views about predators, which happened sometime during his late 20’s. The details of his process of transformation are still a bit of a mystery. Last summer, I asked his daughter, Estella, about her father’s metamorphosis. But she didn’t know precisely how or when it happened either. The mystery probably went to the grave with Aldo’s beloved wife, also named Estella, with whom he shared everything.

There are only Leopold’s words for what actually happened. In “Thinking Like a Mountain,” he writes about shooting into a pack of wolves, and then this: “We reached the old wolf in time to watch the fierce green fire dying in her eyes. I realized then and have known ever since, that there was something new to me in those eyes – something known only to her and the mountain. I was young then and full of trigger-itch: I thought that because fewer wolves meant more deer, that no wolves would mean hunter’s paradise. But after seeing the green fire die, I sensed that neither the wolf nor the mountain agreed with such a view.”

It hardly matters that according to biographers, Leopold probably did not change his views in a flash. His story is better the way he told it. In some respects, the fierce green fire became Leopold’s own in his life-long crusade for wilderness, predators, and biodiversity writ large. Leopold’s fight has in turn become ours, in the sense that many scientists, educators, conservationists, and increasingly the broader public, care passionately about protecting the wild nature we have left.

The Spell of Escudilla

Escudilla has cast a spell on me since college. I was then already smitten with the West and mountains with magical names like “Wind Rivers” and “Beartooths.” Around that time, near Yellowstone, I nearly collided at dusk with a grizzly who wheeled and disappeared in the forest, but not before locking eyes for a split second that seemed to last forever. I subsequently underwent something of my own conversion, bolting from my birthplace in rural Pennsylvania to seek the wilds of the West, my home for the past 40-plus years.

Last winter David and I made a pilgrimage to Escudilla. We were stopped by snow at about 9,000 feet. In a grassy meadow, elk tracks and pocket gopher diggings spoke to what Old Bigfoot may have eaten before he walked into the string of the trapper’s set-gun in a narrow defile and shot himself. Rising two thousand feet above us, Escudilla Peak was as commanding as when Leopold rode, weeks at a time, as a Forest Ranger, and for hundreds of years prior, when Puebloan and later Apachean peoples hunted and camped on its flanks.

Scattered spruce, Douglas-fir, and leafless aspen did little to block a stiff, cold wind that muffled David’s joyful shout: he had found a southwestern white pine. David had documented black bears eating white pine seeds that had been conveniently cached by squirrels on the flanks of the San Francisco Peaks – not unlike the grizzly bear’s habit here in Yellowstone of raiding squirrel middens for the fat-rich seeds of the tree’s cousin, whitebark pine. (I have wondered what bear food David has not written about and have yet to find one.) Almost certainly, Old Bigfoot would have carried a map of the middens in his head.

David photoshopped a grizzly in several photos he took of the meadow on Escudilla. They were apparently so convincing that several of his Facebook fans did not get the joke.

Of Manifest Destiny and The Land Ethic

Leopold witnessed the tail-end of a blood bath during which almost all the grizzlies, wolves, and other wildlife – not to mention native peoples – had been killed in the West. Driving the killing was the ethos of Manifest Destiny, defined by the need to dominate and subdue nature in order to “be fruitful and multiply.” Well-armed settlers and government trappers, such as Old Bigfoot’s killer, shot, trapped and poisoned every predator they could – even gassing wolf pups in dens and burning whole forests to eliminate their last refuges.

In a mere 60 years, European settlers succeeded in wiping out grizzlies in 97% of the lands where they once roamed. In 1918, Leopold’s contemporary, C. Hart Merriam, head of the US Bureau of Biological Survey, published a report showing where the last populations of grizzlies hung on, some comprised of just a few individuals — essentially the walking dead. Merriam and his colleague Vernon Bailey thought eight species of grizzly roamed the Southwest, but taxonomists later concluded these were slightly different morphs of what we now call Ursus arctos. Still, their maps and reports tell the story of how small island populations of mammals go extinct, and the seeming inevitability of the trajectory.

A century later, David plotted the last known locations of Southwest grizzly bears from reports and journals written by Merriam, Bailey, and sundry trappers and early Anglo visitors, finding Escudilla to be part of a much bigger complex he called “Gila/Mogollon,” where grizzlies lasted longer than elsewhere in the region – but not by much.

Fortunately for all of us, Leopold did not sit on the sidelines. He pled for saving bears and “all the pieces” of ecological systems, arguing for a different, more compassionate relationship with nature. Coining the term “The Land Ethic,” Leopold famously wrote: “A thing is right when it tends to preserve the integrity, stability, and beauty of the biotic community. It is wrong when it tends otherwise.” It is no exaggeration to say that Leopold’s land ethic would revolutionize our views about our responsibility to nature.

Leopold’s thinking, as well as that of Olaus and Mardy Murie, Bob Marshall, Thoreau, Emerson, and Muir became my North Star. And they gave me a framework to deal with my distress about the destruction being wrought by the rampant clearcutting and booming oil and gas drilling underway in Wyoming. There WAS something I could do–something that involved saving wilderness and the wild animals that depended on it. I became an advocate for Wilderness in Wyoming, playing a bit part in a campaign that became the first of my career.  It succeeded.

In the fall of 1983, when I arrived at the Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies for graduate work, one of the first things I did was to climb to the fourth floor of Sage Hall to find Leopold’s face among the graduating class photo of 1909.

Luna: Of Ferocity and Fear

Leopold tragically passed away while fighting a neighbor’s grass fire in 1948, long before I was born. But during the 1980s I had the privilege of meeting his son, Luna, who had edited (very lightly) A Sand County Almanac and Round River for publication. I was then Field Studies Director of the Teton Science School in Jackson, near where Luna summered.

Luna, a Professor of Hydrology at Berkeley, had huge hands, an aquiline nose, and fierce eyes.  I was terrified, a feeling reinforced after almost bombing his summer hydrology seminar.

It turned out that Luna was a complex man whose interests ranged far beyond rivers and water.  True, Luna was a world class hydrologist, and eloquent like his father, writing: “Water is the most critical resource issue of our lifetime and our children’s lifetime. The health of our waters is the principal measure of how we live on the land.”

But little about the natural world escaped his interest. He kept notebooks in which, among many things, he recorded the emergence of different species of butterflies after rainstorms. One night, around a campfire, I heard him tell a story that made a deep impression. Holding an ancient hand axe found not far from his cabin in the Wind Rivers, he summarized the sweep of the earth’s geologic and human history, in a little over an hour. His knowledge, daring, and storytelling skill were boggling.

Once, I saw Luna and his friend and colleague, geologist Dave Love, in action in a meeting with the Forest Service convened to purportedly hear input on a proposed clearcut in grizzly bear habitat—in an area prone to landslides. (With input from Luna and Dave, my Teton Science School students also researched the proposal, making their opposition abundantly clear to stone-faced Forest Service managers).

Both Luna and Dave despised stupidity, but dealt with it differently, Dave with a devilish twinkle, Luna with a ferocious gleam. Over maps, they described likely impacts of the clearcut and proposed miles of roads. After several tries, the Forest Service minion still wasn’t getting their arguments, which were, to be sure, inconvenient. When Luna brought his huge fist down on the table to make a point, the minion cringed. The clearcut never happened, but explanations differ: some say it was because of all the fuss made by my students, but Luna and Dave provided the intellectual muscle.

Only much later did I discover, to my astonishment, that Luna could be afraid, including of grizzly bears. He said this about a trip to Alaska’s Brooks Range with his father, Aldo: “As I looked across the gravel to the bordering thicket, I wondered how long it would take a grizzly bear to cross that narrow open space. I realized then, but did not want to acknowledge it, that I was afraid.”  After a beautiful expose, Luna concludes with this: “The experience of fear in a wild landscape, even of short duration, leads to a reorientation of mind. It can clear out the clutter of the modern scene and allow one to see life and land in a new context.”

I regret feeling somewhat intimidated by Luna. I wish I would have had the guts to ask him more about his childhood, his family, and personal evolution. At least I had that chance last summer with Estella, who is now the only member of Aldo Leopold’s immediate family still alive.

Estella: Paleontologist, Campaigner, Friend

Estella shares a lot with Luna: his nose, luminous eyes, ready laugh, and musical talent. But unlike Luna, she put me at ease instantly.

For a day and a half, Estella generously shared her life and perspectives, so rich that I plan on devoting several future podcasts and blogs to hopefully do them – and her – justice.

I had come with a book Estella had written a few years before, Stories from the Leopold Shack: Sand County Revisited.  Like Escudilla, for me “The Shack” may as well be the Sistine Chapel, but located on a degraded farm near Madison, Wisconsin, that Aldo Leopold had purchased during the Depression. Together, the family brought the farm back to life, replanting pine forests, restoring fire, and, previously unimaginable, even restoring the prairie itself. The Shack was center stage in the thinking and writing of Aldo Leopold (a number of essays in Sand County Almanac are set here), but it was also ground zero for the family. To the Leopolds, The Shack meant work, play, scientific inquiry, love and adventure, long before it became hallowed ground to conservationists and ecologists around the world.

It was almost inevitable that young Estella would become a scientist. The youngest of five siblings (who each became leading scientists in their own right), when twelve years old Estella was asked by her father what she wanted to be when she grew up. She responded: “a bug-ologist, the others are already taken.” Estella became instead a ground-breaking paleobotanist. But throughout his life, her father only called her “baby” because, she said, her mother was the only “Estella” to him.

She inherited her father’s fierce intellect, basic kindness, love of nature, and storytelling gene, writing that: “The romance of a lost biome dominated by ice-age mastodons, and a warmer climate when prairie Indian cultures were in their heyday, can be inferred from fossil evidence and can be read in the lines of the pollen story.”

During my conversation with Estella I expected to hear about her scientific endeavors, but was astonished to learn that she had mastered environmental campaigning, preferring often to work behind the scenes. She showed her chops in a successful fight she helped lead to save the Florissant Fossil Beds, which she describes in Saved in Time: The Fight to Establish Fossil Beds National Monument, Colorado, coauthored with Herbert Meyer. These fossils beds have been called an Eocene Pompeii, as they were created when a huge volcano erupted some 34 million years ago, freezing in time a boggling diversity of living things — insects, mammals, birds and plants.

The campaign had it all: science, of course, but also effective use of the media, grassroots organizing and outreach (just the second time bumper stickers were used), public protest (picture ladies in pearls and high heels with small children in front of bulldozers), litigation, and federal legislation that ultimately protected this “Rosetta Stone” of fossils as a national monument.

Within a visionary strategy, Estella and her fellow campaigners fit the pieces together as if the outcome was preordained, capitalizing on mistakes made by the overzealous, thuggish developers they were up against. I have trained lots of smart young environmentalists over the years and most never acquired this level of strategic ability, political instinct and just plain skill—all as if passed down through Estella’s family genes.

I did not read the inscriptions Estella wrote on the books I had given her to autograph until I was on the plane home. “To a kindred soul,” she wrote in one. Tears of gratitude still stain the page.

The Long, Grizzly Road to Recovery

The wave of environmental laws, almost all passed after Estella’s fight for Florissant, have thus far ensured that we still have grizzlies somewhere in the lower-48 states. A number of these laws were direct descendants of Aldo Leopold’s ideas: Endangered Species Act, Wilderness Act, and National Forest Management Act.   Indeed, these laws (often enforced through litigation brought by environmental groups), stronger government institutions, and public support explain why we have made progress towards grizzly bear recovery in the Northern Rockies. Even so, grizzlies have held onto and regained no more than 3% of their former range in the lower-48, the same as they occupied during Leopold’s time.  With the shooting in 1979 of what is thought to be the last grizzly in the San Juan Mountains of Colorado, no grizzlies remain in the southern Rockies or Southwest.

The fundamental problems for grizzlies are habitat destruction, excessive killing, and a very low reproductive rate. This year was a reminder that fear-based hostility towards predators is hardly a thing of the past, and that grizzlies are still extremely vulnerable. A record number of grizzlies died during 2018, almost all at the hand of humans – a minimum of 64 in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem (GYE) and 51 in the Northern Continental Divide Ecosystem (NCDE). If you include estimates of unreported deaths, the total is closer to 150 bears out of an aggregate population of perhaps 1500 animals divided among four ecological islands. Because population growth has stalled (partly the result of the warming climate), excessive killing could quickly reverse hard-fought progress and push the Great Bear back to the brink.

Aldo Leopold would be horrified (as Estella was). He certainly would speak up, maybe something like what he said years ago: “Only five states have any grizzlies at all. There seems to be a tacit assumption that if grizzlies can survive in Canada and Alaska, that is good enough. It is not good enough for me. Relegating grizzlies to Alaska is about like relegating happiness to heaven; one may never get there.”

Grizzlies in the Southwest?

Almost no one is talking today about grizzly recovery in the Southwest. But at least there is habitat if ever the time becomes ripe. In 2010 David and his colleague Troy Merrill completed the most detailed assessment yet of potential suitable habitat for grizzlies in this region. Not surprisingly, the biggest and best chunk lies along the border of Arizona and New Mexico in the “Gila/Mogollon complex” that includes Escudilla.

In addition to considering bear foods, vital rates, home range sizes, and numbers of people, David and Troy also took into account the remoteness of habitat from people with bad attitudes, noting that: “Potential hostility is related to a mix of high levels of employment in agriculture (Catron County), large numbers of elderly residents (Sierra County), and low levels of education (Gila and Sierra Counties). Relatively high rates of exposure to humans and conflict with private property rights are also potential problems in parts of this complex, especially in Catron County.”

Catron County has become the poster child for problems faced by all large carnivores in the Southwest. This backwater is famous for inflamed rhetoric and hostility towards Mexican wolves, as well as the government that reintroduced them in 1998. Prior to that, the last few hundred animals had been captured and relegated to zoos.  Fear, hatred, and excessive killing, the same factors lamented by Leopold nearly a century ago, have effectively blocked progress towards the recovery of what is now a population of not quite 100 wolves.

A few years ago, David and I got a taste of the Mexican wolf tragedy on a “show me” trip to Ted Turner’s Ladder Ranch in Sierra County in New Mexico, where a diminutive she-wolf had been captured and temporarily placed in a pen. A nearly hysterical local county commissioner came, sporting holstered guns, to observe the wolf darting, panicked, around a pen surrounded by a 5-foot electric fence. The experience reminded me of Leopold’s quip: “Saving grizzlies requires a long view of conservation and historical perspective.” From what David and I saw, we have a while to wait yet.
SAVE AS MANY AS YOU CAN

 

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