Wednesday, February 20, 2019

While Capitalists Enjoy Killing Us, Humanity is Out of Time


Forget everything you think you know about global warming. The really inconvenient truth is that it’s not about carbon — it’s about capitalism,” warns Naomi Klein in “This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. The Climate.”

“The convenient truth is that we can seize this existential crisis to transform our failed economic system and build something radically better.”

Capitalism has failed America? Yes. Global warming is the result of capitalism’s failure. And, Klein writes, “the market has not — and cannot — fix the climate crisis but will instead make things worse, with ever more extreme and ecologically damaging extraction methods, accompanied by rampant disaster capitalism.”
Capitalism is the problem. And unless we “embrace radical change ourselves … radical changes will be visited upon our physical world,” warns Klein, echoing this earlier warning from Pope Francis: “If we destroy Creation, Creation will destroy us!”

‘Unless we embrace radical change ourselves … radical changes will be visited upon our physical world.’
Naomi Klein

Facts in This Article

  1. Global economic production will cease meeting population growth by 2030
  2. Oceans will be depleted of edible fish by 2048
  3. No topsoil will remain on earth by 2070


Seafood May Be Gone by 2048, Study Says

November 2, 2006

Unless humans act now, seafood may disappear by 2048, concludes the lead author of a new study that paints a grim picture for ocean and human health.

According to the study, the loss of ocean biodiversity is accelerating, and 29 percent of the seafood species humans consume have already crashed. If the long-term trend continues, in 30 years there will be little or no seafood available for sustainable harvest.

The increasing pace of diversity loss thus imperils the “ecosystems services” that many human populations depend on for survival, the study says.

The research also found that biodiversity loss is tightly linked to declining water quality, harmful algal blooms, ocean dead zones, fish kills, and coastal flooding. (Related: ‘Dead Zone’ off Oregon Coast Is Growing, Study Says” [August 4, 2006].)

“Biodiversity is a finite resource, and we are going to end up with nothing left … if nothing changes,” said Boris Worm, an assistant professor of marine conservation biology at Dalhousie University in Halifax, Canada.

Worm led the international team of scientists and economists that examined the role of marine biodiversity in maintaining ecosystem services. The research appears in tomorrow’s issue of the journal Science.

But areas managed for improved biodiversity can and do recover, Worm says, raising the possibility that the trend can be reversed if humans take action.

“Where we [protect marine areas] around the world—from the tropics to temperate ecosystems—we see an increase in species diversity and productivity and stability and economic revenue from those ecosystems,” he said.

Consistent Response

Worm and colleagues examined the impact of species loss at local, regional, and global scales and in a variety of ecosystems.

Everywhere they looked, they got the same result: The greater the loss of diversity, the greater the impact on ecosystem services.

“Ecosystems that were losing species were always more fragile, always more vulnerable, always more likely to see a whole collapse of fisheries, more likely to show an increase in toxic events like fish kills and things like that,” Worm said.

“Whereas those systems that still had a full portfolio of species or had large species diversity to begin with were more robust, better buffered against change.”

In a telephone briefing with reporters, Worm added that he and his colleagues were “really surprised, to some extent shocked, by the consistency of the result.”

Worm told National Geographic News that the tight-knit connections between ocean communities and their habitats might explain why species diversity affects ecosystem services so closely.

He likened the relationship to a house of cards: Remove one species or habitat type in the system, and the whole thing comes tumbling down.

But Donald Boesch at the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science in Cambridge is not convinced.

In a Science news article on the study, he said “it falls short of demonstrating that biodiversity losses are the primary drivers of why the services have declined.”

For example, excessive fertilizer runoff into the Chesapeake Bay is most likely behind the decline in water quality there, not loss of biodiversity, he says.

Reversing the Trend

But the finding that areas do recover if managed is a major bright spot to the otherwise dark study, Worm says.

“This can be done. It’s not beyond our reach at all,” he said.

The study recommends an ecosystem management approach that sets aside some zones completely off-limits to any human activity while opening others to certain uses, such as recreation, research, and fishing.

“It’s exactly what we do on land, and we’ve been doing it for a long time,” Worm said.

Jane Lubchenco, a marine biologist at Oregon State University in Corvallis, praised the study for presenting compelling evidence that ecosystems can recover if appropriate action is taken.

“That said, their first conclusion about the downward spiral [of biodiversity] suggests that the rate of implementation of those recovery tools needs to be sped up quite significantly,” she said. But “just making recommendations doesn’t make things happen, unfortunately.”

However, she points to several promising developments, including a proactive movement toward marine reserves and protected areas off the coast of California and Australia‘s Great Barrier Reef. (Related: “Giant Marine Reserve Created in South Pacific” [March 29, 2006].)

She also promotes “catch shares” fisheries management, in which commercial fishers have a stake in maintaining healthy fish populations because they are granted a percentage of the total allowable catch. As more fish are available, the fishers get a larger share.

“The whole idea is to align fishing and conservation interests so there is incentive for fishermen to conserve stocks so we have something to catch in the future,” she said.

On the individual level, Worm says, people need to pay attention to what they eat.

“All of these species end up in our bellies somewhere, so of course we have a lot of control over what is caught and how it is caught,” he said. “We need to make informed choices on the fish we eat.”


Global Topsoil to be Entirely Depleted by 2070 – reported by the World Economic Forum and Time Magazine

What If the World’s Soil Runs Out?

Image: A farmer checks the soil for moisture REUTERS/Todd Korol

Professor John Crawford is Head of Sustainability and Complex Systems in the Charles Perkins Centre, and the Judith and David Coffey Chair in Sustainable Agriculture. John Crawford is Head of Sustainability and Complex Systems in the Charles Perkins Centre, and the Judith and David Coffey Chair in Sustainable Agriculture. 

A broken food system is destroying the soil and fuelling health crises as well as conflicts, warns Professor John Crawford of the University of Sydney.

Is soil really in danger of running out?

A rough calculation of current rates of soil degradation suggests we have about 60 years of topsoil left. Some 40% of soil used for agriculture around the world is classed as either degraded or seriously degraded – the latter means that 70% of the topsoil, the layer allowing plants to grow, is gone. Because of various farming methods that strip the soil of carbon and make it less robust as well as weaker in nutrients, soil is being lost at between 10 and 40 times the rate at which it can be naturally replenished. Even the well-maintained farming land in Europe, which may look idyllic, is being lost at unsustainable rates.

Why haven’t we heard more about this?

Probably because soil isn’t sexy. People don’t always think about how it’s connected with so many other things: health, the environment, security, climate, water. For example, agriculture accounts for 70% of our fresh water use: we pour most of our water straight onto the ground. If soil is not fit for purpose, that water will be wasted, because it washes right through degraded soil and past the root system. Given the enormous potential for conflict over water in the next 20-30 years, you don’t want to exacerbate things by continuing to damage the soil, which is exactly what’s happening now.

How does soil erosion happen?

Soil is a living material: if you hold a handful of soil, there will be more microorganisms in there than the number of people who have ever lived on the planet. These microbes recycle organic material, which underpins the cycle of life on Earth, and also engineer the soil on a tiny level to make it more resilient and better at holding onto water. Microbes need carbon for food, but carbon is being lost from the soil in a number of ways.

Simply put, we take too much from the soil and don’t put enough back. Whereas the classic approach would have been to leave stubble in the field after harvest, this is now often being burned off, which can make it easier to grow the next crop; or it’s being removed and used for animal feed. Second, carbon is lost by too much disturbance of the soil by over-ploughing and by the misuse of certain fertilizers. And the third problem is overgrazing. If there are too many animals, they eat all the plant growth, and one of the most important ways of getting carbon into the soil is through photosynthesis.

What happens if this isn’t addressed?

There are two key issues. One is the loss of soil productivity. Under a business-as-usual scenario, degraded soil will mean that we will produce 30% less food over the next 20-50 years. This is against a background of projected demand requiring us to grow 50% more food, as the population grows and wealthier people in countries like China and India eat more meat, which takes more land to produce weight-for-weight than, say, rice.

Second, water will reach a crisis point. This issue is already causing conflicts in India, China, Pakistan and the Middle East. Before climate change and food security really hit, the next wars are likely to be fought over unsustainable irrigation. Even moderately degraded soil will hold less than half of the water held by healthy soil in the same location. If you’re irrigating a crop, you need water to stay in the soil close to the plant roots. However, a staggering paper was published recently indicating that nearly half of the sea level rise since 1960 is due to irrigation water flowing straight past the crops and washing out to sea.

Who will be impacted the most?

Soil erosion is most serious in China, Africa, India and parts of South America. If the food supply goes down, then, obviously, the price goes up. The crisis points will hit the poorest countries hardest, in particular those that rely on imports. Egypt, for example, is almost entirely dependent on imports of wheat. The capacity of the planet to produce food is already causing conflict. A lot of people argue that food price hikes caused the Arab spring, and may even have contributed to the recent violence following the release of an anti-Islam film.

What about richer countries?

They will have to deal with more refugees fleeing from truly desperate situations. Then there’s the fact that this is happening at a time of economic difficulty in the West, with growing disparities across society and some people resorting to charity to feed themselves. The connection here with health is significant. Cheap food tends to be low in protein and high in carbohydrates, which is exactly the wrong balance for a healthy society. By reducing food to a mere commodity, we have created a system that is degrading the global capacity to continue to produce food and fuelling a global epidemic of diabetes and related chronic disease. According to the latest figures available, obesity in the United States cost US$ 150 billion – 20% of the health budget – in 2008, and this huge cost will rise as the broken food system takes its toll.

Why is the food system broken?

The big picture is that the amount of land per person has been shrinking over the last 100 years: we now have about one-quarter of a hectare per person on the planet and we’re using half of the total land area on the globe for agriculture. If you think of that little quarter hectare, we’re asking more of it than ever before, largely because of population and the modern diet, which is totally inappropriate. Governments have not got this right. We’re subsidizing unsustainable food production systems at the cost of our health and our environment.

Soil is not costed into food, which means that farmers don’t have the financial capacity to invest in their soil to turn the situation around. Crop breeding is exacerbating this situation. Modern wheat varieties, for example, have half the micronutrients of older strains, and it’s pretty much the same for fruit and vegetables. The focus has been on breeding high-yield crops that can survive on degraded soil, so it’s hardly surprising that 60% of the world’s population is deficient in nutrients like iron. If it’s not in the soil, it’s not in our food.

What should be done about this?

Significant progress is technically quite straightforward. There’s a lot we can do, we just have to choose to do it and provide the right support where it is needed. First, we should focus on getting carbon back into the soil by reversing bad farming practices like tillage, nutrient mismanagement, removing stubble and over-grazing. We can add manure and consider using human waste from cities as fertilizer, instead of just flushing it out to sea.

In the longer term, breeding targets need to focus more on human nutrition as well as productivity, and on traits that improve the soil. We need to find new ways of bringing together scientists and farmers to harness the expertise of both. From a policy standpoint, probably the most important thing is to find pricing mechanisms that take into account the environmental, health and other costs of a broken system. Farmers need to be appropriately rewarded for regenerating the environment and producing food that supports a healthier society.

Finally we need to recognize that this is a global problem that would benefit from a global approach. We don’t need to reinvent the wheel in each country, and we don’t have time to do so. It takes decades to regenerate soil. I find it quite ironic that while the Mars Curiosity Rover is poking around looking for life in Martian soil, we’re in the process of extinguishing life in our own.


2030 – The Limits to Growth Report

Looking Back on the Limits of Growth

Forty years after the release of the groundbreaking study, were the concerns about overpopulation and the environment correct?

Chart Sources: Meadows, D.H., Meadows, D.L., Randers, J. and Behrens III, W.W. (1972) (Linda Eckstein)
Smithsonian Magazine | Subscribe

Recent research supports the conclusions of a controversial environmental study released 40 years ago: The world is on track for disaster. So says Australian physicist Graham Turner, who revisited perhaps the most groundbreaking academic work of the 1970s,The Limits to Growth.

However, the study also noted that unlimited economic growth was possible, if governments forged policies and invested in technologies to regulate the expansion of humanity’s ecological footprint. Prominent economists disagreed with the report’s methodology and conclusions. Yale’s Henry Wallich opposed active intervention, declaring that limiting economic growth too soon would be “consigning billions to permanent poverty.”

Turner compared real-world data from 1970 to 2000 with the business-as-usual scenario. He found the predictions nearly matched the facts. “There is a very clear warning bell being rung here,” he says. “We are not on a sustainable trajectory.”

‘World On Track For Disaster’: Researcher Backs 1970s’ Prediction Of Economic Collapse By 2030

Doomsday Clock Moves Closer to World Destruction
Greenpeace activists put up mock “doomsday clocks” which symbolize their “Time’s Up, Save the Climate” warning during a protest outside the government headquarters in Hong Kong, Feb. 2, 2007. After some success, the symbolic clock is back down to its 2007 level because of continued nuclear proliferation, climate change and the fallout from the Fukushima nuclear plant disaster.PHOTO: REUTERS

A senior research scientist has expressed concern over a possible global economic collapse that may occur in 2030 if humans fail to check expansion and preserve the world’s already diminishing resources.

Graham Turner, who works at the CSIRO Sustainable Ecosystems in Australia, told Smithsonian Magazine that the world is on track for disaster. The scientist based his theory on a groundbreaking study entitled, The Limits to Growth, which was published nearly forty years ago, and was also one of the first studies that linked the world economy to environmental issues.

The Limits to Growth, which was commissioned by global think tank The Club of Rome, used a computer model for tracking various economic and environmental scenarios and projecting them in the future.

According to the magazine, Turner examined the predictions in the book and compared data from the 1970s to the presentday scenario. The scientist asserted that his findings fall in line with the book’s prognosis of an economic collapse that may take place in the 21st century.

There is a very clear warning bell being rung here, he was quoted as saying. We are not on a sustainable trajectory.

Turner took into account several factors including population growth, use of resources, and environmental impacts when he authored A Comparison of ‘The Limits to Growth’, which he published in 2008.

His theories also reflected those of the 1970s’ study which, as noted by the magazine, believed unlimited economic growth was possible if governments forged policies and invested in technologies to regulate the expansion of humanity’s ecological footprint.

The Original MIT/Club of Rome Report


1972 The limits to growth


Donella H. Meadows, Dennis L. Meadows, Jorgen Randers William W. Behrens III
Universe Books
ISBN 0-87663-165-0

The message of this book still holds today: The earth’s interlocking resources – the global system of nature in which we all live – probably cannot support present rates of economic and population growth much beyond the year 2100, if that long, even with advanced technology. In the summer of 1970, an international team of researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology began a study of the implications of continued worldwide growth. They examined the five basic factors that determine and, in their interactions, ultimately limit growth on this planet-population increase, agricultural production, nonrenewable resource depletion, industrial output, and pollution generation. The MIT team fed data on these five factors into a global computer model and then tested the behavior of the model under several sets of assumptions to determine alternative patterns for mankind’s future. The Limits to Growth is the nontechnical report of their findings. The book contains a message of hope, as well: Man can create a society in which he can live indefinitely on earth if he imposes limits on himself and his production of material goods to achieve a state of global equilibrium with population and production in carefully selected balance.

Download the book in pdf here.

Climate Change reports from the IPCC

These are published materials composed of the full scientific and technical assessment of climate change, generally in three volumes, one for each of the Working Groups of the IPCC, plus a Synthesis Report. Each of the Working Group volumes is composed of individual chapters, an optional Technical Summary and a Summary for Policymakers. The Synthesis Report synthesizes and integrates materials contained within the Assessment Reports and Special Reports and is written in a non-technical style suitable for policymakers and address a broad-range of policy-relevant but policy-neutral questions. It is composed of a longer report and a Summary for Policymakers

IPCC Fifth Assessment Report


Working Group I Report
“Climate Change 2013: The Physical Science Basis”CLICK HERE
Working Group II Report
“Climate Change 2014:
Impacts, Adaptation, and Vulnerability”CLICK HERE
Working Group III Report
“Climate Change 2014:
Mitigation of Climate Change”CLICK HERE
“Climate Change 2014:
Synthesis Report”CLICK HERE
IPCC Fourth Assessment Report: Climate Change 2007 (AR4)


Working Group I Report
“The Physical Science Basis”

Working Group II Report
“Impacts, Adaptation and Vulnerability”
Working Group III Report
“Mitigation of Climate Change”

The AR4 Synthesis Report