The Future of Humanity

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Intentional Ignorance

November 6, 2012

I wrote this essay to offer some essential information about our world and the future of our species, adding my voice to the many cries of alarm over the environmental crisis (lately reaching criticality). [More…]

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Saving our World — Can it be Done?

Most of my scientist friends and colleagues, when they speak or write to each other about this topic, have a very dim view of humanity’s near term future on Earth. “Near Term” in this context spans the next several generations of humans.

The problem, of course, is the systematic taking apart of our life-support system, a global action in which we are all, collectively, embarked. Their dim view stems largely not from failures of science and other disciplines to identify, measure, and scope out the problems we are experiencing around the world, but from:

  • failures of education regarding the Earth and how it works plus what we are doing to it,
  • failures to accept the magnitude of the changes that must be made quickly enough to reverse the dangerous trend,
  • failures of current political system design (and/or operation) to recognize the scope and immediacy of the problem, and
  • failures to take actions of magnitudes worthy of the need.

(For a very effective short cartoon video, “300 Years of FOSSIL FUELS in 300 Seconds” showing what has brought us to the current turning point, check out this youtube link.)

Fortunately, academics in other fields outside science and many other educated and aware people have formed the same view of our future and are recommending a new movement to address the problem. This group has finally recognized the larger systemic nature of the problem faced globally — failures of governing systems to function on behalf of human sustainability, health, and general welfare. Two of four bullet points at the web site of this new attempt to create real change states the case thusly: Continue reading

Tom Englehardt Says A New Political System May Be Emerging In This Country


Occasionally, the smart mind of a keen observer will see a political trend and hypothesize that it may be more than this, something that could crystallize into a new way of governing. Mr. Englehardt has just done this with respect to the U.S. political system, and offered it to us in a “Tomgram,” a description of what he sees, somewhat tentatively, at his TomDispatch.com blog. I have excerpted the most salient points from that below. As Tom said in his introduction to the original, “Have you ever undertaken some task you felt less than qualified for, but knew that someone needed to do? Consider this piece my version of that.”

The following is reproduced by permission of Tom Englehardt.

Originally posted at TomDispatch.com

Excerpts by R. McCluney 27 MAR 15

papapishu-Flag-of-the-United-StatesThere are five areas in which at least the faint outlines of that new [political] system [in the U.S.] seem to be emerging: (1) political campaigns and elections; (2) the privatization of Washington through the marriage of the corporation and the state; (3) the de-legitimization of our traditional system of governance; (4) the empowerment of the national security state as an untouchable fourth branch of government; and (5) the demobilization of “we the people.”

Continue reading

Global Population Speakout

A new movement. A remarkable book.  A visual and visceral sensation.

Summary in an Image

The Book: Over, Over, Over   (OVERdevelopment, OVERpopulation, OVERshoot)

My recommendation: Set aside a half hour or more, go to a computer with a high resolution monitor, preferably a large one. Then click on the link below.

https://populationspeakout.org/the-book/view-book/

In the center of the black book cover, click on “Click to read.”

The book reader should expand to full screen. Keep it there.

Click on the right arrow at top or the one to the right of page 1.

This takes you to pages 2 and 3 filling the screen.

Use the forward and back page turn arrows on the left and right sides of the pages image.

As you click through the book’s photos, note the tiny text in the lower right. The one for the above photo says “VIETNAM.”

Skim through the introductory text or just go through the photo pages to the end.

Then come back to read the text.

There is an easy contents page near the end of the book that allows you to navigate back to its relevant sections, including the text offerings.

My comment: In the photo above, can you find a smiling face anywhere?

Go to the website to send a free book to someone.

“The book contains powerful and evocative images showing the ecological and social tragedies of humanity’s ballooning numbers and consumption. It retails for $50, but as part of Speak Out you can request free books to use raising awareness about these important and urgent issues.”

Then join the campaign.

Share the website: https://populationspeakout.org/

Congratulations to Bill Ryerson, head of Population Media Center and The Population Institute, plus the many folks who helped produce this book and plan the campaign (not to mention the amazing photographers and photoeditors).

Yes, America wants solar and wind, not nukes

by Michael Mariotte

This article is reprinted with permission from “Greenworld” a newsletter published by Nuclear Information and Resource Service  www.nirs.org 16 January 2015.

Just in case there was any doubt, “Americans ‘overwhelmingly’ prefer solar and wind energy to coal, oil, and nuclear energy, according to a Harvard political scientist who has conducted a comprehensive survey of attitudes toward energy and climate for the last 12 years.” So begins a New Year’s Day column in Forbes by Jeff McMahon that a lot of people missed–for most people, New Year’s Day is not prime time for reading about energy issues.

It’s not even close. 80% of the American people want solar and wind to increase a lot, and another 10% want it to increase somewhat (The other 10% probably earn their living either directly or indirectly from the nuclear and fossil fuel industries, or perhaps live in caves and don’t want electricity, or maybe just lie to pollsters). Continue reading

Planetary Change Indicators Update — Who Knows the Outcome?

“No one knows what will happen to civilization if planetary conditions continue to change…”

From Jo Bish of Population Media Center        About PMC

Late last week, Science Magazine published a paper titled “Planetary boundaries: Guiding human development on a changing planet.” In short, the paper is an updated version of a 2009 effort, and contends that humans have now forced transgression of four out of nine “planetary boundaries”: extinction rates; deforestation; the level of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere; and the flow of nitrogen and phosphorous (used on land as fertiliser) into the ocean.
Of course, it seems the only thing humans discard faster than banal consumer widgets are serious, scientifically-backed warnings about our highly-advanced skills of fouling our own nest. This is not altogether surprising when factions of the scientific community itself work overtime to sow doubt about limits to growth. For example, Dot Earth has given a platform to a set of authors, including the infamous Erle Ellis (Overpopulation Is Not The Problem), who gaudily assert that “The key to better environmental outcomes is not in ending human alteration of environments but in anticipating and mitigating their negative consequences.” Fortunately, Dot Earth also includes a rebuttal by the paper’s lead authors. Below is an article I found in the Sydney Morning Herald, covering the new Science report. Immediately below is the abstract.
Fertilizer Chemicals & Ocean Impact 

 

 

 

 

 

 

ABSTRACT:

The planetary boundaries framework defines a safe operating space for humanity based on the intrinsic biophysical processes that regulate the stability of the Earth System. Here, we revise and update the planetary boundaries framework, with a focus on the underpinning biophysical science, based on targeted input from expert research communities and on more general scientific advances over the past 5 years. Several of the boundaries now have a two-tier approach, reflecting the importance of cross-scale interactions and the regional-level heterogeneity of the processes that underpin the boundaries. Two core boundaries-climate change and biosphere integrity-have been identified, each of which has the potential on its own to drive the Earth System into a new state should they be substantially and persistently transgressed.

Link to the Science Article:

Human activity has pushed Earth beyond four of nine ‘planetary boundaries’, scientists warn

Wikipedia has an article on this topic.

All Is Not (Yet) Lost

The new Year in America brings in a new Congress, largely dedicated to the proposition that climate change is not human-induced, nor is it an urgent problem, so there is no need in the minds of a powerful faction of the Republican Party for major climate reform legislation. This is but another threat to the future welfare of the human species.

Fortunately, however, at least for the next couple of years, we have a President in place who can veto the worst anti-environment legislation that might come up, perhaps starting off with the Keystone XL pipeline legislation expected to arrive at his desk early this year. However, the future of civilization is in growing jeopardy, mostly from the continued human-induced degradation of our climate. It’s not just the climate of the US. It’s everyone’s climate. The dire prospects for the air we breathe is not something the younger generation likes to hear or think much about, especially if they have or expect to have children and grandchildren of their own who will suffer most from the currently underwhelming action to reverse climate degradation. There’s enough bad news in the world these days.

Oldsters such as myself, have lived through the promising 70s, when so much hopeful environmental legislation was passed, creating national environmental agencies of government and some improvements in state and local laws aimed to protect natural resources directly benefitting humans. In spite of all the optimism back then, now we see that those efforts have largely failed. The reason is a decades-long lack of focused attention to the implementation of those laws and bold actions of the environmental agencies on a scale sufficient to make a real difference.

Mary Christina WoodThe governmental bodies set up to police our environmental assets and protect them from serious abuse and degradation have been infiltrated or even taken over by corporate interests which increasingly see nature as little more than their own resource base from which whatever desired can be taken and used for financial profit and enhanced power, regardless of the damage, depletion, and contamination of those resources and related assets.

At least in America, however, we do have three branches of government designed to protect us from the menace of a powerful few taking value and sustenance from the seemingly weak many. These are the Executive Branches, the Legislative Branches, and the Judicial Branches at national, state, and local levels of government.

As environmental law professor and author of a new book on the subject, Mary Christina Wood points out, the failure of one of these branches to take action to reverse a trend affecting the future welfare of the citizens who elected them does not mean the other two branches cannot take action.

Fortunately, as I mentioned, President Obama has already taken serious action and is poised to take further steps. (For example the agreement between two of the most climate-disrupting nations in the world, China and the U.S.,  to halt carbon and other climate altering emissions, new fuel efficiency standards, EPA rules to cut light duty vehicle greenhouse gas emissions by 2016 in the U.S, and other actions, plus his threatened veto of the Keystone XL pipeline legislation.)

But what about the third branch of government, the Judiciary? Some interesting actions in this sector were begun several years ago and are currently being amped up in a big way this year. 18 year old Kelsey Juliana from Eugene, Oregon has joined as co-plaintiff in a law suit spearheaded by Our Children’s Trust claiming that Oregon is not doing all it can to slow down global warming and protect the future.

Continue reading

One New Year’s Resolution We Can’t Afford to Break

Stephanie Feldstein

Population and Sustainability Director, Center for Biological Diversity

From Huff Post Green, Updated: 12/30/2014 5:59 pm EST

RM: Thanks to Joe Bish of  Population Media Center for bringing this to our attention.

Links: The Blog  Endangered Species Condoms

 

As you’re poring over your resolutions this week, add this one—somewhere between saving money and learning a new skill—Share the planet.

 

This year has been full of bad news for the planet, from our dietary habits making climate goals impossible to the loss of half of all wildlife over the past four decades. Even fireflies had a bad year. On top of that, we added more than 77 million people to our population in 2014. That’s like adding another California, Florida, and New York to the world in a single year.

 

And we’re not done yet — not even close. In the first month of 2015, 4.3 people will be born worldwide every second. By mid-century, it’s estimated that we’ll be ringing in the New Year with almost 10 billion of our closest friends. There’s not enough champagne to go around (especially since climate change may bring the end of wine from the Champagne region).

 
Continue reading

The White House: Time To Get Ready for Climate Change

THE WHITE HOUSE

19 November 2014

Climate change is happening now — and we’ve got to be ready because we’re going to see more extreme weather.

That’s why we’re taking action. Last Tuesday, the President made a historic announcement with China that sets new targets for carbon pollution reductions.

US Climate Resilience Toolkit

 

And on Monday, the Administration released the Climate Resilience Toolkit to help our communities respond to our changing climate.

 

Check out these easy-to-use tools, including interactive maps and visualizations, that will help prepare your community for the impacts of climate change. See how you can help your community or business get ready.

Challenges of a Changing Climate

That’s why we’re taking action. Continue reading

Idea of The Humanity System as a Tool for Change

By Michael Tuckson

Formerly advisor in rural development in Thailand and Laos

Former government and university staffer in Australia

Degrees in geology, palaeoecology and human geography

 

Excerpts from “Changing the World: Using the Humanity System Idea

Reproduced by permission from  The Millennium Alliance for Humanity and the Biosphere

November 4, 2014

Paul Ehrlich’s first visit to Australia in 1970 drew me away from doctoral studies in palaeoecology towards a tutorship in human geography and a new life increasingly in human affairs.

….

In my journey from natural science into the social sciences I eventually came to see human ecology and the social sciences as together describing critical parts of the whole system that I began to call the ‘humanity system’. The system includes all of human thought, action and the short and long-term consequences.

….

The humanity system is best studied starting at least 200,000 years ago, including a-temporal concepts as they become relevant through time. Humanity systems evolved from nature harvesting through farming to city-centered systems, through ‘traditional’ and modern stages. With population growth, humanity systems have now replaced much of the biosphere with farming, mining, and rigidi-structure largely in arable regions of the world and degraded the rest of the biosphere.

 

None of the specialized subjects which populate the social sciences, nor human ecology, by themselves can fully explain our life on planet Earth. An integrating theory, which recognizes the influence of Nature, emotion, power and force, and avails itself of the best relevant ideas in each of the relatively specialized disciplines, is needed. It must be recognized that some of the theory of the social sciences is based on values influenced by emotion such as wealth, luxury and ethnic and national prestige.

  Continue reading

Phasing Down Fossil Fuel Emissions

James Hansen 20 OCT 2014

The essential spur required to phase down fossil fuel emissions is a rising carbon fee.  Only a few major nations must agree, e.g., China and the United States.  Most of the world would follow, induced by the desire to avoid border duties and modernize energy infrastructure.  

Other things are needed, especially technology development, but those things will be hastened by a rising carbon fee.

So why is an agreement on a carbon fee at [the United Nations Climate Change Conference, COP21]* in Paris in December 2015 not a foregone conclusion?

The old excuse, that it would be costly, has been shot down.  A steadily rising carbon fee, if it is revenue neutral via 100% dispersal of the funds to the public, stimulates the economy, increasing jobs and the GDP (see REMI study commissioned by Citizens Climate Lobby).

(For more, go to this link.)

_____________

*The 21st yearly session of the Conference of the Parties (COP 21) to the 1992 United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and the 11th session of the Meeting of the Parties (CMP 11) to the 1997 Kyoto Protocol**. The conference objective is to achieve alegally binding and universal agreement on climate, from all the nations of the world. Leadership of the negotiations is yet to be determined.

**The Kyoto Protocol was adopted in Kyoto, Japan, on 11 December 1997 and entered into force on 16 February 2005. There are currently 192 Parties to the Protocol. The Kyoto Protocol implemented the objective of the UNFCCC to fight global warming by reducing greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere to ‘a level that would prevent dangerous anthropogenic interference with the climate system’. The Protocol is based on the principle of Common but Differentiated Responsibilities: it puts the obligation to reduce current emissions on developed countries on the basis that they are historically responsible for the current levels of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere.

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