Friday, October 16, 2009

The Damage Cannot Be Undone?

How do people feel when they are told they have terminal cancer?

I don't know.

I can only imagine it.

So when scientists tell us the damage to the earth cannot be undone by pronouncements from a congress stuck on itself, I still can't know what it means.

It is like the pilot on a transatlantic flight saying we are at 30,000 feet and all engines have failed. You have certain feelings, but that is only anticipation, not the feeling of the damage that is coming, which can only be known upon impact.

A provocative new study really does say that. We have already harmed the earth in several irreversible ways; the damage has been done, we are just waiting to feel it upon impact I suppose:

Humanity may soon be approaching the boundaries for global freshwater use, change in land use, ocean acidification and interference with the global phosphorous cycle (see Fig. 1). Our analysis suggests that three of the Earth-system processes — climate change, rate of biodiversity loss and interference with the nitrogen cycle — have already transgressed their boundaries. For the latter two of these, the control variables are the rate of species loss and the rate at which N2 is removed from the atmosphere and converted to reactive nitrogen for human use, respectively. These are rates of change that cannot continue without significantly eroding the resilience of major components of Earth-system functioning. Here we describe these three processes.


... biodiversity loss in the Anthropocene has accelerated massively. Species are becoming extinct at a rate that has not been seen since the last global mass-extinction event.


Modern agriculture is a major cause of environmental pollution, including large-scale nitrogen- and phosphorus-induced environmental change. At the planetary scale, the additional amounts of nitrogen and phosphorus activated by humans are now so large that they significantly perturb the global cycles of these two important elements.

(Journal of Nature, emphasis added). We have lost three engines which cannot be restarted is probably understating the case, but it is the only analogy I can fathom.

Of course some people on the plane, like Senator Inhofe and that crowd, say the pilot is unclear and the engines really are still operating, but:

Anthropogenic climate change is now beyond dispute, and in the run-up to the climate negotiations in Copenhagen this December, the international discussions on targets for climate mitigation have intensified.

(Journal of Nature, emphasis added). We cannot continue as a species in this cosmos if we do not take care of the only habitable planet we know about.

Extinction is certain under current governmental mentalities of militaristic imperialism. We cannot bomb away, shoot away, or torture away these problems.

In smoky back-rooms the government seems to think the only avenue available is triage, while in propaganda reports they say all is well.

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