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.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Blowing The Lid Off The Earth

The Catlin Arctic Survey has analyzed the data from its unique trip to study Arctic ice conditions:

Scientists are busy analysing data from the Catlin Arctic Survey. The data will provide important new evidence for the crucial climate negotiations in Copenhagen this December.

The Catlin Arctic Survey team returned this May with unique new measurements of the thickness and extent of sea ice in the Arctic. The University of Cambridge’s Polar Oceans Physics Group is currently analysing the data, with initial results already suggesting that the sea ice is newer and thinner (and therefore more liable to melt) than expected. The results will help climate scientists around the world to understand how quickly the dwindling summer sea ice will melt and to predict more accurately the effect this will have on the global climate.

WWF are providing funding to help the research team speed up their analysis. It’s crucial that the results are available in time for the UN climate change summit in Copenhagen, as they will strengthen WWF’s calls for a strong global climate deal. Governments must take action urgently to keep global temperature rise below 2°C, the threshold beyond which most scientists predict climate change could become catastrophic.

Climate change is happening now and nowhere is it more evident than in the Arctic,” said WWF’s head of climate change, Keith Allott.

Sea ice is a critical part of Earth’s climate system and the loss of sea ice in the Arctic Ocean is happening decades ahead of most predictions. We cannot predict all of the effects of this ice loss, but scientists foresee severe disruption to the natural world on both a local and a global scale.”

(Catlin Arctic Survey, emphasis added). The group of top Arctic scientists travelled through the Arctic for months during their study.

Let's hope the Copenhagen talks get real and break free from the death trance governments have now, planning for triage rather than for healing remedies.

Properly caring for the earth is the first lesson the human species must learn if the species is to become fit to survive in the cosmos.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Nanoengines For Spacecraft?

If humanity is ever to travel to another habitable planet it will be the result of new physics and new technology yet to be implemented.

An interesting source for a perpetual supply of electricity is now being discussed:
Physicists at Yale University have made the first definitive measurements of “persistent current,” a small but perpetual electric current that flows naturally through tiny rings of metal wire even without an external power source.
The counterintuitive current is the result of a quantum mechanical effect that influences how electrons travel through metals, and arises from the same kind of motion that allows the electrons inside an atom to orbit the nucleus forever. “These are ordinary, non-superconducting metal rings, which we typically think of as resistors,” Harris said. “Yet these currents will flow forever, even in the absence of an applied voltage.”
(Science Daily). Whether or not this technology could help to meet the Tenet 3(b) necessity of developing space craft that will travel exceedingly fast, it does show that there are sources of power we have not explored yet.