Is Adaptation to Collapse the Best Case Scenario?

A little over a decade ago, a report by David Pimentel from Cornell University came out about the health costs of pollution. “About 40 percent of deaths worldwide,” wrote Susan S. Lang, “are caused by water, air and soil pollution, concludes a Cornell researcher. Such environmental degradation, coupled with the growth in world population, are major causes behind the rapid increase in human diseases, which the World Health Organization has recently reported. Both factors contribute to the malnourishment and disease susceptibility of 3.7 billion people, he says” (Water, air and soil pollution causes 40 percent of deaths worldwide, Cornell research survey finds).

That is damning! It is powerful in showing the impact of our actions and the complicity of our indifference. It’s even worse than that. The harm touches upon every area of health. “Of the world population of about 6.5 billion, 57 percent is malnourished, compared with 20 percent of a world population of 2.5 billion in 1950, said Pimentel. Malnutrition is not only the direct cause of 6 million children’s deaths each year but also makes millions of people much more susceptible to such killers as acute respiratory infections, malaria and a host of other life-threatening diseases, according to the research.” This is billions of people who lack the basic resources of clean water and air along with nutritious food, something that was a human birthright for most of human existence.

It’s worse still. This data, as bad as it is, maybe was an underestimation. Another report just came out, Cardiovascular disease burden from ambient air pollution in Europe reassessed using novel hazard ratio functions by Jos Lelieveld et al. Summarized in Hurn Publications, it is stated that, “The number of early deaths caused by air pollution is double previous estimates, according to research, meaning toxic air is killing more people than tobacco smoking. The scientists used new data to estimate that nearly 800,000 people die prematurely each year in Europe because of dirty air, and that each life is cut short by an average of more than two years” (Air pollution deaths are double previous estimates, finds research). This isn’t limited to poor, dark-skinned people in far away countries for it also affects the Western world: “The health damage caused by air pollution in Europe is higher than the global average.” And that doesn’t even include “effects of air pollution on infant deaths”.

Think about that. It was a decade ago that around 40% of deaths were able to be linked to pollution and environmental problems. Since then, these problems have only grown worse, as the world’s population continues to grow as does industrialization. Now it is determined that air pollution is at least twice as fatal as previously calculated. The same is probably true more generally for other forms of pollution along with environmental degradation. Our data was incomplete in the past and, even if improved, it remains incomplete. Also, keep in mind that this isn’t only about deaths. Increasing numbers of sick days, healthcare, and disabilities adds up to costs that are incalculable. Our entire global economy is being dragged down, at the very moment we need all our resources to deal with these problems, not merely to pay for the outcomes but to begin reversing course if we hope to avoid the worst.

This barely touches upon the larger health problems. As I’ve written about before, we are beginning to realize how diet majorly impacts health, not only in terms of malnourishment but also all the problems related to a diet of processed foods with lots of toxins such as farm chemicals, hormone mimics, food additives, starchy carbs, added sugars, artificial sweeteners, and hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated vegetable oils. Most of our healthcare costs go to a few diseases, all of them preventable. And the rates of major diseases are skyrocketing: neurocognitive conditions (mood disorders, personality disorders, autistic spectrum disorders, ADHD, etc), autoimmune disorders (type 1 diabetes, Alzheimer’s, multiple sclerosis, Hashimoto’s disease, many forms of arthritis, etc), metabolic syndrome (type 2 diabetes, heart disease, stroke, etc), and much else. This all relates to industrialized farming and food production that has, among much else, caused the soil to become depleted of nutrients while eroding what is left of the topsoil. At this rate, we have less than a century of topsoil left. And monocrops have been devastating to ecological diversity and set us up for famines when crops fail.

There pretty much is no one who isn’t being harmed. And increasingly the harm is coming at younger ages with diseases of older age now being seen among children and young adults. More of the population is becoming sick and disabled before they even get old enough to enter the workforce. For example, schizophrenia is on the rise among urban youth for reasons not entirely certain — in a summary of a study, it was concluded that “young city-dwellers also have 40% more chance of suffering from psychosis (hearing voices, paranoia or becoming schizophrenic in adulthood) is perhaps is less common knowledge” (see Urban Weirdness). So, it isn’t only that more people are dying younger. The quality of people’s lives is worsening. And with ever more people disabled and struggling, who is going to help them? Or are large swaths of the world’s population simply going to become unwanted and uncared for? And will we allow billions of people to fall further into poverty? If not becoming homeless, is it a better fate that we simply institutionalize these people so that we of the comfortable classes don’t have to see them? Or will we put these useless eaters into ghettos and internment camps to isolate them like a plague to be contained? The externalized costs of modern industrialized capitalism are beyond imagining and they’re quickly becoming worse.

Modernity is a death cult, as I’ve previously concluded. Besides mass extinction on the level never before experienced in all of hominid existence (the last mass extinction was 66 million years ago), we are already feeling the results of climate change with increased super-storms, floods, droughts, wildfires, etc. Recent heatwaves have been unprecedented, including in the Arctic — far from being a mere annoyance since it speeds up the melting of glaciers, sea ice, and permafrost which in turn releases greenhouse gases (possibly pathogens as well), speeds up the warming (Arctic Amplification), and will alter ocean currents and the polar jet stream. These environmental changes are largely what is behind the refugee crises numerous countries are facing, which is also connected to terrorism. Inequality within and between societies will exacerbate the problems further with increased conflicts and wars, with endless crisis after crisis coming from every direction until the available resources are pushed to the limit and beyond — as I wrote last year:

“As economic and environmental conditions worsen, there are some symptoms that will become increasingly apparent and problematic. Based on the inequality and climatology research, we should expect increased stress, anxiety, fear, xenophobia, bigotry, suicide, homicide, aggressive behavior, short-term thinking, reactionary politics, and generally crazy and bizarre behavior. This will likely result in civil unrest, violent conflict, race wars, genocides, terrorism, militarization, civil wars, revolutions, international conflict, resource-based wars, world wars, authoritarianism, ethno-nationalism, right-wing populism, etc.”

If you really want to be depressed, might I suggest reading Deep Adaptation: A Map for Navigating Climate Tragedy by Jem Bendell, a full Professor of Sustainability Leadership and Founder of the Institute for Leadership and Sustainability (IFLAS) at the University of Cumbria (UK): “When I say starvation, destruction, migration, disease, and war, I mean in your own life. With the power down, soon you won’t have water coming out of your tap. You will depend on your neighbors for food and some warmth. You will become malnourished. You won’t know whether to stay or go. You will fear being violently killed before starving to death.” Here is what a Vice piece had to say about it:

“You only needed to step outside during the record-breaking heatwave last year to acknowledge that 17 of the 18 hottest years on the planet have occurred since 2000. Scientists already believe we are soon on course for an ice-free Arctic, which will only accelerate global warming. Back in 2017, even Fox News reported scientists’ warnings that the Earth’s sixth mass extinction was underway. Erik Buitenhuis, a senior researcher at the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research, tells me that Bendell’s conclusions may sound extreme, but he agrees with the report’s overall assessment. “I think societal collapse is indeed inevitable,” he says, though adds that “the process is likely to take decades to centuries” ” (Geoff Dembicki, The Climate Change Paper So Depressing It’s Sending People to Therapy).

What are governments and other major institutions doing in response? Very little, despite the consensus among experts and a majority of Americans supporting environmental policies, although the Pentagon and Department of Homeland Security is concerned in maintaining their own power: “Their preparation, however, is not aimed at preventing or slowing down climate change, nor is it principally aimed at relieving distress. Rather it is in protecting the U.S. homeland and American business interests from the desperate masses” (Phil Ebersole, Climate, migration and border militarization). There are many courses of actions we could take. And we know what needs to be done to prevent or mitigate what will otherwise follow. Will we do it? Of course not. The problem is too large, too incomprehensible, and too depressing. We will go on denying it, until well into the global crisis, if not the civilizational collapse. At that point, it probably will no longer matter what we do or don’t do. But until then, we can begin to imagine the unimaginable, if only to prepare for it psychologically.

Then again, maybe we’ll find some way to pull out of this death spiral at the last moment. It’s unlikely, but humans can be innovative under pressure and no doubt there will be plenty of people attempting to create new technologies and adapt to new conditions. Even if there is only minimal success, some of the population could be saved as we shift to smaller-scale societies in the areas that are still viable for farming or else escaping into ecodomes. One way or another, the world as we know it will not continue on as before and, ignoring all the suffering and death, I don’t know that will be an entirely bad thing, at least for the earth if not for humanity. Even in that best case scenario, we would still be facing possibly thousands of years of climate disruption, maybe a new ice age, and on top of that it would take millions of years for the biosphere and ecosystems to recover from mass extinction and find a new balance. So, if we humans plan on surviving, it will be a very long struggle. Thousands of future generations will inherit our mistakes and our mess.

True Costs are ‘Punitive’

I was listening to Coast to Coast AM tonight.

http://www.coasttocoastam.com/show/2011/01/15

The second guest was Eduardo Porter.

http://eduardoporter.com/

He was discussing his book, The Price of Everything.

The price of gas came up. Eduardo Porter mentioned data about the actual cost of gasoline versus the lower price we pay for it. The host, Ian Punnett, said he didn’t like such ‘punitive’ pricing. I’m not sure what Punnett believes about global warming, but I suspect he doesn’t believe in it. Anyway, his reaction annoyed me.

We know we aren’t paying the full cost of the pollution we create through such things as gasoline. This is true in terms of future costs, but the costs of pollution have direct impact on our lives in the present. For example, gas used to have high levels of lead. When the government regulated gas to lower lead levels the violent crime rates decreased. In order to implement such regulation, it does cost us money, but ‘punitive’ is such an odd way to label the attempt to improve the world and avoid negative consequences.

So, it’s ‘punitive’ to pay the costs of the environmental destruction we cause? I suspect future generations will feel our present actions were rather ‘punitive’ towards them if we don’t change our ways. This attitude of socializing costs is just bizarre. Private corporations socialize their costs and losses so that the rest of us have to pay for the economic and environmental problems they cause. In return, we the taxpayers want to socialize the costs toward future generations. It’s a constant shifting of costs that no one wants to take responsibility for. I find such an attitude to be depressing to say the least.

There is only one way I can see that this attitude can be rationalized. Someone like Punnett must believe there never will be any costs or at least nothing we need to worry about. I don’t know if Punnett is a fiscal conservative, but it would seem probable. Fiscal conservatives love laissez-faire ideology and believe that free markets can solve all problems. Such a belief is naive. Maybe future ‘free markets’ will solve the problems we cause in the present, but then again maybe not. Wouldn’t it be easier to just not create the problems in the first place? What advantage is there to destroying the environment only to later on trying to figure out how to fix it again?

Ian Punnett doesn’t seem like a bad guy nor does he seem stupid, but his opinion implies a profound disconnection from reality. He told the author that we can’t know what the true costs are. By doing so, he was dismissing what data we do know. Yes, the data is imperfect, but denying inconvenient data is even worse. How does it make sense to base one’s opinions on an anti-intellectual denial of all known data because one doesn’t like the data? If Punnett had other data that contradicted what the author presented, that would be different. But he offered no data. He just criticized. Punnett apparently was making the argument that, by basing our public policies on the known data, it would be punitive to make people pay for the problems they help cause. Huh!?!

If I was more cynical than I already am, I’d start thinking people like Punnett actually want to destroy the world. Such a disconnection from reality almost seems psychotic. No amount of facts can change this view because this view is based on a mistrust of the facts. It’s a self-enclosed worldview.

It makes me sad.

Boys Adrift

I heard an interview with Dr. Leonard Sax on the radio show Coast to Coast AM. He was discussing his book Boys Adrift. The book focuses on the development of boys, but does so in terms of considering both genders. His basic premise is that for various reasons normal development has been altered in the past generation or so.

The website about this book:
http://www.boysadrift.com/

Here is an excerpt from his book Why Gender Matters and an interview with him on the Today show:
http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/6941270/

The primary problem he sees is the estrogen-like chemicals that leach out of clear plastic bottles. This causes boys to develop slower and not to develop normally, and it causes girls to develop faster. Young men now have majorly decreased levels of testosterone and sperm count than previous generations.

Another major problem is that the school system has tried to treat boys and girls equally in recent decades. Teachers don’t take into account that boys and girls develop differently, and the natural behavior of boys has become unacceptable in schools. To try to calm boys down more like girls, drugs such as ritalin have increasingly been given to boys. This is a twofold problem. Boys are stunted psychologically which is bad enough, but the drugs have long-term consequences on brain development. It causes a part of the brain that relates to motivation to not to fully develop.

So, this means that young men are becoming evermore effeminate and apathetic. Young women are more likely to go to college, get degrees, and get professional careers. Also, with the sexual dynamic messed up, sexual attraction has decreased and along with it so has marriage.

– – –

Dr. Sax talks about many other factors. He does mention porn. Its hard to know what is the cause and what the effect.

Another ‘funny’ thing was that this is affecting wild animals to boot. Large cats have shrinking testicles, and certain male river fish are laying eggs.

As for drug distribution statistics, I don’t know. I haven’t read any of his books. Okay… I just did a search. An article by the National Institute of Health mentioned that boys are 4 times as likely to be diagnosed with ADHD. I can only assume that this means boys are 4 times as likely to be administered Ritalin.

– – –

I don’t sit around worrying about things like this. Either the human species survives or not, but we’re adaptable. Unfortunately, other species aren’t as adaptable as us. Whatever happens, I’m sure (some) life on this planet will continue.

I’ve read about how pollution can also damage DNA. That is even more interesting to think about. If the DNA could be altered within the egg and sperm, then we could have some major alterations to evolution. What Dr. Sax is talking about only directly affects the individual and the problem would disappear once the cause was removed. But changing DNA would be passed on to to the next generation causing permanent change.

In either case, what you call “population control” would apply. This is a basic idea in evolutionary theory, but we’re attempting a grand experiment of the likes nature/evolution has never seen before. Its Cosmic Chess on the planetary level.

Human Stupidity

Humans are strange.  We collectively seem almost incapable of preparing for the future.  We either just react out of fear (such as the War on Terror or War on Drugs, but these are impotent acts that serve no purpose) or we don’t even notice (sometimes actively avoiding aknowledgment of) the real threats.

I hear people arguing about Global Warming.  Its a stupid debate based on ignorance and ideology.  We do know that the global weather is changing.  The reasons are less clear, but that is all the more reason we should be careful.  This is known as the precautionary principle.  We should stop adding massive pollution to the environment not because we know what it does but because we don’t know what it does. 

Anyways, we do know that pollution is bad for us.  If pollution doesn’t lead to climate changes that kills us, then the pollution itself might kill us.  The increase of many diseases such as cancer is probably directly related to pollution.  We look for cures for cancer, but why don’t we look for preventing it at the source?  Is there a reason we want to poison ourselves?  Are we collectively trying to commit suicide?

We could’ve entirely converted to alternative energies decades ago.  Why are we still arguing about alternative energy?  Why don’t we instead invest our best minds in finding a solution?  Pretty much everyone agrees that we’ll run out of oil fairly soon.  Why do humans have to wait until the last moment, until its almost too late before acting?

Also, why are we so careless?  More animals have died because of the Industrial Revolution than from the Ice Age.  Actually, we don’t even know how many species we’ve killed.  Most species have probably gone extinct before they were discovered.

On top of all of this, when Yellowstone blows it will be the biggest volcano in the world.  It would annihalate the whole population of North America and blacken the skies for months across the world.  The magma pocket is overdue for explosion and its been more active recently.

Any single factor is of limited importance.  Climate change isn’t necessarily significant in itself.  However, mutliple factors combined simultaneously could be game-enders for our species.  So, we have massive pollution, massive extinction and ecosystem collapse, massive climate change, and massive volcano.  Instead of increasing the number of possible threats, wouldn’t it be smarter to decrease them?  A Yellowstone explosion would certainly change the global environment and cause widescale species extinction, but we are already doing this to ourselves.  Are we so excited about total annihalation that we can’t wait for nature to do it for us?

If we humans don’t manage to kill ourselves and all of life on Earth, it will be direct evidence of God’s intervention.