Bourgeois society stands at the crossroads, either transition to Socialism or regression into Barbarism.
- Rosa Luxemburg, "Junius Pamphlet" 1916

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

The 2012 Election and Global Climate Change

This is Why We Fight.

 by Greg Rose and Steve McAllister      
Climate change is an irrefutable fact of our time. The monthly average temperature worldwide has been higher than the twentieth century average for 329 straight months. Global annual mean temperatures have broken records in eleven out of the last thirteen years. On August 28, 2012, the polar ice cap was smaller than it has ever been in recorded history.

Earlier this summer, 97% of the ice cover in Greenland was melting. The scientific community is essentially unanimous in its call for immediate and sustained action on the part of the world community to reduce the emission of greenhouse gases, gases that are driving the increasingly calamitous extremes in the Earth’s climate. The U.N.’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change already projects that much of the United States will no longer be arable for food crops by the end of this century if current trends continue.

And to hear the Republican Presidential candidate tell it, nothing is wrong that more oil and coal extraction will not fix.

The contrast between Romney-Ryan and Obama-Biden on recognition of the importance of global climate change could not be sharper. In his acceptance speech at the Republican national convention Mitt Romney flippantly joked about the Democrat’s commitment to address climate change: “President Obama promised to begin to slow the rise of the oceans and heal the planet. MY promise... is to help you and your family."

President Obama, in his acceptance speech at the Democratic national convention, was forthright in identifying the key difference between himself and Romney: “…climate change is not a hoax. More droughts and floods and wildfires are not a joke. They’re a threat to our children’s future. And in this election, you can do something about it.”

The problem is that failure to recognize and take action on global climate dooms billions of working class families here and abroad to poverty, misery, and death as the accumulated environmental disasters which capitalism has engendered continue to raise global temperatures and destabilize global climate patterns with increasing severity. That is the path Mitt Romney has chosen to endorse: superprofits for energy companies, disaster for the rest of us. We need jobs – the jobs a Green New Deal would create -- and Romney offers nothing.

It is not accidental that Romney has abandoned any pretense of scientifically-based policy making since his presidential ambitions loomed. While governor of Massachusetts Romney helped to create a regional cap-and-trade program to start to deal with greenhouse gas emissions; now cap-and-trade is presented by Romney as a plot by Obama to destroy American jobs. As the New York Times recently reported, Romney has hewn toward Republican orthodoxy – climate change denial – since recognizing the need to position himself further to the right to win the nomination. Under the influence of the massively-funded energy industry campaign to deny climate change, Romney’s chosen running mate, Paul Ryan, has been a mouthpiece for those energy industry interests since entering Congress, openly declaring climate change a hoax in a 2009 op ed; Ryan argued that global climate change resulted from "the hyperpoliticization of science" and "the use of statistical tricks to distort... findings and intentionally mislead the public on the issue of climate change."

It is useful to compare the 2012 national platforms of the Republican and Democratic parties on climate change to see just how radically different they are on this issue. The Republican platform mentions climate change only once in a paragraph laden with sarcasm about President Obama’s elevation of the issue to a major national security concern:

…the strategy subordinates our national security interests to environment, energy, and international health issues, and elevates "climate change" to the level of a "severe threat" equivalent to foreign aggression. The word "climate," in fact, appears in the current President's strategy more often than Al-Qaeda, nuclear proliferation, radical Islam, or weapons of mass destruction. (p. 40)

On the other hand, the Democratic platform addresses the issue with an appropriate seriousness:

We know that global climate change is one of the biggest threats of this generation -- an economic, environmental, and national security catastrophe in the making. We affirm the science of climate change, commit to significantly reducing the pollution that causes climate change, and know we have to meet this challenge by driving smart policies that lead to greater growth in clean energy generation and result in a range of economic and social benefits.

President Obama has been a leader on this issue. We have developed historic fuel efficiency standards that will limit greenhouse gas emissions from our vehicles for the first time in history, made unprecedented investments in clear energy, and proposed the first-ever carbon pollution limits for new fossil-fuel-fired power plants. As we move towards lower carbon emissions, we ill continue to support smart, energy efficient manufacturing. Democrats pledge to continue showing international leadership on climate change, working toward an agreement to set emission limits in unison with other emerging powers. Democrats will continue pursuing efforts to combat climate change at home as well, because reducing our emissions domestically -- through regulation and market solutions -- is necessary to continue being an international leader on this issue. We understand that global climate change may disproportionately affect the poor, and we are committed to environmental justice....

Our opponents have moved so far to the right as to doubt the science of climate change, advocate the selling of our federal lands, and threaten to roll back environmental protections that safeguard public health. They leaders deny the benefits of the Clean Air and Clean Water Acts -- benefits like job creation, health, and the prevention of tens of thousands of premature deaths each year….

The national security threat from climate change is real, urgent, and severe. The change wrought by a warming planet will lead to new conflicts over refugees and resources; new suffering from drought and famine; catastrophic natural disasters; and the degradation of vital ecosystems across the globe.... [W]e will continue to champion sustainable growth that includes the clean energy that creates green jobs and combats climate change. (pp. 59-68)

The Romney-Ryan energy plan makes the implications of this difference clear. In this the Republicans demands an end to environmental regulation of fossil fuels extraction, puts forward a plan which amounts to little more than “drill, baby, drill” everywhere, and fails to mention even once the importance of global climate change or the relationship between fossil fuels and climate change. In the Romney-Ryan world climate change is a mad scientist’s fantasy. But the Romney-Ryan energy plan is based on an oil-imperialist’s fantasy: the Republican plan explicitly bases its clam to achieve “energy independence” by expropriating Canada’s oil reserves and abrogating the Mexican constitution to seize its reserves. What they call “North American” energy independence is unremitting dependence on energy monopolies controlling the resources of our neighbors at bayonet point if need be. Even at that, the looming intersection of peak oil and climate change is ignored completely, and nature will not allow the bayonets of American imperialism to hold that crisis indefinitely at bay.

By contrast, while the Obama administration’s plans embodied in the 2011 Blueprint for a Secure Energy Future did not go nearly as far as progressive advocates and climate scientists would have preferred, and the interim report, issued a year later, does not make enough progress even on the modest agenda of 2011, it still represents hugely more progress – and more movement in the right direction – than any Romney administration could conceivably accomplish. This is particularly true in that for the Republican Party climate change is the crisis that dares not speak its name.

While the Obama administration is still emphasizing increasing U.S. petroleum and natural gas supplies rather than embracing a full Green New Deal to transition beyond fossil fuel dependence and create the hundreds of thousands of jobs such a New Deal would entail, it is embracing stricter regulation of fossil fuel extraction, funding development of next generation fuel technologies, and energy markets as well as promoting the 54.5 mpg standard for fuel economy by 2025.

Romney’s response is “My view is that we don’t know what’s causing climate change on this planet.”

We need jobs, jobs created by non-fossil-fuel technologies, jobs created by a national campaign to weatherize all buildings in this country to higher, more fuel-efficient standards. We are not going to get those jobs with a Romney administration.

With the situation presented by a reelected Obama administration, organizing science, organized labor, broad sectors of American working people, and elements of the ruling class who can see that climate change dooms humanity to take decisive action – the wide popular front we are precisely building in our electoral strategy – we will have set the stage for the next level of struggle: the struggle to create full employment and defeat the energy monopolists. No one claims that an Obama administration will not have to be goaded by mass action to take the necessary steps to enact the Green New Deal and other measures which meeting the challenge of climate change necessarily entails.

But a Romney administration, propelled by the pseudo-scientific know-nothingism of the ultraright, will present progressives with a stunning retrenchment and place working people entirely on the defensive at a time when we most need to be moving forward to confront the crisis of global climate change.

This is what is at stake in the 2012 election.

This is why we fight.

Steven McAllister is chair of the Climate Change Working Group of the Communist Party USA.
Greg Rose is a member of the Climate Change Working Group of the Communist Party USA.

Originally posted at Political Affairs

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

This is what peak oil looks like

A Chevron refinery burns in
Richmond, CA on August 6, 2012.
Lance Iverson, AP

A California oil refinery burst into flames yesterday, and it's telling that the majority of articles on the subject don't even pause to talk about injuries or fatalities (few and none, as far as I can tell) before speculating on the effect this will have on gas prices.

They're right to be concerned, evidently:

"Watching the national average rise since last week, one might have expected war broke out in the Middle East or a major hurricane shutting down production, neither of which happened, yet gasoline prices spiked." -Patrick DeHaan, senior petroleum analyst for the price watch websites run by, emphasis mine.

Yes, these spikes in prices are caused by lapses in refining capacity, and not supply of crude oil per se, yet there was a time when there were sufficient stockpiles of fuel in the petroleum production chain that hiccups in refining were smoothed out before disrupting the fuel supply. And yet according to the LA Times, California's stocks of gas and diesel are down 14.7% and 13.7% from this time last year. Any interruption of fuel delivery, whether due to burst pipelines or damaged refineries, is now being immediately felt at the pump. Like a diabetic whose blood sugar just crashed.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

New Foundations

Good morning folks! Hopefully not too many of you have removed this blog from your RSS feeds (people still use those, right?), because I'm rebooting Seldon's Gate. When Kir'Shara decided to take a step back from the project, he was the only regular contributor, and so naturally expected to be turning out the lights on the way out. He offered me the chance to continue the work, though, and I figured it was time to make good on my promise to myself that I would post more.

Maybe now, as the driver, I won't be able to make any more excuses!

When Kir'Shara founded this blog, he drew his inspiration from a series of novels written by Isaac Asimov. The Foundation series recounts the fall of an interstellar empire, predicted by a mathematician who develops a model for the behavior of human societies that is accurate at large scales, although prone to error at small scales--ironically similar to climate change models. Foreseeing the collapse of his society, Hari Seldon founded a group of individuals called the Foundation whose purpose was to preserve the collected knowledge of humanity, and to work to ameliorate the effects of the collapse, because preventing it had become impossible.

Sound familiar?

John Michael Greer, of the Archdruid Report, states accurately that what we face is a not a problem (problems have solutions), but rather a predicament, a situation that must be endured, that requires adaptation rather than solution. I think that Seldon's Gate has done an excellent job chronicling the continuing catabolic collapse of our industrial society, step by step and stone by stone, in the face of escalating energy costs and climate change. Anybody who reads through our archives will see the inescapable pattern of current events, drawn in strokes both broad and subtle by Kir'Shara. With my turn in the driver's seat, I'd like to turn out attention to building our own Foundation, to action in the face of this slow disaster we now know so well.

For we are not powerless. Yes, climate change will almost certainly exceed 4° C, and the trail off of fossil fuel production will result in inevitable and painful contraction of the world's industrial economy. But we need not watch it all fall down around our ears; even facing an unstoppable catastrophe with inadequate resources and ineffective leadership, the crew of the Titanic still saved a third of the people on that doomed ship. With luck, we can do better.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

End of line: Seldon's Gate, signing off

Santa Cruz County, Arizona, June 1972.
Photo by U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
Preserved and stored by
the National Archives and Records Administration
of the United  States.

To quote the less than memorable near-final words of Captain James T. Kirk: it was fun. Except for when it wasn't. Life is like that.

This blog has come to an end. I might leave it up for a while, although I don't really know why. The number of regular readers has dropped to about two. The words fall in the woods and no one hears them, so for practical purposes they don't exist.

Not that they should. Somewhere along the line I lost my voice. Maybe that's not a bad thing. There is a time to keep silence, and a time to speak.

Or listen to voices that aren't mine, until I remember again how to write something that's true. And worth listening to for a while.

From Ursula K. LeGuin:

   Only in silence the word
   Only in dark the light
   Only in dying life
   Bright the hawk's flight
   On the empty sky

From the Joss Whedon that was, before The Avengers:

   You can't take the sky from me.

From memory: the ones who are lost. Maybe part of a voice to be found, now that the old one is dead.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Things to come, in voices of the ghosts

Click the above to hear a 15 minute audio recording of various radio broadcasts from the Second World War. They cover roughly the second half of 1941. During this period, Hitler invaded the Soviet Union and Japan attacked the United States at Pearl Harbor. And the American arsenal of democracy began gearing up -- not only to annihilate the Axis governments but to achieve military dominance over the entire planet. That dominance continues to this day.

Radio broadcasts from 1941 chronicle the passage that resulted, of a whole civilization into a history-wrenching storm. There have been many such storms in the time of the human species on Earth. Few affected every human being in existence immediately, all at the same time. The fall of the Romans, for example, did not immediately unleash its consequences upon the cultures across the Atlantic. It took a thousand years for those consequences to unfold, in the genocidal gunfire and plagues brought by the ships of the Roman successor states, which one historian called "the Mongols of the sea."

The Second World War was different than the earlier storms, because it unfolded in the period when human civilization had become a single, world-spanning entity. Still divided culturally, but increasingly integrated by technology and economics, to a degree never before imagined. The war brought a global maelstorm that immediately affected the lives of almost every society on Earth.

The radio archives of that period give an unmatched sense of the drama and reality of world-shaking events now regarded as dull facts to be memorized by school children preparing for Leave Our Child Behind. Or: to be used as mythology, justifying choices made today, by people with the power over war and peace.

The broadcasts are useful not only as a reminder of things past. They can give us a harbinger of what it will be like when the current crisis of planetary ecology finally breaks in its full fury upon the global culture that required 200,000 years to make. There will be anxious voices in the air, with tidings of the unimaginable made real and loss too great to bear and readiness for a stand.

Sunday, June 3, 2012

The largest fire in New Mexico history: year 2

Gila National Forest, New Mexico, May 25, 2012

For the second year running, a wildfire in the forests of New Mexico has become the largest ever in the history of the state. The Whitewater-Baldy Fire Complex, the firefighters call this year's epic foreshadowing of Wyrmwood. It has burned an area of the state larger than New York City and shows no sign of slowing down. The entire American West faces another inferno summer of horizon spanning flame, with record forest fires expected as the region enters a period of long-term drought.

Meanwhile, government officials and business leaders, near from the smoke or far, routinely assume that disappearing water supplies, incinerated ecosystems, and accelerating climate change will naturally fail to hinder their plans for indefinite expansion of cities, commerce, and population.

Congress, for its part, stands ready to implement budget cuts that will shrink national firefighting resources in the face of drastic increases in fires. Funding for carrier battle groups, counter-insurgency troops, and drone armadas may or may not be subject to cuts of their own.

The lead story on Yahoo News declares: "Diff'rent Strokes star to divorce." Young amateur baseball players in towns gutted by WalMart prepare for the major league draft. Superheroes on screens made of silver save New York from an alien armada thousands of times before the weekend is done. And, we are told by the grave intoning of a foreign policy web site, that Obama's drone war has not gone far enough.

Toward Bethlehem, to be born.

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Ecocatastrophe and the final frontier: 2312, by Kim Stanley Robinson

I haven't read it yet, but one of my top items for scheduled summer reading is the new science fiction novel 2312, by Kim Stanley Robinson. Robinson is best known for the novels of his Mars trilogy, which trace human settlement of the Red Planet through the early twenty third century.

Thinking about today's global ecological crisis, my working assumption has been that climate change and resource depletion will put a permanent end to space travel sometime in the next few centuries, and possibly in this one. It's hard for me to imagine how the coming permanent exhaustion of fossil fuels and strategic minerals would permit future societies to build the massive, energy-intensive, raw-material-hogging infrastructure necessary to launch and sustain human colonization of the solar system. The virtual inevitability of runaway climate change and ecosystem collapse, it seems to me, seal the coffin even more tightly on dreams of future space colonization. Thus, over the last decade I came to believe that the future Robinson described in his Mars books was just about as feasible as traveling to Middle Earth.

2312, apparently, stands for the proposition that I'm wrong. Which, frankly, would make me very happy. From perusing various reviews, I can tell that Robinson's book postulates a near-collapse of civilization in the twenty first century, thanks to the various eco-horrors I just referenced. But in KSR's future, space colonization gets underway even so. By the early twenty fourth century, human societies are well-established throughout the Solar System, from Mercury to the asteroid belt and outer planets. From what I can tell, Earth itself remains a broiling, desert-wrapped hell hole of super-storms and rising oceans, embroiled in its ancient plagues of racism, hierarchy, and violence. But humans on other worlds flourish, branching out into new pathways of cultural experimentation -- and technology-enhanced biological and cybernetic evolution.

That's a long winded way to say I'm going to buy this book and scrutinize the underlying assumptions about how its imagined future polities and cultures came to be and how space travel enabled humanity to transcend the ecological devastation of its home planet. This intention of mine creates some personal irony, because the author once told me (in a face-to-face interview that I incompetently and unforgivably never managed to publish) that he did not intend his books to be read in this fashion. In so many words, he said that the technological and social speculation in his novels are simply stagecraft, not to be taken as academic commentary, serving strictly dramatic purposes. They are not the point of his books. They simply enable him to tell stories about interesting characters. And so they do, and so the characters are. But I can't help but read his books for my own purposes, even so.

My purpose is to imagine the future not of individual, imaginary characters but of our species as a whole. For some reason, it is emotionally important to me to imagine that the possible future histories of humanity that might unfold after my death are not uniformly apocalyptic. A human future out among the stars has always been part of those dreams. It's my own personal religion, and I seem to need it (not by bread alone). Perhaps especially now. One year of law school has left me, to be frank, desolate. Emotionally, spiritually, intellectually, and in all other ways empty. I've been to that place many times, in a lifelong cycle between hope and despondency. Somehow my esoteric personal religion always helps the cycle return to hope, along the trails through imaginary worlds and all the wonders that could be.

One more time.

* * * * *

Early reviews of KSR's book are positive, hinting at greatness. One of my favorites is here.

Thursday, May 31, 2012

Long time passing: NASA on the fate of the Milky Way

NASA simulation of future night sky on Earth.

Data from NASA's Hubble space telescope reveals that the Milky Way and Andromeda galaxies will collide with each other, beginning about 4 billion years from now. The two galaxies will merge into one, over the course of the subsequent three billion years. By which time, Earth will have been swallowed by its aging red giant sun.

The night sky in the few million years before the collision will look like the picture above, according to NASA. The swirl of light is the Andromeda galaxy, filling our sky, stretched by gravitational forces to a much different shape.

Whether through evolution or catastrophe, human beings won't be around to see the sight. But we imagined it, in the time we had.

None of which has anything to do with ecological crisis or the other topics of this blog. Except maybe in the broad, philosophical sense. Nothing lasts forever. Not the stars, or the sky, or those who look up.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

A million moving north, forever: CBS News on the impact of climate change

The video linked above is a two-minute editorial by M.A. Sanjayan, chief climate scientist at The Nature Conservancy. Sanjayan's piece ran recently on The CBS Evening News.

It's a great example of how to make the most of a visual medium to convey complex scientific information quickly. I could quibble with aspects of Sanjayan's commentary, but overall I found it an effective message for a general audience. If mainstream media organizations like CBS ran this sort of piece more often, such a steady stream of information might eventually begin to influence the dynamics of public opinion and political debate on climate change.

For now, that's not the case. Eventually, though, physical reality will become too great deny. The way our society talks about climate and the future will begin to change, because in the end physical reality can't be ignored. Perpetual motion machines don't work. Perpetual attempts to believe in a free lunch come to naught. Unending insistence that the weather isn't changing will be defeated by the manifest changing of the weather. The passing of summer into autumn can't be willed away. The change in the air becomes too great not to notice, and so too the change in color of the leaves. People notice, and stories that the change is all a great lie will become not credible. So too with the stories that the change is limited, something we can control, nothing we haven't seen before, no cause here for alarm. Past a certain point, as the trees go bare and the skies turn gray and the snows begin to arrive on the wind, the stories of endless summer become ludicrous.

Things that can't go on, don't.

For now, the denial continues. The insistence on normalcy prevails. But the weather is changing, a harbinger of the new era, coming inevitably but we known not when. Perhaps soon.

Sanjayan's commentary hints at the scale of what's happening already. My favorite anecdote from his report is about Texas. Withering under a brutal drought that shows no sign of ending, ranchers in the broiling dead plains of the Texas interior have begun sending their cattle north. One million head of cattle, Sanjayan relates, have now left the state for literally greener pastures, over the horizon to the north. Those cattle, he notes, will not be back.

A harbinger. Eventually, human beings living in the great arid, dying expanses of the American Southwest will face the same choice.

* * * * *

The question remains, haunting like a spirit: what are we going to do? What happens when an ending is preordained, as catastrophic, planet-reshaping climate change has now become? When multiple related catastrophes stemming from human energy and expansion are arriving at the same time?

In the face of such an outcome, perhaps a certain kind of denial is to be expected. Maybe even welcomed. Individual human lives must face the reality that each life will end. Human beings have always found a way to exist with this knowledge, for as long as they've been on the Earth. We live in foreknowledge of death. And we go on with life anyway. Loving each other, or losing ourselves in petty conflicts, doing something to pass the time. Until the time is no more.

Our civilization flatters itself that it has transcended the limits faced by human individuals. Human beings die, we say, but human civilization will continue, evolving and expanding forever. Outliving the limits once imposed by the Darwinian constraints of life on the Earth.

Except the harbingers tell us this isn't true. What now? Some communities have begun searching for answers. Sub-cultures devoted to simpler living speak of living within limits, adapting to the age beyond abundance. Some of the technical specialists who supervise the infrastructure of a global civilization quietly confer on what it will mean to face a multi-meter sea level rise; or annual weather patterns where the storm of the century happens every year in a hundred places and more; or water supplies ancient beyond reckoning have simply gone away.

What are we going to do? Almost two years since I started to write here and I still don't know. No one does, really. But in some places, the answers are sought.

For now, that will have to be enough.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

An economy that works -- without "jobs"

Cleveland, Ohio, home of the Evergreen Cooperatives.
.From Wikimedia Commons

From Frank Joyce, President of the Michigan Coalition for Human Rights, an argument that widespread, permanent unemployment in America is creating a new underground economy based on new forms of labor and production.

Examples are to be found, Joyce points out, in old Rust Belt cities like Detroit.
The stark reality is that the problems are structural and cumulative. The old job system isn’t coming back to Detroit. Ever. The stark reality is that Detroit is not some one-off fluke. Detroit is just the canary in the coal mine. Virtually every dynamic that was in play in Detroit over the last several decades is now at work planet wide. Paralyzed “leadership”; persistent racism; and growing inequalities of wealth, income and power and shrinking democracy aren’t just features of Detroit. They apply to the nation and many other places throughout the world.  
Help from the system that is failing is definitely not on the way. All the superficial debates about high taxes or low taxes, individual mandates or no individual mandates, big government or small government, contraception or no contraception will not put Humpty Dumpty together again.  
For many this is understandably both depressing and disorienting. But for others it is liberating. “Solutionaries” are creating a different kind of economy. There may be no jobs, but there's plenty of work to be done. Victimology is not welcome here.  
Since a Reimagining Work conference held in Detroit last fall, new economy energy and enthusiasm have intensified. There are growing efforts in food production and distribution, education, media, supporting the formerly incarcerated, transportation, community policing and manufacturing. 
Wright describes the emergence of worker-owned cooperatives as a key response to poverty and the disintegration of the conventional economy. Wright points to Cleveland's Evergreen Cooperatives as a notable example. They're a pilot project launched by universities, hospitals, and non-profits in Cleveland, with help from the city. Only a few dozen people work there for now, but the participants hope the project will offer a model for future work programs that can be scaled up. 

Since there is likely never going to be a second New Deal, or anything close, people have to help themselves locally. Models for how to do that exist. They will be needed as the corporate-dominated mainstream economy continues to leave more and more Americans behind.  

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Drought slashes Mexico food production 40 percent

Drought relief station, Chihuahua, Mexico, April 2012
From New America Media

From Climate Progress, citing Latin American sources:

While the Texas drought has gotten much of the attention in this country, what has happened in Mexico is equally devastating. Since Mexico is projected to suffer even worse warming-driven Dust-Bowlification in the coming decades — and that will certainly have consequences for the United States — it’s worth looking in a little more depth at what’s happening to our neighbor to the south:
The severe drought affecting 22 of Mexico’s 32 states has caused a 40 percent drop in agricultural production, opening the way for food shortages over the next few months, the National Peasants Confederation, or CNC, said….
The drought has ravaged Indian communities, destroying crops and forcing thousands of peasants to leave their ancestral lands and head to the cities.
“As of last November, corn production was at barely 42 percent of the volume projected for 2011, and bean production was only 41 percent,” CNC president Gerardo Sanchez said.
Corn and beans are staples in the Mexican diet and shortages could lead to speculation, sending the prices of these commodities soaring, the CNC said.
“Of the 4.2 million people who fell into food poverty from 2008 to 2010, nearly 75 percent (about 3 million)” live in rural areas, the CNC said.

Species extinction foreshadows threat to human food supply

Honey bee at work, from Wikimedia Commons.

According to the 2007 Fourth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, current models suggest that at least 40 percent of species in nature will be driven extinct by the year 2100 at our current emissions pace (to four degrees Celsius or more above pre-industrial levels).

From Grist and the Pesticide Action Network, an example of how the loss of a single species can threaten the viability of an entire sector of human agriculture.

Although news about Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD) has died down, commercial beekeepers have seen average population losses of about 30 percent each year since 2006, said Paul Towers, of the Pesticide Action Network. Towers was one of the organizers of a conference that brought together beekeepers and environmental groups this week to tackle the challenges facing the beekeeping industry and theagricultural economy by proxy.
“We are inching our way toward a critical tipping point,” said Steve Ellis, secretary of the National Honey Bee Advisory Board (NHBAB) and a beekeeper for 35 years. Last year he had so many abnormal bee die-offs that he’ll qualify for disaster relief from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA).
In addition to continued reports of CCD — a still somewhat mysterious phenomenon in which entire bee colonies literally disappear, alien-abduction style, leaving not even their dead bodies behind — bee populations are suffering poor health in general, and experiencing shorter life spans and diminished vitality. And while parasites, pathogens, and habitat loss can deal blows to bee health, research increasingly points to pesticides as the primary culprit.

Friday, May 11, 2012

Hansen on national climate policy

New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina, September 11, 2005
From U.S. National Weather Service.

From yesterday's New York Times, James Hansen, director of the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies, on what the correct overall approach to a national climate change policy would look like:

We need to start reducing emissions significantly, not create new ways to increase them. We should impose a gradually rising carbon fee, collected from fossil fuel companies, then distribute 100 percent of the collections to all Americans on a per-capita basis every month. The government would not get a penny. This market-based approach would stimulate innovation, jobs and economic growth, avoid enlarging government or having it pick winners or losers. Most Americans, except the heaviest energy users, would get more back than they paid in increased prices. Not only that, the reduction in oil use resulting from the carbon price would be nearly six times as great as the oil supply from the proposed pipeline from Canada, rendering the pipeline superfluous, according to economic models driven by a slowly rising carbon price. 

But instead of placing a rising fee on carbon emissions to make fossil fuels pay their true costs, leveling the energy playing field, the world’s governments are forcing the public to subsidize fossil fuels with hundreds of billions of dollars per year. This encourages a frantic stampede to extract every fossil fuel through mountaintop removal, longwall mining, hydraulic fracturing, tar sands and tar shale extraction, and deep ocean and Arctic drilling. 

President Obama speaks of a “planet in peril,” but he does not provide the leadership needed to change the world’s course.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

IMF study acknowledges peak oil as energy factor for next decade

Fawley Oil Refinery, United Kingdom. December 17, 2005
From Wikimedia Commons.

A report published under the auspices of the International Monetary Fund concedes that geological conditions will have an influence on the future price and availability of oil, possibly in the next decade. The report does not represent the views of the IMF, only the authors. But it is another indication that talking openly about physical limits on oil supply, rather than assuming they will expand indefinitely for all time to meet all human needs, is no longer taboo in mainstream circles.

The abstract of the report:

We discuss and reconcile two diametrically opposed views concerning the future of world oil production and prices. The geological view expects that physical constraints will dominate the future evolution of oil output and prices. It is supported by the fact that world oil production has plateaued since 2005 despite historically high prices, and that spare capacity has been near historic lows. The technological view of oil expects that higher oil prices must eventually have a decisive effect on oil output, by encouraging technological solutions. It is supported by the fact that high prices have, since 2003, led to upward revisions in production forecasts based on a purely geological view. We present a nonlinear econometric model of the world oil market that encompasses both views. The model performs far better than existing empirical models in forecasting oil prices and oil output out of sample. Its point forecast is for a near doubling of the real price of oil over the coming decade. The error bands are wide, and reflect sharply differing judgments on ultimately recoverable reserves, and on future price elasticities of oil demand and supply.

Monday, May 7, 2012

ABC news: journalists and scientists increasingly see climate change as existential threat to civilization

"Apocalypse," by Albert Goodwin, 1903.
From ABC reporter Bill Blakemore:

Global warming’s “risk to the collective civilization” (meaning global civilization) has been continually spoken of in secret or unofficial or private conversations among engaged climate scientists and government and policy leaders around the world.

Such terms — catastrophe, threat to civilization itself — have been commonplace in carefully worded private discussions among peer-reviewed experts that this reporter and other journalists have often experienced and sometimes engaged in.

Careful not to prompt destructive panic, nor to lose credibility, responsible experts have been careful to temper their public depictions of what the world’s climate science has been revealing about the worst effects — if humanity does not handle the problem immediately — of the rapid climatic and oceanic changes already under way.

But clearly, with so enormous and inclusive a truth as this one, the proven details of which are widely available to anyone with access to the Internet, “the truth will out, we see it day by day,” as English poet Geoffrey Chaucer wrote long ago.

And so, inevitably, experts and leaders around the world are beginning to be more open about the frightening prospects.

However, in doing so, they are also beginning to demonstrate how to hug this monster — to embrace the fear it instills. They need to have done so to speak with credibility...

As a growing number of professional journalists around the world are finding, the story of manmade global warming (and the other evil twin of excess carbon emissions, the rapid acidification of the oceans) is unprecedented in its scale, almost “too big to cover,” and frightening.

But there are now signs that, little by little, voices and personalities are beginning to emerge around the world who are starting to hug this monster, manage the fear, and turning the emotions it causes into action.

NSF study: biodiversity loss drives plant destruction

Wildfire near Los Alamos, New Mexico, June 28, 2011
Courtesy of Washington Post.

From a National Science Foundation press release on an NSF-supported study published in Nature:

"This analysis establishes that reduced biodiversity affects ecosystems at levels comparable to those of global warming and air pollution," said Henry Gholz, program director in the National Science Foundation's Division of Environmental Biology, which funded the research directly and through the National Center for Ecological Analysis and Synthesis. 
"Some people have assumed that biodiversity effects are relatively minor compared to other environmental stressors," said biologist David Hooper of Western Washington University, the lead author of the paper. 
"Our results show that future loss of species has the potential to reduce plant production just as much as global warming and pollution." 
Studies over the last two decades demonstrated that more biologically diverse ecosystems are more productive.
As a result, there has been growing concern that the very high rates of modern extinctions--due to habitat loss, overharvesting and other human-caused environmental changes--could reduce nature's ability to provide goods and services such as food, clean water and a stable climate...
"Loss of biological diversity due to species extinctions is going to have major effects on our planet, and we need to prepare ourselves to deal with them," said ecologist Bradley Cardinale of the University of Michigan, one of the paper's co-authors. "These extinctions may well rank as one of the top five drivers of global change."

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Global cooling by realpolitik: what effective international climate action would look like

Crack in Pine Island glacier, West Antarctic Ice Sheet, October  26, 2011
From Wikimedia Commons

From Paul Gilding, green business leader and former CEO of Greenpeace, and Jorgen Rogers, co-author of the 1972 Club of Rome report The Limits to Growth, we have a 2009 paper entitled "The One Degree War Plan." It describes in some detail what kind of action would be necessary to hold global temperature rise to one degree Celsius above pre-industrial levels by 2100.

PDF download is available here. An excerpt:

Clearly agreement to a One Degree War Plan is hard to imagine in today’s world. However in both WWII and the current financial crisis, there are clear examples of how
fast things can change and how strong opposition and resistance can quickly evaporate. In the case of WWII the speed of response by the US was quite extraordinary. For example, whereas in 1940, defence spending was just 1.6% of the economy (measured as GDP), within three years it had increased to 32%, and by 1945 to 37%. But the GDP increased itself by 75% in that time, making the observed increases even more extraordinary. The war effort demonstrated a tenfold increase in (inflation adjusted) dollars spent in just the 4 years from 1941 and 1945. Similarly extraordinary political decisions were made to take control of the economy. For example just 4 days after the bombing of Pearl Harbour, the auto industry was ordered to cease production of civilian vehicles. 

So it can be done, if we ever decide to act. But how will it be done? It is unlikely that the One Degree War will result from a universal global agreement. More likely a small
number of powerful countries, a kind of “Coalition of the Cooling”, will decide to act and then others will follow. Some will follow in order to align with the major powers, and some under military, economic and diplomatic pressure. In a technical sense this process is quite easy. A full 50 % of global climate gas emissions will be covered if 3 “countries” (China, US and EU-27) agree to act. If we add another 4 countries (Russia, India, Japan, and Brazil) the coalition will control 67 % of global emissions.
So the issue is not humanity’s capacity to act, but the conditions being such that humanity decides to act. This will be when it is broadly accepted that the threat posed by not acting is greater than the threats posed by strongly acting.

Core to our argument therefore, is that the physical momentum for change in the climate system is now so strong that it is inevitable the public view will change. This is because physical reality will overcome the current and proposed attempts at adaptationand mitigation, which are, relative to the problem, feeble and certain to create little impact. When the dominant view becomes that climate change threatens the viability of civilisation and the collapse of the global economy, a crisis response will rapidly follow. Then society’s framework will change from “what is politically possible” to Churchill’s “what is necessary”. 
While we contend this transition is inevitable, the timing is certainly debatable. It is our view that these conditions will emerge before 2020. For planning purposes, we are assuming 2018. 

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Citizens Climate Lobby

Last night, I attended an interesting talk by Mark Reynolds, executive director of a group called the Citizens Climate Lobby. The Eugene/Springfield Solidarity Network, an alliance of labor unions and community groups, is trying to get a chapter of that group started here in the Eug.

The CCL is a lobbying group, with an interesting take on the process; rather than fund-raise to pay professional lobbyists to campaign for climate change action on the Hill, they train citizens to lobby members of congress from their own states and districts. The idea is that, by putting organized and coordinated pressure on politicians, directly from members of their constituencies, it is possible to go toe-to-toe with the sort of immense monetary resources fossil fuel lobbies can throw into the fight. I'm dubious about that, since I'm infinitely cynical about how congresspersons are bought and paid for, but the CCL has won some encouraging victories in state level battles.

Currently, they are advocating for H.R. 3242, the "Save Our Climate Act," introduced to the House by Pete Stark (D-CA) last October. The act would initiate a "carbon fee and dividend" mechanism, whereby producers or importers of fossil fuels pay a flat fee per ton of potential green house gasses that fuel would emit when burned (in terms of CO2 equivalents); 100% of the proceeds from this fee, initially proposed to be $15 per ton CO2 equivalent, would be passed on to US citizens as a dividend. This will supposedly offset the increase in energy costs for about 2/3 of US families, and will reduce the consumption of fossil fuels by making alternative sources more competitive. It's an interesting approach, less likely to be abused by the tertiary economy than "cap and trade" systems that SCREAM for speculation. It still does nothing to directly force the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions, though, and the CCL bases their alternative power scenarios on a study by Marc Jacobson of Stanford University that they claim shows that alternative power sources can fully replace fossil fuels in the modern industrial economy. I think that is entirely too optimistic, but I'm not familiar with Jacobson's work. Expect an analysis of that study in another post soon!

Regardless of my reservations, the CCL is a rapidly growing, grass-roots climate initiative that refuses to give up on a governmental intervention on the climate change predicament. And most impressive to me is this quote from their website:

Most impressive is the work of the Citizens Climate Lobby, a relatively new, fastgrowing, nonpartisan, nonprofit group with 46 chapters across the United States and Canada. If you want to join the fight to save the planet, to save creation for your grandchildren, there is no more effective step you could take than becoming an active member of this group. - Dr. James Hansen
Dr. Hansen is arguably the foremost world expert on the science of climate change, and he has been fighting out fight for over 25 years. If his praise for the Citizens Climate Lobby is that luminescent, I'll be paying attention to them, and I recommend that you do so as well!

Friday, April 27, 2012

Field reports from a catastrophe, continuing

Arctic Ocean, 2008.

A non-random sampling of recent scientific findings on climate change.

* * * * *

1) New evidence of methane outgassing from the Arctic Ocean, apparently from supersaturated methane in the surface waters being freed by ice breakup. See E.A. Kort, et al, "Atmospheric observations of Arctic Ocean methane emissions up to 82° north, " Nature Geoscience (April 22, 2012). The article is behind a subscription wall, but see this summary in Scientific American. Methane traps far greater quantities of heat in the atmosphere than carbon dioxide, making it a more potent greenhouse gas. It falls out of the atmosphere more quickly. But there is a vast storehouse of it in the Arctic Ocean and permafrost. 

2) Evidence is accumulating of possible methane emissions from the Arctic Ocean floor, as opposed to the supersaturated methane near the surface. Large sea floor methane releases appear to be underway, but whether they are a recent event caused by human activity or a natural phenomenon has not been established. Scientists involved in the research believe an abrupt, massive release of Arctic methane on the order of 50 gigatons is possible in our lifetime. This would represent an approximately 12-fold increase in total atmospheric methane levels, virtually guaranteeing a dramatic escalation of global temperature increase. 

3) New evidence of accelerating melt of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet, driven by warming ocean temperatures resulting from anthropogenic climate change. See H.D. Pritchard et al, "Antarctic ice sheet loss driven by basal melting of ice shelves, " Nature (April 25, 2012). Commentary on the implications from the Center for American Progress. The eventual breakup of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet will commit the planet to a long term sea level rise of about 10 feet. The collapse of the Greenland Ice Sheet, also under stress, will add another 10. 

4) Barring that eventuality, research by NASA indicates that global sea levels are currently on pace to rise about one foot by 2050. See E Rignot, et al., "Acceleration of the contributions of the Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets to sea level rise," Geophysical Research Letters (March 4, 2011). 

5) The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency cites research by the Federal Emergency Management Agency, estimating that a one foot rise in sea level will cause an annual increase in storm damage to U.S. coastal areas of 36-58 percent. 

6) A new suite of multi-model climate projections sees a near certainty that global temperatures will increase by a minimum of one degree Celsius by 2050, with a much higher than anticipated 15% chance that global temperatures by 2050 will rise three degrees Celsius. See I. Held, "Climate science: constraints on the high end," Nature (March 25, 2012). Two degrees Celsius is currently regarded as extremely dangerous, creating high probabilities of widespread ecosystem disruption, extreme weather, ice sheet breakup, food shortages, fresh water depletion, and climate-driven disease outbreaks.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Towards a movement of green Reds.

Hey folks,

Sorry for my long hiatus! I've been AWOL around here for the last six months or so, but not because I've grown discouraged with activism surrounding the Long Emergency. Far from it! In addition to my usual rabbling with my trade union, I've been working on a new project, which is now reaching a level where I can go public with it. And you heard it here first!

 If you've read much of my writing here on Seldon's Gate, you know that my biggest concerns about peak oil and climate change are a lack of community activism addressing both, and the complete absence of serious conversation about EITHER in political circles. So, as fall descended into an unseasonably warm winter here in Oregon, I discovered a leftist organization of old standing, with great organizing resources and enthusiasm, concerned with the plight of the working class and long a proponent of sensible environmental policy. An organization with a history of embracing ideas before their time, even when they are unpopular, their proponents labeled crazy or worse. An organization with resources and activists to throw into the fight to help our communities prepare for the coming storms, if someone is willing to make an effort to bring it to their attention.

That's right, folks, I joined the Communist Party. And I've spent the last six months yelling about peak oil and climate change at the top of my lungs. And comrades are listening.

Over the next few months, I'll be talking more about efforts to get peak oil and climate change into the broader conversation, through coalition building between the political chops of the Party and the knowledge and experience of community resilience activists. For now, here's a link* to a video that my activist club has put together over the past couple of months, a video version of a talk I gave to some fellow Communists back in January, which was the genesis of the broader project I'm working on now.

It's about an hour long, but in it I make an effort to completely and succinctly summarize the findings of the United Nations' Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, in a format accessible to to as many people as possible. My hope is that anyone, after watching the video, will have a strong basic understanding of the science behind climate change projections, because scientific literacy is the only weapon we have against the lies and half-truths told by our corporate masters. I also introduce Peak Oil to an audience that probably hasn't heard about it, perhaps even OF it, and lay out in the broadest possible terms some of the concerns my co-bloggers, especially Kir'Shara, have dissected with such precision since the founding of this blog.

This is still a work in progress; there's still some polishing to do, and the IPCC recently released another report that I have yet to get a gander at. I'd also really appreciate some technical input on the peak oil side of things; climate change is definitely more my area, and I hope to eventually be able to devote as much time to peak oil. I've got a microphone, folks, and it's getting louder all the time; I could really use some help with knowing what to say!

*(There was a slight mix-up with the headings of the videos, so start with part 2/7; hopefully we'll have that fixed as soon as I can get in touch with our editor and webmistress!)

Sunday, April 15, 2012

The deadline for climate change action

Excerpts from David Roberts, "The Brutal Logic of Climate Change," Grist, December 6, 2011.

For today’s inconvenient truths (ahem), we turn to Kevin Anderson, a professor of energy and climate change who was, until recently, director of the U.K.’s leading climate research institution, the Tyndall Energy Program.

This year, with his colleague Alice Bows, he published a paper called “Beyond ‘dangerous’ climate change: emission scenarios for a new world” [PDF].

Let’s walk through Anderson’s logic.

[I]f we delay the global emissions peak until 2025, we pretty much have to drop off a cliff afterwards to avoid 2 degrees C. Short of a meteor strike that shuts down industrial civilization, that’s unlikely.
How about 2020? Of the available scenarios for peaking in 2020, says Anderson, 13 of 18 show hitting 2 degrees C to be technically impossible. (D’oh!) The others involve on the order of 10 percent reductions a year after 2020, leading to total decarbonization by 2035-45.

This, then, is the brutal logic of climate change: With immediate, concerted action at global scale, we have a slim chance to halt climate change at the extremely dangerous level of 2 degrees C. If we delay even a decade — waiting for better technology or a more amenable political situation or whatever — we will have no chance.

It might seem that, given the extraordinary difficulty of hitting 2 degrees C, we ought to lower our sights a bit and accept that we’re going to hit 4 degrees C. It won’t be ideal, but hitting anything lower than that is just too difficult and expensive.

The thing is, if 2 degrees C is extremely dangerous, 4 degrees C is absolutely catastrophic. In fact, according to the latest science, says Anderson, “a 4 degrees C future is incompatible with an organized global community, is likely to be beyond ‘adaptation’, is devastating to the majority of ecosystems, and has a high probability of not being stable.”

Saturday, April 14, 2012

The illusory value of fossil fuels

"Why Fossil Fuel Abundance Is An Illusion,"
by Jonathan Koomey
Consulting Professor, Civil and Environmental Engineering, Stanford University

Even with estimates of the fossil fuel resource base at the low end of what the literature says, the amount of carbon embodied in just the conventional sources of these fuels is vastly larger than the amount of fuel assumed to be burned in...our “business-as-usual” future, assuming no major efforts to wean ourselves off of fossil fuels...
One implication of these results is that the current estimated value of fossil fuel reserves (as capitalized in the stock prices of fossil fuel companies) is an illusion, as Dave Roberts of Grist points out.  We quite literally can’t burn it all and continue the orderly development of human civilization, so the trillions of dollars of “value” in those reserves is a mirage (and a major impediment to progress on this problem, given how hard the fossil fuel industry is fighting to preserve its profits).

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Ecological causes of the chaos in Greece

Athens, Greece. February 2012. From

From Dan Bednarz, a policy analyst specializing in energy issues related to health care and public health, this interesting bit about underlying forces driving the social upheaval in Greece:

From the limits to growth perspective Greece is a harbinger of economic contraction and debt deleveraging that is a logical outcome of net energy decline –or the arrival of unaffordable energy prices- in industrial societies.  The energy status of Greece, Portugal, Spain, Ireland and Italy, all deep in debt, shows that each nation produces little or no domestic oil. Bluntly put: they have been borrowing to buy increasingly expensive oil; and the cost (oil was $10 a barrel in 1998, now it fluctuates around  $100 per barrel –and it can crash with further economic decline) now exceeds the potential for wealth and value generated by using the oil to manufacture goods and deliver services.  Greece, as one of the world’s energy poorest nations, is the canary of forced energy decline and, it follows, reaching the limits to growth.

In other words, the shrinking global supply of net energy, plus loan-sharking practices by European banks, drove Greece into the abyss. It wasn't lazy people sucking the tit of big government. Now, with Greece's systems for health care, commerce, and much else disintegrating, most of the population is being strangled by poverty, hunger, crime, and other symptoms of social and ecological collapse. Hence the explosion of violence in Greece this week, after the country's parliament passed another "austerity" plan that will leave the elite financial managers comfortably well off as the emaciated populace withers away.

In Greece, we are probably witnessing a preview of America later this decade or sometime next.

Friday, February 3, 2012

We the people, and the river: a possible future for environmental law

Loja Province, Ecuador. From

The river won in the end.

Consider the name of the court case in which it happened: Vilcabamba River v. Provincial Government of Loja, Ecuador.

In this case, a river was granted legal standing in court to sue a local government for harm suffered by the river. This was possible under article 71 of the 2008 constitution of Ecuador, which explicitly grants nature and its ecosystems certain constitutional rights. These include "the right to exist, persist, maintain and regenerate its vital cycles, structure, functions and its processes in evolution."

Thus, when the local provincial government began dumping broken concrete and rubbish from road construction into the Vilcabamba river, the river sued. Represented in court, as any non-human entity would be (like a government or corporation), by human lawyers.

The river won. The provincial court of Loja ruled in 2011 that the provincial government had violated the constitutional rights of the river. It issued an injunction ordering the government to make restitution to the injured party, by repairing the damage.

It all sounds so remote, doesn't it? Surely nothing like this could happen in the United States. Under the Constitution of the United States, nature is considered property. Nothing more. Just like women and black people once were as well. Surely the property status of nature will never change. Just as the property status of women and black people, viewed from the days of Jefferson and Madison, would never change.


Since 2006, more than two dozen municipal governments in the United States have passed laws recognizing nature and its ecosystems as entities entitled to inherent legal rights. One of the communities to pass such a law is Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

You can read more about this at the website of the Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund.

Last night, I attended a talk by the executive director of this organization, Thomas Linzey. His group advised the assembly that drafted Ecuador's constitutional provisions on the rights of nature. The CELDF works with U.S. towns and cities to give similar aid, helping them draft ordinances and conduct lawsuits against environmental abuses by transnational corporations.

The long-term aim of such work is to mobilize a coalition of U.S. city governments favoring fundamental revision of state constitutions. The goal of those revisions would be to end various legal powers corporations wield to destroy local environmental protections.

In his talk last night, Linzey was extremely blunt about the extreme hardship (political, legal, personal) that his organization's strategy entails, both for his group and for the local communities seeking its aid. Nevertheless, Linzey makes a convincing case that the conventional legal and policy approach to environmental protection has failed. The condition of planetary ecosystems, he points out (echoing this blog's obsession on the subject), is deteriorating ever more rapidly. Local communities around the world are beginning to feel the effects. And, in many cases, to connect those effects to a basic, underlying cause: the political and legal power of transnational corporations.

Linzey admits that his strategy for constitutional change will take decades to bear fruit, if it ever does. But he believes there is no realistic alternative. National and international legal and political approaches are essentially pointless, given the power of the existing corporate-dominated structure of government. And the ecological situation grows ever more desperate, although many policy-makers and advocates are not yet able to see this.

It will become clearer as the vice begins to tighten, Linzey believes. As do I.

Saturday, January 7, 2012

January 6, 2112: two hundred years of statehood for New Mexico

Sangre de Christo Mountains, near Espanola, New Mexico

January 6, 2012, marked the one hundredth anniversary of New Mexico's admission as the forty eighth state of the American republic.

On the sixth day of 1912, about 330,000 people lived in the state, clustered around the small river town Albuquerque and the old Spanish imperial outpost at Santa Fe. Today, a massive concentration of urban infrastructure along the Rio Grande is home to over a million people, with two million in the state as a whole.

There is virtually no chance that this state will have a population of two million or more when it celebrates its two hundredth anniversary in the early twenty second century. There isn't enough water for that population today, much less after one hundred years of climate change and ecological collapse have decimated the rivers, aquifers, and biosphere of the American West.

Consequently, the massive influx of migrants that came to New Mexico in the years 1912-2012 will reverse itself, over the next century, to an outflow that promises to be at least as dramatic. During the next hundred years, waves of heat, drought, plant disease, and ecosystem disruption will annihilate the mountain forests; refashion the lowland scrub brush; and denude the lush bosque growth along the dwindling rivers. The roads and buildings of the twentieth century boom years will gradually fall into disuse, to be dismantled, cannibalized, or abandoned.

The middle Rio Grande valley on January 6, 2112 will be a ghostly landscape of decayed, crumbling foundations, inhabited by scavenging animals and a few remaining clusters of human communities able to live on vastly reduced supplies of water in a landscape of burning dust and rock. Most likely, the surviving towns and villages will cluster around the base of the mountains, where temperatures will be cooler and whatever precipitation endures will be more plentiful. There may or may not be an authority ruling those future communities that calls itself the United States of America.

People will be born, grow up, love and work, and then die. In the meantime, we have our own world to manage, as best we can. The future comes quickly, the former things pass away.

Generations of men are like the leaves.
In winter, winds blow them down to Earth,
But then, when spring season comes again,
Budding wood grows more. And so with men --
One generation grows, another dies away.

The Iliad, 6.181-5