Welcome to the Anthropocene

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NorthReport
Welcome to the Anthropocene

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NorthReport

Welcome to the Anthropocene

Paul Crutzen didn’t just propose a new epoch called the Anthropocene. In 2006, he was also the first scientist to go public and say that we may have to resort to “geo-engineering.” We are disabling the Earth’s natural mechanisms for maintaining a stable environment, he said, and in order to survive we may have to take responsibility for maintaining all the global cycles and balances ourselves.

That is not a good thing. In fact, it is a terrifying thing, because the Earth system is immensely complex and there are large parts of it that we do not even understand yet. It was another scientist, Jim Lovelock, who first pointed out what a huge and ultimately crushing burden we will have to shoulder.

Lovelock’s great insight, as important as Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution in the 19th century, was that the Earth’s living things, its atmosphere, its seas and its rocks are all part of a single interacting system. He boldly called it Gaia, but more timid scientists call it Earth system science. And in the very act of recognizing it, he realized that it was breaking down.

Writing in 1979, he warned that if we disable Gaia’s natural functions, then one day we will wake up to find that we have inherited “the permanent lifelong job of planetary maintenance engineer. Gaia would have retreated into the muds, and the ceaseless intricate task of keeping all the global cycles in balance would be ours.

 “Then at last we would be riding that strange contraption, ‘the spaceship Earth,’ and whatever tamed and domesticated biosphere remained would indeed be our ‘life support system.’

 “We can guess that at less than (10 billion people) we should still be in a Gaian world. But somewhere beyond this figure ... lies the final choice of permanent enslavement on the prison hulk of the spaceship Earth, or gigadeath to enable the survivors to restore a Gaian world.”

So far we are only seven and a half billion people, but that’s no consolation. The world’s per capita energy consumption is so much higher than Lovelock foresaw in 1979 that we may be on the brink of that final desperate “choice” already. (And UN figures predict that we will be at 10 billion by 2050 in any case).

http://www.thetelegram.com/Opinion/Columnists/2016-09-03/article-4629414...

 

Rev Pesky

From the Gwynne Dyer article posted above:

Quote:
...Lovelock’s great insight, as important as Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution in the 19th century, was that the Earth’s living things, its atmosphere, its seas and its rocks are all part of a single interacting system.

I will admit up front that I have very little respect for Gwynne Dyer. At the same time this statement of his is just plain ridiculous.

In terms of direct importance to humans, Darwin's theory of evolution is by far the most important scientific 'insight'. Lovelock's hypothesis has presented a handful of interesting questions, but really doesn't explain anything, nor does it propose any mechanism that would support the hypothesis.

 

 

Mr. Magoo Mr. Magoo's picture

Plus it was just a straight up rip-off of the Beatles.

Quote:
I am he as you are he as you are me
And we are all together

ikosmos ikosmos's picture

Ian Angus has written quite a bit about the Anthropocene. I think he's some sort of (ex) Trot.

6079_Smith_W

@ Pesky

In the sense of us being one living physical or spiritual organism. Yes, perhaps it is mumbo jumbo. But in the sense of it  being a system so tightly linked that removing one organism can disrupt or destroy the entire thing?

I think we have had ample proof of that already. So in that sense, does it matter whether he is right about the mumbo jumbo?

On the other hand, when you consider that your body contains as many non-human cells (which are necessary to our survival) as it does human ones, there is a point there, at least in terms of questioning what constitutes a single organism.

https://www.sciencenews.org/article/body%E2%80%99s-bacteria-don%E2%80%99...

 

 

NorthReport

No one is perfect, however would you care to elaborate about your disrespect for Dyer as I have found him to be a voice of calming reason and experience in today's media world circus where most material is mainly sound bites with little or no substance.

Rev Pesky wrote:

From the Gwynne Dyer article posted above:

Quote:
...Lovelock’s great insight, as important as Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution in the 19th century, was that the Earth’s living things, its atmosphere, its seas and its rocks are all part of a single interacting system.

I will admit up front that I have very little respect for Gwynne Dyer. At the same time this statement of his is just plain ridiculous.

In terms of direct importance to humans, Darwin's theory of evolution is by far the most important scientific 'insight'. Lovelock's hypothesis has presented a handful of interesting questions, but really doesn't explain anything, nor does it propose any mechanism that would support the hypothesis.

 

 

Rev Pesky

6079_Smith_W wrote:

@ Pesky

In the sense of us being one living physical or spiritual organism. Yes, perhaps it is mumbo jumbo. But in the sense of it  being a system so tightly linked that removing one organism can disrupt or destroy the entire thing?

I think we have had ample proof of that already. So in that sense, does it matter whether he is right about the mumbo jumbo?

On the other hand, when you consider that your body contains as many non-human cells (which are necessary to our survival) as it does human ones, there is a point there, at least in terms of questioning what constitutes a single organism.

">https://www.sciencenews.org/article/body%E2%80%99s-bacteria-don%E2%80%99...

A brief statement of what the Gaia hypothesis is, courtesy Wikipedia:

Quote:
The Gaia hypothesis, also known as Gaia theory or Gaia principle, proposes that organisms interact with their inorganic surroundings on Earth to form a synergistic self-regulating, complex system that helps to maintain and perpetuate the conditions for life on the planet.

Organisms interact with each other. That much Darwin told us. It is no insight of Lovelock's. Organisms can use the inorganic world as a sort of stage, if you will, on which to live and reproduce. But the inorganic world does not use the organic world for anything. That is where the Gaia hypothesis breaks down.

As far as self-regulation, the organic world is pretty poor at it. Over the millenia almost all of life has gone extinct, replaced by new lifeforms when old evolutionary 'islands' were depopulated, whether by some change on earth, or by collision with a space object.

Regenerating systems are not 100% true in their reproduction. When there are changes to the earth (the inorganic world), those organisms that can exist in the 'new' world continue on, and those that can't, don't. 

Yes, all life on earth is related. That is an insight confirmed by the discovery of DNA. But removing a single organism doesn't have a great effect, If that were the case, how come there's still life on earth after most of it has gone extinct?

As far as humans and their ability to 'destroy the planet', it's simply not true. As we all should know, many organisms function well, even better than they do now, in high CO2 conditions. Humans may not, but humans are only a tiny part of organic life. Half of the volume of life on earth is bacteria, and bacteria can function in a much more extreme conditions than humans.

What is most at risk from CO2 in the atmosphere is the existing infrastructure of the world economy. A million years ago humans could avoid sea level rise by walking away from the beach. Nowadays that is not possible. A huge part of the infrastructure that supports human life is very close to sea level. A relatively small rise in sea level will cause enormous damage to that which has been created by humans.

The rest of the organic world doesn't care one way or the other. some will live and prosper, and others will die, as they have been doing for a billion-and-a-half years.

To get back to Lovelock, the validity of his hyposthesis is contigent on how far you try to take it. If all you're doing is saying that organisms interact with each other, that's no problem, but at the same time, it's not much of an insight. Darwin beat Lovelock to that insight by 100 years.

If you try to take it to the point where organic and inorganic interact to regulate the overall system, you're in 'mumbo-jumbo' territory. If it were true, it would be a great insight, but it's not true, and therefore can't really constitute an 'insight'.

Rev Pesky

NorthReport wrote:

No one is perfect, however would you care to elaborate about your disrespect for Dyer as I have found him to be a voice of calming reason and experience in today's media world circus where most material is mainly sound bites with little or no substance.

Back on the days of the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait, Gwynne Dyer showed up at Okanagan College in Vernon to give a talk about it, and the subsequent US response. During that talk he said this was the 'first time the UN had acted together'. His take on it was the whole world was oppposed to Iraq in this, and he proved it by the unprecedented action of the UN.

What he forgot, apparently, was that the UN had also acted against Korea in the Korean War. If he had forgotten that little fact, my opinion was that he wasn't much of a military historian, and if he deliberately left it out to lend credibility to his tale of the whole world being against Iraq, my opinion was that he wasn't much more than a shill for US foreign policy.

I have seen nothing by him in the intervening years that suggests he's changed in any fundamental way.

And this statement he makes about the Gaia hypothesis wouldn't have been that bad, but trying to boost it's value by equating it with the single most important discovery in the biological sciences tells me that Dyer is still up to his old tricks.

By the way, when he told that laugher about the 'first time the UN, etc.' I did exactly that. I laughed out loud. He didn't look to happy about that, and I suppose he probably didn't like me much either, after that...

 

Left Turn Left Turn's picture

ikosmos wrote:

Ian Angus has written quite a bit about the Anthropocene. I think he's some sort of (ex) Trot.

Ian Angus's most recent book Facing the Anthropocene: Fossil Capitalism and the Crisis of the Eath System was relased earlier this year. The Canadian book launch event took place in Vancouver in September. Here's the link to the youtube video of the event:

[url=https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sg6MPaTR07w]Canadian Book Launch: Facing the Anthropocene[/url]

For those who prefer to read an article, here's an interview that Socialist Review magazine conducted with Ian Angus on the subject of his book.

[url=http://socialistreview.org.uk/413/entering-age-humans]Entering the Age of Humans[/url]

6079_Smith_W

My point, Rev is that there are symbiotic organisms.

Do I believe the earth ecosystem is aliving organism? No, not in the way some proponents of Gaia do, and certainly not a consciousness. But in a mechanical sense yes, our ecosystem has created the stable environment we enjoy.

Specifically, that our current and past ecosystems have lowered the amount of carbon dioxide in our atmosphere to a level which is comfortable for life. Before that balance was achieved, yes there were a number of major extinctions (and the biggest one, the Permian, took place in waves over tens of millions of years some having to do with carbon levels) 

One of the main reasons why the so-called Anthropocene is an issue is that we are undoing the system that maintains that carbon sink.

Rev Pesky

6079_Smith_W wrote:

My point, Rev is that there are symbiotic organisms.

Do I believe the earth ecosystem is aliving organism? No, not in the way some proponents of Gaia do, and certainly not a consciousness. But in a mechanical sense yes, our ecosystem has created the stable environment we enjoy....

That statement by itself tells me you have no idea of what evolution is, and/or how it works.

But that's not really the issue in any case. The issue is Gwynne Dyer trying to promote his little idea by equating a very questionable hypothesis with the theory of evolution, which is the single most important discovery in the biological sciences.

Life on earth, no matter how it began, entered a world which allowed it to continue. Organisms didn't shape the world to allow themselves to live. We have no idea how many different worlds had the beginnings of life, but it's safe to say that if life began here, it began elsewhere as well.

But then why don't we see a universe teeming with life? Why is Mars a ball of rock, when it's clear that in it's early days it had the elements to support life (water, for instance)?

Why has most of the life on earth gone extinct? Because organisms have a very limited effect on the inorganic platform on which they live. Over the millenia that platform has changed, in some cases rapidly, leaving behind the evidence of the inability of organic life to preserve itself.

The reason there's still life on earth is not because the organics on earth have arranged things for their own benefit, but because there hasn't yet been a serious enough change to wipe that life out. That could happen in a variety of ways, and there would  be absolutely nothing we, or any other organism could do about it.

Birds adapt to living on cliffs. Cliffs do not change in response to birds living on them. What preserves the birds is the simple fact that geological time is much slower than organism time.

6079_Smith_W

I'm not talking about swallows, though how do you think soil building happens, if not by the action of animals, plants and micro-organisms to put carbon and nutrients into the soil which in turn sustains more and more life?

And most importantly, turn solar radiation into chemical energy through photosynthesis, which sustains virtually all life on earth. Organisms do that.

In the global sense, it is a slow process, and the change did start a long time ago. The carboniferous period - 300 million years ago - got its name from the fact that was a period when a large amount of carbon got laid down into the strata by plants.

What happened? Atmospheric oxygen levels hit their highest levels in earth's history, allowing the development of large land animals. Global temperatuce cooled, allowing life to spread into new areas. And there were minor extinction events because of climate change.

This happened because plants removed carbon from the atmosphere and changed the climate and the chemical properties of the environment.

The problem we are now facing is that we are undoing that chemical change over the space of a few hundred years, far too quickly for any adaptive change to maintain ecosystems.

Well there would be some kind of  life left, of course. but even if the warm weather moves north you won't be growing wheat on muskeg, and we know already that by disrupting climate systems by a slight amount can disrupt things to a degree that whole systems die.

Mars doesn't have what is most important to sustain life - enough heat. Life didn't begin on earth until the sun warmed up enough that we had those conditions here. And while it has had some volcanism and plate action it is not as active as earth, so there may not be the same metals and minerals necessary to sustain life as it is here.

As for his article, yeah, it is pretty clear it was not written by a scientist. And no, I am not an evolutionary biologist either. But the question he raised about people being unable to replace the balance of an eccosystem? We already have scientists trying to make mechanical bees. I can think of no better real-life example of the truth of that warning.

 

 

Rev Pesky

6079_Smith_W wrote:

I'm not talking about swallows, though how do you think soil building happens, if not by the action of animals, plants and micro-organisms to put carbon and nutrients into the soil which in turn sustains more and more life?

And most importantly, turn solar radiation into chemical energy through photosynthesis, which sustains virtually all life on earth. Organisms do that.

...As for his article, yeah, it is pretty clear it was not written by a scientist. And no, I am not an evolutionary biologist either. But the question he raised about people being unable to replace the balance of an eccosystem? We already have scientists trying to make mechanical bees. I can think of no better real-life example of the truth of that warning.

My original post questioned the comparison Dyer made between Darwin's theory of evolution and Lovelock's Gaia hypothesis. I said it was a ridiculous comparison, and so it is.

Now you're asking me 'how do I think soil building happens'. For your information, Lovelock was a hundred years late with his hypothesis.

The last book Darwin wrote, published in October of 1881 was "The Formation of Vegetable Mould through the Action of Worms, with Observations on their Habits". According to Wikipedia:

Quote:
Exploring earthworm behaviour and ecology, it continued the theme common throughout his work that gradual changes over long periods of time can lead to large and sometimes surprising consequences. It was the first significant work on soil bioturbation, although that term was not used by Darwin (it first appeared in the soil and geomorphic literature one hundred years later).

Darwin had started experimenting with worms in 1837, so by the time his book was published he had been examining the effect of worms on soil for over forty years. Anyone who has bothered to educate themselves in evolution would know this. Stephen Jay Gould mentioned it specifically in one of his essays that were published in Natural History magazine.

Now you state that Dyer is not a scientist, and neither are you. Well, neither am I. The difference between you and Dyer, and me, is that I've taken the time and trouble to read extensively in the biological sciences, specifically related to the theory of evolution.

Now, I don't care whether Dyer is a scientist or not, at least, not until he starts to make comments about a science which he clearly knows very little, and passes that off as informed opinion. Once he begins to make the sort of statements he made in that article, he open to criticism, and I criticised him for his ignorance.

If you don't like that, well then, too bad for you.

6079_Smith_W

Look Rev, I think getting worked up about which theory is more important is ridiculous. You like Darwin more? Fine.You don't like Dyer? Fine.

I don't care.

But you said that organisms don't shape the world to sustain life. That is not true. There was no higher life until microbes provided the right chemical and nutrient balance for them to survive. There was no fauna on land until plants and microorganisms provided them with something to live off of. There would be virtually no animal life without plant photosynthesis, and the many mircrobial functions that sustain life.

The question wasn't who found out about soil building first (because I think there may be a few farmers who knew about it before Darwin). The question was whether organisms change their envirionment in order to sustain all life. And they do.

Our ecosystems are in fact finely-balanced systems that depend on a web of organisms for the whole to survive. In a practical sense it is more important for us to be aware of it than evolution. We don't really have the capacity to screw up that latter process. But the web of life? It is something we are constantly having an effect on, for the most part a negative one. So in that, I think Dyer is right.

NorthReport

Crawford Kilian usually writes about most interesting material.

 

 

Eating Clean, Green and Anthropocene

Scientists say our diets must evolve. Canada could lead the way.

https://thetyee.ca/Analysis/2019/01/18/Clean-Green-Anthropocene/

NorthReport
iyraste1313

Eating Clean, Green and Anthropocene...once again, these macro type resolutions are dangerous.....curtailing the meat industry in areas of marginal dry lands would devastate the local rural economies, depopulate the countryside,opening up to major industrial logging, mining and pipeline developments...what with no one to see or protest.....solutions demand local self management...where grazing cattle without grain input, fertilizer etc is beneficial...to be determined by the local populations...