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Planetary Boundaries

Satya Sagar: What on earth is a human being?

Satya Sagar writes: It’s time to step back, reflect and ask again and again the questions:  who or what exactly are human beings, how we should live in this world and where we should go?  For this time the very survival of the human species may lie in getting the answers right with great honesty.

Viral essay: The Uninhabitable Earth

It is not often that an article about climate change becomes the most hotly debated item on the internet. But David Wallace-Wells’ lengthy essay published in New York Magazine did exactly that. The full text of the essay –admittedly a worst-case scenario- which has kicked up a firestorm of debate online, along with selected responses.

Study: Ongoing mass extinction causing ‘biological annihilation’

From Mongabay: Scientists warn in a new study that Earth is undergoing a sixth mass extinction that is “more severe than perceived.” Not only that, human activity —including pollution, deforestation, overpopulation, poaching, warming oceans and extreme weather events tied to climate change— is to blame for this massive loss in biodiversity, according to the analysis.

Deadline 2020: Just three years before global climate tipping point

From Common Dreams: Humanity has just three years left to drastically reduce greenhouse gas emissions before risking a climate-safe world. After roughly 1°C of global warming driven by human activity, ice sheets are melting, summer sea ice is disappearing in the Arctic and coral reefs dying from heat stress— entire ecosystems are starting to collapse.

Finally, a breakthrough alternative to growth economics – the doughnut

George Monbiot writes: We cannot hope to address our predicament without a new worldview. We cannot use the models that caused our crises to solve them. We need to reframe the problem. This is what the most inspiring book published so far this year – Doughnut Economics by Kate Raworth of  Oxford University -has done.

The oceans can’t protect us anymore—here’s why

From National Geographic: Our waters have borne the brunt of global-warming for decades, but dying corals, extreme weather, and plummeting fish stocks are signs that it can handle no more. And people are already experiencing direct consequences, such as more extreme weather events, says a new report by the International Union for Conservation of Nature.

‘A reckoning for our species’: the philosopher prophet of the Anthropocene

From The Guardian: The chief reason that we’re waking up to our entanglement with the world we’ve been destroying, Timothy Morton says, is our encounter with the reality of hyperobjects –the term he coined to describe things such as ecosystems and black holes, which are “massively distributed in time and space” compared to individual humans.

The shocking connection between doomsday maps and billionaire land acquisitions

From Forbes Magazine: With all of the knowledge of future mapping, do the world’s financial leaders know something we don’t? Consider how many of the richest families have been grabbing up massive amounts of farmland around the world. All property far away from coastal areas and in locations conducive to self-survival, farming and coal mining.

How to talk about climate change at a party

Ugo Bardi, professor in Physical Chemistry at the University of Florence, writes: This is a real conversation that took place a few days ago, although, of course, the words that I report here can’t be exactly what we said. The protagonists are me and an acquaintance of mine. Imagine us holding glasses while at a party.

The great climate silence: we are on the edge of the abyss but we ignore it

Clive Hamilton writes: Our best scientists tell us insistently that a calamity is unfolding, that the life-support systems of the Earth are being damaged in ways that threaten our survival. Yet, faced with these facts, we carry on as usual. Most citizens ignore or downplay the warnings; many of our intellectuals indulge in wishful thinking.

Earth Day and the phantoms of a pathological culture

Kenn Orphan writes: Earth Day has morphed into an opportunity for corporations and politicians to tout empty gestures at “saving the planet” while they mercilessly plunder it.  It neutralises public outrage at the world’s dire state and spreads an all-pervasive “feel goodism” to a situation that’s truly existential, for countless other species, and our own.

Forget ‘developing’ poor countries, it’s time to ‘de-develop’ rich countries

Jason Hickel writes: Growth isn’t an option any more–we’ve already grown too much. Scientists are now telling us that we’re blowing past planetary boundaries at breakneck speed. The hard truth is that this global crisis is due almost entirely to overconsumption in rich countries. Rich countries must “catch down” to more appropriate levels of development.

Analysis: Just four years left of the 1.5C carbon budget

Carbon Brief reports: Four years of current emissions would be enough to blow what’s left of the carbon budget for a good chance of keeping global temperature rise to 1.5C. That’s the conclusion of this analysis, which brings the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s carbon budgets up to date to include global emissions in 2016.

Earth’s ‘technosphere’ now weighs 30 trillion tons, research finds

CBC News reports: A new report has calculated the total mass of all manmade things-from buildings to cars and computers- to be an astounding 30 trillion tons, seven times more than the total amount of living matter on Earth. It shows the sheer magnitude of the human impact on our planet, which is still growing.

Bookshelf: Facing the Anthropocene: Fossil Capitalism and the Crisis of the Earth System

John Bellamy Foster writes in the foreword: It’s capitalism and the alienated global environment it has produced that constitutes our “burning house” today. Mainstream environmentalists have generally chosen to do little more than contemplate it, while flames lick the roof and the entire structure threatens to collapse around them. The point, rather, is to change it.

Why trapped methane in the Arctic is a problem for all

Dave Lindorff writes: The concern is that if the Arctic Ocean waters were to warm even slightly, as they will do as the ice cap vanishes in summer, at some point the clathrates which have currently trapped massive amounts of methane will suddenly dissolve releasing tens of thousands of gigatons of methane in huge bursts.

Red alert: Fish under threat from ocean oxygen depletion

The Guardian reports: A new study shows that oxygen levels in oceans have fallen 2% in 50 years due to climate change, which threatens future fish stocks and the habitat and behaviour of marine life. Related: Amitav Ghosh warns that the Bay of Bengal’s depleted fish stocks and huge dead zone signal a tipping point.

The trajectory of the Anthropocene: The Great Acceleration

The Great Acceleration marks the phenomenal growth of the global socio-economic system, the human part of the Earth System. It is difficult to overestimate the scale and speed of change. In little over two generations –or a single lifetime –humanity (or until very recently a small fraction of it) has become a planetary-scale geological force.

How the world passed a carbon threshold and why it matters

Yale Environment 360 reports: Last year marked the first time in several million years that atmospheric concentrations of CO2 passed 400 parts per million. Frighteningly, this modern rise of CO2 is also accelerating at an unusual rate. By looking at the Earth’s climate history, scientists are getting a sobering picture of where we are headed.

2014 was hottest year ever recorded. Then it was 2015. Now it’s 2016.

Common Dreams reports: For the third year in a row, the world experienced its warmest year ever recorded. In 2016, a total of 22 nations set all-time records for their hottest ever temperatures. This breaks the record of eighteen all-time heat records in 2010 for the greatest number of such records set in one year.

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