The worldview that informs contemporary global culture was conceived during the European ‘Enlightenment’ of the 17th century. Its shortcomings have become increasingly evident today, and they are beginning to be seen as the root cause of the many seemingly intractable global problems that confront us today. This essay presents an overview of an alternative worldview.
science & research
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.
Nikita Sattiraju writes: Farmer suicides in India have largely been attributed to debt, drought, crop failure or poor returns. However, farmers have been taking the drastic step regardless of a good rainfall year or bad, a good price year or a disappointing one. Why? Questions arise on the exact nature and reasons behind the deepening problem.
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.
The final stages of capitalism, Marx predicted, would be marked by global capital being unable to expand and generate profits at former levels. Capitalists would begin to consume the government along with the physical and social structures that sustained them. These assaults would destroy the host. This final stage of capitalism is what Trump represents.
T. Hanumantha Rao, irrigation engineering expert and the brain behind a participative method of water management based on his ‘Four Waters’ concept, passed away on Sunday. The Four Waters concept, explained in this video, brought rich benefits to Rajasthan, where even drought-affected areas improved over the years. Several other states are actively pursuing his recommendations.
Samar writes: Indebtedness was behind 38.7% of farmer suicides in 2015; the corresponding figure for the same head in overall suicides in India is a mere 3.3%. Nearly 80% of those who killed themselves because of indebtedness had taken loans from “Financial Institutions like Bank/Registered Micro Financial Institutions”, and a mere 302 from “Money Lenders”.
Gabriel Popkin reports: To preserve a natural landscape, kick people out. This “guns and fences” paradigm of conservation relies on drastically restricting local people’s activities—or even displacing them altogether. Today, it has spread around the world, with disastrous consequences for communities. But in many cases, it may be misguided, argue a growing chorus of experts.
Brian Kahn writes: This year is likely to remembered as a turning point for climate change, with world leaders agreeing to move toward a clean energy future. It’s clear 2016 was a year where planetary peril and human hope stood out in stark contrast. Here are the 10 most important climate milestones of the year.
To try to solve the energy problem, we use approaches that involve increasing complexity, including new technology and globalization. As we add more and more complexity, these approaches tend to work less and less well. In fact, become problems themselves, tending to redistribute wealth toward the top, increasing “overhead” for the economy as a whole.
From Nature Video: It’s a simple question: how many trees are there on Earth? The answer required 421,529 measurements from fifty countries on six continents. Their findings? The earth is losing 10 billion trees every year. Now this data has been combined to produce a stunning visualisation of earth as you’ve never seen it before.
More fish species on the east coast, especially in the waters off Odisha and West Bengal, are highly vulnerable to climate change, according to a first of its kind assessment by the Central Marine Fisheries Research Institute (CMFRI). That vulnerability stems not only from changes in climate but also from fishing pressure and lower productivity.
Phys.org reports: The climate friendly electricity generated by solar panels in the past 40 years has all but cancelled out the polluting energy used to produce them, a study said Tuesday. Indeed, by some calculations, the so-called “break-even point” between dirty energy input and clean output may already have arrived, researchers in the Netherlands reported.
Sophie Lewis writes: We often hear people saying it’s impossible to attribute any single weather event to climate change. While this may have been true in the 1990s, the science of linking extreme events to global warming has advanced significantly since then. However, how we communicate these findings has not kept pace with the science.
The Washington Post reports: In a massive new study published in the influential journal Nature, more than 50 authors from around the world document a so-called climate system “feedback” that, they say, could make global warming considerably worse over the coming decades. That feedback involves the planet’s soils, which are a massive repository of carbon.
Ugo Bardi writes: Jay Forrester, one of the great minds of the 20th century, died at 98, a few days ago. His career was long and fruitful, and his work changed the intellectual story of humankind, in particular the role he had in the birth of the Club of Rome’s report “The Limits to Growth”.
In scientific discovery, the first three paradigms were experimental, theoretical and (more recently) computational science. This new book of essays inspired by the Microsoft researcher Jim Gray argues that a fourth paradigm of scientific discovery is at hand: the analysis of massive data sets. Read John Markoff’s review of the book in The New York Times.
Hydropower is a significant source of greenhouse gas emissions: a new study shows that the world’s hydroelectric dams are responsible for as much methane emissions as Canada. The study finds that methane, which is at least 34 times more potent than carbon dioxide, makes up 80% of the emissions from water reservoirs created by dams.
Andreas Malm writes: Mainstream climate discourse is positively drenched in references to humanity as such, human nature, the human enterprise, humankind as one big villain driving the train. Enter Naomi Klein, who in ‘This Changes Everything’ lays bare the myriad ways in which capital accumulation pour fuel on the fire now consuming the earth system.
Growing numbers of scientists have asserted that our planet might soon see a sixth massive extinction— driven by the escalating impacts of humanity. Others, such as the Swedish economist Bjørn Lomborg, have characterised such claims as ill-informed. We argue that the jury is in and the debate is over: Earth’s sixth great extinction has arrived.