“I sprouted, thrust into this world without anyone consulting me…” Thus starts US Astronaut Don Pettit’s quasi-fictional account of ten days in the life of a plant growing on the International Space Station. Among other things, the plant expresses its growing awareness of people it interacts with, and the fact that they eat its ‘kind’.
science & research
From NewsClick: The Anthropocene Working Group (AWG), a panel that consists of 34 scientists and academics, has voted in favour of making the Anthropocene a formally defined geological unit within the official geological time scale. The term ‘Anthropocene’ denotes the current geological period, where many conditions and processes on Earth are altered by impacts of human activities.
By Dahr Jamail: Permafrost, or frozen soil in the Arctic is now thawing so fast that scientists are literally losing their measuring equipment. This is due to the fact that instead of there being just a few centimeters of thawing each year, now several meters of soil can become destabilized in a matter of days.
The most disquieting thing wasn’t the disappearance of certain insect species; it was the deeper worry that a whole insect world might be quietly going missing, a loss of abundance that could alter the planet in unknowable ways. “We notice the losses,” says David Wagner. “It’s the diminishment that we don’t see.” (New York Times)
Native American scientist Robin Wall Kimmerer tells the story of mosses, the first plants to develop the ability to live on land. Unlike other plants they can survive long periods of drought in a condition of dessication – dry, brittle, brown – then spring back to life as soon as a drop of rain hits
From PeakProsperity.com: Many people are expecting some degree of approaching collapse — be it economic, environmental and/or societal — thinking that they’ll recognize the danger signs in time. As if it’ll be completely obvious, like a Hollywood blockbuster. That’s not how collapse works. Collapse is a process, not an event. And it’s already underway, all around us.
From The Revelator: In the year ahead we all need to stand up and let our elected officials and unelected corporate power-brokers know what really matters to us and to the planet. We need to demand transparency and the truth, rapid change, renewed protections for imperiled species and a commitment to sustainability on all fronts.
From Vox.com: Sri Lanka is perhaps the most famous case of suicides falling after a selective pesticide ban. One study estimated that the suicide rate in the country fell by half after it banned certain pesticides in 1995. According to the World Health Organization, at least 110,000 people commit suicide by consuming pesticides each year.
From The Independent: Capitalism as we know it is over. So suggests a new report commissioned by a group of scientists appointed by the UN secretary general. The main reason? We’re transitioning rapidly to a radically different global economy, due to our increasingly unsustainable exploitation of the planet’s environmental resources and the shift to less efficient energy sources.
From The Guardian: On the eve of the UN’s annual climate conference, many experts believe the world may no longer be hovering at the edge of destruction but has probably crossed a crucial point of no return. Climate catastrophe now looks inevitable; we’ve simply left it too late to hold global temperatures to under 1.5C.
Stefany Ann Goldberg writes: Famous for his plant-response studies, J.C. Bose was also the first scientist to study inorganic matter the way a biologist examines a muscle or a nerve. Bose performed his plant experiments on rocks and metals, too. Remarkably, he found that the “non-living” responded when subjected to mechanical, thermal, and electrical stimuli.
From The Millions: When human leaders fail us as role models, we should look to animals, says Sy Montgomery. “I can tell you that teachers are all around to help you: with four legs or two or even eight. All you have to do is recognize them as teachers and be ready to hear their truths.”
From The Guardian: Humanity’s ongoing annihilation of wildlife is cutting down the tree of life, according to a stark new analysis. More than 300 different mammal species have been eradicated by human activities. The new research calculates the total unique evolutionary history that has been lost as a result at a startling 2.5 billion years.
We’re on track for four degrees of warming, more than twice as much as most scientists believe is possible to endure without inflicting climate suffering on hundreds of millions or threatening at least parts of what we call, grandly, “civilization.” The only thing that changed is that the scientists, finally, have hit the panic button.
A Special Report on Global Warming has been released today by the IPCC, considered the international benchmark on climate change. Ahead of it, Donald Brown reviewed three independent studies which show that climate change is a much more urgent and serious threat than indicated by past IPCC reports, and examines the ethical questions they raise.
A research-paper concluding that climate-induced collapse is now inevitable, was recently rejected by an academic journal, citing the emotional impact that it might have on readers. The paper offers a new framing to make sense of the disaster we face, called “deep adaptation.” It has now been released online by the author, Prof. Jem Bendell.
From Non-gmoreport.com: The most disturbing finding of the study was the epigenetic effects of atrazine; which means its not just those who are exposed to it that faced health risks, but also their descendants. Dr. Winchester calls the discovery of this link between pesticides and epigenetic changes “the most important next discovery in all medicine.”
In a meeting with his colleagues, Odum suggested that his ecology class be required of all new biology majors. His fellow scientists looked at him and laughed. Odum stormed out of the room but was not deterred. That night, he began writing a note that would ultimately become the foundation for the first ecology textbook.
It’s no longer possible to separate the health of the planet from the health of its people. Disease patterns are changing as the climate does, and human health is at risk from loss of biodiversity, depleted water supplies, environmental toxins, and collapsing food systems. From this realisation has come a new research field: planetary health.
4200 years ago, a sweeping mega-drought devastated agricultural societies across the globe, wiping out civilizations from Ancient Egypt to Mesopotamia, Palestine and the Yangtze River Valley. Now, scientists say the cataclysmic event marks the beginning of a new geologic age: Late Holocene Meghalayan, which encompasses everything from the start of the drought to the present.