Category: Collapse


By Dianey Toomey, Yale Environment 360

“National security expert Michael Klare believes the struggle for the world’s resources will be one of the defining political and environmental realities of the 21st century. In an interview with Yale Environment 360, he discusses the threat this scramble poses to the natural world and what can be done to sustainably meet the resource challenge. His most recent book, The Race for What’s Left: The Global Scramble for the World’s Last Resources, describes how the world economy has entered a period of what he calls “tough” extraction for energy, minerals, and other commodities, meaning that the easy-to-get resources have been exploited and a rapidly growing population is now turning to resources in the planet’s most remote regions — the Arctic, the deep ocean, and war zones like Afghanistan. Klare discussed China’s surging appetite for resources, the growing potential for political and military conflict as commodities become more scarce, and the disturbing trend of the planet’s agricultural land being bought by companies and governments seeking to ensure that their people will have enough food in the future.”

Michael Klare

Yale Environment 360: You make the point that when it comes to the age-old competition for raw materials, we’re in an unprecedented age. How so?

Michael Klare: I do believe that’s the case. Humans have been struggling to gain control of vital resources since the beginning of time, but I think we’re in a new era because we’re running out of places to go. Humans have constantly moved to new areas, to new continents, when they’ve run out of things in their home territory. But there aren’t any more new continents to go to. We’re going now to the last places left on earth that haven’t been exploited: the Arctic, the deep oceans, the inner jungles in Africa, Afghanistan. There are very few places left that haven’t been fully tapped, so this is humanity’s last chance to exploit the earth, and after this there’s nowhere else to go.

e360: Natural resource extraction has never been a pretty business when it comes to the environment, but you write that now that the era of easy oil, easy gas, easy minerals and other resources is basically over, and what’s left is in deep water, remote or inhospitable climates, or in geological formations that require extraordinary means to get at. So paint me a picture of what extracting these tough resources looks like.

Klare: We’re really going to be using very aggressive means of extraction, so the environmental consequences are going to be proportionally greater. For example, to get oil and natural gas out of shale rock, you can’t just drill and expect it to come out. It doesn’t work that way. You have to smash the rock, you have to produce fractures in the rock, and we use a very aggressive technology to do that — hydraulic fracturing — and the water is brought under tremendous pressure and it’s laced with toxic chemicals, and when the water is extracted from these wells it can’t be put back into the environment without risk of poisoning water supplies. So there’s a tremendous problem of storage, of toxic water supplies, and we really haven’t solved that problem.

And that’s just one example. Drilling in the Arctic presents a tremendous problem because the Arctic, by its very nature, is at the edge of survival and all the species there are living at the edge of survival, so any oil spill could push them over the edge into extinction. So [oil companies] must have on hand all kinds of extra capacity to deal with the possibility of spills, and that’s much more difficult to engineer than in the Gulf of Mexico, where there are tens of thousands of boats that you could hire on short notice to bring out skimmers and booms to contain a spill. There’s nothing like that in the Arctic. Moreover, if this were to happen in winter, there would be no way to move equipment up there to build a relief drill. Remember, it was a relief drill that closed the Deepwater Horizon spill, but you can’t do that in the middle of winter when the Arctic [Ocean] is covered with ice.  Continue reading

As a startling United Nations report recently said, by 2050, or much, much sooner, the world will be”unrecognizable,” because OF melting ice caps, drought, desertification, food shortages, scarcity wars, and rapid human population growth. The consequences will be systematic and affect humans, animals, and the environment in profound ways, the melting of the Arctic ice is just one of many profound, simultaneously unfolding anthropogenic-induced changes that will wreak utter havoc on this planet.

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Fen Montaigne, August 30, 2012, Yale Environment 360

Scientists say this year’s record declines in Arctic sea ice extent and volume are powerful evidence that the giant cap of ice at the top of the planet is on a trajectory to largely disappear in summer within a decade or two, with profound global consequences.

As the northern summer draws to a close, two milestones have been reached in the Arctic Ocean — record-low sea ice extent, and an even more dramatic new low in Arctic sea ice volume. This extreme melting offers dramatic evidence, many scientists say, that the region’s sea ice has passed a tipping point and that sometime in the next decade or two the North Pole will be largely ice-free in summer.

NASA and U.S. ice experts announced earlier this week that the extent of Arctic sea ice has dropped to 4.1 million square kilometers (1.58 million square miles) — breaking the previous record set in 2007 — and will likely continue to fall even farther until mid-September. As the summer melt season ends, the Arctic Ocean will be covered with 45 percent less ice than the average from 1979 to 2000.


Arctic Sea Ice Extent August 2012

On August 26, Arctic sea ice reached a new record-low summer extent.

Even more striking is the precipitous decline in the volume of ice in the Arctic Ocean. An analysis conducted by the University of Washington’s Pan Arctic Ice Ocean Model Assimilation System (PIOMAS) estimates that sea ice volumes fell in late August to roughly 3,500 cubic kilometers — a 72-percent drop from the 1979-2010 mean.

Peter Wadhams, who heads the Polar Ocean Physics Group at the University of Cambridge and who has been measuring Arctic Ocean ice thickness from British Navy submarines, says that earlier calculations about Arctic sea ice loss have grossly underestimated how rapidly the ice is disappearing. He believes that the Arctic is likely to become ice-free before 2020 and possibly as early as 2015 or 2016 — decades ahead of projections made just a few years ago.

Mark Drinkwater, mission scientist for the European Space Agency’s CryoSat satellite and the agency’s senior advisor on polar regions, said he and his colleagues have been taken aback by the swiftness of Arctic sea ice retreat in the last 5 years. “If this rate of melting [in 2012] is sustained in 2013, we are staring down the barrel and looking at a summer Arctic which is potentially free of sea ice within this decade,” Drinkwater said in an e-mail interview.

A small number of climate scientists say that natural variability may be playing a significant role in the rapid retreat of Arctic sea ice, intensifying human-caused climate change, and they caution against predicting the imminent demise of the region’s summer sea ice. But an overwhelming majority of Arctic ice experts say that recent data offer powerful evidence that summer sea ice has passed a point of no return.

The dramatic ice loss is being driven by a several key factors, scientists say. Chief among them is that decades of warming have so extensively melted and thinned Arctic sea ice that rapidly expanding areas of dark, open water are absorbing ever-greater amounts of the sun’s radiation, further warming the region in a vicious cycle.

Second, swiftly warming air and ocean temperatures in the Arctic have, for now at least, altered atmospheric activity, with two consequences: Warmer air is being pulled into the Arctic, and increased storms and cyclones in summer are not only driving ice out of the Arctic basin, but also breaking up the ice pack and further exposing more dark water.

And finally there is the inescapable reality that steadily rising levels of carbon dioxide being pumped into the atmosphere by human activity are continuing to warm the Arctic and the rest of the globe, further hastening the loss of Arctic Ocean ice. Several experts say that the only thing that could slow this disappearance — and then only for a few years — would be a major volcanic eruption that reduces the amount of the sun’s energy striking the earth.

“It’s sobering to see the Arctic change so rapidly,” said Ted Scambos, senior research scientist at the National Snow & Ice Data Center in Colorado. “Simply staring at the satellite data that we’re seeing every day is awesome, but in a sad sort of way. It doesn’t look like the Arctic anymore. The summer ice used to look like a cap that nearly filled the Arctic basin. It now looks like a raft with room on every side. You can imagine what it’s going to look like when the North Pole is open water, when there is only a tiny amount of ice left in August and September. The planet will look a lot different.”

The loss of the great white dome of ice at the top of the world in summer will have profound effects, scientists say. These include a reduction of the amount of solar radiation reflected back into space by the ice, significant changes to the jet stream and Northern Hemispheric weather patterns, and even-more rapid warming in the far north, speeding the melting of Greenland’s massive ice sheets and increasing global sea levels.

In addition to these impacts, said Drinkwater, “Increased storminess will generate ocean wave systems which, un-damped by the presence of sea ice, will pound the circumpolar north coastlines. Current rates of coastal permafrost degradation will be accelerated, leading to significant coastal erosion and reconfiguration of the high-latitude shoreline. Meanwhile, we have also recently heard about the potential for release of sub-sea methane deposits and thereby an acceleration of the current greenhouse effect.”

The record low sea ice extent in 2007 of 4.2 million square kilometers was due to some unusual circumstances, including a sunny summer in the Arctic and higher temperatures. Summer sea ice extent rebounded somewhat in the next several years, rising to 5.3 million square kilometers in 2009, giving some hope to mainstream scientists that Arctic sea ice was not in a “death spiral.”

But Scambos and other experts say that recent data on plummeting ice extent and volume show that the Arctic has entered a “new normal” in which ice decline seems irreversible. Because of thinning ice and swiftly expanding areas of open water, the Arctic Ocean will no longer be kept frigid in summer by the reflectivity of snow and ice — the so-called ice-albedo effect, in which ice and snow reflect a high percentage of the sun’s energy back into space.

Arctic Sea Ice NASA

Melting Arctic sea ice.

Thick sea ice that formed over many years is increasingly rare in the Arctic. In the 1960s, submarines routinely encountered 12-foot-thick ice around the North Pole and 20-foot-thick ice in some other areas; now those regions often contain ice that is only three to four feet thick. Many parts of the Arctic Ocean are now covered with thin, year-old ice that melts quickly in spring and summer.

This spring, noted Scambos, extensive late winter snow cover on land melted unusually rapidly, reaching record low levels by June. Sea ice across much of the Arctic began to melt 10 to 14 days earlier than in the preceding few decades. Relatively clear skies from late May through June further hastened the melting of sea ice, but even as cloudier weather prevailed in July and August, the record sea ice retreat continued.

“The sensitivity of the Arctic to a warm summer is much higher now than it was in the 1990s or early 2000s,” said Scambos. “What we’re seeing last year and this year is that 2007 wasn’t a fluke. As we’ve gone forward a few years, we’re seeing that many different patterns of weather lead to significant sea ice loss in the Arctic.”

Scambos does not foresee summer sea ice in the Arctic largely disappearing this decade, estimating that such an event could occur around 2030, “plus or minus a decade.” He said the “endgame” of Arctic summer sea ice will probably mean that around 1 million square kilometers — about 15 percent of what existed in the mid-20th century — will remain in the Canadian High Arctic and some other regions, leaving the North Pole generally ice-free in August and September.

Drinkwater said that changing weather patterns, related to more heat and moisture being released into the Arctic atmosphere, have played a significant role in accelerating sea ice loss. Sea ice retreat in the past decade has been accompanied by a trend toward lower atmospheric pressure and more storms and cyclonic activity, which in turn breaks up the pack ice and exposes more open water. A powerful Arctic storm earlier this month did just that, Drinkwater noted.

He said that Arctic sea ice could conceivably rebound for some period of time if atmospheric circulation changes and a pattern known as the Arctic Oscillation — currently in a positive phase — moves into a negative phase and ushers in a period of prolonged high atmospheric pressure and fewer storms. This, said Drinkwater, would enable sea ice to remain trapped in the Arctic basin and thicken.

“However,” added Drinkwater, “this seems like blind hope in a system whose feedbacks all appear geared to getting rid of sea ice.”

Judith Curry, a climatologist and chair of the School of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences at the Georgia Institute of Technology, said that while global warming is “almost certainly” affecting Arctic sea ice, she cautioned that there is a great deal of annual and decadal variability in sea ice cover. She said that the next 5 to 10 years could see a shift in Arctic sea ice behavior, though exactly in which direction is difficult to predict.

“I don’t see [the] summer of 2012 portending some sort of near-term `spiral of death’ in the sea ice behavior,” Curry said in an e-mail interview. “I don’t think this apparent record sea ice minimum is of particular significance in our understanding of climate variability and change of Arctic sea ice.”

 

The End Is Near: It’s Not Mayan Prophecy, It’s US Imperialism

By Colin TodhunterGlobal Research, December 20, 2012

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According to some who believe in signs and prophecies, based on the ancient Mayan calendar, the world may have ended by the time you read this, in which case you won’t be reading it! Maybe those people know a thing or two because, given the current state of play, would it come as a great surprise if the world were to actually come to an end?

But, regardless of any prophecy, I can guarantee right now that the world will shortly be coming to an end – for many people. US-backed conflict in Syria will fuel even more death and destruction in that unfortunate country. The US is banking on it. Where would its plans be to dominate the world if it could not rely on killing and brutality brought about by stoking ethnic and sectarian conflict? Such tactics have already caused hundreds of thousands of deaths in Iraq, Libya and Afghanistan. The strategy persists and the killing goes on.

What is happening in Syria at this moment is symptomatic of a criminality that too often goes unquestioned, that is too often regarded as normal and thus acceptable thanks mainly to the mainstream media. People have been softened up to accept barbarity as normal and thus as acceptable by a global corporate media that takes as fact whitewashed official statements and press releases justifying militarism and consequent mass murder by the US government, the British government or any other number of governments.

The result is that this criminality pervades all aspects of life in 2012.

Thanks to a toothless mainstream media, it is regarded as normal and thus acceptable that the international system of trade and finance has allowed capital to be shifted around the globe at ease, resulting in big profits and environmental degradation, easy money and cheap labour, private gain and public havoc. All of this is done according to the warped rationale of the market, supported by dogma masquerading as economic theory.

It is regarded as normal and thus acceptable that the food and pharmaceuticals industries work to sicken and treat us and that ‘big oil’ works hand in glove with agribusiness to impose a system of water intensive, chemical-industrial agriculture at the expense of biodiversity and environmental sustainability.

US militarism is implemented on behalf of bankers and any other number of corporate interests and is carried out under the lie of ‘humanitarianism’ or the ‘war on terror’. The profiteering nuclear energy and resource extraction industries are destroying democracy and placing people and environments in jeopardy in India.

The mainstream media serves to make barbarity acceptable.

Governments are working overtime to attack and deceive their populations on behalf of rich corporations, which have succeeded in bending the machineries of state and media to their will. The end-result is diminishing democracy, the increasing influence of international finance, the destruction of local economies, science pressed into the service of a worldwide arms industry, endless conflict over finite resources and unnecessary suffering.

There is an alternative and it entails debunking the myth that the endless pursuit of high GDP growth on the back of increased power for the market, speculators and huge corporate concerns is how we define normality. The current system is not only ecologically destructive and fuels and relies on perpetual conflict, but wrongly privileges urban over rural and promotes the excessive consumption of energy to engage in unnecessary work to produce unnecessary goods that have a built-in planned obsolescence. This socially divisive, wasteful and unsustainable system is tied to an image of the world laid down by powerful transnational corporations and which is translated into policies by the IMF, WTO, World Bank and national governments.

This is the current state of play. It’s become matter of fact. It’s become acceptable.

It’s also quite normal that 130 countries have recognised opposition forces in Syria as the legitimate ‘government’ there, even though the US, NATO, oil rich Gulf states and Israel have done their damnedest to interfere in the workings of a sovereign state in order to create civil war and bolster the position of the said opposition. It’s quite normal that many of those 130 countries only support such tactics because not to do so would incur the bullying of the US in terms of economic, military and political aid or support being cut or other pressures and sanctions being applied. And the mainstream media regards this as constituting the will of the ‘international community’, of ‘independent’ sovereign states acting according to conscience.

Where would we be without such a media? There are many examples from across the world of how we could address the problems we currently face and of how we could challenge what is spoon-fed to us as ‘normality’.

Unfortunately, those who comprise the US-led military-financial-industrial complex and who control and own the corporate media have no interest in solutions. From Goldman Sachs, Bank of America and General Electric to BP, Shell and others, they seek to maintain the current system at all costs.

And that entails seeking to impose their warped version of normality through media propaganda and the barrel of a gun, the attack of a drone and all illegal means necessary. Those who refuse to cave in to US-led hegemony could well face a similar fate as Syria.  You don’t need to refer to the Mayan calendar to know for some the end could be near. The message from the US is that it will be – if you fail to fall into line.

Also see:

The Mayan 2012 Prophecy: The Orwellian “End of the World” Doomsday is “Made in America”

The Mayan 2012 Prophecy: The Orwellian “End of the World” Doomsday is “Made in America”

End of the World: Hear the 2012 Prophecy … Direct from the Mouths of the Mayan Priests

The Mayans, the ecological crisis and the end of the world: a little sanity please

The Maya collapsed – could we?

This is a long, sometimes technical, but most worthwhile read. It lays out clearly the connection between a grow-or-die capitalist economy and the rapidly-worsening ecological crisis. It demonstrates that capitalism is inherently unsustainable and ecocidal, and that any talk of reform or “green capitalism,” or veganism as the panacea for our problems is absurd.

The most immediate crisis we face today is that of a metastasizing global capitalism economy, and unless this entire system can be dismantled and radically reconstituted, I see no chance of survival for the millions of species inhabiting this planet including the only true malignant predator and inexorable force of destruction, Homo rapiens.

The problem, of course, is not only the violent and dysfunctional animal that humans are, but the catastrophic results that follow when human primates organize growth-oriented, hierarchical systems of domination, and these eventually evolve into a capitalist economy addicted to growth, and the resource extraction this system demands, especially now with over 7 billion people consuming well over 100 billion land and sea animals a year.

There is hope, and somewhere in the bottom of the Mediterranean Sea there is my wallet which I lost seven years ago and perhaps that might turn up too.

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By John Bellamy Foster and Brett Clark, Z-Net, December 10, 2012

Capitalism today is caught in a seemingly endless crisis, with economic stagnation and upheaval circling the globe.1 But while the world has been fixated on the economic problem, global environmental conditions have been rapidly worsening, confronting humanity with its ultimate crisis: one of long-term survival. The common source of both of these crises resides in the process of capital accumulation. Likewise the common solution is to be sought in a “revolutionary reconstitution of society at large,” going beyond the regime of capital.2

It is still possible for humanity to avert what economist Robert Heilbroner once called “ecological Armageddon.”3 The means for the creation of a just and sustainable world currently exist, and are to be found lying hidden in the growing gap between what could be achieved with the resources already available to us, and what the prevailing social order allows us to accomplish. It is this latent potential for a quite different human metabolism with nature that offers the master-key to a workable ecological exit strategy.

The Approaching Ecological Precipice

Science today tells us that we have a generation at most in which to carry out a radical transformation in our economic relations, and our relations with the earth, if we want to avoid a major tipping point or “point of no return,” after which vast changes in the earth’s climate will likely be beyond our ability to prevent and will be irreversible.4 At that point it will be impossible to stop the ice sheets in Antarctica and Greenland from continuing to melt, and thus the sea level from rising by as much as “tens of meters.”5 Nor will we be able to prevent the Arctic sea ice from vanishing completely in the summer months, or carbon dioxide and methane from being massively released by the decay of organic matter currently trapped beneath the permafrost—both of which would represent positive feedbacks dangerously accelerating climate change. Extreme weather events will become more and more frequent and destructive.

An article in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences demonstrated that the record-breaking heat wave that hit the Moscow area in 2010 with disastrous effect was made five times more likely, in the decade ending in that year as compared with earlier decades, due to the warming trend, implying “an approximate 80% probability” that it “would not have occurred without climate warming.” Other instances of extreme weather such as the deadly European heat wave in 2003 and the serious drought in Oklahoma and Texas in 2011, have been shown to be connected to earth warming. Hurricane Sandy, which devastated much of New York and New Jersey at the end of October 2012, was impacted and amplified to a considerable extent by climate change.6

The point of irreversible climate change is usually thought of as a 2°C (3.6°F) increase in global average temperature, which has been described as equivalent at the planetary level to the “cutting down of the last palm tree” on Easter Island. An increase of 2°C in global average temperature coincides roughly with cumulative carbon emissions of around one trillion metric tons. Based on past emissions trends it is predicted by climate scientists at Oxford University that we will hit the one trillion metric ton mark in 2043, or thirty-one years from now. We could avoid emitting the trillionth metric ton if we were to reduce our carbon emissions beginning immediately by an annual rate of 2.4 percent a year.7

To be sure, climate science is not exact enough to pinpoint precisely how much warming will push us past a planetary tipping point.8 But all the recent indications are that if we want to avoid planetary disaster we need to stay considerably below 2°C. As a result, almost all governments have signed on to staying below 2°C as a goal at the urging of the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. More and more, 2°C has come to symbolize the reality of a planetary point of no return. In this sense, all the discussions of what the climate will be like if the world warms to 3°C, or all the way to 6°C, are relatively meaningless.9 Before such temperatures are attained, we will have already reached the limits of our ability to control the climate-change process, and we will then be left with the task of adapting to apocalyptic ecological conditions. Already Arctic sea ice experienced a record melt in the summer of 2012 with some scientists predicting an ice-free Arctic in the summer as early as 2016–2020. In the words of James Hansen, the world’s leading climatologist, we are facing a “planetary emergency”—since if we approach 2°C “we will have started a process that is out of humanity’s control.”10 Continue reading

A beautifully stated, provocative, impeccably argued declaration of love and war that counters the pacifist lie that liberationists are “pro-violence” rather than sober realists and vital life forces …….

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Dr. Glen Barry, Eco-Earth.Info, January 31, 2012

Imagining the human family coming together to take well considered, decisive, and minimally or non-violent action to sustain global ecology

Human Family’s Ecocidal Death Wish

The ecological foundation of being is unraveling before our very eyes. Without ecosystems there is no life. Fiercely loving Earth is the answer. Let’s sustain global ecology together like our shared survival and abundance depends upon it. And while we set out using classic civil disobedience tactics, let’s not dismiss out of hand any obstruction, uncivil disobedience, sabotage and targeted insurgency tactics – that are non-terrorist – and that may be necessary to achieve global ecological sustainability. The human family’s shared survival depends upon passionately defending Earth using all means necessary.

malcom-x-by-any-means-necessary

Earth’s ecosystems are collapsing under the burden of human growth, destroying our one shared biosphere that makes life possible. Industrial growth – frantically destroying ecosystems to feed insatiable, ever-growing appetites – is an aberration, a mistake, a disease. If left untreated, this will be the end of the human family, all life, and Earth’s very being. Infinite economic growth at the expense of ecosystems is impossible, and seeking endless and inequitable growth in consumption and population can only lead to collapse and massive die-off.

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Humanity’s last best chance to justly and equitably sustain a livable planet is to protect and restore ecosystems, end fossil fuels, and a people’s power Earth revolution to utterly destroy the ecocidal industrial growth machine. We are all bloody fools to tolerate and not immediately overthrow a violently ecocidal system that is killing us all. If we all understood the implications of global ecosystem collapse, we would go now, together, and slay the global growth machine. It is too late to escape profound ecological decline, yet complete disastrous social and ecological collapse – and possible end to most or all life – may yet be avoided.

Sustaining ecology must become society’s central organizing principle or humans and all species face horrendous death. Globally it is time for radical change to simply survive converging ecology, food, war, water, inequity, population, climate, jobs, ocean, and extinction crises. It is deeply troubling most “environmentalists” deny the severity of ecosystem collapse, rejecting out of hand revolutionary measures sufficient to sustain ecology.

Earth is dying a death of a billion lashes as ecosystems are liquidated for consumption as if nature has no worth. 80% of old forests are gone, 50% of top soil, 90% of big ocean fish, bee populations are collapsing, we are undergoing abrupt climate change, and two billion are hungry and thirsty – to say nothing of acidic and dead oceans, nitrogen pollution, fracking and tar sands, extinction, desertification, water scarcity, pervasive toxics, and how all these ecological crises interact and reinforce each other.

Yes, you read this right – EARTH IS DYING – not that humans are going extinct, but Earth will recover. A whole body of global change and ecology science and intuition indicates Earth is well past its carrying capacity and planetary boundaries, that enough ecosystems have been lost, diminished, and changed forever, that the biogeochemical process that make life possible are failing. We face an unprecedented planetary ecological emergency.

Earth’s ecology crises go unaddressed because of lack of justice, equity and rights –and 1% elite rule with big NGO environmental group greenwash. Earth is dying NOW. The thin layer of life known as the biosphere is collapsing NOW. Life giving ecosystems are being destroyed NOW. Being is ending NOW. It could be different if we acted together to stop the forces of ecocide. The human family embraces a sustaining ecology ethic, or all die brutal, needless deaths, gasping for air, hungry and cold, at each other’s throats.

Most of us have lost contact with Earth that made and sustains us, so we kill our creator, life and ourselves without knowing or caring. It is everybody’s responsibility to stop this self-fulfilling death wish. Those who have yet to have this ecological revelation and are killing Earth must be compelled to stop, using all means necessary. There is no escaping the ECOLOGICAL FACT that global ecosystems and our one shared biosphere are literally falling apart as we continue to incautiously pull pieces from them.

Don’t Ever Say Never to Earth Revolution

True peace is not the absence of conflict as enslaved and hurdling towards mass ecocidal death. Peace is rights, equity, justice, jobs, sustainability – for which we sometimes must judiciously fight. It is ridiculous to suggest that these pernicious trends in ecological destruction – caused by industrial economic growth, which is nearly universally accepted and enriches the powerful 1% elite – will end without a full-scale people’s power revolution – with all available tactics readied for if, and when, needed – by a small but enlightened and dedicated minority.

NO one seeks or desires violent revolution, yet Earth is dying, and we need to enter into revolution with all intentions of using civil and disobedient means, but if necessary we may need to cross the Rubicon and embrace uncivil and more confrontational means. Never before has such fundamental social change – challenging the deeply entrenched industrial growth paradigm, and the more is always better growth mentality, eating Earth’s ecosytems – been attempted.

A time may well come soon when it is necessary to use all means necessary against real eco-terrorists – those who are destroying with impunity our shared global ecosystems and our one biosphere, which make life possible and are necessary simply to survive.

All enlightened planetary life wants and deserves an Earth Revolution that is done wisely, escalates carefully, and is ultimately successful in bringing humanity and Earth’s ecosystems back into equilibrium. We of course want the right resistance, exerted by the right people, at the right time, calling for the right things. And as defenders of Earth and all life’s being – we find all violence repugnant, and do not seek any violence ever. But the stakes are high and we are not leaving any possibilities off the table, except for random terrorist targeting of innocents, which would not be tolerated.

Some people are simply taken aback – after several decades of being indoctrinated that civil disobedience is the only legitimate resistance to oppression and imminent death – and are unable to even hear and consider these academic thoughts. Yet, I do not recall ever reading words from Martin Luther King and Mahatma Gandhi saying never, ever, ever will there be another instance where physical confrontation may be necessary or tolerable.

Both Gandhi and King provided a great service in making clear non-violent protest is always the preferable option, and that a great deal can be accomplished over time wielding this powerful tool. But they did not foreclose upon ever using traditional revolutionary activities in times of great danger, when it is thought there is not time, exclusively peaceful tactics have not worked, and when life’s very being is imminently threatened.

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A faith-based movement – as was the basis for both King and Gandhi’s struggles – to bring people power to bear upon global ecology sustainability will not work as the primary motivator of the profound social change necessary to sustain ecology. Organized religion is simply too divisive, and bereft of knowable truth, to address what are fact-based, scientific ecological crises.

Organized religion is part and parcel of the history of ecological decline. It is vital to prospects for achieving just and equitable global ecological sustainability that all mythical gods be kept out of government, are made to tread lightly upon Earth, are kept off non-believers’ bodies, and remain within the realm of personal faith. Sustaining ecology must depend upon other more truthful and observable sensibilities such as global land, ecology, family, justice, equity, knowledge, and community ethics.

In fact, these two singular men – whose faith based movements brought about important social change – nonetheless have very little to say to inform the necessary dramatic changes needed now to achieve global ecological sustainability. The issues are different, the stakes higher, and the urgency greater. A single charismatic figure appealing to one religious tradition or another is not going to rise to bring Earth to ecological sustainability – our dependence upon destroying ecosystems to meet our desires is too deeply entrenched.

Earth Revolution has to come from the people globally. What is needed is a revolutionary Earth sentiment that arises organically from the people. Earth Revolution aiming to equitably and justly sustain global ecology would be well advised to first go through an escalating serious of protest tactics until a well-developed, and sufficient set of demands are met or rebuffed. If the latter, change of the magnitude necessary in a very short time may well come only from an empowered minority practicing leaderless resistance tactics based upon an underground cell structure.

People globally would participate in such an Earth insurgency to the degree and using tactics that are consistent with their conscience. It is common sense when you lose the ability to sustain yourself – through despotism, ecocide or injustice – that you have the right, indeed a duty, to defend ourselves. If enough people – perhaps 3% of the human family – all at once rushed and destroyed the sources of ecocidal power – Earth, humanity, and all life could be saved with very little if any violence.

Things would be difficult for the formerly rich (broadly defined as those living detached from nature in a comfortable but Earth destroying technological cocoon, including much of the global bourgeoisie) for some time – as they readjust to living within ecological limits. But they would adjust, and all could survive leading simpler, more grounded and meaningful lives, rather than face a final and brutally violent apocalyptic end under the status quo.

To refuse to even consider more robust revolutionary tactics – which for many have brought freedom, and ended monarchy, slavery and other ills – to protect all life’s shared survival from global ecocide in the short time we have, is copping out on Earth and virtually assuring an end to being.

Non-Cooperation, Obstruction, Sabotage, Insurgency

The timing for Earth Revolution is so right: Earth is dying, people are suffering, species are going, freedom is failing, uber-inequity reigns, economic injustice is the norm, yet people are awakening. There has never been such high hope regarding the prospects of achieving global human and economic rights, equity and justice, and of the need to sustain ecology. And given the terrible state of global ecology, equity, justice, freedom, and rights – governments have in fact abdicated.

Only profound, revolutionary, gut-wrenching social, economic, political and personal change will save Earth, humanity and all life from ecology collapse and an end to being. Failure to accept revolutionary change tactics means we are accepting ecosystems and society will collapse, and you just want to enjoy living excessively awhile longer. Surely it is not rational to fail to pursue revolution because it may become violent, when violence orders of magnitude greater exists now daily under the status quo growth machine, and will only intensify as apocalyptic end of the world approaches.

We should pursue Earth Revolution using aggressive civil disobedience and non-violently as long as we can and they are effective. But the successes achieved have thus far been tiny compared to what is required to abet ecocidal trends. If accommodation and compromise continue to be rebuffed, and Earth is dying, and thus our very survival depends upon ecosystems which are being killed by ecocidal evil, we have an obligation to look at other well-known uncivil disobedience, non-cooperation, sabotage, and insurgency tactics – as well as emerging transnational protest opportunities presented by the Internet – to bring about social change for a living Earth.

Given the political and economic systems’ inherent and profound violence to people and nature – as well as urgent global justice, equity and ecological imperatives – strategies and tactics are going to have to continue to be evaluated and evolve. Violent or non-violent is not the main consideration, and rarely are they exclusive. Other aspects of radical social change tactics – such as effective or non-effective, civil or uncivil, timely or too late, accommodating or not – are just as important.

Leaderless resistance tactics used by current global revolutionary movements could morph into underground cells waging revolution for global freedom, rights and ecosystems. The necessary Earth Revolution to sustain global ecology could escalate to non-cooperation with the ecocidal system, agro-ecological gardening while obstructing industrial agriculture, protecting and restoring ecosystems, and love-making and sharing.

And maybe – and only if absolutely necessary – Earth Revolution could embrace wisely conceived and targeted sabotage and insurgency to utterly destroy the global growth machine that is devouring ecosystems and destroying being.

Earthfirstmonkeywrench

There are many soft targets in the under-belly of the industrial growth machine that is liquidating ecosystems for throw-away consumption. Poorly defended fossil fuel, old forest logging, communication, pipeline and other industrial infrastructure abound. We know the primary perpetrators of ecocide profiting from Earth destroying activities, and they could be made to pay a heavy price, dissuading others from doing so.

Throughout history there are instances where revolutionary violence has been a liberating force, and other times where it has been oppressive. The coming Earth Revolution need not be overly violent. Like most revolutions, there will almost certainly be some. Again, NOBODY SEEKS VIOLENCE, and revolutions which don’t emphasize violence, while acknowledging the rights of others to act within their conscience, and which do not try to use violence to control its members, can often be remarkably free of physical coercion. Other times, where vital social change cannot be delayed – yet is highly contested by privileged elite – this may not be possible.

Ongoing institutionalized violence by the elitist economic growth machine, military legions, resurgent fascism and corporate ecocide far exceed what has occurred historically during liberating people power revolutions (and much of this is often incidental and caused by fringe forces). The level of violence during any possible Earth Revolution would largely be determined by the responses of the oppressors to legitimate and enlightened opposition to end ecosystem destruction, injustice and inequity.

Nature and I Fight Back

As I have spent a lifetime studying global trends of ecological decline, it has become clear that current remedial actions are going to be orders-of-magnitude inadequate. The over-population, ecosystem loss, toxics, injustice and inequity are just too pernicious. And I have also long had a fascination with the topic of non-violence, and when violence may be justified and necessary. These life-long observations have led me to become a reluctant member of the revolutionary left.

I am well aware of what humans are capable of in terms of violence, and the damage it does. I grew up in a family rife with childhood sexual abuse – in which I was violently sexually abused by a “favorite” uncle. My own topsy-turfy relationship with my lovely wife – who I love so much we have been married twice – was nonetheless marred by emotional and physical abuse on both our parts. Paradoxically, I excelled as a private in the army, yet left seeking conscientious objector status.

After leaving the army, I was quite proud of my commitment to peace, as I am now. And some former acquaintances are undoubtedly put off by the cognitive dissonance of a peace activist embracing revolution. But now, unlike then, I can envision something for which I would be willing to fight – other than god or country, which I have long rejected as the basis for killing – and that is continued existence for all life. We are one human family utterly dependent upon Earth’s ecology for shared being. And if we don’t fight the forces of ecocide win and everything dies.

Knowing this, I have followed big dreams with my life, with no guarantees, and very few fundamental regrets. Giving your life to Earth is deeply satisfying. Nonetheless, sometimes I feel so traumatized by what I know is being done to Earth, and what will be the consequences, that I can hardly carry on. I am comforted by the expectation that at some point – those that realize Earth is dying – will have to take matters into their own hands, and will succeed. Indeed, people are coming together now for ecology, workers and rights. Such a people power Earth uprising is the only way we survive together.

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Recorded in Barcelona, Spain, September 2012

Recorded in Barcelona, Spain, September 2012

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The essay below reports still more disturbing news in the war against wildlife, specifically, the war of hunters, ranchers, and the US government against the gravely endangered Mexican Wolf. (For details on the longstanding role the US government has played in extirminating millions of wolves and other animals to protect the cattle industry, see past blog posts here and here.) As this article shows, neither scientists, nor conservationists, nor politicians have the will or influence to advance the interests of wolves over cattle and biodiversity over steaks and hamburgers. To this day, entire wolf packs have been taken into custody or massacred following livestock losses. The time is coming soon when the miniscule fragments of land set aside for wolves will be scraped altogether, with no pretense of anything but total annihilation of wild animals and simulacra of wilderness, in favor of a vast unbroken chain of Golden Arches, steak joints, slaughterhouses, and fast-food courts, stretching from coast-to-caost and crisscrossing this besieged planet like a web of doom.

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For Wolves on the Brink, A Hobbled Recovery Plan

Caroline Fraser, Yale Environment 360, October 25, 2012

Few creatures in the United States have come as close to extinction as the Mexican wolf, which was wiped out in the U.S. by 1970. Now, scientists and conservationists contend, federal officials are caving into political pressure and failing to implement a legally mandated reintroduction plan.

For a melodrama of persecuted fugitives to rival Les Misérables, look no farther than the Mexican wolf, the subspecies of gray wolf that once populated the U.S. Southwest. Hunted and trapped by ranchers and federal agencies since the late 1800s, now detained by the same agencies in pens called “wolf jail,” few species in North America have come closer to extinction. Fewer still have suffered through attempted recoveries so plagued by reversals and allegations of mismanagement.

Like Jean Valjean (#24601), they are known by their numbers. Extirpated in the U.S. and nearly gone in Mexico by the 1970s, the wolves became the focus of a captive breeding program launched by 1980 with a handful of individuals, some interrelated. In 1998, the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service — the lead agency responsible for the wolves’ recovery — reintroduced the first of 11 in the wild. That January, alpha female #174 from the Campbell Blue pack was carried into a snowy stretch of the Blue Range mountains of eastern Arizona and her cage door opened by U.S. Interior Secretary Bruce Babbitt. By August, she was dead, shot with a high-powered rifle by an unknown killer. Her companions were slain, disappeared, or removed by wildlife officials for leaving the recovery area, a violation of conditions of their parole.


Wolf Management Area

Arizona Game and Fish Department. A female Mexican wolf paces in a pen before her release into the wild.

Since that time, many scientists and conservationists contend, the Mexican wolf recovery in the wild has been a failure. Even the Fish & Wildlife Service deemed the population “at risk of failure” in its 2010 assessment of the program. The recovery has been shadowed by accusations that U.S. officials have shied away from their obligation under the Endangered Species Act to fully protect Mexican wolves because of vehement opposition from western states. A successful breeding program now maintains several hundred in captivity, but only 58 survive in the wild, a marked contrast to the more than 1,700 gray wolves that have repopulated the northern Rocky Mountains after widely publicized reintroduction efforts.

The main reason for the faltering Mexican wolf program is a set of rules — negotiated between the federal government and the states — more restrictive than those governing any other endangered species reintroduction. The Mexican wolves in this “nonessential experimental” population may only be freed inside a small patch of Arizona, although much of the recovery area lies in New Mexico; those preying on cattle can be removed or legally killed; those straying outside must be trapped and brought back, subverting natural behavior and dispersal. In the temperate Southwest, they are surrounded year-round by cattle, an ever-present temptation, unlike gray wolves to the north, where severe winters limit grazing to a few months.

While defending the program as a success, Fish & Wildlife Service officials have recently expressed frustration with those restrictive rules. Tom Buckley, the agency’s spokesman in the southwest, pointed out that “second and third-generation animals [are] living and breathing in the wild” and called the program “pretty successful.” But he notes that the release area is “full of wolves” with established territories, making future releases hazardous for newcomers and halting progress.

So it was all the more surprising earlier this month, many experts say, when the agency opted for the staus quo and denied a request to classify the Mexican wolf, Canis lupus baileyi, as a subspecies of the gray wolf, Canis lupus. The protection already enjoyed by the wolf, the agency claimed, had raised its numbers “from none… to 58.” Sherry Barrett, Mexican wolf recovery coordinator, echoed that assessment, arguing that “It’s a big success when you started from no animals in the wild.” But scientists and environmental groups argue that a subspecies listing is essential for a robust recovery, as it would require a new recovery plan and the identification of “critical habitat,” which might extend into the neighboring states of Colorado and Utah.

Biologists and geneticists summoned by the agency to revise the Mexican wolf’s 30-year-old recovery plan have grown incensed over what they see as political and bureaucratic interference. Their fears — that the Fish & Wildlife Service is allowing states to hijack the scientific process — are the basis of a formal complaint of “Scientific and Scholarly Misconduct” filed in June with the U.S. Interior Department, charging that the federal Mexican wolf recovery program has become “the antithesis of scientific integrity.”

The whistleblower organization behind this J’accuse is Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER), which has harried the agency over the Endangered Species Act since the Clinton years. In 14 single-spaced pages, PEER’s complaint also assails the agency’s National Wolf Strategy, including the controversial, congressionally mandated decision to remove the gray wolf in the northern Rockies from the endandered species list. PEER claims Fish & Wildlife’s decisions have lacked public transparency and review by independent scientists, violating the Obama administration’s promise to honor the best available science.


Mexican Wolf Release

A Mexican wolf is released at Gila National Forest in New Mexico in 2010.

PEER has taken up the cause of scientists who recognize that the lobo is the most genetically distinct of all remaining wolf subspecies, a Pleistocene relict of the first wave of wolves to colonize the continent. The Mexican wolf is an irreplaceable fixture of the modern-day restorationist’s fondest dream — that a Noah’s Ark of wolf, jaguar, and the Bolson tortoise may one day revive ecosystems in the Southwest degraded by centuries of overgrazing and development. Since the 1990s, expert panels of wolf biologists commissioned by the Fish & Wildlife Service have consistently advised the agency to follow the science: Modify restrictive rules that require constant trapping and relocating of the wolves, release them in Arizona and New Mexico, and establish several wild populations so that the existing one cannot be wiped out by disease, fire, or other threats.

The agency has consistently declined to do so, dismissing previous panels tasked with revising the recovery plan. Philip Hedrick, an Arizona State University genetics expert who served on those panels, has grown increasingly alarmed by the agency’s failure to act, saying delays erode dwindling chances for “genetic rescue.” Says Hedrick, “The long-term and even the short-term survival of the wild population is in jeopardy.”

Over the years, pups and entire wolf packs have been lethally “removed” or taken into custody following livestock losses by public lands ranchers, who lease forest allotments for cattle grazing. Among them was Mule Pack alpha female #189, who lost a leg to frostbite while caught in a trap. Re-released, she survived on three legs until she disappeared. Overall, the Fish & Wildlife Service has removed more wolves (153) than it has released (92). Nearly half the 88 reported deaths have been caused by illegal shooting, while rural communities have complained ceaselessly of threats to livestock and pets.

The Mexican wolf reintroduction program has played out on a remote stage, the rugged, juniper-covered canyons, grassy meadows, and heights studded with ponderosa pines of the “Blue Range Wolf Recovery Area” on the border between Arizona and New Mexico. To reach it from Albuquerque requires hours of driving, crossing the Continental Divide, passing through the desolate Plains of San Agustin and its strange spectacle of the Expanded Very Large Array, enormous dish antennas trained on black holes. Spotting the elusive creature is nearly as difficult. Smaller than the gray wolf, the lobo is cryptically colored in browns and grays, and its numbers have remained tiny and its movements tightly controlled.

It took until 2010 for a Fish & Wildlife Service assessment to acknowledge that Mexican wolves were “not thriving.” At that point Benjamin Tuggle, director of the service’s Southwest region, summoned a new recovery team. Its science panel was charged with updating the recovery plan “consistent with the best available scientific information.” That year, Obama’s Interior Department adopted a policy demanding “clear and unambiguous… use of science in decision-making.”

Scientists began preparing a confidential plan, proposing three populations of at least 250 animals connected by corridors, standard practice in recovering endangered species. Among suitable habitats, the plan identified areas encompassing the north rim of the Grand Canyon and border regions of Arizona and Utah, as well as New Mexico and southern Colorado. That draft document was leaked last fall by state game officials, igniting ferocious opposition from hunters’ groups and prompting an angry letter from the Utah governor to Interior Secretary Ken Salazar. In an op-ed, U.S Senator Orrin Hatch stated that Mexican wolves “do not belong in Utah” and decried the “environmental extremists” who would put them there.

The science panel nonetheless carried on, completing a longer draft plan by May. PEER’s June complaint quoted Fish & Wildlife Service emails in its contention that federal officials tried to improperly influence the plan’s proposals for wolf numbers and potential habitat, with Tuggle’s staff requesting a range of numbers instead of the “3 x 250” recommendations: “You should not feel undo [sic] pressure at this point to accommodate, per se, but you should recognize that this is his way of telling you… what information he would like to see.”

Furthermore, the complaint argued that the broader National Wolf Strategy paid more attention to state opposition and “political concerns” than to science, proposing recovery efforts only for states without objections, arguably a violation of the law. In June, the American Society of Mammalogists warned the Fish & Wildlife Service that further delays in reintroducing Mexican wolves will cause “irreparable harm,” as captive wolves grow older and genetic opportunities are lost. By September, the FWS had investigated and exonerated itself, finding the complaint “not warranted.”

Scientists have recently begun to understand the vital role played by top predators in ecosystems and the profound impacts that occur when those predators are wiped out. Now, Caroline Fraser writes, researchers are citing new evidence that shows the importance of lions, wolves, sharks, and other creatures at the top of the food chain.

Michael Robinson, conservation advocate with the Center for Biological Diversity — one of the groups seeking to have the Mexican wolf declared a subspecies — accused Fish & Wildlife Service officials of “congratulating themselves on releasing wolves and not shooting every one of them.” Robinson called the handling of the program “one of the more spectacular” examples of the agency’s mismanagement, pointing out that its own projections had called for 102 wolves and 18 breeding pairs in the wild by 2006. The refusal of a subspecies listing was political, he said, noting Colorado’s importance as a swing state in the upcoming election.

In the midst of this heated debate, the Fish & Wildlife Service announced in August that it would “lethally control” another wolf for killing cattle. She was the Fox Mountain alpha female, caring for four pups. After wolf advocates protested to the White House and legislators, she was granted a reprieve, with plans made to place her in captivity. She eluded authorities until Oct. 10, when she was caught in a federal trap. A local conservation center has agreed to keep her for the rest of her life

The Crucial Role of Predators: A New Perspective on Ecology

READ THE e360 REPORT

Quammen’s article below provides a powerful and relevant example of the continued biological fallout of the revolutionary shift to agricultural society ten thousand years ago, and the decision to “domesticate” animal species to exploit for human purposes. Since that decisive historical watershed, human “evolution” in fact has been a long co-evolution with other animals. Animals shape our lives and history as we shape theirs. But as the victims of human domination, they have borne a tragic toll and catastrophic cost due to the implacably violent nature and hyper-alienated mindset of Homo rapiens. Yet in the vast web of ecology and the infinite dialectic of action-reaction, the debt of destruction is soon to be paid in even more astronomical terms. For all our scientific, technological, and cultural brilliance, humans have yet to learn that they can never overshoot their ecological boundaries, disrupt and destroy animal communities, or relentlessly assault the earth without catastrophic consequences. Here is just one such known example of biological “karma,” vividly demonstrating that hubristic humans have “mastered” nothing on this planet and that violating the laws of ecology carries the most severe penalties.

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David Quammen, Yale Environment 360, October 4, 2012,

The Next Pandemic: Why It Will Come from Wildlife

Experts believe the next deadly human pandemic will almost certainly be a virus that spills over from wildlife to humans. The reasons why have a lot to do with the frenetic pace with which we are destroying wild places and disrupting ecosystems.

Emerging diseases are in the news again. Scary viruses are making themselves noticed and felt. There’s been a lot of that during the past several months — West Nile fever kills 17 people in the Dallas area, three tourists succumb to hantavirus after visiting Yosemite National Park, an Ebola outbreak in the Democratic Republic of the Congo claims 33 lives. A separate Ebola outbreak, across the border in Uganda, registers a death toll of 17. A peculiar new coronavirus, related to SARS, proves fatal for a Saudi man and puts a Qatari into critical condition, while disease scientists all over the world wonder: Is this one — or is that one — going to turn into the Next Big One?

By the Next Big One, I mean a murderous pandemic that sweeps around the planet, killing millions of people, as the so-called “Spanish” influenza did in 1918-19, as AIDS has been doing in slower motion, and as SARS might have done in 2003 if it hadn’t been stopped by fast science, rigorous measures of public health, and luck. Experts I’ve interviewed over the past six years generally agree that such a Next Big One is not only possible but probable. They agree that it will almost certainly be a zoonotic disease — one that emerges from wildlife — and that the causal agent will most likely be a virus. They agree that sheer human abundance, density, and interconnectedness make us highly vulnerable. Our population now stands above seven billion, after all, a vast multitude of potential victims, many of us living at close quarters in big cities, traveling quickly and often from place to place, sharing infections with one another; and there are dangerous new viruses lately emerging against which we haven’t been immunized. Another major pandemic seems as logically inevitable as the prospect that a very dry, very thick forest will eventually burn.

That raises serious issues in the realm of health policy, preparedness, and medical response. It also suggests a few urgent questions on the scientific side — we might even say, the conservation side — of the discussion. Those questions, in simplest form, are: Where? How? and Why? Addressing them is crucial to understanding the dynamics of emerging diseases, and understanding is crucial to preparedness and response.

First question: From where will the Next Big One emerge? Answer, as I’ve noted: Most likely from wildlife. It will be a zoonosis — an animal infection that spills over into humans.

Everything comes from somewhere. New human diseases don’t arrive from Mars. Notwithstanding the vivid anxieties of The Andromeda Strain (1969) and other such fictions, lethal microbes don’t arrive on contaminated satellites returning from deep space. (Or anyway, knock wood, they haven’t so far.) They emerge from nonhuman animals, earthly ones, and spill over into human populations, catching hold, replicating, sometimes adapting and prospering, then passing onward from human to human.

According to one study, 58 percent of all pathogen species infecting humans are zoonotic. Another study found that 72 percent of all recently emerged zoonotic pathogens have come from wildlife. That list includes According to one study, 72 percent of all recently emerged zoonotic pathogens have come from wildlife. everything from Ebola and Marburg and the HIVs and the influenzas to West Nile virus, monkeypox, and the SARS bug.

In Malaysia, a virus called Nipah spilled over from fruit bats in 1998. Its route into humans was indirect but efficient: The bats fed in fruit trees overshadowing factory-scale pigsties; the bat droppings carried virus, which infected many pigs; the virus replicated abundantly in the pigs, and from them infected piggery workers and employees at abattoirs. That outbreak killed 109 people and ended with the culling of 1.1 million pigs.

Second question: How do such pathogens get into humans? The particulars are various but the general answer is: contact. Contact equals opportunity, and the successful pathogens are those that seize opportunities to proliferate and to spread, not just from one host to another but from one kind of host to another.

Wild aquatic birds defecate in a village duck pond, passing a new strain of influenza to domestic ducks; the ducks pass it to a Chinese boy charged with their care, after which the boy passes it to his brother and sister. A man in Cameroon butchers a chimpanzee and, elbow deep in its blood, acquires a simian virus that becomes HIV-1. A miner in Uganda enters a shaft filled with bats carrying Marburg virus and, somehow, by ingesting or breathing bat wastes, gets infected. Contact between people and wildlife, sometime direct, sometimes with livestock as intermediaries, presents opportunities for their infections to become ours.

Third question: Why do such spillovers seem to be happening now more than ever? There’s been a steady drumbeat of new zoonotic viruses We are interacting with wild animals and disrupting the ecosystems they inhabit to an unprecedented degree. emerging into the human population within recent decades: Machupo (1961), Marburg (1967), Lassa (1969), Ebola (1976), HIV-1 (inferred in 1981, first isolated in 1983), HIV-2 (1986), Sin Nombre (the first-recognized American hantavirus, 1993), Hendra (1994), the strain of influenza called “avian flu” (1997), Nipah (1998), West Nile (1999), SARS (2003), and others. These are not independent events. They are parts of a pattern. They reflect things that we’re doing, not just things that are happening to us.

What we’re doing is interacting with wild animals and disrupting the ecosystems that they inhabit — all to an unprecedented degree. Of course, humans have always killed wildlife and disrupted ecosystems, clearing and fragmenting forests, converting habitat into cropland and settlement, adding livestock to the landscape, driving native species toward extinction, introducing exotics. But now that there are seven billion of us on the planet, with greater tools, greater hungers, greater mobility, we’re pressing into the wild places like never before, and one of the things that we’re finding there is… new infections. And once we’ve acquired a new infection, the chance of spreading it globally is also greater than ever.

We cut our way through the Congo. We cut our way through the Amazon. We cut our way through Borneo and Madagascar and northeastern Australia. We shake the trees, figuratively and literally, and things fall out. We kill and butcher and eat many of the wild animals found there. We settle in those places, creating villages, work camps, towns, extractive Evolution seizes opportunity, explores possibilities, and helps convert spillovers to pandemics. industries, new cities. We bring in our domesticated animals, replacing the wild herbivores with livestock. We multiply our livestock as we’ve multiplied ourselves, operating huge factory-scale operations such as the piggeries in Malaysia, into which Nipah virus fell from the bats feeding in fruit trees planted nearby, after the bats’ native forest habitats had been destroyed. We export and import livestock across great distances and at high speeds. We export and import other live animals, especially primates, for medical research. We export and import animal skins, exotic pets, contraband bushmeat, and plants, some of which carry secret microbial passengers.

We travel, moving between cities and continents even more quickly than our transported livestock. We eat in restaurants where the cook may have butchered a porcupine before working on our scallops. We visit monkey temples in Asia, live markets in India, picturesque villages in South America, dusty archeological sites in New Mexico, dairy towns in the Netherlands, bat caves in East Africa, racetracks in Australia — breathing the air, feeding the animals, touching things, shaking hands with the friendly locals — and then we jump on our planes and fly home. We get bit by mosquitoes and ticks. We alter the global climate with our carbon emissions, which may in turn alter the latitudinal ranges within which those mosquitoes and ticks live. We provide an irresistible opportunity for enterprising microbes by the ubiquity and abundance of our human bodies.

For decades, deadly outbreaks of cholera were attributed to the spread of disease through poor sanitation. But recent research demonstrates how closely cholera is tied to environmental and hydrological factors and to weather patterns — all of which may lead to more frequent cholera outbreaks as the world warms.

Everything I’ve just mentioned is encompassed within this rubric: the ecology and evolutionary biology of zoonotic diseases. Ecological circumstance provides opportunity for spillover. Evolution seizes opportunity, explores possibilities, and helps convert spillovers to pandemics. But the majesty of the sheer biological phenomena involved is no consolation for the human miseries, the deaths, and the current level of risk.

There are things that can be done — research, vigilance, anticipation, fast and effective response — to stave off or at least mitigate the Next Big One. My point here is different. My point is about human ecology, not human medicine. It behooves us to remember that we too are animals, interconnected with the rest of earthly biota by shared diseases, among other ways. We should recall that salubriuous biblical warning from the Book of Proverbs: “He that troubleth his own house shall inherit the wind.” The planet is our home, but not ours only, and we’d be wise to tread a little more lightly within this wonderful, germy world.

Italian Facebook Steve Best Rome Lecture Tour Event Page

Per Animalia Veritas Steve Best Event Page

“Interview with Steve Best,” Asinus Novus

“Steve Best in Italy: From Philosophy to Action,” by the blog (and more), Asinus Novus. The writers provided a nice summary of my talks and main ideas.

A Key Meeting,” Arielvegangfashinblogspot.com; a refreshingly intelligent, fair, and incisive essay on my work, thank you Ariel.

“Now Enough,” Barbara Balsalmo

 

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I wish to thank everyone in Italy for inviting me to speak again this year, and for being such gracious hosts, fantastic activists. and amazing people. There are dozens, perhaps over a hundred of people who made this tour possible and joyful. I cannot possibly name them all. I do however, wish to offer a very special thank you to:

Kostia Troinia and Barbara Balsamo for inviting me and being the principal organizers of my talks in Rome. You are the best!

Marcos Aragao for your excellent photos.

VeggieChannel.com for your tremendous effort in interviewing me, taping my lectures in Turin, Rome, and Latina, and for having the courage to post my talks on your channel.

The kind women at Asinus Novus for showing enough interest in my work to summarize my talks and interview me; it was a pleasure, thank you.

Per Animalia Veritas; thank you for your activism, support, and bold defense of militant direct action!

The ReWild Cruelty Free Club; you guys rock and make the best vegan food!

Paolo Trono and his club, Vegan Città di Latina (a former abattoir transformed into a space for music, lectures, and culture!) in which I gave my final speech in the Rome area before moving north to Brescia; thank you for your kindness, the great audience, and the great free food and beer!

Piercarlo Paderno for inviting and hosting me in Brescia. You are a great new friend and did amazing work to help liberate the Greenhill dogs.

The Occupy Greenhill movement (see here and here) for their bold act of liberation that will go down in history as one of the most important actions of this century. In their post-Greenhill reorganization, the group is now called Animal Amnesty, and will keep opening chained fences and locked doors!

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