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Existential Angst

#1
Should climate activists help instill existential angst?
Eric Holthaus says that the article "The Unihabitable Earth" is now "the most read article in New York Magazine's history". He argues that journalists have been stifled too long, that they should "not hold back," that "the weird shit that climate change could cause...is compelling," and that climate journalists should "report the hell out of them." For too long groups like Yale Communications Centre and ENGOs have had the message to "not immobilize people" with negative messaging. But Holthaus argues, it is the job of climate activists to instill existential anxiety and provoke people and movements to question at deep levels of meaning. Margaret Klein Salamon agrees saying "our job is not to protect people from the truth or feelings that accompany it, it's to protect them from climate crisis." What do you think?
 
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#3
liatris.screenshot.png

As always with SCNCC, what contributors write gets me thinking. Brad asks if we should instill existential angst in folks with our fiercely honest news about climate change. My answer would be yes--and no.

Here's a book about moving beyond something therapists call psychic numbing, the coping mechanism humans can exhibit when faced with overwhelming catastrophe.

Macey, Joanna. Active Hope: how to face the mess we're in without going crazy
https://www.amazon.com/Active-Hope-without-Going-Crazy/dp/1577319729

As so many on this list read Naomi Klein, I share the following: “Books about social and ecological change too often leave out a vital component: how do we change ourselves so that we are strong enough to fully contribute to this great shift? Active Hope fills this gap beautifully, guiding readers on a journey of gratitude, grief, interconnection, and, ultimately, transformation.”
Naomi Klein, author of The Shock Doctrine

In the early 2000's I gathered together about a dozen people who hoped to educate about, and ultimately enlist the support of central Illinois citizens against, a proposed nuclear reactor. As the twelve of us worked together to demystify the realities of nuclear power, usually in spite of all attempts by the industry to keep us in the dark, our group began to experience incredible feelings of fear and, eventually, periods of a deadening low energy that impeded our work. A therapist in our group brought the work of Joanna Macey to our attention. We discovered we needed to understand how psychic numbing was visiting our group and keeping us from doing what we wanted to do.

This concept of psychic numbing has been around for a long time. Even in the 1970's, as I assisted a sociologist with his research on attitudes toward death and dying, I encountered the concept only to forget it again. I was barely 20 at the time. I didn't think psychic numbing would ever visit me. So I read the work of Robert Jay Lifton, his studies of those affected by the Viet Nam war and the fear of nuclear war, with great interest and dutifully applied his theories to attitudes of State Farm workers to their own deaths. And then I forgot about this work as my life took a turn away from it all.

But in the early 2000's I found I again needed to consider these ideas--for myself rather than for study subjects. One of the most powerful members of our anti-nuclear group actually stopped the work completely after about a year. Her reason? "I just don't feel good when I work on this," she said somewhat breathlessly. The guilt she felt at admitting the feeling and pulling away from what we were doing was written all over her. But I also saw that she was at a place where she just couldn't continue with us. And so we lost her valuable insights and contributions.

My friend taught me that trying to push forward fueled by notions of what should be done, or what must be done, would not sustain us all the time. We also needed to pay attention to how the work could eat away at us, or risk losing the ability to work at all.

We had a good conclusion to our anti-nuclear group's efforts. Though the NRC had granted them their license to build, Ameren decided not to erect a second nuclear reactor in Clinton IL. Maybe the 250 central Illinois citizens who turned out for the final NRC hearing and spoke loudly against the reactor turned the powerful corporation's sights onto other communities. But at the end, our little group disbanded. We have all gone on to work on environmental issues in our own ways.

I imagine I can hear some who read this post crying out that the tipping points of climate change are here, that there is no time to turn away from the work, and in one way they are absolutely right. But being right and being effective is not always the same thing. Humans have created the current realities and we must find a way to work with the reality of how humans think and behave if we hope to lessen projected catastrophic outcomes. We must accept who we are even as we struggle to accept what we have done.

Survivors of psychic trauma, which I believe is what we on this planet now call our basic reality, cannot look at the whole of what we have endured or perpetrated. But we can take it apart piece by piece, stare at one bit at a time until a strategy suggests itself to us, take action and then turn from that bit we've dealt with to face the next.

This notion keeps me going in my peripatetic fashion. I no doubt frustrate those with stronger constitutions than mine. These periodic retreats from communication or activity that I exhibit must bring some to label me as undependable or inconsistent. I'm with Ralph Waldo Emerson on this one, "...a foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds." ("Self Reliance," republished by Arc Manor, 2007). Consistency is a quality that machines evince. Capitalism and industrial production have attempted to bring consistency to how workers do their jobs, but before industrialization workers had much more freedom to labor as they found most useful. A carpenter knows when his body is giving out for the day. He stops before he mars the wood. A knitter knows when abilities for mental concentration have been reached for the day and stops before she ties the complicated lace pattern into knots. We all have limits that bear watching.

To the many excellent writers who contribute to coverage about climate change, I say thank you for telling us the hard truths. But I would also be lying if I didn't say that I treasure those articles that chronicle the little successes we have, the perhaps small approaches taken that effect change. Those stories help me to keep going. I believe a major goal needs to be to increase the number of those who are working on our crisis--one bit at a time. Though I dislike some of Salomon's metaphors of war mobilization, I do agree with her estimation that we need many working on countless efforts.

For me, I focus on growing things: food, flowers, trees, bushes, and people who will get their hands dirty. And I write, study, protest and work with others for as much as I can bear. But it's the soil, wind, water and living entities all around me that keep me going.

A simple truth: if I want to attract pollinators to my garden I have to stake those flowers that grow too top-heavy to stay upright, and I have to make stakes out of the ridiculously plentiful dogwood bushes that ring the yard rather than buying anything at the store. As I watch the bees buzzing on the purple liatris, (see photo at the top of this post) I know the attention I have paid was worth the effort.

I heartily recommend this part of the work of saving the planet. Besides, even activists and revolutionaries have to eat. Celia Sanchez knew that as she supported Fidel Castro and his revolutionaries. (A great book that I'm reading right now described in Monthly Review: Celia Sánchez and the Cuban Revolution | Alice Walker | Monthly Review)

We're gonna need food for whatever comes.
 
#4
I also agree. This is a very important discussion. None wants to face the truth because it is so frightening and because it would take such radical changes to address. But it is essential. Without a jolt, it is so much easier just to continue our lives as usual or with minor tweaks.
I have been dismayed by the criticisms by some Leftists against what they call "catastrophism." While they are correct that announcing impending catastrophe is not necessarily mobilizing, and not necessarily in a left direction, they are wrong in suggesting that is inherently de-mobilizing. We need to tell the truth and organize against it in every way we can.
 
#5
We don't have to instill existential anguish. We all have it already. The recent movie on the Texas cop Tower murders remind me that there are many ways to respond to crisis and that we are not able to dictate how people will respond.

We do know that the ecocidal narcissists who are opposing us will continue to try to manipulate and deceive the public. We need to be a beacon of truth. I find that loving spoonfuls of compassion and humor make the medicine go down.
 

MichaelG

Admin
Staff member
#6
I think the response to the worst-case scenarios will vary a lot with the audience. I'm most familiar with responses from privileged (mostly white) liberal audiences. Some of these people are already involved in one way or another in fighting climate change through various reforms. Hearing that the situation may be even worse than they imagined doesn't normally discourage them, although it may lead to different (more desperate) tactics. What seems to frighten them even more is the thorough-going revolution that most of us in SCNCC would argue is necessary to tackle climate change. This is related to the by-now-familiar insight, attributed to different people: "For many people it's easier to imagine the end of the world than the end of capitalism." It's not that they can't imagine the end of capitalism; it's that they don't want to. That is, the existential angst over a socialist revolution may be even greater than that associated with the ecological crisis. I think some of this comes down to fear of the loss of privilege. Or the loss of life, since few can imagine how this revolution will take place without some violence (I certainly can't).
I actually don't have much hope that very many people who are privileged under the current system (and I'm one of them) will come on board. I believe an ecosocialist revolution, if it's going to happen, will be led by the rest of the world, those who stand to benefit from it. Such people, given a choice, will be much more likely to pick the revolution that they have a chance of actually benefiting from over the ecological chaos that will wipe them out.
 
#7
I think the response to the worst-case scenarios will vary a lot with the audience. I'm most familiar with responses from privileged (mostly white) liberal audiences. Some of these people are already involved in one way or another in fighting climate change through various reforms. Hearing that the situation may be even worse than they imagined doesn't normally discourage them, although it may lead to different (more desperate) tactics. What seems to frighten them even more is the thorough-going revolution that most of us in SCNCC would argue is necessary to tackle climate change. This is related to the by-now-familiar insight, attributed to different people: "For many people it's easier to imagine the end of the world than the end of capitalism." It's not that they can't imagine the end of capitalism; it's that they don't want to. That is, the existential angst over a socialist revolution may be even greater than that associated with the ecological crisis. I think some of this comes down to fear of the loss of privilege. Or the loss of life, since few can imagine how this revolution will take place without some violence (I certainly can't).
I actually don't have much hope that very many people who are privileged under the current system (and I'm one of them) will come on board. I believe an ecosocialist revolution, if it's going to happen, will be led by the rest of the world, those who stand to benefit from it. Such people, given a choice, will be much more likely to pick the revolution that they have a chance of actually benefiting from over the ecological chaos that will wipe them out.
Well said Michael. I do most of my ministry with fenceline communities. Although there are a few of us in my predominantly white, upper-middle-class denomination who share my sense of urgency, I've found that most were focused on other things or were afraid to enter the communities that are already suffering the most. Therefore, my "community" is predominantly people of color and politically radical whites.
 
#8
I also agree. This is a very important discussion. None wants to face the truth because it is so frightening and because it would take such radical changes to address. But it is essential. Without a jolt, it is so much easier just to continue our lives as usual or with minor tweaks.
I have been dismayed by the criticisms by some Leftists against what they call "catastrophism." While they are correct that announcing impending catastrophe is not necessarily mobilizing, and not necessarily in a left direction, they are wrong in suggesting that is inherently de-mobilizing. We need to tell the truth and organize against it in every way we can.
Nancy, I strongly agree with the last sentence of your post.
 
#9
I think the response to the worst-case scenarios will vary a lot with the audience. I'm most familiar with responses from privileged (mostly white) liberal audiences. Some of these people are already involved in one way or another in fighting climate change through various reforms. Hearing that the situation may be even worse than they imagined doesn't normally discourage them, although it may lead to different (more desperate) tactics. What seems to frighten them even more is the thorough-going revolution that most of us in SCNCC would argue is necessary to tackle climate change. This is related to the by-now-familiar insight, attributed to different people: "For many people it's easier to imagine the end of the world than the end of capitalism." It's not that they can't imagine the end of capitalism; it's that they don't want to. That is, the existential angst over a socialist revolution may be even greater than that associated with the ecological crisis. I think some of this comes down to fear of the loss of privilege. Or the loss of life, since few can imagine how this revolution will take place without some violence (I certainly can't).
I actually don't have much hope that very many people who are privileged under the current system (and I'm one of them) will come on board. I believe an ecosocialist revolution, if it's going to happen, will be led by the rest of the world, those who stand to benefit from it. Such people, given a choice, will be much more likely to pick the revolution that they have a chance of actually benefiting from over the ecological chaos that will wipe them out.
Michael, the folks I have known most of my life sound like the people you describe at the top of your post. If we even get to the point of talking about socialism or revolution, what I run into is something I can only describe as the myth of property and ownership. I'll give you an example. Yesterday I worked at the CSA where our vegetables come from. The owner, a young woman who's been running this business about 4 years, shared with me many of the struggles she is having. She also talked in some detail of the problems other landowners she knows are having with banks and/or industrial agriculture farms adjacent to theirs. She agreed that many of the 'decisions' farmers are making are dictated to them by banks--the push to have farmers take on ever more land in order to justify the purchase of larger farm machinery as they race for a slightly larger amount of profit, all of which puts the banks in control of those farms. She and I were on the same page about all of that. But when we moved on to talking about even the mildest of socialist ideas, she mentioned being frustrated with a relative who was advocating that all land simply be divided up so that all people would have a place to 'grow their own food.' The CSA owner's concerns about socialism, even though capitalism in many ways is giving her a raw deal, had to do with this myth of land ownership. She sacrifices in many ways to hang onto the land she owns and has no idea that there may be other ways for her to pursue the life work she currently has free from the tyranny of banks. I think, especially in the US, there is just very little or very inaccurate information about what socialist methods and policies might be. Conversely, there is too much trust in the idea that the pursuit of land and/or wealth is the key to happiness. And the need to compete with others all while accepting that resources and wealth are scarce undergirds the whole belief structure. Meanwhile, what people like this young woman do not understand is that a very small percentage of people on the planet do just fine while the majority--whether they own land or not--scramble for extra crumbs. It's all a terrible waste in so many ways.

In my post I talked about growing things, plants and people. I am happy to be in conversation with this young woman. I value hearing her perspective and the details of what she faces. When we find common ground, that is great. But our conversations are a process. Next time we see each other, I'm bringing her some books to read on environmental law--because she asked to see them. We are finding common ground. It takes time. But she's already doing the good work of developing local agriculture, moving steadily toward a fully organic farm. She is important and I am very happy to be in her circle. If I let my angst about climate change twist and darken how I approach our conversations, I could jeopardize this new friendship. This is a specific example of what I mean about doing what I/we can with what is immediately before me/us. I don't so much want her to agree with me as I hope we will find we have more and more in common.
 
#10
I actually don't have much hope that very many people who are privileged under the current system (and I'm one of them) will come on board. I believe an ecosocialist revolution, if it's going to happen, will be led by the rest of the world, those who stand to benefit from it. Such people, given a choice, will be much more likely to pick the revolution that they have a chance of actually benefiting from over the ecological chaos that will wipe them out.
Several forks here: To succeed, revolutionary ideas must take root in a social force that is able and motivated to make revolutionary change, But this social force cannot merely be created by standing on the top of a hill and shouting out ideas. Amilcar Cabral: “Always remember that the people are not fighting for ideas, for the things in anyone's head. The people fight and accept the sacrifices demanded by the struggle in order to gain material advantages, to live better and in peace, to benefit from progress, and for the better future of their children."

The most oppressed are not always the most able or motivated to mobilize. However, as Michael G observes, those who stand to lose or believe they stand to lose will not be the social base for the revolution. I believe there are many many people in the U.S. and other industrial countries who will have much to gain even if we power down as radically as Richard reminds us we must.

How do we reach out? I love the way Sandra describes her interaction with the young woman who is not yet ready to talk about ecosocialism. Such conversations, based on an honest search to find common ground and friendship, are critical. Although I love many people who already agree with me, there is great value in building community with others with whom I am not so closely aligned but who also wish deeply to change the world. I have one close friend (a very talented activist) who challenges me to explain why we should be fighting for pie-in-the-sky socialism rather than social democracy which has already proven itself as capable of delivering universal health care, reduced work weeks, more egalitarian society, etc., etc. It's challenging to respond to sincere questions from folks who agree with most of my ideas about a better society would look like but don't agree that socialism is a realistic, much less the only realistic, alternative to barbarism.

It's much easier to quarrel with other leftists with whom we share vocabulary and assumptions than to engage with those who are looking for a better life for themselves and their child so they can teach us how to move ecosocialism out of our minds and into a social force.
 
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MichaelG

Admin
Staff member
#11
Among the various insights in your post, Sandra, one stands out for me, related to this part about consistency and how we view each other. I think we (and I include myself) often make unreasonable demands on our fellow activists, expecting them to show up always. What I'm realizing more and more (should have known this already) is how capitalism and the individualism that it nurtures have messed with everyone's lives, including those of the more privileged. It seems like almost everyone has something they're struggling with, and we're indoctrinated of course that if we're having problems, it's all our fault.
So our organizing has to include a healthy dose of compassion for others, including our own comrades. (Maybe this is obvious...)

View attachment 3
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This notion keeps me going in my peripatetic fashion. I no doubt frustrate those with stronger constitutions than mine. These periodic retreats from communication or activity that I exhibit must bring some to label me as undependable or inconsistent. I'm with Ralph Waldo Emerson on this one, "...a foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds." ("Self Reliance," republished by Arc Manor, 2007). Consistency is a quality that machines evince. Capitalism and industrial production have attempted to bring consistency to how workers do their jobs, but before industrialization workers had much more freedom to labor as they found most useful. A carpenter knows when his body is giving out for the day. He stops before he mars the wood. A knitter knows when abilities for mental concentration have been reached for the day and stops before she ties the complicated lace pattern into knots. We all have limits that bear watching.

To the many excellent writers who contribute to coverage about climate change, I say thank you for telling us the hard truths. But I would also be lying if I didn't say that I treasure those articles that chronicle the little successes we have, the perhaps small approaches taken that effect change. Those stories help me to keep going. I believe a major goal needs to be to increase the number of those who are working on our crisis--one bit at a time. Though I dislike some of Salomon's metaphors of war mobilization, I do agree with her estimation that we need many working on countless efforts.
...
 
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G

George Menzies

Guest
#12
Positive action plans certainly benefit positive outlooks. Plans that offer sustainably economically uplifting or enriching
life time occupation is what the masses are looking for. If we can describe what and how that future could be, we become a
future forming mass.
 
#13
Getting back to Brad's original question: There's room for various kinds of "activists", some to raise the level of public concern and others to propose solutions. But those who wish to have their proposed solutions taken seriously should probably be leery of identifying themselves with projections which are well outside the scientific mainstream.
 
#14
We certainly know that sending mixed signals about the crisis isn't effective, since that is what we have been doing for years and look at where we are. The analogy I use is: if your house is on fire and you call the dispatcher and ask if the fire crew can stop off at the shop&go to pick you up a pack of smokes, they are unlikely to take you seriously. This applies to some of the arguments our local climate activists use for stopping trains carrying coal for export: can cause traffic jams, can spread coal dust, delays other train traffic et... Why wouldn't they just stick to THE MESSAGE that burning coal (here or in Asia) leads to climate catastrophe? Guess they are worried about "doom and gloom" bumming people out ?

I agree with George that the scientific predictions must be accompanied by positive socialist vision. Less work, more leisure, more dignity, sweeter life.
 
#15
I think the response to the worst-case scenarios will vary a lot with the audience. I'm most familiar with responses from privileged (mostly white) liberal audiences. Some of these people are already involved in one way or another in fighting climate change through various reforms. Hearing that the situation may be even worse than they imagined doesn't normally discourage them, although it may lead to different (more desperate) tactics. What seems to frighten them even more is the thorough-going revolution that most of us in SCNCC would argue is necessary to tackle climate change. This is related to the by-now-familiar insight, attributed to different people: "For many people it's easier to imagine the end of the world than the end of capitalism." It's not that they can't imagine the end of capitalism; it's that they don't want to. That is, the existential angst over a socialist revolution may be even greater than that associated with the ecological crisis. I think some of this comes down to fear of the loss of privilege. Or the loss of life, since few can imagine how this revolution will take place without some violence (I certainly can't).
I actually don't have much hope that very many people who are privileged under the current system (and I'm one of them) will come on board. I believe an ecosocialist revolution, if it's going to happen, will be led by the rest of the world, those who stand to benefit from it. Such people, given a choice, will be much more likely to pick the revolution that they have a chance of actually benefiting from over the ecological chaos that will wipe them out.
 
#16
I argue the revolution will include those in the wage-stagnant "middle class" who find less and less meaning in their lives and who see the futures of their children being foreclosed. They will find they have the power to withhold consent and de-legitimize the current system. In other words the first-world angst ( no roses) will be as powerful an impetus as materialist concerns (no bread).
 
#17
The analogy I use is: if your house is on fire and you call the dispatcher and ask if the fire crew can stop off at the shop&go to pick you up a pack of smokes, they are unlikely to take you seriously. This applies to some of the arguments our local climate activists use for stopping trains carrying coal for export: can cause traffic jams, can spread coal dust, delays other train traffic et... Why wouldn't they just stick to THE MESSAGE that burning coal (here or in Asia) leads to climate catastrophe? Guess they are worried about "doom and gloom" bumming people out ?
Hi David,
I know the answer to your questions. The reason anti-coal activists had to spend a great deal of energy building the case based on local impacts on health and safety is that the guy who wants to build the coal terminal in Oakland has a binding contract with the City of Oakland that says he is immune from new regulations unless they are based on substantial evidence that failure to adopt them will result in a significant health and safety risk to the occupants, users, or adjacent neighbors of the property on which he has a 66-year lease. Activists and the City could have ignored the contract and immediately lost in court. So the emphasis on what you see as minor issues (although the dust in the mostly Black neighborhood adjacent to the tracks does not seem minor to Black environmental activists who have been fighting to clean up the air of West Oakland for decades) was actually dictated by a strategy to win when faced with the inevitable lawsuit by the developer. So, no, they were not worried about "doom and gloom". I don't say all this to reject your point, but just to correct your choice of an example. If the City had not already signed the contract, hammering on the GHG impacts would have been enough to kill the project.
Ted

P.S. Nice fish!
 
#18
I argue the revolution will include those in the wage-stagnant "middle class" who find less and less meaning in their lives and who see the futures of their children being foreclosed. They will find they have the power to withhold consent and de-legitimize the current system. In other words the first-world angst ( no roses) will be as powerful an impetus as materialist concerns (no bread).
David, I very much hope you are right about this observation. Middle management and administrative folks from large corporations, who in Decatur often find themselves 'let go' after decades of service to a corporation, may be the kind of potential allies you describe. Since moving to this midwestern city, I have encountered neighbors negatively impacted by capitalism's less than loyal treatment of them. People suddenly left without work do to "down-sizing" or the outright discontinuation of an entire department. I have been pleasantly surprised by their willingness to look critically at the systems responsible for their individual situations. You seem to be encountering such people, too.
 
#19
Climate Disruption Could Pose "Existential Threat" by 2050
Monday, October 02, 2017 By Dahr Jamail, Truthout |
It is often painful to write these monthly dispatches, chronicling what has happened to the Earth over the previous several weeks. Every month I'm taken aback by how rapidly the changes are unfolding. Take my word for this: These pieces are as emotionally challenging for me to write as they are for you to read.

Over the several years I've been producing these climate disruption dispatches, I've mostly received messages of gratitude from readers, because as hard as these are to read, most people are keen to have the information.

Sometimes there is the reader, however, who asks why I only focus on the negative. "Why don't you write about something positive, like renewable energy or lawsuits being filed against members of the Trump administration who are actively attacking the environment?" one person asked. This past June someone (clearly not a journalist) asked me why I didn't write about solutions, because, "What you write about is just so depressing!"

To see more stories like this, visit "Planet or Profit?"

I spend time in the mountains near where I live nearly every week. It centers me, reminds me of what is important, and keeps me sane during these increasingly dystopian days. When I go, I bring a compass and the most updated, accurate map available.

While in the mountains, I am grappling with this reality: The Earth is unraveling due to human-forced warming. We've changed the composition of the atmosphere, and are acidifying the oceans. The cryosphere is melting before our very eyes, and the seas are rising. Global wildlife populations have decreased nearly 60 percent since just the 1970s, and the current extinction rate of species is 1,000 times the normal background rate. Functional coral reefs could be completely gone by 2050, and oceans could be completely free of fish by 2048 due to anthropogenic climate disruption (ACD), overfishing, pollution and habitat loss.

And there is nothing to indicate that governments around the globe are doing anything remotely serious enough to mitigate ACD impacts, in order to prevent the worst-case scenarios from unfolding.

That there will be a massive die-off of humans seems inevitable, and the extinction of our species is very much a possibility.

This is terrifying, heartbreaking, enraging information to take in.

Thus, dear reader, I ask: Do you want an accurate map in order to make the best decisions possible about what to do with your time, and how to use your life? Is it worth the emotional turmoil -- worth working through the five stages of grief -- in order to live an awakened life, to live in the real, to situate yourself to decide how to serve the planet and other living beings while the storms rage?

***

ACD is progressing dramatically and abruptly.

Hurricane Harvey led to the single largest rain event in US history, which was then followed in short order by Hurricane Irma, the most powerful Atlantic Ocean hurricane ever recorded by satellites.

In Canada, rapidly thawing permafrost is already releasing massive amounts of CO2 into the atmosphere, which fuels a positive feedback loop of ACD: The warming atmosphere causes the permafrost to thaw and release CO2, which warms the atmosphere further, and the cycle feeds on itself. Another aspect of this that is particularly noteworthy is the fact that there is twice as much carbon locked up in the permafrost as there is in the atmosphere.

Another recent report showed that volcanic eruptions triggered one of the most rapid warming events in the Earth's history, 56 million years ago. That means CO2 was the factor that caused the warming at that time, and this fact is underscored by the reality that current CO2 emission levels are even higher than they were then.

A paper from the Scripps Institute of Oceanography, published in mid-September, warned of a small but distinct possibility that abrupt ACD could pose an "existential threat" to the survival of humans by 2050.

Scripps went on to propose two new classifications for ACD: catastrophic (meaning that the majority of humanity would struggle to adapt to the change) and existential (meaning that humanity would not be able to adapt to the change.)

Earth
A recent study showed that deforestation has twice the negative impact on ACD as previously believed. Deforestation has two main negative impacts. First, the trees are burned and they immediately release their stored carbon into the atmosphere. Then, farms are created in their place, which go on to release other greenhouse gasses like methane and nitrous oxide. Furthermore, without trees to act as a carbon sink, less carbon dioxide is being removed from the atmosphere.



Meanwhile, trees continue to have a bad time of it, thanks to ACD impacts. Tree-killing beetles are spreading much more quickly into northern US forests, according to another recent study, due to increasingly warm temperatures driven by ACD. For example, southern pine beetles -- one of the most aggressive tree-killing insects, which cause ecosystem harm and increase risk of forest fires -- are moving northward as their ranges are expanding dramatically due to hotter temperatures.

Stunningly, data from Nevada's Geodetic Lab showed that flooding from Hurricane Harvey in Houston pushed down the Earth's crust two centimeters. This is because the amount of water released from the storm weighed 275 trillion pounds.

Another recent report showed that ACD could, indirectly, make earthquakes worse. For example, tsunamis, volcanic eruptions and earthquakes could be triggered by ACD impacts in this way: Melting glaciers remove water supplies for a city, which responds by building a large water reservoir. Reservoirs are often built along fault lines, so they lubricate the fault. This lubrication, coupled with draining and filling the reservoirs over the seasons, changes the water pressure at the bottom and creates instability and cracks, which can lead to more earthquakes.

Water
In the watery realms, there have been significant developments.

For the first time in history, in late August a tanker crossed the northern sea route without an icebreaker. A 300-meter long Russian commercial liquefied natural gas ship carried the gas from Norway to South Korea in just six and a half days, setting the record.

The ongoing and increasing loss of the Arctic summer sea ice is impacting the Atlantic Ocean water circulation system, according to a recent report from Yale news. Scientists said the ongoing loss of Arctic sea ice is playing a very active role in altering the Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation (AMOC), a current that plays a major role in both regional and global climate systems.

"Sea ice loss is clearly important among the mechanisms that could potentially contribute to AMOC collapse," Wei Liu, a Yale postdoctoral associate, told Yale News. Also speaking to Yale News, climate scientist Alexey Fedorov said, "In our experiments we saw a potential loss of 30% to 50% of AMOC's strength due to Arctic sea ice loss. That is a significant amount, and it would accelerate the collapse of AMOC if it were to occur."

It's worth noting that AMOC affects the climate of all of the countries on the Atlantic rim, especially those in Europe, but also has climate impacts far, far beyond those, including weather patterns around the entire globe.

A warmed atmosphere can hold more moisture, so epic flooding events should no longer come as a surprise to anyone paying attention to how the planet is responding to human-forced warming.

In August, flooding in India, Bangladesh and Nepal killed at least 1,200 people and displaced millions. Monsoon rains in India were so intense, a building in Mumbai collapsed from them, killing at least 21 people and trapping more than a dozen. Thirty-two million people were impacted by the flooding in India, while another 8.6 million in Bangladesh and 1.7 million in Nepal also suffered.

A recent book about sea-level rise, The Water Will Come, showed that 145 million people live less than three feet above sea level, which according to the author, Jeff Goodell, will create multiple generations of climate refugees. The book estimates there will be 200 million climate refugees by 2050 from sea level rise alone, and even discusses the possibility of seas rising 55 feet.

The flip side of this is drought.

A recent report showed that the number of droughts plaguing Jordan could double by the year 2100 as a result of ACD. This is worrisome, given that the conflict in Syria has its roots in a multi-year drought that hit that country. Additionally, the warning for Jordan is ominous because that situation will be exacerbated by the fact that whenever the conflict in Syria does end, assuming that happens, farmers will return and resume their work, which will be an additional strain on already meager water supplies.

Fire
Recent Truthout articles have addressed the massive wildfires across the US West over the summer.

And the fires continued.

By early September, a wildfire in Oregon scorched the picturesque Columbia River Gorge and rained ash and burning embers across communities several miles away. At least 10,000 acres burned, sending hundreds of residents in the area to flee their homes.

Another recent report reminded us, again, how extreme heat and drought are fueling the wildfires. Heat and fire records were broken throughout the summer across the US and Canadian Wests, and the report predicted, of course, that these trends will continue and likely worsen over time.

Air
In the wake of the two major hurricanes that struck the US this season, while Harvey was still besieging Houston with record rains, climate scientist Michael Mann told ThinkProgress, "The kind of stalled weather pattern that is drenching Houston is precisely the sort of pattern we expect because of climate change."

Mann had, earlier in 2017, co-authored a study that showed how ACD is changing atmospheric circulation, including the jet stream, in a way that causes an "increase in persistent weather extremes" during summers.

The two major hurricanes caused scientists to express concern publicly that this may become the new normal for the planet.

"But historically unusual weather is no longer freakish," wrote Jonathan Watts in The Guardian. "The floods that hit Houston last week were described as a once-in-500-years event because records suggested there was only a 0.2% chance of such heavy rainfall. However, precedent is an increasingly unreliable guide in a changing climate. In the past three years, Texas has been hit by three 100- to 500-year events, according to local media."

Another report from August revealed that global temperatures are rising much faster over land than over oceans, according to NASA data. In other words, overall warming is speeding up everywhere, but particularly over land, where we humans happen to live. The recently released data show that temperatures over land are warming approximately twice as fast as those over water, and the disparity in the warming over land compared to the oceans is increasing rapidly.

Denial and Reality
As usual, there is plenty of fodder on the ACD-denial front.

Not surprisingly, given the pathetic "coverage" corporate media has given (or, more accurately, not given at all) to ACD, mainstream media coverage of the recent major hurricanes to strike the US failed to even mention ACD, despite its critical impact on how rapidly each storm developed.

The Trump so-called administration continues to work feverishly and consistently to scrub any mention of ACD from government departments and websites.

The National Institutes of Health, over the summer, deleted several ACD references from its website. One report showed that there were at least five instances of "climate change" being changed to "climate" on the website.

Climate Disruption Could Pose "Existential Threat" by 2050
A scientist with Northeastern University was asked to remove references to ACD from a grant proposal to ACD-denialist Rick Perry's Department of Energy (DOE). "I have been asked to contact you to update the wording in your proposal abstract to remove words such as 'global warming' or 'climate change,' read a message the scientist received from an official at DOE's Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, according to the Washington Post. "This is being asked as we have to meet the President's budget language restrictions and we don't want to make any changes without your knowledge or consent."

Meanwhile, Trump recently named ACD-denier Republican Congressman Jim Bridenstine from Oklahoma to run NASA. Bridenstine has zero scientific credentials, and had even demanded that then President Obama apologize for funding climate science research.

Also, a recent report underscored the reality that many of us have known for a long time: The 3 percent of scientific papers which deny that ACD is real are all flawed. Researchers attempted to replicate the results of the 3 percent of papers and found biased, faulty results.

"Every single one of those analyses had an error -- in their assumptions, methodology, or analysis -- that, when corrected, brought their results into line with the scientific consensus," Katharine Hayhoe, an atmospheric scientist at Texas Tech University, wrote in a Facebook post. Hayhoe worked with a team of researchers investigating 38 papers that denied ACD published in peer-reviewed journals in the last decade,.

On the reality front, France recently announced plans to end all oil and gas production in less than 25 years. France's President Emmanuel Macron is aiming to make France carbon neutral by 2050.

Meanwhile, many are now questioning whether the UN's Climate Assessment process has become obsolete. Why? Because the schedule of issuing large Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) reports on ACD every seven years, which is the current model, is clearly too slow, given how rapidly ACD is progressing, and considering all the scientific research being done to keep pace.
Hayhoe, who has become a leading and very outspoken climate scientist, told Inside Climate News, the IPCC's long process that produces its assessment reports is "obsolete, outdated, and a waste of experts' valuable time."

Lastly for this month -- and quite disturbingly -- a scientific paper published recently in the journal Science Advances, titled "Thresholds of Catastrophe in the Earth System," shows that if humans continue adding carbon to the oceans as we are on course to do, a global mass extinction event could be triggered by 2100.
 
#20
The Real News carried an interview with Dahr Jamail and Guy McPherson a couple of years ago.
REAL NEWS: Guy--and this question is to both of you, but I'll start with Guy first. Some medical experts have deemed climate change should be classified a medical emergency, and we should be prepared to take appropriate and immediate action. What is the opinion on this, and is there any way of curbing the temperatures right now?

MCPHERSON: Well, there's really no politically viable approach to deal with climate change. Work by Tim Garrett, an atmospheric scientist at the University of Utah that was initially published in 2009, and he's published a couple of followup papers since then, that work indicates that civilization itself is a heat engine. And the only way to turn off the heating of the earth is to terminate civilization. Well, I don't think that's really a politically viable approach. And any politician who ran on that campaign would not just lose, but would also be perhaps tarred and feathered. Nobody wants to hear the end of this setting of living arrangements for relatively privileged people living in the global North.So in addition, it seems that Garrett's initial paper, which was written more than eight years ago, which points out that only collapse of civilization prevents runaway climate change--well, as it turns out now we know that collapse of industrial civilization leads to abrupt climate change as well. So it's a double bind. We either turn off the heat engine, which causes very abrupt rise in global average temperature in a matter of a few days, or we keep the heat engine going and it causes that same rise in temperature in a few years. Pick your poison, but at least recognize that it's poison.

REAL NEWS: And Dahr, final word to you in terms of can this be curbed?

JAMAIL: I would agree with what we just heard. I think at this point it cannot be curbed. I think best case scenario if all governments got on board and mandated immediate cessation of all fossil fuel use and switched to renewables, et cetera et cetera, all of this, it might mitigate it in the midterm a little bit, and that's about the best thing that could possibly be hoped for realistically. And I think each of us needs to think about what does this mean, watch the science very closely, what's happening, and get very clear about what's important in life and how each of us needs to live.
That was the last time I paid any attention to Dahr Jamail. I find his collation of links to all the horrors of the age to be a sort of climate porn, titillating but ultimately dehumanizing. I find plenty to be inspired by every day in the actions of everyday people and movements for transformation and there is so much to talk about. Figuring out how to weave it all together and built the movement of movements is worthwhile. Jamail is pursuing a fundamentally different project. In my view, getting very clear about what's important in life is the same as finding the strength to keep pushing the world in the right direction without knowing for certain how things will turn out.
 
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