Earth Tipping Point Study In Nature Journal Predicts Disturbing And Unpredictable Changes


This composite image uses a number of swaths of the Earth’s surface taken on January 4, 2012.

By Stephanie Pappas, LiveScience Senior Writer
Earth is rapidly headed toward a catastrophic breakdown if humans don’t get their act together, according to an international group of scientists.

Writing Wednesday (June 6) in the journal Nature, the researchers warn that the world is headed toward a tipping pointmarked by extinctions and unpredictable changes on a scale not seen since the glaciers retreated 12,000 years ago.

«There is a very high possibility that by the end of the century, the Earth is going to be a very different place,» study researcher Anthony Barnosky told LiveScience. Barnosky, a professor of integrative biology from the University of California, Berkeley, joined a group of 17 other scientists to warn that this new planet might not be a pleasant place to live.

«You can envision these state changes as a fast period of adjustment where we get pushed through the eye of the needle,» Barnosky said. «As we’re going through the eye of the needle, that’s when we see political strife, economic strife, war and famine.» [Top 10 Ways to Destroy Earth]


The danger of tipping

Barnosky and his colleagues reviewed research on climate change, ecology andEarth’s tipping points that break the camel’s back, so to speak. At certain thresholds, putting more pressure on the environment leads to a point of no return, Barnosky said. Suddenly, the planet responds in unpredictable ways, triggering major global transitions.

 The most recent example of one of these transitions is the end of the last glacial period. Within not much more than 3,000 years, the Earth went from being 30 percent covered in ice to itspresent, nearly ice-free condition. Most extinctions and ecological changes (goodbye, woolly mammoths) occurred in just 1,600 years. Earth’s biodiversity still has not recovered to what it was.

Today, Barnosky said, humans are causing changes even faster than the natural ones that pushed back the glaciers — and the changes are bigger. Driven by a 35 percent increase in atmospheric carbon dioxide since the start of the Industrial Revolution, global temperatures are rising faster than they did back then, Barnosky said. Likewise, humans have completely transformed 43 percent of Earth’s land surface for cities and agriculture, compared with the 30 percent land surface transition that occurred at the end of the last glacial period. Meanwhile, the human population has exploded, putting ever more pressure on existing resources. [7 Billion Population Milestones]

«Every change we look at that we have accomplished in the past couple of centuries is actually more than what preceded one of these major state changes in the past,» Barnosky said.


Backing away from the ledge

The results are difficult to predict, because tipping points, by their definition, take the planet into uncharted territory. Based on past transitions, Barnosky and his colleagues predict a major loss of species (during the end of the last glacial period, half of the large-bodied mammal species in the world disappeared), as well as changes in the makeup of species in various communities on the local level. Meanwhile, humans may well be knotting our own noose as we burn through Earth’s resources.

«These ecological systems actually give us our life support, our crops, our fisheries, clean water,» Barnosky said. As resources shift from one nation to another, political instability can easily follow.

Pulling back from the ledge will require international cooperation, Barnosky said. Under business-as-usual conditions, humankind will be using 50 percent of the land surface on the planet by 2025. It seems unavoidable that the human population will reach 9 billion by 2050, so we’ll have to become more efficient to sustain ourselves, he said. That means more efficient energy use and energy production, a greater focus on renewable resources, and a need to save species and habitat today for future generations.

«My bottom line is that I want the world in 50 to 100 years to be at least as good as it is now for my children and their children, and I think most people would say the same,» Barnosky said. «We’re at a crossroads where if we choose to do nothing we really do face these tipping points and a less-good future for our immediate descendents.»


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Ten Lashes Against Humanism

Erasmus in 1523, by Hans Holbein

Image via Wikipedia

Diez azotes contra el humanismo (Spanish)

Ten Lashes Against Humanism


Jorge Majfud

A minor tradition in conservative thought is the definition of the dialectical adversary as mentally deficient and lacking in morality. As this never constitutes an argument, the outburst is covered up with some fragmented and repetitious reasoning, proper to the postmodern thought of political propaganda. It is no accident that in Latin America other writers repeat the US experience, with books like Manual del perfecto idiota latinoamericano (Manual for the Perfect Latin American Idiot, 1996) or making up lists about Los diez estúpidos más estúpidos de América Latina (The Top Ten Stupid People in Latin America). A list that is usually headed up, with elegant indifference, by our friend, the phoenix Eduardo Galeano. They have killed him off so many times he has grown accustomed to being reborn.

As a general rule, the lists of the ten stupidest people in the United States tend to be headed up by intellectuals. The reason for this particularity was offered some time ago by a military officer of the last Argentine dictatorship (1976-1983) who complained to the television cameras about the protesters marching through the streets of Buenos Aires: “I am not so suspicious of the workers, because they are always busy with work; I am suspicious of the students because with too much free time they spend it thinking. And you know, Mr. Journalist, that too much thinking is dangerous.” Which was consistent with the previous project of General Onganía (1966-1970) of expelling all the intellectuals in order to fix Argentina’s problems.

Not long ago, Doug Hagin, in the image of the famous television program Dave’s Top Ten, concocted his own list of The Top Ten List of Stupid Leftist Ideals. If we attempt to de-simplify the problem by removing the political label, we will see that each accusation against the so-called US leftists is, in reality, an assault on various humanist principles.

10: Environmentalism. According to the author, leftists do not stop at a reasonable point of conservation.

Obviously the definition of what is reasonable or not, depends on the economic interests of the moment. Like any conservative, he holds fast to the idea that the theory of Global Warming is only a theory, like the theory of evolution: there are no proofs that God did not create the skeletons of dinosaurs and other species and strew them about, simply in order to confuse the scientists and thereby test their faith. The conservative mentality, heroically inalterable, could never imagine that the oceans might behave progressively, beyond a reasonable level.

9: It takes a village to raise a child. The author denies it: the problem is that leftists have always thought collectively. Since they don’t believe in individualism they trust that children’s education must be carried out in society.


In contrast, reactionary thought trusts more in islands, in social autism, than in suspect humanity. According to this reasoning of a medieval aristocrat, a rich man can be rich surrounded by misery, a child can become a moral man and ascend to heaven without contaminating himself with the sin of his society. Society, the masses, only serves to allow the moral man to demonstrate his compassion by donating to the needy what he has left over – and discounting it from his taxes.

8: Children are incapable of handling stress. For which reason they cannot be corrected by their teachers with red ink or cannot confront the cruel parts of history.

The author is correct in observing that seeing what is disagreeable as an infant prepares children for a world that is not pleasant. Nonetheless, some compassionate conservatives exaggerate a little by dressing their children in military uniforms and giving them toys that, even though they only shoot laser lights, look very much like weapons with laser lights that fire something else at similar targets (and at black people).

7: Competition is bad. For the author, no: the fact that some win means that others lose, but this dynamic leads us to greatness.

He does not explain whether there exists here the “reasonable limit” of which he spoke before or whether he is referring to the hated theory of evolution which establishes the survival of the strongest in the savage world. Nor does he clarify to which greatness he refers, whether it is that of the slave on the prosperous cotton plantation or the size of the plantation. He does not take into account, of course, any kind of society based on solidarity and liberated from the neurosis of competition.

6: Health is a civil right. Not for the author: health is part of personal responsibility.

This argument is repeated by those who deny the need for a universal health system and, at the same time, do not propose privatizing the police, and much less the army. Nobody pays the police after calling 911, which is reasonable. If an attacker shoots us in the head, we will not pay anything for his capture, but if we are poor we will end up in bankruptcy so that a team of doctors can save our life. One deduces that, according to this logic, a thief who robs a house represents a social illness, but an epidemic is nothing more than a bunch of irresponsible individuals who do not affect the rest of society. What is never taken into account is that collective solidarity is one of the highest forms of individual responsibility.

5: Wealth is bad. According to the author, leftists want to penalize the success of the wealthy with taxes in order to give their wealth to the federal government so that it can be spent irresponsibly helping out those who are not so successful.

That is to say, workers owe their daily bread to the rich. Earning a living with the sweat of one’s brow is a punishment handed down by those successful people who have no need to work. There is a reason why physical beauty has been historically associated with the changing but always leisurely habits of the aristocracy. There is a reason why in the happy world of Walt Disney there are no workers; happiness is buried in some treasure filled with gold coins. For the same reason, it is necessary to not squander tax monies on education and on health. The millions spent on armies around the world are not a concern, because they are part of the investment that States responsibly make in order to maintain the success of the wealthy and the dream of glory for the poor.

4: There is an unbridled racism that will only be resolved with tolerance. No: leftists see race relations through the prism of pessimism. But race is not important for most of us, just for them.

That is to say, like in the fiction of global warming, if a conservative does not think about something or someone, that something or someone does not exist. De las Casas, Lincoln and Martin Luther King fought against racism ignorantly. If the humanists would stop thinking about the world, we would be happier because others’ suffering would not exist, and there would be no heartless thieves who steal from the compassionate rich.

3: Abortion. In order to avoid personal responsibility, leftists support the idea of murdering the unborn.

The mass murder of the already born is also part of individual responsibility, according to televised right-wing thought, even though sometimes it is called heroism and patriotism. Only when it benefits our island. If we make a mistake when suppressing a people we avoid responsibility by talking about abortion. A double moral transaction based on a double standard morality.

2: Guns are bad. Leftists hate guns and hate those who want to defend themselves. Leftists, in contrast, think that this defense should be done by the State. Once again they do not want to take responsibility for themselves.

That is to say, attackers, underage gang members, students who shoot up high schools, drug traffickers and other members of the syndicate exercise their right to defend their own interests as individuals and as corporations. Nobody distrusts the State and trusts in their own responsibility more than they do. It goes without saying that armies, according to this kind of reasoning, are the main part of that responsible defense carried out by the irresponsible State.

1: Placating evil ensures Peace. Leftists throughout history have wanted to appease the Nazis, dictators and terrorists.

The wisdom of the author does not extend to considering that many leftists have been consciously in favor of violence, and as an example it would be sufficient to remember Ernesto Che Guevara. Even though it might represent the violence of the slave, not the violence of the master. It is true, conservatives have not appeased dictators: at least in Latin America, they have nurtured them. In the end, the latter also have always been members of the Gun Club, and in fact were subject to very good deals in the name of security. Nazis, dictators and terrorists of every kind, with that tendency toward ideological simplification, would also agree with the final bit of reasoning on the list: “leftists do not undertand that sometimes violence is the only solution. Evil exists and should be erradicated.” And, finally: “We will kill it [the Evil], or it will kill us, it is that simple. We will kill Evil, or Evil will kill us; the only thing simpler than this is left-wing thought.”

Word of Power.


The Pandemic of Consumerism


The Pandemic of ConsumerismSPECIAL CLIMATE CHANGE ISSUE "To Protect Succeeding Generations"

Periods of global warming are not in and of themselves a human invention. But humans have invented ways of turning a natural cycle into an abnormality whose severity can exceed the tragedy of one atomic bomb or even of several atomic bombs. However, we cannot see the explosion because we live in it, because it seems to be an evident freak of nature to which we must all resign ourselves.

The world’s governments are too busy trying to save humanity from the “great crisis” —the economic crisis— by stimulating the same consumption that is leading us to unmitigated disaster. If the level of global destruction has not yet reached the dreaded status of full-blown catastrophe, it is only because consumerism has not yet reached its supposedly desired levels.

In this collective delusion, development is confused with consumerism, wastefulness with success, and growth with fattening. The pandemic is considered a sign of good health. Its “success” has been so overwhelming that there is no ideology or political system in the world that is not bent upon reproducing and multiplying it.

New technologies could help to reduce carbon dioxide emissions, but it is unlikely that this would be sufficient in a world that is just at the beginning of its capacity to consume, to squander, and to destroy. Trying to reduce environmental pollution without reducing consumerism is like combatting drug trafficking without reducing the drug addiction.

Wasteful and irrational consumerism has no limits; it has not prevented the death of millions of children from hunger, but it has endangered the existence of the entire biosphere. If “successful” consumerism is not replaced by the forgotten values of austerity, soon we will choose between war and misery, hunger and epidemics.

It is in hands of governments and in hands of each of us either to organize the salvation or accelerate the destruction of our own world. The Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen is a new opportunity to prevent the greatest calamity humanity has ever faced. Let us not have another opportunity missed, because we certainly do not have all the time in the world.

Jorge Majfud

August 2009

Lincoln University

UN Chronicle >>

UN Chronicle Review. Special Climate Change Issue.