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VII. Pedia Sapiens: A Genesis Future on Earth and in the Heavens

A. The Old Earth: Our Critical Life Support Condition

McKibben, Bill. Eaarth: A Guide to Living on a Fundamentally Altered Planet. New York: Times Books, 2010. The environmentalist author has stayed on message from his 1989 The End of Nature to this latest volume. His prescient warnings posted some two decades ago have been surpassed by extreme weather events and climate variabilities, along with spiking CO2 levels, temperatures, and the litany of other monitors. Our home biosphere is stressed to such a degree as to result in a different world, why the provocative title, whereupon continued insensate growth is suicide. To offset, the range of sane energy, lite living, local agriculture, and so on approaches are advocated.

McKibben, Bill. Falter: Has the Human Game Begun to Play Itself Out? New York: Henry Holt, 2019. The environmentalist writer whose 1989 work The End of Nature first broke the news of imminent climate change three decades later chronicles in studious detail, drawn from world travels and many interviews, how this catastrophic crisis is now far along. The first step is to move from denial to admission – most nations such as China and across Europe have done this, but America is bent on going backward and Brazil on burning rain forests. Yet across Africa, wherever possible, millions of trees are being planted. Only total, drastic changes such as gas to electric cars, cleaning up ocean pollution, no plastic waste, the whole litany, will begin to mitigate. But the wild card is whether individual and governmental decisive action can be mustered and coordinated in time. But a curious theme is the author’s use of a game and sport metaphor. In final regard, a meaningful valuation of Earthly ecospheric sustainable life and futurity set within a conducive cosmos is most important. McKibben also wrote the lead piece How We Survived Climate Change for Time magazine’s September 23, 2019 Climate Issue.

Meadows, Donella, et al. Limits to Growth: The 30-Year Update. White River Junction, VT: Chelsea Green Publishing, 2004. An assessment of the historic 1972 computer analysis of how trends of population, energy usage, oil reserves and many other factors might play out under different scenarios. Its initial projections of overshoot and collapse are found to be validated, but still go unheeded to our great peril. Donella Meadows, one of the original authors, passed away in 2002 at age 58, but had mostly finished her contribution to the work.

We wish, once again, to stress that humanity is in overshoot and that the resulting damage and suffering can be greatly reduced through wise policy; offer data and analysis that contradict prevailing political pronouncements that humanity is on the correct path for its twenty-first century….. (xix)

Millennium, Ecosystem Assessment. Ecosystems and Human Well-Being. Washington, DC: Island Press, 2005. A fact-filled executive summary of the large five year program, initiated by the United Nations, to inventory and evaluate the state of global and local ecologies as a basis for corrective planning.

Moore, B., et al. Global Environmental Change. Washington, DC: National Academy Press, 1999. A survey of atmospheric chemistry, paleoclimate studies, human impact, as if the planet were assessing through a sentient species its own life systems as it struggles to keep them viable.

Mora, Camilo, et al.. Broad Threat to Humanity from Cumulative Climate Hazards Intensified by Greenhouse Gas Emissions. Nature Climate Change. November, 2018. A 23 person team mainly from the University of Hawaii with others in Sweden, the UK, Japan and the USA summarize an immense study of historic deleterious impacts upon some 100 food, water, health, economy, infrastructure, security concerns. See also “Like a Terror Movie:” How Climate Change Will Cause More Simultaneous Disasters about this study by John Schwartz in the New York Times for November 19.

The ongoing emission of greenhouse gases (GHGs) is triggering changes in many climate hazards that can impact humanity. We found traceable evidence for 467 pathways by which human health, water, food, economy, infrastructure and security have been recently impacted by climate hazards such as warming, heatwaves, precipitation, drought, floods, fires, storms, sea-level rise and changes in natural land cover and ocean chemistry. By 2100, the world’s population will be exposed concurrently to the equivalent of the largest magnitude in one of these hazards if emissions are aggressively reduced, or three if they are not, with some tropical coastal areas facing up to six simultaneous hazards. These findings highlight the fact that GHG emissions pose a broad threat to humanity by intensifying multiple hazards to which humanity is vulnerable.

Nicholson-Lord, David. Planet Overload. New Statesman. March 9, 2009. An intensify of environmental warnings fill magazines and newspapers today, and rightly so. But a topic once at the center of debate, that of human population levels, is now out of favor, off the table. Amongst so many cries, we note this article because it marks a deep dilemma. At its base are religious reactionaries who claim that life and human liberties are sacrosanct, thus no limits should constrain. A fine sentiment for the first millennium when it was not known the earth was finitely round. But we remain locked into that mindset, for it has not been repealed or advanced, such is our urgent task.

Nocera, Daniel. Living Healthy on a Dying Planet. Chemical Society Reviews. 38/1, 2009. The MIT Henry Dreyfus Professor of Energy introduces a special issue on Renewable Energy as this imperative project may be advanced by chemical nanoscience. Free access is granted to this editorial and the sophisticated, wide-ranging, contributions such as New Approaches to Hydrogen Storage, Photochemical Fuel Production, and Photosynthetic Energy Conversion.

Nolan, Connor, et al. Past and Future Global Transformation of Terrestrial Ecosystems under Climate Change. Science. 361/920, 2018. Some 39 coauthors at universities, laboratories and institutes across the USA, UK, France, China, Australia, New Zealand, Japan, Germany, Chile, and the Netherlands, a composite planetary sapiensphere it might seem, achieve a retrospective, quantified survey of prior paleoclimates as the biosphere passed through cooling and heating stages. On this reference looking ahead, it is said that unless present uncontrolled levels of greenhouse gases, are brought under mitigated control right now, they will surely lead to drastic atmospheric, vegetative, and weather calamities.

Impacts of global climate change on terrestrial ecosystems are imperfectly constrained by ecosystem models and direct observations. Pervasive ecosystem transformations occurred in response to warming and associated climatic changes during the last glacial-to-interglacial transition, which was comparable in magnitude to warming projected for the next century under high-emission scenarios. We reviewed 594 published paleoecological records to examine compositional and structural changes in terrestrial vegetation since the last glacial period and to project the magnitudes of ecosystem transformations under alternative future emission scenarios. Our results indicate that terrestrial ecosystems are highly sensitive to temperature change and suggest that, without major reductions in greenhouse gas emissions to the atmosphere, terrestrial ecosystems worldwide are at risk of major transformation. (Abstract)

Northcutt, Michael. A Moral Climate: The Ethics of Global Warming. Maryknoll, NY: Orbis Books, 2007. The University of Edinburgh ethicist and Scottish Episcopal priest argues, in part, that the root of our deep dilemma is the vested, erroneous worldview of mechanical materialism, rather than a relational and holistic sense of a viable yet much stressed Gaia.

NRC, Committee on Abrupt Climate Change. Abrupt Climate Change: Inevitable Changes. Washington, DC: National Academy Press, 2002. A major report by the National Research Council of the National Academy of Sciences on the potential for sudden, dramatic shifts in global weather.

The report does not focus on large, abrupt causes–nuclear wars or giant meteorite impacts–but rather on the surprising new findings that abrupt climate change can occur when gradual causes push the earth system across a threshold. Just as the slowly increasing pressure of a finger eventually flips a switch and turns on a light, the solw effects of drifting contentents or wobbling orbits or changing atmospheric composition may “switch” the climate to a new state. (v)

Oskamp, Susan. Psychological Contributions to Achieving an Ecologically Sustainable Future for Humanity. Journal of Social Issues. 56/3, 2000. An essay on the integral mental faculties needed to adequately face the danger from unbridled population, consumption and underconservation in time.

The most serious long-term threat facing the world is the danger that human actions are producing irreversible, harmful changes to the environmental conditions that support life on Earth. If this problem is not overcome, there may be no viable world for our descendants to inhabit….This article discusses major obstacles to this goal, describes a variety of motivational approaches toward reaching it, and proposes that we should view the achievement of sustainable living patterns as a superordinate goal - a war against the common enemy of an uninhabitable world.

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