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VIII. Earth Earns: An Open Participatory Earthropocene to Astropocene CoCreative Future

A. The Old World: Its Archaic, Polar, War Torn, Rapacious Critical Life Support Condition

Schellnhuber, Hans Joachim, et al, eds. Global Sustainability: A Nobel Cause. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2010. A noble volume drawn from the 2007 Potsdam Laureate Symposium, hosted by Angela Merkel, with luminaries such as Nicholas Stern, Susanne Kadner, Geoffrey West, Murray Gell-Mann, Annette Schavan, and others. Some 27 chapters are displayed in 6 Parts: The Great Transformation, Climate Stabilization and Sustainable Development, Institutional and Economic Incentives, Technological Innovation and Energy Security, A Global Contract between Science and Society, and The Potsdam Memorandum. Gell-Mann, always on message, rightly calls for a “planetary consciousness” guided by novel complex system understandings.

I therefore propose that the key factor in taking a crude look at the whole is a belief, maybe even merely a hope, that the human mind – in this case the collective mind of networked humanity – will be able to construct mental images of the whole that are more than mere figments of cultural or scientific projection. These mental images have to take the form, I propose, of new cosmologies, cosmologies that blend cultural narratives of the position of humans in the world with the findings of Earth system analysis, encompassing both the natural world and the human condition in its cultural expression. (30-31, Wolfgang Lucht, Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research)

Schellnhuber, Hans, editor-in-chief. Avoiding Dangerous Climate Change. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2006. These proceedings of the noted 2005 International Symposium on Stabilization of Greenhouse Gas Concentrations provide a copious survey by leading players such as Stephen Schneider and Tom Wigley of impending impacts we really ought to get in front of. Balmy gradual warming is a misnomer, rather the erratic weather outside our windows and on the nightly news is a harbinger of sudden catastrophic instabilities if mindful mitigation of emissions and lifestyle does not promptly commence.

Schneider, Tapio, et al. Possible Climate Transitions from Breakup of Stratocumulus Decks under Greenhouse Warming. Nature Geoscience. Online February, 2019. As if we need another climate alarm, CalTech researchers note that Earth’s relative cloudiness plays an important part in maintaining a moderate temperature. But if the clouds go away due to excessive greenhouse gases, as they will, this disappearance will lead to runaway heat waves. The results are braced by paleoclimate studies which show that when this happened in the past, the planet did experience high temperatures. The work merited a news report A World Without Clouds by Natalie Wolchover in

Stratocumulus clouds cover 20% of the low-latitude oceans and are prevalent in the subtropics. They cool the Earth by shading large portions of its surface. However, as their scales are too small to be resolvable in global climate models, the effect of greenhouse warming has remained uncertain. Here we report how stratocumulus decks respond in large-eddy simulations that explicitly resolve cloud dynamics in a subtropical region. We find the stratocumulus decks become unstable and break up into scattered clouds when CO2 levels rise above 1,200 ppm. In addition to rising CO2 levels, this instability triggers a surface warming of about 8 K globally and 10 K in the subtropics. Once the stratocumulus decks have broken up, they only re-form when CO2 concentrations drop substantially below the level at which the instability first occurred. (Abstract)

Schrader-Frechette, Kristin. Environmental Justice: Creating Equality, Reclaiming Democracy. New York: Oxford University Press, 2002. A professor of environmental philosophy draws on her own life experience in the rural south to present a cogent case for this vital subject.

Simons, Gregory and Iulian Chifu. The Changing Face of Warfare in the 21st Century. London: Routledge, 2017. While the authors are European scholars of conflict studies and prevention, we are concerned that even a work this seems to accept perpetual, violent conflict as a situation we have to accept. Rather, why can’t it be seen as an archaic male tribal aberration, now of nuclear scale, a new barbarism which bombs hospitals, that in these early years needs to be forever banished.

This study discusses salient trends demonstrated by contemporary warfare of these first years of the 21st century. The authors reinforce previous notions of Fourth Generation Warfare, but most importantly explore the workings of new components and how these have modified the theory and practice of warfare beyond the basic divisions of conventional and unconventional warfare as witnessed in the preceding century. Throughout history there has been a close interaction between politics, communication and armed conflict and a main line of investigation of this book is to track changes that are presumed to have occurred in the way and manner in which armed conflicts are waged.

Smith, H. Jesse. The State We’re In. Science. 302/1171, 2003. An introduction to a series of articles here and in the next three issues entitled State of the Planet. Typical subjects are Human Population, Global Freshwater Resources, Tropical Soils and Food Security, Energy Resources and Global Development and Modern Global Climate Change. The subsequent December 12th issue presents a special retrospective of the “Tragedy of the Commons” metaphor conceived by the late ecologist Garret Hardin.

Smith, Joel, et al, eds. Climate Change, Adaptive Capacity and Development. London: Imperial College Press, 2003. Given that climates are in fact changing, the vulnerability of developing countries around the world are considered with regard to how capable they are to adapt, e.g., to changes in rain or snow runoff and its effect upon crop yields.

Speth, James Gustave (Gus). The Bridge at the Edge of the World: Capitalism, the Environment, and Crossing from Crisis to Sustainability. New Haven: Yale University Press, 2008. In his latest volume, the renowned environmentalist draws sharp relief between a material capitalism in collapse, precipitously since the book’s March publication date, and a revolutionary life, human and earth-conducive future. Speth begins by noting a two foot high stack of books in his study that chronicle our dire plight as consumptive markets, rapacious corporations, energy waste, and so on imperil biospheric support systems. But an alternative path or span will take more than hybrid technologies, rather a societal awakening, a new worldview, of epochal proportions is required. For sage guidance, he turns, among others such as David Korten, to Thomas Berry, Mary Evelyn Tucker, and John Grim, along with a continuing endorsement of the Earth Charter document.

The cultural historian Thomas Berry has described forging a new consciousness as our “Great Work.” “The deepest cause of the present devastation is found in a mode of consciousness that has established a radical discontinuity between the human and other modes of being and the bestowal of all rights on the human… (Berry goes on) “Consistently we have difficulty in accepting the human as an integral part of the Earth Community. We see ourselves as a transcendent mode of being. We don’t really belong here. But if we are here by some strange destiny then we are the source of all rights and all values. All other earthly beings are instruments to be used or resources to be exploited for human benefit.”
Berry believes what is required is “a profound reversal in our perspective on ourselves and on the universe about us….What is demanded of us now is to change attitudes that are so deeply bound into our basic cultural patterns that they seem to us as an imperative of the very nature of our being.” (202)

David Korten in The Great Turning sees humanity at a turning point, a pivot in history, and puts new values front and center: “The Great Turning begins with a cultural and spiritual awakening – a turning in cultural values from money and material excess to life and spiritual fulfillment, from a belief in our limitations to a belief in our possibilities, and from fearing our differences to rejoicing in our diversity. It requires reframing the cultural stories by which we define our human nature, purpose, and possibilities… (Korten continues) “The values shift of the cultural turning leads us to redefine wealth – to measure it by the health of our families, communities, and natural environment. It leads us form policies that raise those at the top to policies that raise those at the bottom, from hoarding to sharing, from concentrated to distributed ownership, and from the rights of ownership to the responsibilities of stewardship.” (206)

Speth, James Gustave, ed. Worlds Apart: Globalization and the Environment. Washington, DC: Island Press, 2004. Leading spokespersons such as Maurice Strong, Jane Lubchenco, Robert Kates and Vandana Shiva weigh in on international aspects of the imperative transition to a sustainable society with regard to energy, resources, economics, governance, feminine concerns and so on. While human degradation of earth’s life support capacity is far along, our corrective realization is seen to be perilously belated and inadequate.

Steffen, Will, et al. Abrupt Changes: The Achilles’ Heel of the Earth System. Environment. 46/3, 2004. A lengthy article which argues that because our life-support biosphere is a single dynamic biogeochemical process, the extreme stress imposed upon it can rapidly and erratically cause a new warmer or cooler state.

In the context of global change, the Earth System has come to mean the suite of interacting physical, chemical and biological global-scale cycles and energy fluxes that provide the conditions necessary for life on the planet.

Taipale, Ilkka, et al. War or Health? A Reader. London: Zed Books, 2002. The Physicians for Social Responsibility of Finland provide an extensive sourcebook on the virulent epidemic of small arms, land mines, grenades, along with nuclear, biological and chemical weapons that is increasingly imperiling the well-being of every person and the supportive planetary environment. Pathways to conflict resolution and the role of NGO’s are considered.

Tennesen, Michael. The Next Species: The Future of Evolution in the Aftermath of Man. New York: Simon & Schuster, 2015. In these mid 2010s, akin to Adam Rutherford’s Creation (search), science writers can rise to an overall spatial and temporal scenario of universe to human procreation. The author is an environmental journalist at the Cary Institute for Ecosystems Studies in Millbrook, New York who traveled widely to document both crisis and promise. A vicarious past of earth life’s oxygenated emergence from primordial incipience to global cultures defines the present biospheric moment. Nature is not a balanced equilibrium, but a precarious coming and going of land, sea, and air creaturely diversity. Sapient human beings are no exception, poised between a tinkered evolution and future sustainable survival which requires our informed, respectful renewal and guidance. And this widest vista seems to imply a positive makeover of our Homo Sapiens for the better.

A growing number of scientists agree we are headed toward a mass extinction, perhaps in as little as 300 years. Already there have been five mass extinctions in the last 600 million years, including the Cretaceous Extinction, during which an asteroid knocked out the dinosaurs. Though these events were initially destructive, they were also prime movers of evolutionary change in nature. And we can see some of the warning signs of another extinction event coming, as our oceans lose both fish and oxygen. Tennesen discusses the future of nature and whether humans will make it through the bottleneck of extinction. Without man, could the seas regenerate to what they were before fishing vessels? And what if man survives the coming catastrophes, but in reduced populations? Could the conquest of Mars lead to another form of human? Could we upload our minds into a computer and live in a virtual reality? Or could genetic engineering create a more intelligent and long-lived creature that might shun the rest of us? (Publisher)

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