VII. Pedia Sapiens: A Genesis Future on Earth and in the Heavens
A. The Old Earth: Our Critical Life Support Condition
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)
Theodoulou, Paul, ed.
A special issue of this journal published by the Center for World Dialogue, located strategically on the island of Cyprus, about how to contain and blunt nuclear proliferation, especially in the Middle East.
Vallacher, Robin, et al. Attracted to Conflict: Dynamic Foundations of Destructive Social Relations. Berlin: Springer, 2013. Seven authors from Poland and the USA including Peter Coleman (search) and Andrea Bartoli, who are also affiliated with the International Center for Complexity and Conflict at Columbia University, contribute a volume in support of their project to understand incessant human strife as another manifest instance of complex, self-organizing systems. An overview of Conflict in Human Experience is followed by The Promise of Dynamical Systems Theory, which is covered from Origins and Foundations to Patterns, Traps, Escape, and Sustainability as Enduring Peace. Whenever, however, can these 21st century scientific frontiers be availed to heal and save a wildfire of warfare that cannot be put out otherwise?
Wackernagel, Mathis, et al. Tracking the Ecological Overshoot of the Human Economy. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. 99/9266, 2002. Largely unawares, industrial civilization is dangerously overstressing the regenerative carrying capacity of the biosphere.
The Tipping Point of the Iceberg.
The latest scientific surveys of Arctic regions such as the ratio of sea ice to water, the Greenland glacial cap, summer and winter average temperature rises, indicate an exponentially increasing climate change. Such welling evidence that the Arctic system is running away with itself would have devastating consequences worldwide.
Wallace-Wells, David. The Uninhabitable Earth: Life After Warming. New York: Tim Duggan/Crown, 2019. The author is a national fellow of the New America Foundation, whose website is an alternate place for truth, knowledge and empowerment for all Americans and peoples to face and mitigate climate change, along with many other injustices. Drawing upon much research, many interviews, via lucid vision and prose, the timely work states that to make this land, and the whole stressed bioworld succeed as a cosmic home for hope and futurity, it must first sustainably survive. I cite cosmic because after 200 pages of environmental perils, a novel expansive vista is broached as an incentive. With reference to Adam Frank, Marina Alberti, Axel Kleidon (search names) and others, to fully grasp its auspicious import, we need view our maybe rarest Earth from an astrobiological perspective. A final Part IV is entitled The Anthropic Principle which notes how many evolutionary biospheric breaks in our favor had to occur to get us to this moment. By these lights and reason, a worldwide unity (New Earthica?) need be forged right away so to “think like a planet.”
It is worse, much worse, than you think. If your anxiety about global warming is dominated by fears of sea-level rise, you are barely scratching the surface of what terrors are possible. In California, wildfires now rage year-round, destroying thousands of homes. Across the US, “500-year” storms pummel communities month after month, and floods displace tens of millions annually. Without a revolution in how billions of humans conduct their lives, parts of the Earth could become close to uninhabitable, and other parts inhospitable. It will be all-encompassing, shaping and distorting nearly every aspect of human life as it is lived today. Like An Inconvenient Truth and Silent Spring before it, The Uninhabitable Earth is both a meditation on the devastation we have brought upon ourselves and an impassioned call to action.
Watriss, Wendy, et al, eds. Changing Circumstances: Looking at the Future of the Planet. Amsterdam: Schilt Publishing, 2016. As the quote says, this is a coffee-table illustrated volume which tries to inspire a public sensibility of a whole Earth and identity, so as to summon a remedial response. Lead essays by Watriss, artistic director of FotoFest International, the environmentalist Thomas Lovejoy, and British activist Geof Rayner set the urgent scene.
This book is an expansive presentation of international contemporary photography, video, and new media art addressing the challenges presented by global change. It shows the works of 34 international artists, focusing on the ways in which these media reflect on our relationship, as individuals and as a society, to the natural environment around us.
Watson, Robert, editor-in-chief. Climate Change 2001: Synthesis Report. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2001. This edition from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change is backed up by three large volumes: The Scientific Basis; Impacts, Adaptation and Vulnerability; Mitigation.
Whitty, Julia. The Thirteenth Tipping Point. Mother Jones. November/December, 2006. Twelve bioregions or earth metabolic functions are cited as critically poised systems: Amazon Rainforest, North Atlantic Current, Greenland Ice Sheet, Ozone Hole, Antarctic Circumpolar Current, Sahara Desert, Tibetan Plateau, Asian Monsoon, Methane Clathrates, Salinity Valves, El Nino, and the West Antarctic Ice Sheet. If anyone of these became radically altered, it would dramatically affect global climate and creaturely habitation. The 13th major influence to offset such events is an intentional shift in human life style from competitive consumption to ecological sustainability.