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The Anthropocene and Ozymandias

The Anthropocene and Ozymandias thumbnail

Much has been made lately of the so-called Anthropocene — the idea that Homo sapiens has so taken over and modified Earth that we need a new name for our geological age instead of the outmoded Holocene. One remorseless Anthropoceniac writes, ‘Nature is gone… You are living on a used planet. If this bothers you, get over it. We now live in the Anthropocene — a geological era in which Earth’s atmosphere, lithosphere, and biosphere are shaped primarily by human forces.’

One of the reasons given today for renaming the Anthropocene is that we have so impacted all ecosystems on Earth that there is no ‘wilderness’ left. Insofar as I know, other than babbling about ‘pristine’, ‘untouched’, and so forth, none of the Anthropoceniacs ever define what they mean by wilderness, which is not surprising in that none of them give a hint of having been in a Wilderness Area or having studied the citizen wilderness preservation movement.

Moreover, they behave as though their claim about wilderness being snuffed is a new insight of their own. In truth, we wilderness conservationists have been speaking out about how Homo sapiens has been wrecking wilderness worldwide for one hundred years. Bob Marshall, a founder of the Wilderness Society, warned eighty years ago that the last wilderness of the Rocky Mountains was ‘disappearing like a snowbank on a south-facing slope on a warm June day.’ Congress said in the 1964 Wilderness Act that the country had to act then due to ‘increasing population, accompanied by expanding settlement and growing mechanization’ or we would leave no lands in a natural condition for future generations. My book Rewilding North America documents in gut-wrenching detail how Man has been wreaking a mass extinction for the last 50,000 years or so.

Anthropoceniacs do not seem to understand that when we wilderness conservationists talk about Wilderness Areas we are not playing a mind-game of believing that these are pristine landscapes where the hand of Man has never set foot. Although wilderness holds one end of the human-impact spectrum, it is not a single point but rather a sweep of mostly wild landscapes. Over seventy years ago, Aldo Leopold, the father of the Wilderness Area Idea, wisely wrote that ‘in any practical program, the unit areas to be preserved must vary greatly in size and in degree of wildness‘ (emphasis added). Senator Frank Church of Idaho was the bill’s floor manager in 1964 when the Wilderness Act became law. He understood as well as anyone what Congress meant with the wording of the Act. Ten years later, in the heated fight for Wilderness Areas in the Eastern National Forests, when the Forest Service ‘would have us believe that no lands ever subject to past human impact can qualify as wilderness, now or ever,’ Church said, ‘Nothing could be more contrary to the meaning and intent of the Wilderness Act.’ The words pristine and purity are not found in the Wilderness Act, which is the best short explanation of wilderness. It seems that intellectual wilderness naysayers, whether wilderness deconstructionists or Anthropoceniacs, if they look at the Wilderness Act at all, see only the ideal definition of wilderness:

A wilderness, in contrast with those areas where man and his works dominate the landscape, is hereby recognized as an area where the earth and its community of life are untrammeled by man, where man himself is a visitor who does not remain.

In truth, the Wilderness Act has four definitions of wilderness. The first, which I have already quoted, says why we need to protect wilderness. The second, also quoted above, is the ideal, while the third immediately following the ideal is the practical:

An area of wilderness is further defined to mean in this Act an area of undeveloped Federal land retaining its primeval character and influence, without permanent improvements or human habitation, which is protected and managed so as to preserve its natural conditions and which (1) generally appears to have been affected primarily by the forces of nature, with the imprint of man’s work substantially unnoticeable. (Qualifying words in bold.)

The wish of the Wilderness Society’s Howard Zahniser, the main author of the Wilderness Act and one of its congressional champions, was to keep the idea of wilderness a bit fuzzy. The fourth definition, however, is not fuzzy. It has the lawfully binding language on how federal agencies are to protect and steward the Wilderness Areas under their hand:

Except as specifically provided for in this Act, and subject to existing private rights, there shall be no commercial enterprise and no permanent road within any wilderness area designated by this Act and except as necessary to meet minimum requirements for the administration of the area for the purposes of this Act (including measures required in emergencies involving the health and safety of persons within the area), there shall be no temporary road, no use of motor vehicles, motorized equipment or motorboats, no landing of aircraft, no other form of mechanical transport, and no structure or installation within any such area.

Too often, there is confusion between the loose, fuzzy entry criteria for Wilderness Areas and the tougher rules for management after designation. Before being designated as Wilderness, a landscape might have a few roads or acres that were once logged. After designation, however, the roads must be closed, vehicles banned, and future logging prohibited.

So. In the sense of the US Wilderness Act (with over seven hundred areas totalling over 109 million acres) and like wilderness systems in other lands worldwide, there is, indeed, wilderness. Moreover, some 25% of Earth’s land is lightly or seldom touched by Man.

But the Anthropoceniacs are really saying that there is no wilderness in its ideal pristine meaning. To answer this assertion, I think we need to put Homo sapiens in better perspective.

Life first wriggled on Earth some 3.5 billion years ago. That is a long time. So, let’s take an easier timeline and only go back to the unfolding of complex animal life — the Cambrian Explosion of 545 million years ago. Make that a book of 545 pages with each page being one million years. With 250 words per page, a word would be four thousand years.

Where are we? Well, if the last sentence on the last page of the book is a long one of some thirteen to fifteen words, we behaviorally modern Homo sapiens left Africa at the beginning of that sentence. We began to ransack biodiversity then as well. As we spread, we killed the biggest wildlife as we came into new lands. In the middle of the third-­to-­last word, some of our kind began farming— remaking ecosystems to suit us. In the middle of the second-to-last word, civilisations began.

The very last word in this book of 545 pages takes in the time from 2000 BCE to today. Nearly the whole world met the strictest definition of wilderness until well into the last sentence. Through almost all of that last sentence the share of Earth’s biomass held in our bodies grew very slowly. Much of Earth was untrodden by us for thousands of years. Other than the Overkill of the ‘Big Hairies’, the wounds we inflicted on the Tree of Life only slowly grew. Not until the last hundred years with our exploding population and systemic pollution of Earth with radioactive fallout, antibiotics, artificial biocides, and greenhouse gases, have we finally gotten to the day where we are having an impact everywhere. That is an impact, not total control, not even leaving no lands or seas where Man does not dominate the landscape. When I was nearly run down and stomped by a woolly bully of a musk ox bull in a 16-million-acre Wilderness Area in Alaska a few years ago, I swear to you that Man did not dominate that landscape.

Call the last hundred years the period at the end of the last sentence on the last page of the book of the history of complex animal life. Do you now have a feeling for how long the Tree of Life and Wilderness have been without any harm from a ground ape self-named sapiens?

I’ve taken this twisty path to get to my main damnation of the Anthropoceniacs. Though one can hammer them for major mistakes in history and science as many of my friends have done, my beef is with their view of Man’s place in evolution and on Earth. It is the ethics of the Anthropoceniacs that gives me shudders.

My anger with the Anthropoceniacs is not that they see how Man has taken over Earth (though they overstate greatly). The first third of my Rewilding North America tallies and weighs the ecological wounds we’ve wrought over the last 50,000 years. I know our impact is great — but not thoroughgoing. By and large, the Anthropoceniacs grossly overstate the degree to which we ‘control’ Earth.

No, my wrath is for the outlook many Anthropoceniacs have toward the ghastly, grisly slaughter of so many wild things. Where is the grief? Where is the shame? Where is the passion to save what’s left? Where is the outrage? Where is the sadness for the loss of so many of our neighbours?

Instead, I see many making merry over the coming of the Anthropocene. ‘We’ve done it!’ they seem to say while high­fiving one another. ‘Man has finally taken over!’ In the writings I’ve read, they seem blissful, even gleeful. ‘Now we are gods!’

The mass extinction of other Earthlings seems not to bring them a tear. Witness the words of Peter Kareiva, the chief scientist for the Nature Conservancy, ‘In many circumstances, the demise of formerly abundant species can be inconsequential to ecosystem function… The passenger pigeon, once so abundant that its flocks darkened the sky, went extinct, along with countless other species from the Steller’s sea cow to the dodo, with no catastrophic or even measurable effects.’ Field biologists and others have shown that this claim is so much biological balderdash — there have been big upsets. However, the true harm, the wound, the loss, the sin was the extinction of the passenger pigeon and the ongoing extinctions of countless other Earthlings who have just as much right to their evolutionary adventure as we have to ours. Maybe more, because they are not screwing up things for others. To say the ‘passenger pigeon… went extinct’ is akin to a mass murderer saying his victims ‘became dead.’ The passenger pigeon did not go extinct; we slaughtered them in a spree of giddy gore in little more than a score of years!

How can anyone who works for something called the Nature Conservancy not feel woe and emptiness at the extinction of the passenger pigeon and all those others we’ve wrought and are causing today and tomorrow to make way for our Brave New World — or is it our Brave New Conservation?

Such uncaring, careless, carefree brushing away of all other Earthlings but for the ecosystem services they give the last surviving ground ape is — how can I say this — WICKED. It is washed in sin, it is treason to life, to Earth, and to all other Earthlings.

Such Anthropoceniacs behave like our takeover of the Tree of Life was foreordained, that evolution meant us and meant us to take over. This is teleology if not theology, my friends, one of the deep misunderstandings Darwin cast out 150 years ago. My children’s tale of the 545 ­page Book of Life shows how we are but one of countless species that come and go. The late Stephen Jay Gould was unsparing on this conceit:

[T]he worst and most harmful of all our conventional mistakes about the history of our planet [is] the arrogant notion that evolution has a predictable direction leading toward human life.

Man is not the unerring outcome or endpoint of hundreds of millions of years of life’s descent with modification, but is, rather, a happy or unhappy (hinging on what kind of Earthling you are) happenstance. We were not ‘meant to be’. Nor is anything Man has done in its flicker of time been meant to be. We happened to become, just as did the curve-billed thrasher getting a drink right now from the birdbath outside my window.

We only happened to be.

This is maybe the hardest lesson from evolution to swallow — one that is stuck in many an Anthropoceniac throat.

It is Homo sapiens’ arrogance that blinds us to our fate. We think that we, unlike every other species, will live forever. It’s not a Thousand­ Year Reich we celebrate but an eternal Kingdom of Man Triumphant, of Man over all (über alles) other Earthlings. It is we and we alone who decide who lives and who dies, who offers ecosystem services and therefore gets to stay, and who is mere waste biomass. Some may soothe their conscience by making believe this blood-bath, like us, was meant to be. But it is not so. It is our choice to strip off one third of the limbs of the Tree of Life. We do it willingly, even gleefully, all by our own free will.

The first sentence in Aldo Leopold’s A Sand County Almanac spells out much of the moral conflict between wilderness and wildlife conservationists and the Anthropoceniacs and their so-called New Conservation (which is truly only the latest version of Gifford Pinchot’s resource conservation). Leopold wrote:

There are some who can live without wild things, and some who cannot.

We who fight for wilderness and all wild Earthlings cannot live without wild things. We believe wild things are good-in-themselves and need offer no services to Man to be of great worth. Those who blithely welcome the Anthropocene and can live without wild things see worth in Nature only in what it offers us as ecosystem services.

The Anthropoceniacs seem to believe that not only is Man running evolution now but that all the lessons scientists have learned about how evolution has worked for billions of years have been thrown out for Man in the Brave New Anthropocene geological era.

One who understood this mindset well, this will to power over Earth, was Percy Bysshe Shelley. Some two hundred years ago he wrote:

I met a traveller from an antique land
Who said: ‘Two vast and trunkless legs of stone
Stand in the desert. Near them, on the sand,
Half sunk, a shattered visage lies, whose frown,
And wrinkled lip, and sneer of cold command,
Tell that its sculptor well those passions read,
Which yet survive, stamped on these lifeless things,
The hand that mocked them and the heart that fed.
And on the pedestal these words appear —
‘My name is Ozymandias, king of kings:
Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!’
Nothing beside remains.
Round the decay
Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare
The lone and level sands stretch far away.

Yes, we can read our tale as the steadily growing sway over Earth by Lord Man. But the Anthropocene technocrats who prattle about grabbing the rudder of evolution and making Earth better are the wanton heirs of a Pharaoh’s hubris. Their lovely human garden will stand unclothed as either a barnyard or Dr Frankenstein’s lab for other Earthlings. Three ­and ­a­ half billion years of life becomes a short overture before Man in all his Wagnerian glory strides singing onto the set. Does our madness have no end? Have we no humility?

For six thousand years, each coming age has puffed out its chest. As each Ozymandias falls to the lone and level sands, a greater and more prideful Ozymandias takes his stead. Goodness is overridden more and more by might and the will to power.

Wilderness Areas are our meek acknowledgement that we are not gods.

Dark Mountain Project

27 Comments on "The Anthropocene and Ozymandias"

  1. ghung on Fri, 28th Aug 2015 8:38 am 

    “The beauty of modern
    Man is not in the persons but in the
    Disastrous rhythm, the heavy and mobile masses, the dance of the
    Dream-led masses down the dark mountain.

    Robinson Jeffers, 1935

  2. BobInget on Fri, 28th Aug 2015 9:36 am 

    How Obama can be the new Teddy Roosevelt

    Faith Gemmill-Fredson & Princess Daazrhaii Johnson, The Daily Beast
    August 28, 2015

    (Alex Williams/The Daily Beast)

    Alaska is a different sort of state. It is isolated from the lower 48, but as home to some of the most crucial ecosystems of our planet, Alaska has deep-seated connection with nature that makes us unique. It is because of Alaska that the United States is considered an Arctic Nation, so indeed; the Arctic connects us all.

    Which is why President Obama’s visit here is such a big deal. Not only because we’re often overlooked by politicians who focus on the lower 48, but also because we’re on the front lines of climate change. Unsurprisingly, as an Arctic state, warming is hitting us hard. Whether its the deficit of water in the summer as less snow falls over winter resulting in record breaking wildfires or the shifting of the very ground below our feet as permafrost melts, Alaska is a state with perhaps the most to lose from rising temperatures.

    The changes are happening at an alarming rate, but even beyond the practical concerns of infrastructure at risk from the melt or water worries, Alaska’s climate carries real meaning for its people. As Gwich’in Athabascan women and mothers we carry with us the responsibility to maintain our vibrant culture for our children and our children’s children. In order for this to happen we need healthy lands, waters, and intact ecosystems to be protected. For those of us living a subsistence lifestyle, the protection of Alaskan lands and waters is also a human rights issue.

    The Obama administration’s official recommendation of a Wilderness designation for the coastal plain of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge was a huge step in the right direction—the sort of strong action that we need to see more of from leaders across the globe. Alas, it is only a “recommendation” and stronger protections are needed immediately to counter the rush for resources that is taking place all over the Arctic.

    While fossil fuel corporations look at the wilderness of Alaska’s land and water and see a profit to be made, we see a people to protect. We depend on the bounty of what lives here to stay alive, be it the Porcupine Caribou herds migrating across the plains or the schools of fish in the oceans. And sadly, warming threatens these species, which have, for hundreds of thousands of years, adapted to the (now thawing) frigid Arctic temperatures. Like the animals that sustain us, the Alaskan people and our culture are built for an Arctic climate. That’s what makes the climate fight so important to us.

    So it’s thrilling to know that more indigenous peoples are joining the climate cause. Last year, for example, frontline native communities featured prominently in the People’s Climate March, the biggest climate protest to date. Building on that success is the People’s Climate Movement, which is doubling down on its efforts to make it clear that climate change is far more than just an environmental issue, it’s also a social justice issue, as low-income communities bear a disproportionate burden of climate impacts.

    That’s what makes the movement so unique. It’s not focused on a single group, but on bringing together the many diverse voices, so we can stand together for a common cause. After all, though there are many peoples on this planet, there’s just one atmosphere. And unfortunately, it needs all our help. Because though we sometimes feel isolated, Alaskans alone can’t stop climate change.

    We hope that Obama hears first hand from our Alaska Native communities the impacts we are facing due to climate change and that he takes this visit as an opportunity to take further actions. The hardships experienced in Alaska, with unprecedented heat and wildfires, have already begun to echo across America. Our Ancestors knew that in order to survive we had to work together. A culture of caring for one another and deep ecology is necessary if we are truly going to tackle climate change. Now is the time to rise.

    Read more from The Daily Beast:

  3. ghung on Fri, 28th Aug 2015 9:42 am 

    From Bob’s quote:

    “As Gwich’in Athabascan women and mothers we carry with us the responsibility to maintain our vibrant culture for our children and our children’s children. In order for this to happen we need healthy lands, waters, and intact ecosystems to be protected. For those of us living a subsistence lifestyle, the protection of Alaskan lands and waters is also a human rights issue.”

    Better start making other arrangements ladies.

  4. Jerry McManus on Fri, 28th Aug 2015 11:36 am 

    “Where is the grief? Where is the shame? Where is the passion to save what’s left? Where is the outrage? Where is the sadness for the loss of so many of our neighbours?”

    Sorry, I had to stop reading this pointy-headed, self-righteous screed right there.

    Environmentalists have been trying to lay the mother of all guilt trips on all of us greedy rapacious humans for decades now, and look where that got them. Nowhere.

    Most of them are loathe to admit it, so instead they become willing toadies of the multinational corporate death machines and spend their comfy well paid cubicle time smugly patting each other on the back for “doing something”.

    Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying I know what the answer is, in fact I’m mostly inclined to believe there is no answer.

    What I do know is that whingeing about people not wallowing in a sufficient amount of despair is such a bad excuse for a joke that it won’t even get you a cartoon in the New Yorker magazine.

  5. penury on Fri, 28th Aug 2015 12:05 pm 

    I totally agree with this statement: “Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying I know what the answer is, in fact I’m mostly inclined to believe there is no answer.” The answer lies not with the human population as they are the creators and perpetrators of the problem. The answer if there is one, (I am not certain what the question is) will be determined post homo sapiens, The reference to Ozmandyias brings to mind one line ” gaze upon my mighty works and despair”

  6. apneaman on Fri, 28th Aug 2015 12:26 pm 

    Hitler Reacts to Climate Change

  7. Boat on Fri, 28th Aug 2015 1:00 pm 

    If the rise and fall of humans left not a single person who would be there to lament. The earth will not care, any beast left will not care. Odds are something will thrive and take our place. So who cares. Strive to care enough to do the best we can under impossible circumstances and enjoy every day. Even the sun is finite so it’s not like we were destined to survive anyhow.

  8. GregT on Fri, 28th Aug 2015 2:05 pm 

    “So who cares.”

    Those of us who feel a responsibility to leave something behind for future generations, and those of us who believe that biodiversity, and life, is worth saving.

  9. apneaman on Fri, 28th Aug 2015 2:11 pm 

    Boat, so when horrible things happen to your grandkids you’ll rest easy knowing it had to happen to someone so there is no point in even trying to practise the precautionary principle in the slightest? Most folks obviously agree with you there, because we just keep doing all the things that are destructive to stable and healthy living conditions. In fact, we keep doing more. You just said so boat

    ” I have given plenty of evidence. Oil production up, consumption up, spending up. Prices down. And one big ass glut.”

    Too bad that on our journey to extinction we have to suffer so much. Suffer many things that are diseases of modernity. Especially the kids. Asthma, autism, obesity, diabetes, allergies, depression/anxiety all through the roof and growing every year in lock step with the consumption and pollution. The good news is life expectancy increases so you get to suffer longer as a worker drone earning the money to buy the Fraken food and medicine to keep you going. Sorry kiddies, just the price of admission to the consumer paradise. Here’s a bag of Doritos and a new ipad…..go play.

  10. apneaman on Fri, 28th Aug 2015 2:13 pm 

    Built on ice, Alaska villages melt away

  11. apneaman on Fri, 28th Aug 2015 2:16 pm 

    Ed Suominen’s Shitty Little Blog

  12. apneaman on Fri, 28th Aug 2015 2:23 pm 

    With their sea ice habitat gone, hordes of walruses once again huddle along the Alaskan coast

  13. Michael Bond on Fri, 28th Aug 2015 2:30 pm 

    All species, if allowed to breed uncheck, will reproduce to the limits of their resources, trash their environment and then have a big die off. We clever humans like to think that we are immune to this natural law. But sadly we are not. If you survive the big die off then there will be lots of wild places to enjoy. And very cheap housing.

  14. jedrider on Fri, 28th Aug 2015 2:34 pm 

    The Anthropocene is NOT just a fancy new word that my spell checker is not recognizing. It is, in fact, our NEW state: No hubris involved. We fucked up.

  15. apneaman on Fri, 28th Aug 2015 2:39 pm 

    Michael you think there the housing will still be standing? In my dystopian dreams, I always see groups of suburbanites huddled around vinyl siding fires cooking the neighbourhood pets…then the neighbours.

  16. Michael Bond on Fri, 28th Aug 2015 2:45 pm 

    Ha ha yes perhaps we will. But you have to look at history. All previous depopulation events left lots of buildings intact. Fall of Rome, Black Death etc. Cities may be burnt out shells but there should be lots of housing available elsewhere.

  17. ghung on Fri, 28th Aug 2015 2:50 pm 

    Yeah. George and Martha still had their house, at least until Eli showed up 🙂

  18. BC on Fri, 28th Aug 2015 2:57 pm 

    ghung, thanks for the reference to Jeffers, one of my favorites.

  19. apneaman on Fri, 28th Aug 2015 2:59 pm 

    Lots of building material to work with at the very least. Italians were salvaging brick and stone off the coliseum for centuries after the fall of that great empire.

  20. apneaman on Fri, 28th Aug 2015 3:16 pm 

    More and more of our BC tax dollars are going to fighting, repairing and rebuilding than ever before with more to come. I have already heard one of the BC forestry people say we are going to have to just stop fighting some of the forest fires. Lives and structures, then lives then abandonment.

    B.C. drought just part of ‘extreme weather’ story, says water expert

    Other side of coin is massive rainstorms and the havoc they bring

    “B.C. has lost more to climate change than most places on Earth. There are forest fires, landslides, the cost of diking and the rise in ocean levels with their effect on all types of aquatic life,” he said”

  21. Davy on Fri, 28th Aug 2015 3:24 pm 

    This coming world will likely be a world of salvage. It will be a hybrid of what remains of industrial man with adapted traditional ways of our past. If the descent is slow and longer we may succeed to some extent. If we have a hard quick descent I am not optimistic. Too much of what is needed has been deactivated by policies of progress and efficiency. Much is left in libraries and as hobbies but that won’t scale in a quick collapse.

    If we encounter a crisis and this forces change we may get lucky and hold some civilization together. We just may stabilize for a time at a lower level. Hopefully it will still be civilization. I am not optimistic because of climate change. We are screwed but will that screwing come down the road of soon? There is no way to answer that question. We can talk about scenarios and use bench marks to paint a generalized picture. I would say the various peak oil dynamics will be a bench mark. Climate Change is another.

  22. apneaman on Fri, 28th Aug 2015 3:37 pm 

    Arctic Emergency: Scientists Speak On Melting Ice and Global Impacts

    This film brings you the voices of climate scientists – in their own words.

    Rising temperatures in the Arctic are contributing the melting sea ice, thawing permafrost, and destabilization of a system that has been called “Earth’s Air Conditioner”.

    Global warming is here and is impacting weather patterns, natural systems, and human life around the world – and the Arctic is central to these impacts.

  23. Davy on Fri, 28th Aug 2015 5:36 pm 

    Ape Man, I am looking for bench marks. I feel 5 years or so the peak oil dynamics will kick in to create serious economic issues for the global economy. I see the current deflationary cycle as a current danger of criticality for the economy. Yet, I also feel the economy could limp along in a systematic cannibalization until one or more of the peak oil dynamics finally puts the global economy out of its misery. I am curious if you have a personal opinion on climate change and its effects. I am curious if you feel abrupt climate change is near. Do you have a time frame in your head as an inflection point of criticality? I know climate change is so difficult in regards to predictions. I am just picking your mind and your feelings. I am not holding you to it. I see 10-15 years as the climate change horizon of criticality.

  24. BobInget on Fri, 28th Aug 2015 6:19 pm 

    Hello Venus,

    Climate: Another warning on permafrost ‘tipping point’
    Posted on August 28, 2015 by Bob Berwyn

    Melting permafrost could trigger a massive surge in global greenhouse gas emissions.
    ‘The real and imminent threat posed by permafrost thawing must be communicated clearly and broadly to the general public and the policy community’

    Staff Report
    FRISCO — Policy makers should pay more attention to the potential to the potential for greenhouse gas emissions from melting permafrost, a team of researchers warned in a special bulletin, released as President Obama prepares to attend an international conference on the Arctic.
    Arctic permafrost – ground that has been frozen for many thousands of years – is thawing, and the results could be disastrous and irreversible, potentially triggering a spiral of global warming far beyond any of the scenarios currently envisioned, a team of scientists with the Woods Hole Research Center wrote in a policy brief.“The release of greenhouse gases resulting from thawing Arctic permafrost could have catastrophic global consequences,” said Dr. Max Holmes, a Senior Scientist at the Woods Hole Research Center who has been advising State Department officials on the problem.
    Thawing permafrost releases heat-trapping carbon dioxide and methane into the atmosphere, which accelerates climate change. “This potentially unstoppable and self-reinforcing cycle could lead to a “calamitous tipping point,” scientists said.
    Scientists have also measured rapidly melting permafrost in Antarctica, and there have been efforts to quantify the emissions that could be triggered globally by melting permafrost. But many scientists think that those emissions have been underestimated by most global climate models.
    “The United States must lead a large-scale effort to find the tipping point – at what level of warming will the cycle of warming and permafrost thawing become impossible to stop,” said Dr. Holmes. “The real and imminent threat posed by permafrost thawing must be communicated clearly and broadly to the general public and the policy community.”
    Reducing global greenhouse gas emissions is the main thing, but the WHRC scientists have also advised the U.S. State Department that controlling black carbon-based sooty particles that darken snow and speed Arctic warming could be an important short-term tool to limit permafrost melting.
    “Despite the importance and urgency of this problem, until now it has received little attention from policymakers,” said WHRC scientist Dr. Sue Natali.
    A study published earlier this year by Dr. Natali and WHRC scientists estimated that greenhouse gases released from thawing permafrost could make it much more difficult to meet the widely held goal of limiting global warming to 2 degrees Celsius.
    The key science points, implications and recommendations can be found in the WHRC Policy Brief, “Permafrost and Global Climate Change.”

  25. Apneaman on Fri, 28th Aug 2015 7:14 pm 

    Davy, my feeling is that we are already in the midst of an abrupt climate shift – just look at the extremes. What I am watching for is a Blue ocean event, aka ice free arctic. It’s not 100% ice free – that’s just another one of those poorly worded scientific terms that keep confusing regular folk. Things could go south in a big hurry after a blue ocean event. I don’t think this year, but I will be surprised if it does not happen by 2020. US Navy says next year. It’s inevitable, barring a worldwide effort to try and refreeze the Arctic with a bunch of technological wizardry. Here’s a piece on it with many links included. Does not look good to say the least.

    Accelerating Towards an Arctic Blue Ocean Event

  26. Apneaman on Fri, 28th Aug 2015 7:27 pm 

    Shades of a Canfield Ocean — Hydrogen Sulfide in Oregon’s Purple Waves?

    “Are we already starting to awaken some of the horrors of the ancient hothouse ocean? Are dangerous, sea and land life killing, strains of primordial hydrogen sulfide producing bacteria starting to show up in the increasingly warm and oxygen-starved waters of the US West Coast? This week’s disturbing new reports of odd-smelling, purple-colored waves appearing along the Oregon coastline are a sign that it may be starting to happen.”

  27. Joe on Sat, 29th Aug 2015 1:55 pm 

    The climate is Fuc!!d!Only the ignorant and blind dont see it.

    I live in South/Western Kentucky.I’ll tell you what,the neighbors,friends and I who planted gardens did very poorly this year.Something is very wrong here.No one seems to know why,just a bunch of guesses.

    My guess is climate change being responsible.

    Live while you can people.


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