"Peak Water," Methane Blow Holes, And Ice-Free Arctic Cruises: The Climate Crisis Deepens, By Dahr Jamail
As has been mentioned in these dispatches previously, the planet is now in the early stages of its sixth mass extinction event, and humans are indeed responsible, according to yet another published study, this one in Science. According to the study, large vertebrate animals (megafauna), which include elephants and polar bears, face the steepest decline since they require large habitats and are targeted by human hunters. The loss of megafauna places ecosystems off balance and leads to consequences like massive rodent infestations that proceed to impact the well-being and stability of a large segment of species, including humans. The study highlights how the particularly steep decline of megafauna we are seeing now is characteristic of all the previous mass extinction events.
Patzek is Professor and Chairman of the Petroleum and Geosystems Engineering Department at The University of Texas at Austin. He also holds the Cockrell Family Regents Chair #11. Between 1990 and 2008, he was a Professor of Geoengineering at the University of California, Berkeley. Prior to joining Berkeley, he was a researcher at Shell Development, a unique research company managed for 20 years by M. King Hubbert of the Hubbert peaks. In November 2012, Patzek became President of ASPO, the Association for the Study of Peak Oil.
On some level, it is tempting to say, “goodbye and good riddance” to 2012. For all the positive experiences it may have brought us, those were overshadowed by losses that will live with us for a very long time. But no matter how much we would like to “put them behind us” and declare their end, the truth is that they mark the beginning of a new era of deepening loss and cultural chaos. I assume that the reader understands this, but at the same time, I believe it is crucial to evaluate the lessons which this formidable year offers us.
So we work to strengthen human and non-human communities and the links between them. And we work to lessen the depredations and save what we can from the insatiable maw of industrial ‘progress.’ And we steel ourselves and our communities for the spastic convulsions of the industrial machine as it disintegrates. And we try to shelve the hopelessness that lingers around the edges of our thoughts. But now and then I think we need to take that hopelessness down from the shelf, put it in front of us, and look at it. And we need to say, “Hmmmm…this COULD actually happen.” And then we need to ask if there’s anything, anything at all, we can do to address it more directly.
As Americans sweltered through the record temperatures, and as the wildfires sent plumes of smoke across the continent, and as utilities tried to patch up the storm-damaged grid, a new specter started stalking the nation. As usual, the money guys noticed first: the price of corn spiked 12 percent in two days right at the end of June, as fear began to build that the heat was damaging crops across the Midwest. And not just the heat — the same high pressure that was letting temperatures soar also blocked storms from watering the country’s midsection. (July, it would turn out, saw the lowest number of tornadoes in history, which was about the only good news.)
The Great Drought of 2012 has yet to come to an end, but we already know that its consequences will be severe. With more than one-half of America’s counties designated as drought disaster areas, the 2012 harvest of corn, soybeans, and other food staples is guaranteed to fall far short of predictions. This, in turn, will boost food prices domestically and abroad, causing increased misery for farmers and low-income Americans and far greater hardship for poor people in countries that rely on imported U.S. grains. This, however, is just the beginning of the likely consequences: if history is any guide, rising food prices of this sort will also lead to widespread social unrest and violent conflict.
What in the paradigm of industrial civilization causes not only such grizzly violence of epic and epidemic proportions, but what in that paradigm causes us to so blatantly and blithely ignore the global warming-generated drought that is shriveling at least one third of this country? Are the two issues related?