Getting closer to extinction

extinction-rebellion-protesters_England
image from https://www.newstalk.com/news/extinction-rebellion-dublin-849302

Dear Readers, many of you know that today, May 6th, the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) released a massive report on the state of our natural world. The news is even worse than many believed. According to the IPBES Chair, Sir Robert Wilson, the evidence presented in the report “presents an ominous picture…the health of ecosystems on which we and all other species depend is deteriorating more rapidly than ever. We are eroding the very foundations of our economies, livelihoods, food security, health and quality of life worldwide.” (www.ipbes.net/news/Media-Release-Global-Assessment)

The report’s authors found that approximately one million species are threatened with extinction in the not-too-distant (meaning within decades) future, if humanity doesn’t put the brakes on global climate destruction through industrialized civilization. Both the New York Times and the Guardian newspapers carried the story in today’s headlines, and I recommend reading them for further details (links below).

Even though this news is truly beyond words in its implications, I struggle to find some tonight in an effort to cope with what is mostly inevitable now—the extinction of much of our world’s natural ecosystems, which will certainly lead to societal collapse for humanity. I have been writing about this consistently for the past few months, as the evidence clearly shows that our common situation is becoming more and more of a crisis. I implore everyone reading to STAY AWAKE to what is now occurring, and DO NOT allow yourself to go numb in the face of what lies ahead. It is all too easy to do this, and in fact, global consumerism is doing everything within its considerable power to entice us to go numb, go shopping, buy a new car (because that will for sure help things along), watch endless sporting events, and any number of other distractions designed to do anything EXCEPT pay attention to what is actually happening now, before our very eyes, on Earth. WE MUST ALLOW OURSELVES TO FEEL THIS NEWS WITH OUR HEARTS.

Yes, it is difficult, nauseatingly so, to honestly face our deepest fears of annihilation. No one, really no one, on our planet wants to admit that we have ruined our precious home, Earth. Millions, even billions, of us are in utter denial, because taking responsibility for what we’ve done is simply far too painful. In the New York Times article today, there were well over a thousand comments on the story. They ran the gamut from utter sadness and despair, to blaming and shaming any number of groups for our predicament—the Baby Boomers, Big Oil and Gas, the government, the Republican Party of America, even people who haven’t made it to the Vegan club yet.

I am 24 years old. For as long as I remember, I have known about and understood climate change and the impacts it would have on us….I want to live the life I have prepared for and that future generations have had, working in my career field and eventually marrying and having children. I fear that my generation won’t be able to do these things or worse, will do them only to compound and perpetuate the problem. My heart is broken.Emily, a reader’s comment in NYTimes May 6th article

But honestly, at this point, what good does it do to point fingers and blame this or that group of humans for the mess we are in? Clearly, Big Oil and Gas corporations have shamelessly and lavishly promoted the use of fossil fuels for over half a century, even as they knew of the risks to our planet by burning them. Yes, those corporations’ CEOs and stockholders should be held accountable for their part in it. And, how many of us in the developed (and now developing) nations have been buying and using gas-fueled vehicles for years and years? The truth is, nearly all of us born before the turn of the 21st century are at fault.

It is time to urgently and collectively engage in the process of answering the question: Now what? How do we turn this ship around and stop destroying our world and all the life upon it? The IPBES Global Assessment Report, in its entirety, gives many suggestions and sound, scientifically proven advice for how to do exactly that. The report was compiled by 145 experts from 50 countries, who analyzed scientific papers and reports from approx.. 15,000 scientific and government sources during the past three years, with input form 310 contributing authors. The report ranks for the first time, the five biggest drivers of change in nature, which are listed (in descending order from most impact to lesser) here: 1) changes in land and sea use, 2) direct exploitation of organisms, 3) climate change, 4) pollution and 5) invasive species. (www.ipbes.net/news/Media-Release-Global-Assessment).

Tonight, I feel like I imagine I would if a doctor had just given me or one of my family members a terminal diagnosis. The world’s leading scientists have given us all a terminal diagnosis about the state of our planet’s ecosystems, including the world’s plant, mammal, bird and sea populations. How will we cope with this diagnosis? Jem Bendell’s Deep Adaptation Facebook group and forum, along with Extinction Rebellion’s websites, are some places to start. There you will find people writing about these reports, ideas, feelings and actions to take as the early medicine to combat our disease. Please do not look away any longer. The sooner we collectively face our self-made tragedy, the sooner we can take actions towards healing and reconciling our part in the new world we’ve created.

Addendum:  In the space of twelve hours, the New York Times moved its article on the climate report down to “In Other News,” I guess to make room for an article titled, “See What the Stars Wore at the Met Gala,” as a perfect example of just EXACTLY what is causing our impending extinctions and current crisis. I am dumbfounded.

Links:

https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2019/may/06/human-society-under-urgent-threat-loss-earth-natural-life-un-report

https://www.nytimes.com/2019/05/06/climate/biodiversity-extinction-united-nations.html

www.ipbes.net/news/Media-Release-Global-Assessment

https://deepadaptation.ning.com/

https://rebellion.earth/

https://www.facebook.com/groups/deepadaptation/

 

We Are Star Stuff

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via https://www.passiton.com/inspirational-quotes/6104-the-molecules-of-your-body-are-the-same

“We have seen what we thought was unseeable,” said Shep Doeleman, an astronomer at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, and director of the effort to capture the image, during a Wednesday news conference in Washington, D.C. The image, of a lopsided ring of light surrounding a dark circle deep in the heart of a galaxy known as Messier 87, some 55 million light-years away from Earth, resembled the Eye of Sauron, a reminder yet again of the implacable power of nature. It is a smoke ring framing a one-way portal to eternity.  https://www.nytimes.com/2019/04/10/science/black-hole-picture.html

The New York Times reported on the first image ever revealed of a massive black hole at the far reaches of the galaxy Messier 87 this week.  Titled Darkness Visible, Finally: Astronomers Capture First Ever Image of a Black Hole, the article, by Dennis Overbye, was written with language that at times approached poetry and science fiction, with overtones of awe and wonder. Overbye used descriptors like monster, phrases such as portal into eternity, and described the image as the place where “according to Einstein’s theory, matter, space and time come to an end and vanish like a dream.”

The results of years of work by astronomers working in collaboration on several continents, Wednesday’s news was announced at six locations on Earth simultaneously. Overbye wrote, “When the image was put up on the screen in Washington, cheers and gasps, followed by applause, broke out in the room and throughout a universe of astrofans following the live-streamed event.”

It has taken a century of scientific investigation to prove that Einstein’s theory of relativity, from which his theory of black holes arose, is indeed true and no longer simply a theory. In the NYTimes article, Overbye quotes Priyamvada Natarajan, an astrophysicist at Yale, who said “Einstein must be delighted. His theory has just been stress-tested under conditions of extreme gravity, and looks to have held up.”  And astrophysicist Kip Thorne wrote in an email, “It is wonderful to see the nearly circular shadow of the black hole. There can be no doubt this really is a black hole at the center of M87, with no signs of deviations from general relativity.”

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https://www.nytimes.com/2019/04/10/science/black-hole-picture.html

It’s fascinating to read how the team of roughly 200 astronomers put together the data, collected from eight radio observatories on six mountains and four continents. The data was taken during a period of ten days in April of 2017, and took the next two years to compile it into the stunning images revealed to the world this week. Here is a link to that article: https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2019/04/10/science/event-horizon-black-hole-images.html

It is not easy to describe in words the elation that many of us feel at reading this week’s news, and seeing the black hole images for the first time in history. But a feeling of vindication is part of the larger and more complex web of feelings surrounding the evidence. In a world fraught with opinions passing as truth, outright lies and human egotism run amok, it is such a breath of fresh air to see, with human eyes, an image of a cosmic reality so vast that it is impossible to comprehend. The black hole that lies in the heart of galaxy Messier 87 is nearly seven billion times the mass of our own sun. This is a moment when even scientists will turn to poetry and prophetic words from long ago, as we attempt to grasp the incomprehensible as it is presented to us. In so many ways, for human beings, seeing is believing. This week, we are finally able to see a black hole, a cosmic force incomprehensibly huge.

I looked up quotes by Dr. Carl Sagan, who was a master of writing about science and humanity with eloquence and clarity. Here are some of his thoughts on the relationship between humans and the cosmos, taken from his seminal book, Cosmos, first published in 1980. With gratitude to Dr. Sagan, I offer them to you, dear readers.

“The Cosmos is all that is or was or ever will be. Our feeblest contemplations of the Cosmos stir us — there is a tingling in the spine, a catch in the voice, a faint sensation, as if a distant memory, of falling from a height. We know we are approaching the greatest of mysteries.”

“The size and age of the Cosmos are beyond ordinary human understanding. Lost somewhere between immensity and eternity is our tiny planetary home. In a cosmic perspective, most human concerns seem insignificant, even petty. And yet our species is young and curious and brave and shows much promise. In the last few millennia we have made the most astonishing and unexpected discoveries about the Cosmos and our place within it, explorations that are exhilarating to consider. They remind us that humans have evolved to wonder, that understanding is a joy, that knowledge is prerequisite to survival. I believe our future depends on how well we know this Cosmos in which we float like a mote of dust in the morning sky.”

“The surface of the Earth is the shore of the cosmic ocean. On this shore, we’ve learned most of what we know. Recently, we’ve waded a little way out, maybe ankle-deep, and the water seems inviting. Some part of our being knows this is where we came from. We long to return, and we can, because the cosmos is also within us. We’re made of star stuff. We are a way for the cosmos to know itself.”

― Carl Sagan, Cosmos, via https://www.goodreads.com/work/quotes/3237312-cosmos