Sunday, June 18, 2017

The End of Being: Abrupt Climate Change One of Many Ecological Crises Threatening to Collapse the Biosphere

As industrial human growth continues its relentless assault upon nature, at least nine unfolding global ecological catastrophes in addition to deadly climate change have the potential to destroy the biosphere. Any number of other environmental planetary boundaries besides climate change such as biodiversity, water, soil, and ecosystem loss and diminishment has the potential to end being. The already substantial climate change movement must embrace a richer ecology ethic, morphing into a concerted effort to more broadly achieve global ecological sustainability.
“We could solve climate change tomorrow, and soil and water loss – or any number of combinations of surpassed planetary ecological boundaries – would still destroy civilization, potentially killing the living biosphere, and ending being.” – Dr. Glen Barry
Earth Meanders, Deep Ecology Essays by Dr. Glen Barry

At least 10 planetary boundaries exist that
threaten to make the biosphere uninhabitable
Human industrial growth is systematically dismantling the natural ecosystems which constitute our life support system. Rightly so, there has been an enormous amount of attention given to climate change (though action to rapidly reduce emissions still lags far beyond what is required). Climate change  is becoming abrupt and runaway; and threatens just by itself to collapse societies, economies, and ultimately the biosphere.

Yet climate change is only one of at least ten global ecological catastrophes which threaten to destroy the global ecological system and portend an end to human beings, and perhaps all life. Ranging from nitrogen deposition to ocean acidification, and including such basics as soil, water, and air; virtually every ecological system upon which life depends is failing. Gaia is dying.

The threat to global ecological sustainability goes well beyond climate change, and represents a more systematic failing of current political and economic models. Namely, the commodification of natural ecosystems – that are our and all life’s habitat – and their unsustainable industrial clearance for short-term profit, is sheer ecocidal madness.

The author has hypothesized that more old-growth
forests have been lost than the biosphere can bear
A branch of ecological science known as Planetary Boundary science knows much regarding ecological thresholds whereby Earth and her life may collapse and die. Planetary boundaries have been identified for ten global-scale processes including climate change, rate of biodiversity loss (terrestrial and marine), nitrogen and phosphorus cycles, ozone depletion, ocean acidification, freshwater, land use change, chemical pollution, and atmospheric aerosol loading (and others clearly exist). For each scientists have set thresholds beyond which the global ecological system’s integrity as a whole is threatened. At least three thresholds – climate change, biodiversity loss, and nitrogen deposition in ecosystems – are generally considered to already have been surpassed, meaning the planet is already in a state of ecological overshoot.

Recently I proposed in a peer reviewed scientific paper a tenth Planetary Boundary, adding a threshold for terrestrial ecosystem loss: hypothesizing that 2/3 of Earth’s land base must remain ensconced within natural and semi-natural ecosystems to avoid biosphere collapse (see Terrestrial ecosystem loss and biosphere collapse at http://ecointernet.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/06/MEQ-Terrestrial-Ecosystem-Loss-and-Biosphere-Collapse.pdf). Already some 50% of natural ecosystems have been cleared, meaning yet another planetary ecological limit has been exceeded. My identification of a terrestrial ecosystem boundary was the first published science proposing a planetary boundary based upon terrestrial ecosystem loss and connectivity, and has since been validated in other studies by scientific luminaries.

The point is that while abrupt climate change may well become runaway, collapsing society, the economy, and the biosphere; it is but one of nearly a dozen means whereby humanity has overshot the carrying capacity of the Earth System. Consider this: nearly half of all topsoil has eroded, 90% of large fish are gone, 4,500 kids die from bad water a day, nearly a billion human-beings live in abject poverty, and daily an unknown numbers of species disappear forever.

Highly inequitable, unjust, and unsustainable industrial human growth is systematically dismantling the ecological systems that make Earth livable.

We could solve climate change tomorrow, and soil and water loss – or any number of combinations of surpassed planetary ecological boundaries – would still destroy civilization, potentially killing the living biosphere, and ending being.

Gaia is dying as planetary ecological boundaries are crossed
Achieving just and equitable global ecological sustainability depends upon the human family becoming more aware of the numerous ecological threats facing our shared survival and well-being. Together we must commit to the radical, science-based social change necessary to sustain Earth and all her life. This will certainly require a shared “ecology ethic” which universally values nature – the plants, wildlife, and  ecological processes that make life possible. Ecology is the meaning of life.

Clearly much more research remains to be done on Planetary Boundaries and threats to the biosphere in sum, as well as communication of dangerous thresholds, and policy development to pull back from the precipice. I hope to look further at lag times in regard to when exceeding planetary boundary’s thresholds become dangerous, and to use what is known regarding Pacific Islands’ sustainability as a test case for terrestrial ecosystem loss, and to publish further ecological science. Most importantly, much more effort must be made to act with urgency and resolve upon the science that indicates we face mortal danger.

The way forward on a potentially terminally-ill planet include 1) transitioning to a steady state economy, 2) slowing population growth and then justly reducing human numbers, 3) committing to equitably meeting all of humanity’s basic human needs, 4) ending all natural ecosystem destruction and assisting remnants to naturally regenerate and spread, 5) ending the use of fossil fuels, 6) embracing organic, non-industrial, perma-culture based agriculture less dependent upon animal husbandry, 7) ending industrial clearance of natural ecosystems such as old-growth forest logging and factory fishing, and 8) demobilizing standing armies and diverting these resources to meeting humanity’s and nature’s needs.

Only such comprehensive, ecological-science based policies can prove sufficient to end climate change and all threats to global ecological sustainability, averting mass human suffering and death as the Earth collapses and dies.

As long as seeds and organisms exist, the propagules to regenerate Earth remain. It is vital that the diminution of Earth’s biotic diversity across scales – from the gene, to plants and animals, through the communities and ecosystems they come together to form, right up to our one shared biosphere – be halted immediately. We must not further squander humanity’s biological inheritance upon the altar of frivolous over-consumption by some. And together we must usher in an era of natural ecosystem protection and restoration.

There are many righteous livelihoods – that go far beyond the benefits provided by a slave-like debt economy – to be found in rewilding and pulling humanity back from the ruin of usurping planetary boundaries. But profiteering upon the systematic ecocide of our one living Earth will have to be banished, and strictly enforced for the common good, by a much reduced government.

There is much joy to be found in nature. Rediscovering wild places and clear waters in communities embraced by nature provides for a far richer life than shopping malls and highways. As we rediscover a sense of place there are multitudes of pleasures to be found as well in human literature, music, drama, sexuality, and community. Urban centers can be reclaimed from automobiles and once again become re-natured centers of commerce, culture, and civilization.

It is time to come together and choose life over death, truth over ignorance, beauty over industry, flowers rather than electronics. It is time to return to the land and embrace nature and ecology as the meaning of life. And to address with sufficient policies climate change and all threats to global ecological sustainability at once. Or being ends.

Sunday, June 4, 2017

Toughen Up: Freedom of Speech Is Absolute, There Are No Thought Crimes

Do The Right Thing and Protect Free Speech
WARNING: This essay contains materials that will offend just about anyone in one way or another. Yet free thought and speech – even when offensive or in bad-taste – is the underpinning of liberty. Only through the fearless sifting and winnowing of ideas can we usher in an era of peace, justice, equity and sustainability based upon the identification of truthful action. All political ideologies, democratic liberties, the human family’s well-being, and the ability to identify solutions to looming global catastrophes are ill-served by efforts to stifle freedom of thought and expression. I have written at length that there is no god. That both authoritarian fascism and progressive elitism threaten our liberties. That it is a self-evident fact that we are all one human family. And that in an era of environmental collapse and abrupt climate change, ecology is the meaning of life. How can I hope that my unorthodox (yet I believe truthful) ideas are given fair consideration, if I don’t insist upon the right of self-expression by others that may be equally challenging? Censorship is undemocratic and can only lead to tyranny.

Earth Meanders, Deep Ecology Essays by Dr. Glen Barry
“Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never break me.” – The Christian Recorder, 1862
“Thoughtcrime does not entail death: thoughtcrime IS death.” – George Orwell, 1984
“Mookie: You garlic breath, pizza slinging, spaghetti bending, Vic Damone, Perry Como, Luciano Pavarotti, Sole Mio, non-singing motherfucker.
Pino: You gold teeth, gold chain wearing, fried chicken and biscuit eating, monkey, ape, baboon, big thigh, fast running, high jumping, spear chucking, three-hundred-and-sixty-degree basketball dunking, titsun, spade, Moulan Yan. Take your fucking pizza-pizza and go the fuck back to Africa.
Stevie: You little slanty eyed, me-no-speaky-American, own-every-fruit-and-vegetable-stand-in-New-York, bullshit, Reverend Sun Myung Moon, Summer Olympics ’88, Korean kickboxing son-of-a-bitch.
Officer Long: You Goya bean eating, fifteen-in-a-car, thirty-in-an-apartment, pointed shoes, red wearing, Menudo, meda-meda Puerto Rican cocksucker. Yeah, you!
Sonny: It’s cheap, I got a good price for you, Mayor Koch, how-I’m-doing, chocolate egg cream drinking, bagel and lox, B’nai B’rith Jew asshole.” – Do The Right Thing, Spike Lee, 1989
“In a democracy, the only correct response to impolite political speech and imagery is to grin and bear it, choosing either to ignore or respond, while fighting with your life for the right of the offender to think and speak. Otherwise your free speech may be shutdown next, and there can be no lasting liberty or revealed truth.” – Dr. Glen Barry

As one with both progressive and libertarian tendencies, I am terrified to see the efforts to stifle free speech from across the political spectrum. Freedom of thought and speech is the bedrock of human advancement and an absolute global human right; that once lost, threatens a return to medieval ignorance.

No one is ever justified in telling another person what they can think or say, period.

One must differentiate between words and actions. And be particularly careful to not abridge the right of political satire and comedy (even when ill-conceived and poorly done) as a particularly adept way to facilitate thoughtful insights.

Words Such as “House Nigger” Should Not Be Said Lightly, Nor Should History Be Denied (Image from movie Django Unchained)

It is unacceptable that one race can use the word Nigger and it is perfectly acceptable, yet others are pilloried for doing so. It is racist to say some races can utter these sounds and sentiments, while others cannot. If one believes in universal truths and a society free of bias, either uttering this offensive term is acceptable in limited instances by all including for shock value; or no one should ever speak the word, and we accept that we live in a totalitarian society. It is historical fact that under unimaginably onerous slavery that some were imprisoned to work in houses – disparagingly referred to by some as "House Niggers" – and others were enslaved in the fields. We must not turn away from historical truth that shows the magnitude of evil-incarnate, and de-legitimatize any reference, however in-artful.

As an early #BlackLivesMatter supporter married to a dark complexioned woman, I assure you I am keenly aware that black people have been persecuted terribly, and systematic oppression continues to this day. Yyet so have other ethnicities and religions. Speaking freely about race including in a purposefully shocking satirical manner – such as in my favorite movie scene of racial tirades from Do the Right Thing that mocks bigotry (quoted above), or recently by serial-offensive comedian Bill Maher – helps to promote free thinking, and at the margin ensures that the most egregious forms of racial violence do not happen again. There has been no comparable censorship of terms regarding the Jewish holocaust and other historical travesties, nor should there be.

My point is simple: use of such a repugnant and emotionally charged word should be rare, only in limited appropriate situations and contexts (i.e. satire or discussing history), and the user be prepared for the consequences; but it should not be forbidden on the basis of race. Freedom of Speech means freedom to speak. And liberty's prohibition on thought crimes is absolute.

Frankly I like seeing fake images of Donald Trump being beheaded. I understand it as imagery meant to signify the horror of his immoral and narcissistic rule, which threatens human decency and our very survival. Such expression does not constitute a threat of actual beheading. If someone were to try to do that ACTION, an actual crime of volition would have been committed. Thought crimes harm no one and exist only as ideas which have the potential to enlighten.

UnPresident Trump's Actions Are Far Worse
Than Any Harm Caused by Democratic Political Satire
The picture of Kathy Griffin holding a fake human head pales in comparison to the fascist, charlatan, authoritarian, pussy-grabbing terror being unleashed by a narcissistic madman who couldn’t even win the popular vote; yet rules with imperial fervor. UnPresident Trump routinely attacks other in obscene manners outside of what has been contemporary political norms. Billions may suffer and die as this sociopath unleashes nuclear war and climate change ruin upon Earth. I think that is what Kathy was getting at in her satire, and it is protected political speech in any true democracy.

Even bigoted self-aggrandizers like Milo Yiannopoulos and Anne Coulter have the right to say whatever they wish, and to be ignored.

Many of my thoughts and words offend others. Frankly, I think Islam is a violent and vile medieval religion bereft of truth and with little to offer to post-modern humanity. Yet as an atheist, I think exactly the same of Christianity, Judaism, Hinduism and any other illogical faith that uses myth and violence to dominate our lives based upon self-serving lies regarding what non-existent ghosts in the sky want us to do. This is God Pollution.

I’ve taken some hard knocks speaking truth regarding the powerful in Wisconsin. Congressmn Mark Pocan should not get away with bragging of raping children. Nor should politicians like Governor Scott Walker be able to victimize others for a lifetime with impunity as a means to gain power.

If I don’t acknowledge the right of others to speak whatever they wish, how can I legitimately expect people to respond to my own challenging notions of truth? Censorship however carried out is for the weak and inarticulate, and can only lead to unchallenged falsehoods and tyranny.

There are no thought crimes. If you don’t like what someone says? Don’t listen. Or argue back persuasively your viewpoint. But don’t try to stifle free thought and expression. Otherwise suppression of your voice is equally justified. And what constitutes acceptable speech will be arbitrarily determined by transient social mores and whomever is in power at the time.
Both political correctness and rising authoritarianism are equally responsible for getting us to this current point of perpetually aggrieved sensibilities, an inability to address numerous looming catastrophes, and the very real potential for political violence.

The political middle where most truths are to be found has grown slender and disturbingly irrelevant.
Faced with abrupt climate change and biosphere collapse, in a world of grotesque injustice and perma-war, only the fearless sifting and winnowing of ideas can save the human family. We live in a world of tremendous diversity, and only by embracing our differences while learning from each other can we hope to survive as a species.

The right to speak your mind must be extended equally to anti-science climate deniers as to experts who have trained and acquired knowledge for a lifetime. To racists filled with hate, as well as to peaceful prophets of love. Free thinking and speech are granted as a human right equally to right-wing fascists as well as left-wing elitists. All have the right to think and say as they wish (while being held accountable for the veracity of their words, but not censored including self-censorship), including graphic art and satire meant to shock in a manner intended to bring about thoughtful reflection upon important matters.

We have a responsibility as a society to create an educated citizenry who can logically and rationally examine competing claims in order to arrive at judgments of fact and ultimately achieve knowledge. Individually it is up to all engaged citizenry to forcefully push back in the public arena against pseudo-science, fake news, and other nonsense. Yet while remaining open to new ideas.

In a democracy, the only correct response to impolite political speech and imagery is to grin and bear it, choosing either to ignore or respond, while fighting with your life for the right of the offender to think and speak. Otherwise your free speech may be shutdown next, and there can be no lasting liberty or revealed truth.

And through the discussions, often rabid and desultory, an educated citizenry can converge upon the truth. There may be missteps along the way, but only through fearless exchange of ideas do we have a chance at enlightenment and righteous action.

It is a well-recognized matter of law that speech which purposefully incites imminent violence is an exception to absolute free speech. This should not necessarily mean it is never justified, just that those espousing such thoughts have to be willing to accept legal responsibility for doing so.

So stop being such pansies. Toughen up. Get out of your comfort zone. Don’t let political correctness or authoritarianism stifle your own self-awakening and free thought. Confront yourself with the speech and ideas to which you have not been exposed and thus go beyond the limited worldview into which you were born and have been indoctrinated.

If anything in this essay made you uncomfortable, good, that was the intent. Break out of rigid orthodoxy and join in the global discussion. Toughen up, stop being weak and whiny, as you hone your own message. Seek truth and purity of thought and expose ideas of others that are neither.