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News July 2012
What is a young adult to do nowadays?
on Sunday, December 23, 2012
When I started my project (Deus Juvat), I was a young adult. It was 2007 and this was a pivotal year, in which I made several far reaching decisions - some of them based upon the available information I had at that time.
This was also the year I passed my driving test and was starting to become secure in my first permanent job. I got married in this year. House prices were in the stratosphere and I would have placed myself under a colossal burden to buy even the very worst house in the very worst area in part of the country that was at the bottom end of the socioeconomic stakes to start with. To further enrich someone older who could afford to own more than one house was not a prospect calculated to fill one with happy feelings either.
I grew up in a very poor large family living in many different places in rural Scotland. We moved every 1-2 years and many things were alien to me as a child: central heating, television, toys, electronics, new clothes etc. For this reason I do not regard myself (for the most part) as especially culpable (by western standards particularly) in causing the problems that the world now faces as a result of greenhouse gas emissions.
Nonetheless in 2007 - for the first time in my life - I was in a position to think about the future. I could listen to the pressure of society and parents and buy a house. I could opt into the company pension scheme. I could make plans!
2007 was also a year in which some other things happened. The woman who became my wife that year we are now divorced) received what I think is best called some divine inspiration. It wasn't much - but it was the trigger for me to start learning about the earth system. It did not take long for me to understand that we were in a very serious mess. There was the potential for abrupt and catastrophic failure of the system that we rely upon to support the existence of our species. The record breaking ice loss in the Arctic that year set the lie to the IPCC forecasts.
So I decided I would not buy (or rent) a house. I would not sign into the pension scheme. Those decisions were no longer sensible choices to make in a world with a limited future. Instead I started to work on the Deus Juvat project. For someone who in 2007 was earning slightly over minimum wage and who never reached an average salary (before leaving said secure job in a dreadful economy to further the project), it is a very ambitious project to take on - very possibly too ambitious. Accordingly, nobody should expect my patience for those who have had more time and more money and who say they cannot (or could not) have acted to do something with respect to climate change. If one really cares - action is possible.
In the last five years as both science and world events have advanced my decisions are being increasingly validated as the right ones.
Today if I met a young adult as I was - what advice could I give them? I know the world is rushing towards abrupt and catastrophic climate change. I know time is running out and that the future is a violent hungry barren hell. Since almost all people refuse to even acknowledge this problem - let alone confront it - how could I tell someone to put their faith in the collective mass of people?
I could only counsel that they gain weapons, tools and the necessary resources and knowledge to try to face the oncoming hell that our ancestors have left us as our inheritance. Maybe suggest that they try to hold onto an aspiration as I have (to provide a last resort plan for civilisation), but knowing that it is an almost impossible task for one young adult standing alone to take on.
What else is a young adult to do?
No decades left - tomorrow is nearly today
on Thursday, December 13, 2012
Even amongst otherwise well informed scientists there is still a strong tendency to talk about "decades" to come. This ties in even with the sea ice - which is continuing to lose volume in alignment with an exponential projection based on PIOMAS that gives an exceedingly low prospect of any Arctic summer sea ice holding out more than a few more years (http://neven1.typepad.com/blog/2012/12/piomas-december-2012.html#more). It is within the error margin of this projection for the sea ice to disappear during the summer as early as next year, though arguably more likely we will just see another significant record.
It ought to be noted that while we can expect things to worsen in a decided non linear way as the ice melts, we are already into the realm of seeing the early effects. In that sense, we are already in a period of abrupt climate change (the only way to describe the threshold being crossed in the Arctic).
To reiterate, extremes of drought and flood are increasingly impacting crop production, which must grow year on year to keep up with rising demand (until human population starts to diminish due to starvation and conflict). This is not just unusual weather any more - this is here to stay and rapidly worsen, albeit the scientific community is still trying to catch up in understanding how these aspects of the earth system operate. We need to understand that our norms are gone and change is the constant in order to appreciate why things will not return to normal. We need to see the crisis before it breaks over us to have any chance to respond appropriately - and in this respect everyone who talks about the "future" and "decades" is betraying humanity by willfully ignoring the immediacy and true nature of the problem.
Virtually nobody is spelling out the true nature of the situation.
That is a news story regarding the UN position on the impending food crisis in 2013 - just another news story, and easily forgotten as the rush of new information and distractions rush by.
So has the weather returned to normal, to enable us to avoid a crisis?
Apparently perhaps not, even if the scientific consensus takes time to arrive at to determine the extent to which climate change is driving the weather. Common sense should tell us things are changing in the interim.
It may take several more years from now before the western civilisations collapse, although even here socioeconomic stresses capable of resulting in rapid destabilisation are building - but there is a good chance we will see a rapidly expanding amount of instability as early as next year in poorer nations.
It is not high food prices that one should fear. Food prices will be capped by demand destruction (even if it means some people in some places starve). The real threat to civilisation is what happens when the proportion of people unable to afford to eat (through a combination of high unemployment and high food prices) becomes big enough to threaten social stability. This is what happened in the Arab spring - despite those nations not reaching a point of famine.
And so, tomorrow turns into today. It is not necessary for food supply to drop to a point of mass famine for us to see civilisation falling into a bloody brutal mess. If one starts to act when the shelves are empty and the mob is freely roaming - one can do little to prepare.
It is a pity that the parents of the last couple of generations did not collectively care about their descendants. What gave them the right to hold onto their old destructive habits using the excuse that they thought it would not be their children or grandchildren that would suffer - but the children of those descendants? Is it alright to choose action that causes harm to children you do not know? Is it alright to continue to choose action (or inaction) that now causes harm even to the current generations?
Let them eat cake?
on Wednesday, December 05, 2012
An article about the requirement of the UK to import 2 million tonnes of wheat with which to make bread.
So what happens when the world wheat yield drops too far to easily find wheat to import and the protectionist barriers start going up? How many people are ready for the results?
It isn't that food prices will get a lot more expensive - there is a ceiling above which prices won't rise. So just because many people will feel that they could afford quite large rises in price, doesn't mean people with less privileged economic means can afford to buy that food at all. This effect tends to restrain the price.
It also tends to feed through into a rapidly rising crime rate and increasing scope for social collapse or civil war as per the Arab Spring countries.