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Sat Mar 15, 2014, 07:13 PM

NASA-funded study: industrial civilisation headed for 'irreversible collapse'?

http://www.theguardian.com/environment/earth-insight/2014/mar/14/nasa-civilisation-irreversible-collapse-study-scientists

A new study sponsored by Nasa's Goddard Space Flight Center has highlighted the prospect that global industrial civilisation could collapse in coming decades due to unsustainable resource exploitation and increasingly unequal wealth distribution.

Noting that warnings of 'collapse' are often seen to be fringe or controversial, the study attempts to make sense of compelling historical data showing that "the process of rise-and-collapse is actually a recurrent cycle found throughout history." Cases of severe civilisational disruption due to "precipitous collapse - often lasting centuries - have been quite common."

The research project is based on a new cross-disciplinary 'Human And Nature DYnamical' (HANDY) model, led by applied mathematician Safa Motesharri of the US National Science Foundation-supported National Socio-Environmental Synthesis Center, in association with a team of natural and social scientists. The study based on the HANDY model has been accepted for publication in the peer-reviewed Elsevier journal, Ecological Economics.

It finds that according to the historical record even advanced, complex civilisations are susceptible to collapse, raising questions about the sustainability of modern civilisation:

"The fall of the Roman Empire, and the equally (if not more) advanced Han, Mauryan, and Gupta Empires, as well as so many advanced Mesopotamian Empires, are all testimony to the fact that advanced, sophisticated, complex, and creative civilizations can be both fragile and impermanent."


Read the rest of the article at the link.

56 replies, 5766 views

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Reply NASA-funded study: industrial civilisation headed for 'irreversible collapse'? (Original post)
Fumesucker Mar 2014 OP
MindMover Mar 2014 #1
Scootaloo Mar 2014 #2
Fumesucker Mar 2014 #6
ChisolmTrailDem Mar 2014 #9
Nay Mar 2014 #43
AverageJoe90 Mar 2014 #8
Scootaloo Mar 2014 #15
AverageJoe90 Mar 2014 #18
Scootaloo Mar 2014 #25
Electric Monk Mar 2014 #26
L0oniX Mar 2014 #47
cpwm17 Mar 2014 #21
AverageJoe90 Mar 2014 #39
Warren Stupidity Mar 2014 #53
AverageJoe90 Mar 2014 #54
Warren Stupidity Mar 2014 #28
LineLineLineReply .
Bonobo Mar 2014 #35
marions ghost Mar 2014 #42
GliderGuider Mar 2014 #45
Nuclear Unicorn Mar 2014 #52
1000words Mar 2014 #3
airplaneman Mar 2014 #4
Warren Stupidity Mar 2014 #5
AverageJoe90 Mar 2014 #7
Fumesucker Mar 2014 #10
AverageJoe90 Mar 2014 #13
Fumesucker Mar 2014 #17
AverageJoe90 Mar 2014 #27
leeroysphitz Mar 2014 #50
1000words Mar 2014 #11
AverageJoe90 Mar 2014 #16
1000words Mar 2014 #20
AverageJoe90 Mar 2014 #23
1000words Mar 2014 #24
NoOneMan Mar 2014 #32
Warren Stupidity Mar 2014 #30
NickB79 Mar 2014 #40
AverageJoe90 Mar 2014 #41
Scootaloo Mar 2014 #29
L0oniX Mar 2014 #46
Kingofalldems Mar 2014 #12
The Straight Story Mar 2014 #14
Fumesucker Mar 2014 #19
The Straight Story Mar 2014 #22
hatrack Mar 2014 #38
Autumn Mar 2014 #48
sulphurdunn Mar 2014 #31
cprise Mar 2014 #33
DeadLetterOffice Mar 2014 #34
LiberalElite Mar 2014 #36
freshwest Mar 2014 #37
L0oniX Mar 2014 #44
G_j Mar 2014 #49
octoberlib Mar 2014 #51
Bonobo Mar 2014 #55
Warren Stupidity Mar 2014 #56

Response to Fumesucker (Original post)

Sat Mar 15, 2014, 07:17 PM

1. kr....nt

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Response to Fumesucker (Original post)

Sat Mar 15, 2014, 07:31 PM

2. Well, duh?

 

Our entire "civilization" is reliant on cheap and high-powered energy resources of fossil fuels. These are finite resources, even before worrying about the other considerations they raise.

Humans are also a famously short-sighted species. It's not our fault, as far as our biology is concerned, we should still be tropical plains-dwelling melon-eaters with a life expectancy of forty years. We're just not able to really plan years, much less generations, into the future. And even if some visionaries among us are, more short-sighted primates come by and dismantle the projects tor the here and now (good and relevant example - Reagan removing the solar panels from the white house)

What this means is that we will keep on burning fossil fuels until we reach a point where we spend more energy getting them than we can produce from them. At which point we will go "Oh shit, now what?" because we won't have prepared to any meaningful degree for that event.

Agriculture - the base point of any civilization - is currently based on petroleum. Not just hte energy needs of shipping, machinery, etc., but also the peripherals - hard to have a hose without hydrocarbon polymers. To say nothing of where all those fertilizers, pesticides, and herbicides come from. The industrial farm will collapse, and the several billion people who depend on that industry for food, are going ot find themselves in a tough spot. Not that they'd be able to afford it anyway as the petroleum drought will end up putting most people out of work - we'll be having food riots well before the agricultural industry starts running dry.

andhten what, generations down the line? Well, fossil fuels are still depleted, along with most of hte minerals we were using for all our gadgets. Plastics of course are a thing of hte past. We won't be able to sustain megalopolis cities anymore. So. yeah. Irreversable collapse. The fossil fuel boom was an absurd and brief chapter of human history.

Unless, somehow, some way, we manage to defy human tendencies, put the smart guys in charge, and turn all of our production towards tapping into solar, tidal, and geothemal energy sources. The systems and functions of our planet provide more energy than we'll ever need, more than could ever be dug up in the form of coal or uranium, and all we have to do is invest the money and resources NOW for a system that will keep running until the next giant asteroid sneaks up on us.

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Response to Scootaloo (Reply #2)

Sat Mar 15, 2014, 07:52 PM

6. With a high tech enough civilization an asteroid couldn't sneak up on us

There are even plausible schemes to change the orbit of our planet to compensate for the warming of our sun as it ages.

A few more paragraphs from the article in the OP.

However, the scientists point out that the worst-case scenarios are by no means inevitable, and suggest that appropriate policy and structural changes could avoid collapse, if not pave the way toward a more stable civilisation.

The two key solutions are to reduce economic inequality so as to ensure fairer distribution of resources, and to dramatically reduce resource consumption by relying on less intensive renewable resources and reducing population growth:

"Collapse can be avoided and population can reach equilibrium if the per capita rate of depletion of nature is reduced to a sustainable level, and if resources are distributed in a reasonably equitable fashion."

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Response to Fumesucker (Reply #6)

Sat Mar 15, 2014, 08:09 PM

9. In other words...

 

We're doomed!

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Response to ChisolmTrailDem (Reply #9)

Sun Mar 16, 2014, 09:09 AM

43. Well, exactly. It's not as if anyone in charge is actually doing anything other

than trying to siphon money from the public to set themselves up as feudal lords after the crash and dieoff. That's what is going on right this minute. The 'smart' ones who could have done something 30 years ago to set us on a different course are basically going to let us all die.

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Response to Scootaloo (Reply #2)

Sat Mar 15, 2014, 08:07 PM

8. "Our biology"? Are you *fucking* kidding me?

 

I'm sorry, but this kind of wacky evopsych Social Darwinism-esque stuff is unacceptable to me. No, just no. (And humans aren't actually primates ourselves, either, for that matter, even if we are distant "cousins" to monkeys, etc.....but then again, we're also distant cousins to varying degrees to every other mammal, too, in that case).

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Response to AverageJoe90 (Reply #8)

Sat Mar 15, 2014, 08:15 PM

15. "humans aren't actually primates"

 

It's amazing how a conversation can end before it even starts, isn't it?

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Response to Scootaloo (Reply #15)

Sat Mar 15, 2014, 08:22 PM

18. Do realize I pointed out what the science actually says.....

 

That we *are* evolutionary cousins to primates, like gorillas, bonobos, etc., we're just not in that category anymore, if we ever were.

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Response to AverageJoe90 (Reply #18)

Sat Mar 15, 2014, 08:35 PM

25. Citation?

 

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Response to AverageJoe90 (Reply #18)

Sat Mar 15, 2014, 08:36 PM

26. Wikipedia disagrees with you

 

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Primates

(snip)

With the exception of humans, which inhabit every continent,[a] most primates live in tropical or subtropical regions of the Americas, Africa and Asia.


http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Human

(snip)

The human species developed a much larger brain than that of other primates

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Response to Scootaloo (Reply #15)

Sun Mar 16, 2014, 09:35 AM

47. We're so lucky to have rocket scientists to help us understand stuff.

 

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Response to AverageJoe90 (Reply #8)

Sat Mar 15, 2014, 08:25 PM

21. Chimpanzees and bonobos are more closely related to humans

 

than they are to gorillas and orangutans. We are 100%, undiluted, primates.

http://www.janegoodall.ca/about-chimp-so-like-us.php

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Response to cpwm17 (Reply #21)

Sat Mar 15, 2014, 11:56 PM

39. "Chimpanzees and bonobos are more closely related to humans".....

 

Okay, that much may be true. But the statement that "We are 100%, undiluted, primates." simply isn't true. We are much greater than that(and no, it didn't necessarily require a god or gods for that!).

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Response to AverageJoe90 (Reply #39)

Sun Mar 16, 2014, 01:14 PM

53. I'm just wondering where you were told that stuff.

 

It is one thing to be mistaken about something, but to be so completely sure that one is right when one is so totally wrong indicates to me that you most likely were instructed in this bullshit. Religious school?

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Response to Warren Stupidity (Reply #53)

Sun Mar 16, 2014, 03:52 PM

54. No religious school.....fuck, man, I don't even like creationism.

 

Nobody told me anything, btw.

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Response to AverageJoe90 (Reply #8)

Sat Mar 15, 2014, 08:40 PM

28. google Hominidae dude, you are embarrassing yourself.

 

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Response to AverageJoe90 (Reply #8)

Sat Mar 15, 2014, 10:27 PM

35. .

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Response to AverageJoe90 (Reply #8)

Sun Mar 16, 2014, 04:40 AM

42. Humans are definitely primates

??? !!!


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Response to marions ghost (Reply #42)

Sun Mar 16, 2014, 09:28 AM

45. +1000

 


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Response to Scootaloo (Reply #2)

Sun Mar 16, 2014, 10:27 AM

52. Well, as soon as civilization crashes we'll be back to eating melons on the plains until we turn 40

So, we got that going for us.

Ironically, MLP toys are made out of plastic so our plains-dwelling, melon-eating descendants will still be able to amuse themselves while struggling through bouts of plague, wild predators, tribal competition, on-and-off ice ages, famine and the odd meteor strike.

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Response to Fumesucker (Original post)

Sat Mar 15, 2014, 07:34 PM

3. It might actually save the planet

 

I'm willing to take the trade-off.

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Response to Fumesucker (Original post)

Sat Mar 15, 2014, 07:35 PM

4. I see it happening this way.

Global warming causes the collapse of agriculture where 50 to 75% of the food produced today disappears. Add to this major lakes drying up and water becoming contaminated by modern civilizations to the point there is not enough drinkable water or food to sustain the current population by a long shot. The total human population peaks and starts its dive. Societies begin to collapse and anarchy takes over in many parts of the world. Once the collapse take hold there will only be small pockets of peaceful civilization here and there. We will never again regain what we have today.
-Airplane

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Response to Fumesucker (Original post)

Sat Mar 15, 2014, 07:37 PM

5. yeah well we aren't going to take the necessary steps. The Mayan and Roman models apply.

 

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Response to Fumesucker (Original post)

Sat Mar 15, 2014, 08:03 PM

7. *Sigh*.....this hyperbolic shit again?

 

As I've pointed out elsewhere, this kind of thing has *never* really been needed.....or helpful for that matter.

If this is what NASA's putting out these days.....I fear for their future.(Thanks GOP!)

THIS, ladies and gentlemen, is just one more reason why NASA needs better funding.....so they can have a better focus on actually building stuff to get us back into space, and not have to rely on poorly-thought out and excessively attention grabbing stuff like this.

Honestly, this whole study is flawed to a T. No joke. Just the fact that they tried to take the circumstances of ancient Mesopotamia & Rome and apply that to the *modern civilization as a whole*, which is *vastly* different in so many ways is already enough for that.....it's apples and oranges in fact.

This is disappointing in a lot of ways, really. NASA got us to the moon, for Pete's sakes! And now they're a shell of their former self.
But I don't blame them. No, I believe the fault lies squarely with the Republican Party; they're the morons who started this slash-and-burn type Reaganite nonsense in the first place.



And I stand by what I said. Because you know something? This really is a symptom of how far NASA's gone now. We *need* to give them more resources and better funding. And if that means we'll have to take back the House in this year's elections.....then let it be done. But, I for one, am *tired* of this outright Chicken Little stuff no matter how well intentioned some of it may be.


It's time to get NASA back into shape. The Republicans have done so much damage that it almost boggles the mind, really. In fact, maybe we should start a petition to get NASA working well again. Because they really do need the help.



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Response to AverageJoe90 (Reply #7)

Sat Mar 15, 2014, 08:11 PM

10. What's "hyperbolic" about it?

Civilizations have risen and fallen regularly throughout the history of such.

Now we have a global civilization and there is a non-zero chance it could fall.

Did you happen to miss this part of the article?

However, the scientists point out that the worst-case scenarios are by no means inevitable, and suggest that appropriate policy and structural changes could avoid collapse, if not pave the way toward a more stable civilisation.

The two key solutions are to reduce economic inequality so as to ensure fairer distribution of resources, and to dramatically reduce resource consumption by relying on less intensive renewable resources and reducing population growth:

"Collapse can be avoided and population can reach equilibrium if the per capita rate of depletion of nature is reduced to a sustainable level, and if resources are distributed in a reasonably equitable fashion."

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Response to Fumesucker (Reply #10)

Sat Mar 15, 2014, 08:13 PM

13. I didn't miss that part. It was one of the only good parts, TBH.

 

I'm afraid it doesn't really add up to much in the end. It was still over-the-top hyperbolic, though The Guardian does deserve a little credit for at least exercising some *basic restraint.

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Response to AverageJoe90 (Reply #13)

Sat Mar 15, 2014, 08:20 PM

17. History shows again and again how nature points out the folly of men

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Response to Fumesucker (Reply #17)

Sat Mar 15, 2014, 08:39 PM

27. Godzilla? Really? nt

 

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Response to Fumesucker (Reply #17)

Sun Mar 16, 2014, 09:52 AM

50. Word. n/t

 

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Response to AverageJoe90 (Reply #7)

Sat Mar 15, 2014, 08:12 PM

11. NASA sure could use your brilliant mind.

 

That's how far they've fallen: A common citizen, such as yourself, has far more insight and vision than these hacks.

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Response to 1000words (Reply #11)

Sat Mar 15, 2014, 08:20 PM

16. I've actually done my research on AGW.

 

Including from Skeptical Science and others. And yes, all of the solid evidence we have is telling us that there's a problem and that it needs to be fixed or there could be some serious trouble in the years ahead.

It does not, however, say that we are doomed to extinction or even a near-term collapse of *global* civilization.

NASA still puts out some good stuff, but they're only human; they just made a mistake this time. Really, I'm only upset because I hold them to a higher standard than I would, say, Fire Dog Lake, but more that this has become a cross-platform problem more than anything else.....and people wonder why we've only started progressing again within the past few years.

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Response to AverageJoe90 (Reply #16)

Sat Mar 15, 2014, 08:23 PM

20. Anxiously awaiting the conclusions of your research

 

Perhaps you will help out NASA and share it with them.

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Response to 1000words (Reply #20)

Sat Mar 15, 2014, 08:26 PM

23. *facepalm*.

 

For goodness sakes, pal. Think! It's not that hard.

BTW, do enlighten us all on how the hard evidence supposedly tells us that humanity is at risk for total extinction *by AGW alone*, in any timescale that the layman can conceive of(we'll go with 200 years for the sake of discussion.)?

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Response to AverageJoe90 (Reply #23)

Sat Mar 15, 2014, 08:33 PM

24. Why are you asking me?

 

You're the one who's done research.

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Response to 1000words (Reply #24)

Sat Mar 15, 2014, 08:47 PM

32. No, he just reads other's interpretation of research on skepticalscience.com

 

And remembers/reposts the stuff that agrees with him.

AJ is on a crusade to tell us, disaster after disaster, dissertation after dissertation, that "its not that bad". Yet the disasters are getting worse. The research is getting more damning. And the "solutions" are becoming more intangible and remain un-applied/un-attempted

Wow. What an exhausting crusade that one has adopted.

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Response to AverageJoe90 (Reply #16)

Sat Mar 15, 2014, 08:44 PM

30. The focus of the report appears to be broader, resource exhuastion in general, it is a very real

 

problem. Global Warming is only one aspect of our run-away consumption.

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Response to AverageJoe90 (Reply #16)

Sun Mar 16, 2014, 12:07 AM

40. "serious trouble in the years ahead"

That right there tells us all we need to know about your "understanding" of AGW.

Hint: we're ALREADY seeing serious trouble.

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Response to NickB79 (Reply #40)

Sun Mar 16, 2014, 12:14 AM

41. I know a lot more actual facts than most of the "doomers", that's for sure. nt

 

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Response to AverageJoe90 (Reply #7)

Sat Mar 15, 2014, 08:44 PM

29. "They got us to the moon!"

 

Yeah, and? Overcoming earth's gravitational pull and using trigonometry to land on our sattelite is certainly challenging, but it's an entirely different ballpark from what we're looking at with regards to the intricacies of human impact on the planet's overal ecology and hte ramifications that may have on what we consider "civilization."

Do remember that much of the world dwells in conditions you and i probably wouldn't consider to be very "civilized" (not a value judgement on the people, just a note of the technological and resource disparity between societies.) Most, simply because of flukes of economics or politics. The wrong guy(s) in office can send an entire nation into a civilizational death-spiral. The wrong people having economic influence can have the same effect. "Civilization" is a fragile thing supported by a very intricate network of interconnected things, where hte failure of one can threaten the entire network and send civilization into freefall.

And at the end of the day, every society is 100% dependent on the environment. We can't escape that, ever. There is no Asimovian magic pill to free us from the demands of earth or the biology thereof. We're plugged in, for good. Even if in some wild future we leave, we'll still be carrying earth-bubbles with us the whole way.

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Response to Scootaloo (Reply #29)

Sun Mar 16, 2014, 09:28 AM

46. ...and when they got there they found Alice.

 

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Response to Fumesucker (Original post)

Sat Mar 15, 2014, 08:12 PM

12. Call Paul Ryan, he'll tell us what to do.

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Response to Fumesucker (Original post)

Sat Mar 15, 2014, 08:14 PM

14. It will all be ok once we stop people from smoking, owning guns, eating olive garden, and porn

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Response to The Straight Story (Reply #14)

Sat Mar 15, 2014, 08:23 PM

19. I thought cornflake fried chicken was the real threat?

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Response to Fumesucker (Reply #19)

Sat Mar 15, 2014, 08:25 PM

22. Indeed. So many threats others want to save us all from by force

I forget them all

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Response to The Straight Story (Reply #14)

Sat Mar 15, 2014, 11:07 PM

38. And pitbulls - don't forget pitbulls!

.

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Response to The Straight Story (Reply #14)

Sun Mar 16, 2014, 09:39 AM

48. Smoking is fine. It's those e cigs that are deadly.

And pot that looks like candy. No one is thinking of the children, well maybe the ones standing outside with their children, smoking.

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Response to Fumesucker (Original post)

Sat Mar 15, 2014, 08:46 PM

31. There is one significant difference:

 

Modern civilization is global. It's collapse will be on a scale that is unprecedented.

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Response to sulphurdunn (Reply #31)

Sat Mar 15, 2014, 09:49 PM

33. That's important, but I think population size will matter more

It could make a fall come faster and harder. The planet wasn't maxed-out in those earlier collapses.

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Response to Fumesucker (Original post)

Sat Mar 15, 2014, 10:22 PM

34. No no no, we're not gonna get wiped out

by a total economic/agricultural collapse. That takes too long. I can't imagine that Nature is willing to give us quite that much rope.
My money is on catastrophic population reduction due to a biological event. Think 14th century Black Death, but with airplane travel instead of boats and horses.


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Response to Fumesucker (Original post)

Sat Mar 15, 2014, 10:28 PM

36. Everything

is basically "fragile and impermanent." See, Buddha.

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Response to Fumesucker (Original post)

Sat Mar 15, 2014, 10:57 PM

37. They must be figuring in Apophis visiting and knocking out satellites and in 2029 before it returns

in 2036 to destroy civilization as we know it and lead us into a new dark age.

In other words, SPLAT!




Neil DeGrasse Tyson on the time table:



His admonitions, so that the universe will not laugh its ass off at our going extinct:




In the meantime, we'd better vote out the anti-science idiots who believe they will be raptured out of here, for a hell of a lot more reasons than a one in 250K chance of SPLAT.

They will not be raptured, but they will stop the rest of us in the reality based community from taking any measures to protect life on planet Earth. They've already given up and are voting to curry the divine's favor by telling women they are just vessels for errant sperm.

Or observing all calamity with glee, letting our ecosystem be destroyed just for shits and giggles, because they ain't gonna be here, or so they say.

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Response to Fumesucker (Original post)

Sun Mar 16, 2014, 09:25 AM

44. No shit. ...hmmm ...something about finite resources, the 1% and global climate change.

 

I don't think we needed NASA to tell us what intelligent people already know.

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Response to Fumesucker (Original post)

Sun Mar 16, 2014, 09:45 AM

49. Without a Trace ‘The Sixth Extinction'

http://www.democraticunderground.com/10024489098


http://www.nytimes.com/2014/02/16/books/review/the-sixth-extinction-by-elizabeth-kolbert.html?hpw&rref=books&_r=0

By AL GORE FEB. 10, 2014

Over the past decade, Elizabeth Kolbert has established herself as one of our very best science writers. She has developed a distinctive and eloquent voice of conscience on issues arising from the extraordinary assault on the ecosphere, and those who have enjoyed her previous works like “Field Notes From a Catastrophe” will not be disappointed by her powerful new book, “The Sixth Extinction: An Unnatural History.”

Kolbert, a staff writer at The New Yorker, reports from the front lines of the violent collision between civilization and our planet’s
ecosystem: the Andes, the Amazon rain forest, the Great Barrier Reef — and her backyard. In lucid prose, she examines the role of
man-made climate change in causing what biologists call the sixth mass extinction — the current spasm of plant and animal loss that threatens to eliminate 20 to 50 percent of all living species on earth within this century.


Extinction is a relatively new idea in the scientific community. Well into the 18th century, people found it impossible to accept the idea that species had once lived on earth but had been subsequently lost. Scientists simply could not envision a planetary force powerful enough to wipe out forms of life that were common in prior ages.

In the same way, and for many of the same reasons, many today find it inconceivable that we could possibly be responsible for destroying the integrity of our planet’s ecology. There are psychological barriers to even imagining that what we love so much could be lost — could be destroyed forever. As a result, many of us refuse to contemplate it. Like an audience entertained by a magician, we allow ourselves to be deceived by those with a stake in persuading us to ignore reality.

For example, we continue to use the world’s atmosphere as an open sewer for the daily dumping of more than 90 million tons of gaseous waste. If trends continue, the global temperature will keep rising, triggering “world-altering events,” Kolbert writes. According to a conservative and unchallenged calculation by the climatologist James Hansen, the man-made pollution already in the atmosphere traps as much extra heat energy every 24 hours as would be released by the explosion of 400,000 Hiroshima-class nuclear bombs. The resulting rapid warming of both the atmosphere and the ocean, which Kolbert notes has absorbed about one-third of the carbon dioxide we have produced, is wreaking havoc on earth’s delicately balanced ecosystems. It threatens both the web of living species with which we share the planet and the future viability of civilization. “By disrupting these systems,” Kolbert writes, “we’re putting our own survival in danger.”

..more..

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Response to G_j (Reply #49)

Sun Mar 16, 2014, 10:11 AM

51. I just finished reading this book. It was excellent! nt

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Response to Fumesucker (Original post)

Sun Mar 16, 2014, 09:53 PM

55. Kicking for Human Primates! nt

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Response to Bonobo (Reply #55)

Mon Mar 17, 2014, 08:59 AM

56. +1

 

This thread is a marvel of misinformation delivered with confidence and authority.

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