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Are Existing Economic and Financial Arrangements Causing Ever More Destructive Weather Events and Species Die-Off?

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Cosmos pulled no punches this past week with "The World Set Free," and it spent the better part of forty minutes explaining how climate change happened, why humans are the cause of it, and the detrimental side effects of the waste products of our oil-&-coal-based economy.

Climate change is real and humans are causing it. More specifically, existing economic and financial arrangements, which we have allowed to develop, are causing ever more destructive weather events. Blow by blow, Neil deGrasse Tyson defeats every single argument made against the idea of human-made climate change. Then, to add salt to our self-inflicted wound, he tells the tale of two scientists who long ago brought solar-powered generation of electricity to the world -- way back in the 1800s!

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If you don't have a chance to see this episode, check out the accomplishments of Augustin Mouchot(who presented his solar-powered steam engine to Napoleon in 1868, and also, a few years later, at the Universal Exhibition in Paris, where he won a Gold Medal for having the best and most important invention . Then too there was Frank Shuman (who created an entire solar-based power plant in 1913).

America could have gotten solar-power technology going a whole lot sooner, and could probably be quite advanced with it by this time, if not for the emergence of our booming coal-, and then also petroleum-based, economy. But because of the huge fortunes being made by a powerful few, with the sale of millions of tons of coal and oil, America dropped solar energy technology and research, and began to pollute the environment big-time, and continued this at an accelerating pace for the next hundred years, leading to many hundreds of thousands of premature deaths and enormous amounts of illness, all as a result of the continuous breathing of carbon-based exhaust fumes by millions of people, but which allowed huge fortunes to be made by our financial elite.

In an unusual twist for the series, the 'doomsdaying' lasts for most of the episode, including cites of Carl Sagan's warnings from 1980. At the core, it's a presentation of the science behind the tragedy that's unfolding, and an explanation of how we knew this was going to happen, decades in advance, and yet we did nothing about it. It's only in the last ten minutes of the program that Tyson offers any hope, and it can be summed up thusly: Humans are adaptive and we can persevere through dark times until we arrive at solutions.

The episode ends with JFK's speech about putting a man on the moon. It was an impossible feat, but we did it. Now, to adequately address the mire that the carbon-based industrialized world and the hyperconsumption, hyperproduction treadmill society has put us into, we are going to have to step up to the plate and do the impossible once again. Link

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Some of us prefer dreaming and talking about possible solutions to the problem of global climate change and environmental destruction, rather than quietly resigning ourselves to ecocide and the death of civilization as we know it. Watch the most recent installment of Cosmos on public television (or at the first link presented above) if you want to get a better idea of what I'm talking about.

Re: the certainty that our carbon-fueled manufacturing processes and hyper-consumption habits are causing more than 90% of the global warming that is playing hell with the ecosphere (causing ever more violent storms, tornadoes etc.) and helping to kill thousands of species, Tyson makes the most compelling and easy-to-understand argument I've heard. His graphic demonstration of how the planet Venus is thought to have lost its oceans through the excessive CO2 coming from volcanoes is quite sobering: There was so much CO2 in the atmosphere that almost no sunlight could escape after it bounced off the surface of that planet, and eventually the temperature there got hot enough to melt lead. (The CO2 molecule in their trillions have the unusual property of reflecting sunlight right back to earth after it bounces up from the earth.)

Proof of Tyson's thesis

It turns out that the CO2 produced from modern industrial/manufacturing processes, combined with the use of coal used in producing electricity (and the burning of fuel by cars, trucks and airplanes), can be scientifically distinguished from the CO2 that is belched out of volcanoes. It's also measurably true that the former kind of CO2 is now a vastly larger (and rapidly growing) component of our atmosphere than is the latter.

Then too there is the gradually melting arctic permafrost vegetation, long dead, which, as the planet continues to warm, and the dead vegetation thaws out and rots, will emit millions of tons of methane into the atmosphere. This poses a huge danger since methane is an even deadlier (i.e. more reflective) greenhouse gas than CO2. Then too, as the arctic ice melts and its surface area shrinks, ever less sunlight will be reflected back into space from (highly reflective) ice, and ever more of it will be absorbed by the dark (and thus heat absorbing) ocean thus warming it at an accelerating rate.

Finally there is the concern that as the ocean absorbs ever more of the excessive CO2 in the atmosphere, it (the ocean) will become ever more acidic (by way of carbonic acid which thereby forms), a process that will gradually kill ever more marine life. Eventually, all that will be left in the oceans are jelly fish and a few other species useless to mankind as food. And so millions more people will likely starve.

Planetary suicide (ecocide) is underway my friends, and blind as most of us are, we are doing nowhere near enough to stop it. Worst of all are the damn fools who deny that mankind's hyper-production industrial procedures, hyper-consumption habits, and internal combustion engines are the cause of the overall process that is gradually unfolding.

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As the glaciers disappear, the rivers (coming from those glaciers), which provide crop irrigation for the people of Asia, will also shrink and eventually all but disappear, and then millions of Asians will starve. And, as the oceans rise with the melting arctic and Greenland ice sheets, huge amounts of coastal land will be submerged and coastal cities will be, too.

And here come the rants from the world's greatest fools:

"But godamit, we gotta keep this (hyperproduction-hyperconsumption treadmill) going, (no matter what the ultimate cost to our planet)! We need our 'stuff'!! And we WILL not be denied! WE have a right to the (bourgeois/affluent) "good life," no matter what the cost to our children and grandchildren and their children. So fu*k'em. It's not our problem."

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Several years after receiving my M.A. in social science (interdisciplinary studies) I was an instructor at S.F. State University for a year, but then went back to designing automated machinery, and then tech writing, in Silicon Valley. I've (more...)

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