The “Anthropocene”?

DDP Newsletter, July 2012, Volume XXX, No. 4

Reporting on the Rio +20 conference, Lord Christopher Monckton writes: “The walls of the conference center were festooned with disturbing images, many painted by children under the rubric, ‘children teaching their parents.’

“In one painting, a child painted the sun, dressed as a doctor taking the temperature of the earth. The diagnosis: ‘I’m sure you have humans!’”

Some say that the effect of human beings on the planet is so profound that it is creating a new geologic epoch: the Anthropocene. The term was coined by Paul Crutzen, a leader in promoting the idea of a nuclear winter, human causation of the “ozone hole,” and the need for a radical contingency plan to stop global warming.

Some warn that the global ecosystem is “approaching a planetary-scale critical transition as a result of human influence”: a “tipping point.” An irreversible shift from one state to another can occur by means of a “sledgehammer” or a “threshold” effect. Rapid climate change is one aspect. Others include “highly fragmented species ranges” (Barnosky AD et al. Nature 6/7/12, doi:10.1038/nature11018).

Humans are said to “commandeer ~20–40% of global net primary productivity (NPP),” leaving less for other species. While humans have also substantially increased the energy available to power the global ecosystem “through the release of energy formerly stored in fossil fuels,” this does not entirely offset the “human appropriation of NPP” because the extra energy is largely used to support “humans and their domesticates, the sum of which comprises large-animal biomass that is far beyond that typical of preindustrial times.” The co-opting of resources and energy will continue as the population reaches 9.5 billion by 2050, and will be greatly exacerbated if poverty is diminished (ibid.).

The projection of 9.5 billion people by 2050 is called “most conservative.” If fertility remains at 2005-2010 levels, it could purportedly reach 27 billion. To “diminish the range of biological surprises” and avert the planetary transition will require “global cooperation” to reduce the rate of population growth and per-capita resource use (ibid.).

Thirty years ago H.E. Goeller and A. Zucker wrote about “Infinite Resources: the Ultimate Strategy,” citing a predicted steady-state population level of 8.5 billion by 2100 (Science 2/3/1984). The UN now projects 9.5 billion in 2050 (Science 7/29/11).

Since the first Earth Summit in Rio in 1992, political progress has stagnated, laments Carlos Nobre (Science 6/15/12). At Rio +20, “Earth and its inhabitants have a second chance” (Nature, op. cit.). But, “in biophysical terms, humanity has never been moving faster or further from sustainability than it is now,” write Paul Ehrlich, author of The Population Bomb, and associates (doi:10.1038/nature11157).

Ehrlich et al. cite the 2005 World Summit’s “three pillars or ‘E’s’ of sustainability” or the “triple bottom line”: reconciling environmental, social equity, and economic demands. They acknowledge that fertility has decreased, though not enough, in their view. More difficult to contain is ever-rising consumption, as people are lifted out of poverty. Since “human beings cannot be counted on to behave rationally,” Ehrlich calls for “strengthening the societal leadership of academia” in order to “spark cultural evolution for rescaling.”

And what is actually happening with the population bomb? At our 30th annual meeting, Bonner Cohen (http://tinyurl.com/9s7n9lo) spoke of the rise of the “net mortality society.” We have seen massive die-offs before, as in the Black Plague, but these were local, not global. Demographic collapse has enormous implications for world affairs.

For ethnic Russians, the birth rate is only 1.3, and life expectancy is also decreasing. In men, it is about 60, and in women less than 70, because of alcohol, the drug culture, and resistant tuberculosis. Concern is manifested as capital flight: $83 billion left Russia for Switzerland and New York in 2011, and $96 billion already in 2012.

In China, population will decrease rapidly, owing to the one-child policy in effect since the 1980s, plus selective abortion of girls. The work force is shrinking, so labor costs are rising. The population of India will exceed that of China by 2025, Cohen said.

The consequences of Chinese population policy are finally being acknowledged. By 2025, the “marriage deficit” of 20 million to 30 million women poses a great threat to the social order. While a future population decline might be desirable, “rapid or even sudden decline would be disastrous, and it would be very difficult to stop” (Science 7/29/11).

The population of Tokyo is expected to fall by half in the next 90 years, with nearly half of those remaining being over age 65 (Telegraph 9/4/12).

South Korea, Taiwan, Hong Kong, and Singapore, with fertility below 1.3, are trying to engineer a baby boom (Science 7/29/11).

Some accepted authorities do acknowledge that more people are not necessarily a problem, citing economic and environmental benefits from increased population in the Machakos Reserve in Kenya (Science 7/29/11). But many hail the onset of the “Big Die-off.” As Simon Ross, chief executive officer of Population Matters, says, “population shrinkage is the cheapest and surest contribution to sustainability that we know of (D. Normile, “The Upside of Downsizing,” Science 7/29/11).

In his book Wasted World: How Our Consumption Challenges the Planet, Rob Hengeveld proposes reducing world population to 1 billion. In Garbology: Our Dirty Love Affair with Trash, Edward Humes cites the view that “at the heart of the American dream is a call to the financial freedom of reduced consumption, rather than bondage to belongings.” Both books are reviewed by Sonja Vermeulen, head of research at the Consortium of International Agricultural Research Centers. Messages such as Humes’s “new normal,” she writes, “strike a chord in these times of recession, resource scarcity and uncertain futures” (Nature 4/26/12).

Idealists from the International Council for Local Environmental Initiatives, meeting at Rio +20, who are striving to be the world’s masters, may have trouble defining “sustainable development” (see http://tinyurl.com/7ky48ly). The operational meaning is, however, clear enough to the powers behind Agenda 21: engineer a massive decline in human population, and subject all of humankind to a socio-economic system that is under total global government control.

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One thought on “The “Anthropocene”?

  1. Hi DDP!

    This is a very interesting tour through the Anthropocene. Right up my alley. I would like to add myself to your mailing list. Also, how can I order a copy of the DVD of the 30th annual meeting?

    Thanks!

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