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It's later than you think


{Nature_and_Environment.114.37}: Jay Hoffman {resist} Tue, 26 May 2020 18:48:15 CDT (74 lines)

Humanity’s impact is threatening nearly 50 billion years of
evolutionary history: study

Human activities threaten to saw off branches of the “tree of life”—
putting irreplaceable species at risk of extinction.

So finds a study published Tuesday in the journal Nature
Communications which highlights the need for urgent conservation

Barring such action, the researchers wrote, “close to 50 billion
years” of evolutionary history worldwide is at risk.

Scientists from Imperial College London and the Zoological Society of
London (ZSL) began their research by first analyzing the world’s
reptiles and then terrestrial vertebrates like amphibians, birds, and
mammals, looking at how areas with a high human footprint—including
factors like deforestation and population density—coincide with areas
containing species with unique evolutionary history, or branches on
the tree of life.

The scientists found a troubling overlap, with areas in the Caribbean,
the Western Ghats of India, and large parts of Southeast Asia singled
out as experiencing both extreme human pressures and unique

The greatest losses of evolutionary history will be driven by the
extinction of entire groups of closely-related species that share long
branches of the tree of life, such as pangolins and tapirs, and also
by the loss of highly evolutionarily distinct species that sit alone
at the ends of extremely long branches, such as the ancient Chinese
crocodile lizard (Shinisaurus crocodilurus), the Shoebill (Balaeniceps
rex), a gigantic bird that stalks the wetlands of Africa, and the Aye-
aye (Daubentonia madagascariensis), a nocturnal lemur with large
yellow eyes and long spindly fingers.

At risk with the possible extinctions is not just the intrinsic value
of the threatened species in and of themselves but their roles in the
greater web of life. From BBC News:

Many [of the at-risk animals] carry out vital functions in the
habitats in which they live. For example, tapirs in the Amazon
disperse seeds in their droppings that can help regenerate the
rainforest. And pangolins, which are specialist eaters of ants and
insects, play an essential role in balancing the food web.

Lead author Rikki Gumbs of ZSL’s EDGE of Existence program and the
Science and Solutions for a Changing Planet Doctoral Training
Partnership at Imperial College London put the findings in stark

“Our analyses reveal the incomprehensible scale of the losses we face
if we don’t work harder to save global biodiversity,” said Gumbs. “To
put some of the numbers into perspective, reptiles alone stand to lose
at least 13 billion years of unique evolutionary history, roughly the
same number of years as have passed since the beginning of the entire

“Our findings highlight the importance of acting urgently to conserve
these extraordinary species and the remaining habitat that they occupy
—in the face of intense human pressures,” said co-author James
Rosindell of Imperial College London.

In blog post for ZSL’s EDGE of Existence program,
Gumbs highlighted the scope of the problem.

“We are still learning the true extent to which human activities are
encroaching on our natural habitats and threatening our most unique
and important biodiversity. Our findings indicate that the magnitude
of our impact as a species on the natural world is incomprehensibly
large, and appears to be overwhelmingly impacting the most
irreplaceable areas and species on the planet,” he wrote.


{Nature_and_Environment.114.38}: Glen Marks {wotan} Fri, 29 May 2020 08:42:44 CDT (2 lines)



{Nature_and_Environment.114.39}: Jay Hoffman {resist} Mon, 01 Jun 2020 02:00:16 CDT (39 lines)

Study shows erosion of ozone layer responsible for mass extinction

Researchers at the University of Southampton have shown that an
extinction event 360 million years ago, that killed much of the
Earth's plant and freshwater aquatic life, was caused by a brief
breakdown of the ozone layer that shields the Earth from damaging
ultraviolet (UV) radiation. This is a newly discovered extinction
mechanism with profound implications for our warming world today.

The ozone collapse occurred as the climate rapidly warmed following an
intense ice age and the researchers suggest that the Earth today could
reach comparable temperatures, possibly triggering a similar event.
Their findings are published in the journal Science Advances.

Following melting of the ice sheets, the climate was very warm, with
the increased heat above continents pushing more naturally generated
ozone destroying chemicals into the upper atmosphere. This let in high
levels of UV-B radiation for several thousand years.

Lead researcher Professor John Marshall, of the University of
Southampton's School of Ocean and Earth Science, who is a National
Geographic Explorer, comments: "Our ozone shield vanished for a short
time in this ancient period, coinciding with a brief and quick warming
of the Earth. Our ozone layer is naturally in a state of flux—
constantly being created and lost—and we have shown this happened in
the past too, without a catalyst such as a continental scale volcanic

Professor Marshall says his team's findings have startling
implications for life on Earth today: "Current estimates suggest we
will reach similar global temperatures to those of 360 million years
ago, with the possibility that a similar collapse of the ozone layer
could occur again, exposing surface and shallow sea life to deadly
radiation. This would move us from the current state of climate
change, to a climate emergency."


{Nature_and_Environment.114.40}: Glen Marks {wotan} Thu, 04 Jun 2020 18:24:19 CDT (1 line)



{Nature_and_Environment.114.41}: Glen Marks {wotan} Sat, 06 Jun 2020 22:18:47 CDT (2 lines)



{Nature_and_Environment.114.42}: {wotan} Mon, 15 Jun 2020 02:46:42 CDT (0 lines)
{erased by wotan Mon, 15 Jun 2020 02:46:53 CDT}


{Nature_and_Environment.114.43}: Glen Marks {wotan} Mon, 15 Jun 2020 02:47:26 CDT (4 lines)




{Nature_and_Environment.114.44}: Glen Marks {wotan} Tue, 23 Jun 2020 20:02:08 CDT (1 line)



{Nature_and_Environment.114.45}: Jay Hoffman {resist} Wed, 24 Jun 2020 01:22:40 CDT (120 lines)

The affluent are consuming the planet to death: study

A study argues that it is not enough to invest in green technologies;
the world's affluent must stop overconsuming

Anew study published this month in the academic journal Nature
Communications argues that, despite all of the talk about using green
technology to address man-made environmental problems, the only way
for human consumption to become sustainable is if we rein in the

"The key conclusion from our review is that we cannot rely on
technology alone to solve existential environmental problems – like
climate change, biodiversity loss and pollution – but that we also
have to change our affluent lifestyles and reduce overconsumption, in
combination with structural change," Professor Tommy Wiedmann from the
University of New South Wales Engineering told that college's
newspaper regarding the study.

The paper itself argued that "the affluent citizens of the world are
responsible for most environmental impacts and are central to any
future prospect of retreating to safer environmental conditions." The
authors added that "existing societies, economies and cultures incite
consumption expansion and the structural imperative for growth in
competitive market economies inhibits necessary societal change" and
advocated "a global and rapid decoupling of detrimental impacts from
economic activity," pointing out that the efforts made by global North
countries to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions are "highly unlikely" to
occur rapidly enough on a global scale to stave off catastrophic
environmental impacts.

"This is because renewable energy, electrification, carbon-capturing
technologies and even services all have resource requirements, mostly
in the form of metals, concrete and land," the authors point
out. "Rising energy demand and costs of resource extraction, technical
limitations and rebound effects aggravate the problem."

After observing that "the world's top 10% of income earners are
responsible for between 25 and 43% of environmental impact" while "the
world's bottom 10% income earners exert only around 3–5% of
environmental impact," the authors that environmental damage is
largely caused by the world's "affluent" and therefore needs to be
confronted by demanding lifestyle changes among the wealthy.

In other words, the world's poorest have a negligible effect on
overall environmental devastation; focusing on their consumption or
behavior is a fool's errand when it comes to environmental policy. 

"Considering that the lifestyles of wealthy citizens are characterized
by an abundance of choice, convenience and comfort, we argue that the
determinant and driver we have referred to in previous sections as
consumption, is more aptly labelled as affluence," the authors point
out. They advocate reducing avoiding or reducing consumption "until
the remaining consumption level falls within planetary boundaries,
while fulfilling human needs," with the wealthy abstain from
purchasing overly large homes and secondary residences, large
vehicles, excessive quantities of food, and engaging in leisure
activities that require a great deal of flying and driving. 

The authors also argue for consumption patterns "to be shifted away
from resource and carbon-intensive goods and services, e.g. mobility
from cars and airplanes to public buses and trains, biking or walking,
heating from oil heating to heat pumps, nutrition — where possible —
from animal to seasonal plant-based products." In addition, they call
for "the adoption of less affluent, simpler and sufficiency-oriented
lifestyles to address overconsumption — consuming better but less."
This approach would need to include "addressing socially unsustainable
underconsumption in impoverished communities in both less affluent and
affluent countries, where enough and better is needed to achieve a
more equal distribution of wealth and guarantee a minimum level of
prosperity to overcome poverty."

The authors acknowledged that there are several schools of thought
regarding how to best meet these goals.

"The reformist group consists of heterogeneous approaches such as a-
growth, precautionary/pragmatic post-growth, prosperity and managing
without growth as well as steady-state economics," the authors
write. "These approaches have in common that they aim to achieve the
required socio-ecological transformation through and within today's
dominant institutions, such as centralised democratic states and
market economies." By contrast the second group, which is "more
radical," posits that "the needed socio-ecological transformation will
necessarily entail a shift beyond capitalism and/or current
centralised states. Although comprising considerable heterogeneity, it
can be divided into eco-socialist approaches, viewing the democratic
state as an important means to achieve the socio-ecological
transformation and eco-anarchist approaches, aiming instead at
participatory democracy without a state, thus minimising hierarchies."

Salon interviewed several scientists and scholars earlier this month
about how the coronavirus pandemic has illustrated many of the
sustainability problems inherent in capitalism. One problem with
capitalist economic systems is that they rely on constantly increasing
consumption in order to maintain periods of prosperity. If unexpected
disasters interrupt that consumption — such as the pandemic requiring
an economic shutdown — the whole system grinds to a halt.

"Going with the structural metaphor concept, there always huge cracks
underneath the facades of capitalism, and the huge weight of this
pandemic has widened those cracks," Norman Solomon, co-founder and
national coordinator of and a Sanders delegate to the
2016 Democratic National Convention, told Salon. After pointing out
how the poor wind up being hurt the most, he added that "the entire
political economy is geared to overproduction and over-consumption to
maximize corporate profits."

Michael E. Mann, a distinguished professor of atmospheric science at
Penn State University, told Salon that "I think that there are larger
lessons and messages here about the sustainability of a global
population of nearly 8 billion and growing people on a planet with
finite resources."

He added, "And what COVID-19 has laid bare is the fragility of this
massive infrastructure which we've created to artificially maintain
consumption far beyond the natural carrying capacity of the planet.
And continued exploitation of fossil fuels, obviously, is inconsistent
with a sustainable human society."


{Nature_and_Environment.114.46}: {wotan} Wed, 24 Jun 2020 10:52:03 CDT (0 lines)
{erased by wotan Wed, 24 Jun 2020 10:52:47 CDT}


{Nature_and_Environment.114.47}: {wotan} Wed, 24 Jun 2020 10:52:54 CDT (0 lines)
{erased by wotan Wed, 24 Jun 2020 10:53:07 CDT}


{Nature_and_Environment.114.48}: Glen Marks {wotan} Wed, 24 Jun 2020 10:54:01 CDT (1 line)


{Nature_and_Environment.114.49}: Glen Marks {wotan} Wed, 24 Jun 2020 19:59:29 CDT (4 lines)

6 Months and counting:



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