Chapter 1

It is already happening, like it or not

As succinctly as I can, I’ll explain why collapse of Earth's web of life is under way right now, not some time in the future. And why immediate, drastic action is needed now for any chance of stopping it.

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Venus today

Earth tomorrow?

The collapse of Earth's ecosystem, its web of life, is well underway. Chapter 1 describes the accelerating processes of overpopulation, mass extinction, and global climate chaos. Here are a few highlights.

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Over-population

In combination with overconsumption of Earth's resources, the root cause of collapse.

Humans are consuming natural resources 1.7 times as fast as nature can replenish them. To heal the ecosystem, we need to reduce consumption by at least half. The US has one twentieth of the world's population and consumes one fifth of total consumption, so the US needs to reduce consumption eightfold! There are only two ways: reduce individual consumption, and reduce population size, and we have to do it very fast to stop collapse, which is speeding up. The longer we wait, the harder it will be. Either we do it now, voluntarily, or we do it soon, involuntarily, as collapse overwhelms us.

Population Growth

Now that we have overcome natural forces that keep other species in check, our numbers increase faster and faster in an explosion that is swamping the ecosystem.

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The Sixth Mass Extinction

This one is shaping up to be the last

Until we came along there had been five mass extinctions of species on Earth over hundreds of millions of years. In the worst one, over 90% of species were lost. Today's human-caused extinction is proceeding faster than that one did, and could wipe out all life on Earth. We have to give half the planet back to the other millions of species, fast! The longer we delay, the faster mass extinction will overtake life on Earth.

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Global Climate Chaos

Global warming is locked in

Humans have caused an accelerating heating of the biosphere (where things live) and nothing is stopping it. There are numerous feedbacks in which warming produces changes that themselves cause more warming. This could culminate in an out of control switch to temperatures no large organisms could survive, due among other things to the "methane bomb" already triggered in polar regions. Click the button (not the picture) to watch the horrifying temperature increase already happening.

Global Warming is Caused by Humans' Greenhouse Gas Emissions

Carbon dioxide, methane are the main culprits, from fossil fuel combustion and animal agriculture.

Hope is dangerous when it comes to climate change. Currently atmospheric CO2 is continuing to increase due to human activities, and is likely to continue to increase for decades after humans stop emitting it (although some scientists think it won’t – I disagree with them).  It takes time for the planet to heat up due to the greenhouse effect so that even if we stopped emitting it today, it would be decades before the temperatures plateau. Also, atmospheric CO2 has a half-life of (half of it is gone in) around 150 years. If we stopped emitting it today our already emitted CO2 would be half as concentrated in the air in 150 years, one quarter in another 150 years, and so forth. We are not expected to stop emitting CO2 any time soon – the most ambitious cities, states and countries don’t expect to reach zero emissions for twenty years or more. Meanwhile, accelerating (“positive”) global feedbacks are increasing, so that even if we stop emissions today it may be too late to prevent the continued acceleration of warming. I’ll describe those feedbacks shortly. It is quite possible that global warming cannot be stopped, but we have no choice but to try. Once again: Revolutionary change in our environment and in our lives is happening, and only revolutionary change in our actions has any chance of turning things around. Inevitably, we will soon be living very differently, voluntarily or involuntarily, and our only chance of survival as a species is for it to be voluntary, and immediate. No more waiting until next decade, or even next year.

Lest you think that scientists are alarmists: most estimates of the rates of CO2 increase, global warming, and climate change and its consequences, described below, have been serious underestimates:

Estimates of Sea Level Rise by 2100 Have Tripled in the Past Few Years.

Major Correction to Satellite Data Shows 140% Faster Warming Since 1998,

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Climate Change is Already too Advanced for Life to Survive

Devastating environmental disasters are Increasing in frequency and severity

The warming of the atmosphere, land, and ocean is causing droughts and food and water shortages; forest fires and forest die-offs that reduce CO2 removal; melting of polar ice caps and glaciers on Greenland and elsewhere, increasing sunlight absorption and warming; violent, destructive weather like hurricanes and tornadoes; sea level rise due to ice melting and warming of the oceans; vast flooding due to torrential rains and sea level rise; and massive migration of humans and animals to escape these changes. Humans are not responding anywhere nearly as vigorously as we must, and soon we'll be unable to.

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The Methane Bomb is Not Ticking Any Longer

It's exploding

Vast quantities of methane are locked up in Arctic permafrost (tundra) and on ocean  bottoms, in the form of frozen bogs and "methane ice," or clathrates, a complex of methane and water that is a stable solid until warmed. Warming is now releasing methane from these sources in large quantities, which causes temperature to increase because methane is a potent greenhouse gas. This in turn causes more methane to be released, in a vicious feedback cycle. There is enough of this methane to cause an abrupt warming of the biosphere (where life exists) and mass extinction. The only way to stop it is by lowering temperature, which we have no way to do fast enough.