Tag: Eaarth

I feel a headache coming on!

A bit of a personal rant about complacency!

But before I get my blood up, let me reflect on a small passage of time.  I first started writing this Blog on July 15th, 2009, coming up to three years ago.  The idea came from a previous conversation with Jon Lavin of The People Workshop when we were chatting about Dr. David Hawkins’ Map of Consciousness and Jon pointed out that dogs had a ‘score’ of about 210, i.e. were positively above the boundary between truth and falsehood.  As I wrote here,


  • are integrous ( a score of 210) according to Dr David Hawkins
  • don’t cheat or lie
  • don’t have hidden agendas
  • are loyal and faithful
  • forgive
  • love unconditionally
  • value and cherish the ‘present’ in a way that humans dream of achieving
  • are, by eons of time, a more successful species than man.

That’s why the blog is called Learning from Dogs!

Stay with me just a little longer.

The picture of Pharaoh on the Home page, this one:

Dogs know better, much better! Time again for man to learn from dogs!

is a picture of a ‘beta’ dog.  The beta dog is the second-in-command, so to speak, in a wild dog pack.  A dog pack, about 40 to 50 dogs in the wild, has three dogs of special rank, although rank is not really the correct word, role is a better one.  The leader of the pack is the alpha dog; always a female dog.  The next role dog is the beta; always a male.  The third role dog is the ‘clown’ dog and can be either sex.

In reverse order, the clown dog is there to keep the pack happy (in dog terms), the beta dog’s role is to break up fights within the pack and to ‘teach’ the puppies their social skills (which is why a beta dog is always a dominant male) and the alpha’s primary role is to ensure that the pack’s territory is not compromised by other animals and that there is plenty of food for the pack.

Ergo, the single most important decision of the alpha dog is to move the pack to a new territory when she judges that the present one is unsustainable!

OK, to my ‘rant’!

Why isn’t mankind learning from dogs and realising that our present ‘territory’, Planet Earth, is not capable of sustaining mankind for very much longer.

I don’t believe that man is intrinsically stupid!  Many know the famous quotation from Einstein, “Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.”  So if most of us ‘nod’ our heads when we read that quote, why are most of us seemingly content to keep doing the same thing?  Why isn’t there such a huge outpouring of anger at the complacency of the world’s leaders?  How far does the collapse of the conditions, both social and physical, as in biosphere, have to go before we get real, urgent change?

Last Thursday, in a post I called Denialists standing up for insanity, I quoted Tom Engelhardt in his introduction to an article by Bill McKibben thus,

It’s true that no single event can be pinned on climate change with absolute certainty.  But anyone who doesn’t think we’re in a fierce new world of weather extremes — and as TomDispatch regular Bill McKibben has suggested, on an increasingly less hospitable planet that he calls Eaarth – is likely to learn the realities firsthand soon enough.  Not so long ago, if you really wanted to notice the effects of climate change around you, you had to be an Inuit, an Aleut, or some other native of the far north where rising temperatures and melting ice were visibly changing the landscape and wrecking ways of life — or maybe an inhabitant of Kiribati.  Now, it seems, we are all Inuit or Pacific islanders.  And the latest polling numbers indicate that Americans are finally beginning to notice in their own lives, and in numbers that may matter.

Well it’s good that Americans are starting to get the picture but it’s all too gentile – we all have to get much more excited about making our leaders understand that we want action to curb CO2 emissions, and we want action NOW!

Just look at this chart from NOAA as seen on the Climate Central website:

Year-to-Date divisional temperature rankings from NOAA.

More about that tomorrow!

OK, only a short rant!  Which is immediately followed by an apology!  Because you will have to wait 24 hours before reading my next Post about fracking, about how some ‘leaders’ expect the CO2 emissions in the earth’s atmosphere to stabilise at 650 ppm and how very close we are to losing control!

Think I need to go and lie down!

The Great Disruption by Paul Gilding

A book review

Unlike my recent review of Capt. Luis Montalvan’s book Until Tuesday which came about as a result of an invitation from the UK publishers, Headline Publishing, this review of Mr. Gilding’s book is totally off my own bat.  I should also declare that I have recently been in email contact with Paul Gilding with some pleasant outcomes.  To the review.

The way ahead.

Regular readers of Learning from Dogs will know that I have been making recent references to this book, which I have now finished reading.  On the 25th I quoted from the book in a post that I called The blame game.  I used a quote from Chapter 5, Addicted to Growth, namely “Growth goes to the core of the society we have built because it is the result of who we are and what we have decided to value.

Then the next day again when writing about Tim Bennett’s movie, What a Way To Go, when I reflected on Paul Gilding’s opinion that, ” the quicker that mankind recognises the massive levels of denial presently in place, the quicker that mankind will commit to the scale of change that is required“.

Now if mankind’s efforts to change to a sustainable way of life were proportional to the number of books, films and essays written about the subject then, frankly, the task would be complete.  There’s an awful lot out there!  Here’s a list of the books that I have read in the last few years:

The Human Side of Enterprise – Douglas McGregor

Motivation and Personality – Abraham Maslow

The Power of Pause – Terry Hershey

Earth in the Balance – Al Gore

The Spectrum of Consciousness – Ken Wilber

Politics Lost – Joe Klein

Why America Doesn’t Work – Chuck Colson & Jack Eckerd

The Art of Happiness – HH Dalai Lama & Howard C Cutler

Eaarth – Bill McKibben

Stabilizing an Unstable Economy – Hyman P. Minsky

The Next 100 Years – George Friedman

World of the Edge – Lester Brown

and finally

The Great Disruption – Paul Gilding

And, of course, this doesn’t even scratch the number of online journals, essays and articles that have been read in conjunction with writing hundreds of posts on this Blog.

So what’s the point?

On p.260, Chapter 20 Guess Who’s in Charge?, Paul Gilding writes,

We need to fully acknowledge the challenging times and inevitable suffering ahead but stay focused and determined to move forward and past this.  Easy to say, harder to do.

So yes, it is challenging to know how to respond to all this and what to do personally.  It is easy to see what the world should do, but what should you do?

but what should you do? Talk about a thump on the back of the head!

This is about me!

Of all the books that have influenced how I see the world and my opinions, the one book that has rammed home to me that this is about me, about my attitudes and behaviours, is The Great Disruption.  For a long time I haven’t needed convincing that man is screwing up the planet.  For ages, I’ve been sure that our greed and materialism were fundamentally incompatible with the planet. I have been so good at ‘talking the talk’ ….. but ….

But the way that Mr. Gilding has so comprehensively approached every aspect of how my past behaviours have been incompatible with the future needs of my little grandson, Morten, (and all the grandchildren in the world) is powerfully inspiring.  I now totally and utterly believe that only I am in charge of making a difference.

Why The Great Disruption touched me in this way when so many other books and articles haven’t done so isn’t clear.  Perhaps it was in the opening paragraphs?

The earth is full.

[skip one paragraph]

This means things are going to change.  Not because we will choose change out of philosophical or political preference, but because if we don’t transform our society and economy, we risk social and economic collapse and the descent into chaos.  The science on this is now clear and accepted by any rational observer.  While an initial look at the public debate may suggest controversy, any serious examination of the peer-reviewed conclusions of leading science bodies shows the core direction we are heading in is now clear.  Things do not look good.

These challenges and the facts  behind them are well-known by experts and leaders around the world, and have been for decades.  But despite this understanding, that we would at some point pass the limits to growth, it has been continually filed away to the back of our mind and the back of our drawers, with the label “Interesting – For Consideration Later” prominently attached.  Well, later has arrived.

I nodded silently in agreement when reading that.

Was it the opening paragraph to Chapter 4, Beyond the Limits – The Great Disruption?

The plans we have been making for our economies, our companies, and our lives have all been based on a key assumption that is clearly wrong.  This assumption is that our current economic model will carry on unless we choose to change it – in other words, no action means more of the same.

This resonated strongly with me because I happen to believe, without any specialist economic skills to my name – just a gut sense, that the economic situation now afflicting so many economies across the world is not cyclical but the start of a breakdown of the policies and behaviours of the last 20 years or more.  In other words, the Great Disruption was in my face already!  As is written on p. 87 in Chapter 6, Global Foreshock – The Year That Growth Stopped,

My view, firmly held at the time and since, is that 2008 was the year that growth stopped.  It was the year, as Thomas Friedman said, “when Mother Nature and Father Greed hit the wall at once”.

The Power of a New Future

But, in the end, the real power that I found in this book was the strength of Gilding’s argument that we will change, that seeing the future as hopeless is wrong, that man has the ability to commit to huge change when there is no alternative.  Ergo, p121 Chapter 9 When the Dam of Denial Breaks,

To argue we are naturally greedy and competitive and can’t change is like arguing that we engage naturally in murder and infanticide as our forebears the chimps do and therefore as we did.  We have certain tendencies in our genes, but unlike other creatures we have the proven capacity to make conscious decisions to overcome them and also the proven ability to build a society with laws and values to enshrine and, critically, to enforce such changes when these tendencies come to the surface.

So don’t underestimate how profoundly we can change.  We are still capable of evolution, including conscious evolution.  This coming crisis is perhaps the greatest opportunity in millennia for a step change in human society.

This quote is towards the end of the last chapter that spells out, as so many other books have done, that our global society Has a Very Big Problem.  Thus from page 123 onwards, slightly less than half-way through the book, Paul Gilding devotes huge detail to describing how we will change.  Frequently, the comparison used is World War II,

British poster from 1940

When Great Britain went to war in World War II, do you think they had clarity on all the details of transitioning into a war economy before they made the decision to act?  Of course they considered it, as we must, but it wasn’t a determining issue because there was no choice.  Do you think President Roosevelt calculated the United States could win the war by increasing military spending to 37 percent of U.S. GDP and producing a nuclear bomb before he decided to enter the war?  Of course not: he just knew they had to succeed and so they would.  He had confidence in human ingenuity delivering under pressure, when it’s given defined parameters and political support, and so must we.

From p. 164, Chapter 12 Creative Destruction on Steroids.

That’s what ended up being the real inspiration for me.  That it’s not about the complex problems looming large; as so many that Jean and I chat to here in Payson, AZ, readily admit to being worried.  It’s not news! The majority of the world’s citizens know the trends are not good.

No, what really socked me between the eyes was reading all the many and varied ways that we are changing (note present tense), that the Great Disruption is, in fact, mankind moving to a new era.  One where we will have less inequality, less poverty, be happier, have extended life-spans and a future that goes on for thousand of years.

The Future is Here.

The phrase ‘life-changing’ is often used but this book is truly life-changing.  The book will motivate you in ways that you can’t imagine.  It will inspire you but, above all, it will show you the way ahead.  Read it.

Well done, Mr. Gilding.  Well done, indeed!

Mr. Paul Gilding

Earth’s climate

Where’s it going?

Last Friday (10th) I wrote about a recent article that appeared in the Newsweek magazine of June 6th and mused about there seeming to be a growing awareness of the changing of the Planet Earth.

I just wanted to add a few other important elements (pardon the pun) of the current awareness.

First, at the time of writing this (June 2nd) the website that shows the monthly level of CO2 in the atmosphere was still showing the figure for April.  Here it is,

CO2 in the atmosphere

Go here and check out what it is for May 2011.  We all know that it won’t be below 393.18, which is already over 12% above the maximum safe level that scientists have determined.

UPDATE (June 7th): The figures for May are now on the website CO2 Now and they are 394.35 up, as predicted, from the figure of 393.18 for April, 2011.

Then go and watch this, from Bill McKibben,

Then go to the CO2 Now website and read, and ponder and think about what is becoming increasingly obvious to us all.

Finally, read a article that Bill McKibben has recently written that seems to have been widely published.  Here it is on the TomDispatch website.  It starts thus,

Three Strikes and You’re Hot
Time for Obama to Say No to the Fossil Fuel Wish List 

By Bill McKibben

In our globalized world, old-fashioned geography is not supposed to count for much: mountain ranges, deep-water ports, railroad grades — those seem so nineteenth century. The earth is flat, or so I remember somebody saying.

But those nostalgic for an earlier day, take heart. The Obama administration is making its biggest decisions yet on our energy future and those decisions are intimately tied to this continent’s geography. Remember those old maps from your high-school textbooks that showed each state and province’s prime economic activities? A sheaf of wheat for farm country? A little steel mill for manufacturing? These days in North America what you want to look for are the pickaxes that mean mining, and the derricks that stand for oil.

Yes, it all seems ‘doom and gloom’ around us at present but then consider that the only way we, as in mankind, can change to a truly sustainable relationship with this Planet is through better understanding and a global realisation that the time for change is now!  That is a very positive message!

More on Bill McKibben’s book, eaarth.

Some very telling points.

I first mentioned this book on the 13th May when I was about a third of the way in.  Because I thought there might be material useful to the course that has been running here in Payson, I did skip around the book looking for ‘attention-grabbing’ points.  It wasn’t difficult to find numerous extracts.

Try this on page 214 from the Chapter Afterword.

As it turns out, however, the BP spill was not the most dangerous thing that happened in the months after this book was first published.  In fact, in the spring and summer of 2101, the list of startling events in the natural world included:

  • Nineteen nations setting new all-time high temperature records, which in itself is a record.  Some of those records were for entire regions – [then some of the details]
  • Scientists reported that the earth had just come through the warmest six months, the warmest year, and the warmest decade for which we have records; it appears 2010 will be the warmest calendar year on record.
  • The most protracted and extreme heat wave in a thousand years of Russian history (it had never before topped 100 degrees in Moscow) led to a siege of peat fires that shrouded the capital in ghostly, deadly smoke.  [Then goes on to mention the effect of this heat on global grain prices.]
  • Since warm air holds more water vapour that cold air, scientists were not surprised to see steady increases in flooding.  Still, the spring and summer of 2010 were off the charts.  We saw “thousand-year storms” across the globe [goes into details]
  • Meanwhile, in the far north, the Petermann Glacier on Greenland calved an iceberg four times the size of Manhattan.
  • And the most ominous news of all might have come from the pages of the eminent scientific journal Nature, which published an enormous study of the productivity of the earth’s seas. [More details follow – not good news!]
That last point can be read in more detail from Nature‘s website.  It’s here.
The book closes thus (referring to how the BP oil spill was, ultimately, an accident),
But the greatest danger we face, climate change, is no accident.  It’s what happens when everything goes the way it’s supposed to go.  It’s not a function of bad technology, it’s a function of a bad business model: of the fact that Exxon Mobil and BP and Peabody Coal are allowed to use the atmosphere, free of charge, as an open sewer for the inevitable waste from their products.  They’ll fight to the end to defend that business model, for it produces greater profits that any industry has ever known.  We won’t match them dollar for dollar: To fight back, we need a different currency, our bodies and our spirit and our creativity.  That’s what a movement looks like; let’s hope we can rally one in time to make a difference.
Powerful stuff from a powerful book.
Fired up?  Then go and join:  350.org

eaarth, the book.

The latest edition of Bill McKibben’s book.

I’m about a third of the way through McKibben’s book eaarth.  To say that it is disturbing is an understatement.  I’ll tell you why.


Most people when they think about it have, at the very least, feelings of guilt or denial in terms of what humans are doing to the planet’s environment that humans require for survival.  Many of us know in our hearts that it is probably not good news but maybe really thinking about it can be put off for a little longer!

It’s almost as though we know that those aches and pains are a sign of something potentially dangerous to our health but, hey ho, I’ll put off seeing the doctor for a little bit longer.

Then the day comes when one goes to the doctor and he confirms your worst fears; what you really knew deep in your heart.

Thus it is with the planet.  Most of us know that we have been treating the planet as an inexhaustible resource for the sole benefit of mankind and to hell with the future.  The you read a book such as eaarth from Bill McKibben and realise the extreme folly of denial, self-delusion, and the rest.  Here’s the preface of the book,


I’m writing these words on a gorgeous spring afternoon, perched on the bank of a brook high along the spine of the Green Mountains, a mile or so from my home in the Vermont mountain town of Ripton. The creek burbles along, the picture of a placid mountain stream, but a few feet away there’s a scene of real violence a deep gash through the woods where a flood last summer ripped away many cubic feet of tree and rock and soil and drove it downstream through the center of the village. Before the afternoon was out, the only paved road into town had been demolished by the rushing water, a string of bridges lay in ruins, and the governor was trying to reach the area by helicopter.

Twenty years ago, in 1989, I wrote the first book for a general audience about global warming, which in those days we called the “greenhouse effect.” That book, The End of Nature, was mainly a philosophical argument. It was too early to see the practical effects of climate change but not too early to feel them; in the most widely excerpted passage of the book, I described walking down a different river, near my then-home sixty miles away, in New York’s Adirondack Mountains. Merely knowing that we’d begun to alter the climate meant that the water fl owing in that creek had a different, lesser meaning. “Instead of a world where rain had an independent and mysterious existence, the rain had become a subset of human activity,” I wrote. “The rain bore a brand; it was a steer, not a deer.”

Now, that sadness has turned into a sharper-edged fear. Walking along this river today, you don’t need to imagine a damned thing the evidence of destruction is all too obvious. Much more quickly than we would have guessed in the late 1980s, global warming has dramatically altered, among many other things, hydrological cycles. One of the key facts of the twenty- first century turns out to be that warm air holds more water vapor than cold: in arid areas this means increased evaporation and hence drought. And once that water is in the atmosphere, it will come down, which in moist areas like Vermont means increased deluge and flood. Total rainfall across our continent is up 7 percent,1 and that huge change is accelerating. Worse, more and more of it comes in downpours.2 Not gentle rain but damaging gully washers: across the planet, flood damage is increasing by 5 percent a year.3 Data show dramatic increases 20 percent or more in the most extreme weather events across the eastern United States, the kind of storms that drop many inches of rain in a single day.4Vermont saw three flood emergencies in the 1960s, two in the 1970s, three in the 1980s and ten in the 1990s and ten so far in the first decade of the new century.

In our Vermont town, in the summer of 2008, we had what may have been the two largest rainstorms in our history about six weeks apart. The second and worse storm, on the morning of August 6, dropped at least six inches of rain in three hours up on the steep slopes of the mountains. Those forests are mostly intact, with only light logging to disturb them but that was far too much water for the woods to absorb. One of my neighbors, Amy Sheldon, is a river researcher, and she was walking through the mountains with me one recent day, imagining the floods on that August morning. “You would have seen streams changing violently like that,” she said, snapping her fingers. “A matter of minutes.” A year later the signs persisted: streambeds gouged down to bedrock, culverts obliterated, groves of trees laid to jackstraws.

Our town of barely more than five hundred people has been coping with the damage ever since. We passed a $400,000 bond to pay for our share of the damage to town roads and culverts. (The total cost was in the millions, most of it paid by the state and federal governments.) Now we’re paying more to line the creek with a seven-hundred-foot-long wall of huge boulders riprap, it’s called where it passes through the center of town, a scheme that may save a few houses for a few years, but which will speed up the water and cause even more erosion downstream. There’s a complicated equation for how wide a stream will be, given its grade and geology; Sheldon showed it to me as we reclined on rocks by the riverbank. It mathematically defines streams as we have known them, sets an upper limit to their size. You could use it to plan for the future, so you could know where to build and where to let well enough alone. But none of that planning works if it suddenly rains harder and faster than it has ever rained before, and that’s exactly what’s now happening. It’s raining harder and evaporating faster; seas are rising and ice is melting, melting far more quickly than we once expected. The first point of this book is simple: global warming is no longer a philosophical threat, no longer a future threat, no longer a threat at all. It’s our reality. We’ve changed the planet, changed it in large and fundamental ways. And these changes are far, far more evident in the toughest parts of the globe, where climate change is already wrecking thousands of lives daily. In July 2009, Oxfam released an epic report, “Suffering the Science,” which concluded that even if we now adapted “the smartest possible curbs” on carbon emissions, “the prospects are very bleak for hundreds of millions of people, most of them among the world’s poorest.”5

And so this book will be, by necessity, less philosophical than its predecessor. We need now to understand the world we’ve created, and consider urgently how to live in it. We can’t simply keep stacking boulders against the change that’s coming on every front; we’ll need to figure out what parts of our lives and our ideologies we must abandon so that we can protect the core of our societies and civilizations. There’s nothing airy or speculative about this conversation; it’s got to be uncomfortable, staccato, direct.

Which doesn’t mean that the change we must make or the world on the other side will be without its comforts or beauties. Reality always comes with beauty, sometimes more than fantasy, and the end of this book will suggest where those beauties lie. But hope has to be real. It can’t be a hope that the scientists will turn out to be wrong, or that President Barack Obama can somehow fix everything. Obama can help but precisely to the degree he’s willing to embrace reality, to understand that we live on the world we live on, not the one we might wish for. Maturity is not the opposite of hope; it’s what makes hope possible.

The need for that kind of maturity became painfully clear in the last days of 2009, as I was doing the final revisions for this book. Many people had invested great hope that the Copenhagen conference would mark a turning point in the climate change debate. If it did, it was a turning point for the worse, with the richest and most powerful countries making it abundantly clear that they weren’t going to take strong steps to address the crisis before us. They looked the poorest and most vulnerable nations straight in the eye, and then they looked away and concluded a face- saving accord with no targets or timetables. To see hope dashed is never pleasant. In the early morning hours after President Obama jetted back to Washington, a group of young protesters gathered at the metro station outside the conference hall in Copenhagen.It’s our future you decide, they chanted.

My only real fear is that the reality described in this book, and increasingly evident in the world around us, will be for some an excuse to give up. We need just the opposite increased engagement. Some of that engagement will be local: building the kind of communities and economies that can withstand what’s coming. And some of it must be global: we must step up the fight to keep climate change from getting even more powerfully out of control, and to try to protect those people most at risk, who are almost always those who have done the least to cause the problem. I’ve spent much of the last two de cades in that fight, most recently helping lead 350.org, a huge grassroots global effort to force dramatic action. It’s true that we’ve lost that fight, insofar as our goal was to preserve the world we were born into. That’s not the world we live on any longer, and there’s no use pretending otherwise.

But damage is always relative. So far we’ve increased global temperatures about a degree, and it’s caused the massive change chronicled in chapter 1. That’s not going to go away. But if we don’t stop pouring more carbon into the atmosphere, the temperature will simply keep rising, right past the point where any kind of adaptation will prove impossible. I have dedicated this book to my closest colleagues in this battle, my crew at 350.org, with the pledge that we’ll keep battling. We have no other choice.

Musings about Planet Earth

Could Planet Earth really be avenging the disregard shown by man?

This is such a meaty subject that, frankly, all this article can do is to set the scene for further muses.  The trigger for the theme was a piece written by Michael Klare that I read on the Tom Dispatch blogsite.  But before going to that piece by Michael Klare, let’s step back for a moment.

Planet Earth from Apollo 8

The idea that the Planet is not a piece of rock covered in a thin layer of air, water and life but something much more deeply connected with all living organisms including the ‘higher order’ forms of life is not new.  But it was Professor James Lovelock who catapulted the idea of the living, breathing planet into the psyche of modern man as in his Gaia hypothesis.  Here’s a link to Lovelock’s original explanation of that idea.  From which is quoted,

Most of us sense that the Earth is more than a sphere of rock with a thin layer of air, ocean and life covering the surface. We feel that we belong here as if this planet were indeed our home. Long ago the Greeks, thinking this way, gave to the Earth the name Gaia or, for short, Ge. In those days, science and theology were one and science, although less precise, had soul. As time passed this warm relationship faded and was replaced by the frigidity of the schoolmen. The life sciences, no longer concerned with life, fell to classifying dead things and even to vivisection. Ge was stolen from theology to become no more the root from which the disciplines of geography and geology were named. Now at last there are signs of a change. Science becomes holistic again and rediscovers soul, and theology, moved by ecumenical forces, begins to realise that Gaia is not to be subdivided for academic convenience and that Ge is much more than just a prefix.

That article concludes thus,

If we are “all creatures great and small,” from bacteria to whales, part of Gaia then we are all of us potentially important to her well being. We knew in our hearts that the destruction of a whole range of other species was wrong but now we know why. No longer can we merely regret the passing of one of the great whales, or the blue butterfly, nor even the smallpox virus. When we eliminate one of these from Earth, we may have destroyed a part of ourselves, for we also are a part of Gaia.

There are many possibilities for comfort as there are for dismay in contemplating the consequences of our membership in this great commonwealth of living things. It may be that one role we play is as the senses and nervous system for Gaia. Through our eyes she has for the first time seen her very fair face and in our minds become aware of herself. We do indeed belong here. The earth is more than just a home, it’s a living system and we are part of it.

So back to Michael Klare.

On the 14th April, Tom Engelhardt wrote a piece on Tom Dispatch that opened as follows:

Last Monday, Yukio Edano, chief cabinet secretary, defended the Japanese government’s response to the nuclear disaster at Fukushima, insisting that the plant complex is in “a stable situation,relatively speaking.”  That’s somewhat like the official description of 11,500 tons of water purposely dumped into the ocean waters off Fukushima as “low-level radioactive” or “lightly radioactive.”  It is, of course, only “lightly” so in comparison to the even more radioactive water being stored at the plant in its place.  But that’s the thing with descriptive words: they can leave so much to the eye of the beholder — and the Japanese government hasn’t been significantly more eager than the Tokyo Electric Power Company (Tepco), which runs the complex, to behold all that much when it comes to Fukushima.

Engelhardt then sets the scene for the guest post by Michael Klare.

The Planet Strikes Back
Why We Underestimate the Earth and Overestimate Ourselves 

By Michael T. Klare

In his 2010 book, Eaarth: Making a Life on a Tough New Planet, environmental scholar and activist Bill McKibben writes of a planet so devastated by global warming that it’s no longer recognizable as the Earth we once inhabited.  This is a planet, he predicts, of “melting poles and dying forests and a heaving, corrosive sea, raked by winds, strafed by storms, scorched by heat.”  Altered as it is from the world in which human civilization was born and thrived, it needs a new name — so he gave it that extra “a” in “Eaarth.”

It would be wrong to do more that selectively offer extracts but here’s how Klare sets the scene,

It’s not enough to think of Eaarth as an impotent casualty of humanity’s predations.  It is also a complex organic system with many potent defenses against alien intervention — defenses it is already wielding to devastating effect when it comes to human societies.  And keep this in mind: we are only at the beginning of this process.

To grasp our present situation, however, it’s necessary to distinguish between naturally recurring planetary disturbances and the planetary responses to human intervention.  Both need a fresh look, so let’s start with what Earth has always been capable of before we turn to the responses of Eaarth, the avenger.

Michael Klare conclude thus,

Bill McKibben is right: we no longer live on the “cozy, taken-for-granted” planet formerly known as Earth.  We inhabit a new place, already changed dramatically by the intervention of humankind.  But we are not acting upon a passive, impotent entity unable to defend itself against human transgression.  Sad to say, we will learn to our dismay of the immense powers available to Eaarth, the Avenger.

Michael T. Klare is a professor of peace and world security studies at Hampshire College, a TomDispatch regular, and the author, most recently, ofRising Powers, Shrinking Planet. A documentary movie version of his previous book, Blood and Oil, is available from the Media Education Foundation.

To close, here’s an interview of Michael Klare by Tom Engelhardt.