Tag: Patrice Ayme

Pharaoh, my teacher.

Another tribute to dear Pharaoh.

The most profound thing that I learned from Pharaoh is that dogs are creatures of integrity. That goes back to a day in June, 2007. Some six months before I met Jeannie in Mexico in December, 2007. I was sitting in Jon’s home office just a few miles from where Pharaoh and I were then living in South Devon.

It was a key chapter in Part Four of my book where I examine all the qualities that we humans need to learn from our dogs.

So here is Chapter 13 from my book Learning from Dogs. (Written in ‘English’ English!)

ooOOoo

Chapter 13
Integrity

In the Introduction to this book I mentioned how the notion of “learning from dogs” went back to 2007 and me learning that dogs were creatures of integrity. Let me now elaborate on that.
It is a Friday morning in June in the year 2007. I am sitting with Jon at his place with Pharaoh sleeping soundly on the beige carpet behind my chair. I didn’t know it at the time but it was to become one of those rare moments when we gain an awareness of life that forever changes how we view the world, both the world within and the world without.

“Paul, I know there’s more for me to listen to and I sense that we have established a relationship in which you feel safe to reveal your feelings. However, today I want to talk about consciousness. Because I would like to give you an awareness of this aspect of what we might describe under the overall heading of mindfulness.”
I sat quietly fascinated by what was a new area for me.

“During the years that I have been a psychotherapist, I’ve seen an amazing range of personalities, probably explored every human emotion known. In a sense, explored the consciousness of a person. But what is clear to me now is that one can distil those different personalities and emotions into two broad camps: those who embrace truth and those who do not.”

Jon paused, sensing correctly that I was uncertain as to what to make of this. I made it clear that I wanted him to continue.

“Yes, fundamentally, there are people who deny the truth about themselves, who actively resist that pathway of better self-awareness, and then there are those people who want to know the truth of whom they are and seek it out when the opportunity arises. The former group could be described as false, lacking in integrity and unsupportive of life, while the latter group are diametrically opposite: truthful, behaving with integrity and supportive of life.”
It was then that Jon lit a fire inside me that is still burning bright to this day. For he paused, quietly looking at Pharaoh sleeping so soundly on the carpet, and went on to add, “And when I look at dogs, I have no question that they have a consciousness that is predominantly truthful: that they are creatures of integrity and supportive of life.”
That brought me immediately to the edge of my seat, literally, with the suddenness of my reaction causing Pharaoh to open his eyes and lift up his head. I knew in that instant that something very profound had just occurred. I slipped out of my chair, got down on my hands and knees and gave Pharaoh the most loving hug of his life. Dogs are creatures of integrity. Wow!

****

Later, when driving home, I couldn’t take my mind off the idea that dogs were creatures of integrity. What were those other values that Jon had mentioned? It came to me in a moment: truthful and supportive of life. Dogs have a consciousness that is truthful, that they are creatures of integrity and supportive of life: what a remarkable perception of our long-time companions.
I had no doubt that all nature’s animals could be judged in the same manner but what made it such an incredibly powerful concept, in terms of dogs, was the unique relationship between dogs and humans, a relationship that went back for thousands upon thousands of years. I realised that despite me knowing I would never have worked it out on my own, Jon’s revelation about dogs being creatures of integrity was so utterly and profoundly obvious.

As I made myself my usual light lunch of a couple of peanut butter sandwiches and some fruit and then sat enjoying a mug of hot tea, I still couldn’t take my mind off what Jon had revealed: dogs are examples of integrity and truth. I then thought that the word “examples” was not the right word and just let my mind play with alternatives. Then up popped: Dogs are beacons of integrity and truth. Yes, that’s it! Soon after, I recognised that what had just taken place was an incredible opening of my mind, an opening of my mind that didn’t just embrace this aspect of dogs but extended to me thinking deeply about integrity for the first time in my life.

Considering that this chapter is titled “Integrity”, so far all you have been presented with is a somewhat parochial account of how for the first time in my life the word “integrity” took on real meaning. That until that moment in 2007 the word had not had any extra significance for me over the thousands of other words in the English language. Time, therefore, to focus directly on integrity.

If goodness is to win, it has to be smarter than the enemy.

That was a comment written on my blog some years ago, left by someone who writes their own blog under the nom-de-plume of Patrice Ayme. It strikes me as beautifully relevant to these times, times where huge numbers of decent, law-abiding folk are concerned about the future. Simply because those sectors of society that have much control over all our lives do not subscribe to integrity, let alone giving it the highest political and commercial focus that would flow from seeing integrity as an “adherence to moral and ethical principles; soundness of moral character; honesty.” To quote my American edition of Roget’s Thesaurus.

Let me borrow an old pilot’s saying from the world of aviation: “If there’s any doubt, there’s no doubt!”

That embracing, cautious attitude is part of the reason why commercial air transport is one of the safest forms of transport in the world today. If you had the slightest doubt about the safety of a flight, you wouldn’t board the aircraft. If you had the slightest doubt about the future for civilisation on this planet, likewise you would do something! Remember, that dry word civilisation means family, children, grandchildren, friends, and loved ones. The last thing you would do is to carry on as before!

The great challenge for this civilisation, for each and every one of us, is translating that sense of wanting to change into practical, effective behaviours. I sense, however, that this might be looking down the wrong end of the telescope. That it is not a case of learning to behave in myriad different ways but looking at one’s life from a deeper, more fundamental perspective: living as a person of integrity. So perfectly expressed in the Zen Buddhist quote: “Be master of mind rather than mastered by mind.” Seeing integrity as the key foundation of everything we do. Even more fundamental than that. Seeing integrity as everything you and I are.

It makes no difference that society in general doesn’t seem to value integrity in such a core manner. For what is society other than the aggregate of each and every one of us? If we all embrace living a life of integrity then society will reflect that.

Integrity equates to being truthful, to being honest. It doesn’t mean being right all the time, of course not, but integrity does mean accepting responsibility for all our actions, for feeling remorse and apologising when we make mistakes. Integrity means learning, being reliable, and being a builder rather than a destroyer. It means being authentic. That authenticity is precisely and exactly what we see in our dogs

The starting point for what we must learn from our dogs is integrity.

ooOOoo

The face of integrity!

Up, Up And Away?

It is very hard to avoid hyperbole when one speaks of global warming.

I am indebted to The Nation magazine, May 8/15 Issue, in which is included a feature article authored by Bill McKibben. My sub-heading is much of what Bill wrote in his first line.

It is hard to avoid hyperbole when you talk about global warming. It is, after all, the biggest 
thing humans have ever done, and by a very large margin.

A few sentences later, Bill offers this:

In the drought-stricken territories around the Sahara, we’ve helped kick off what The New York Times called “one of the biggest humanitarian disasters since World War II.” We’ve melted ice at the poles at a record pace, because our emissions trap extra heat from the sun that’s equivalent to 400,000 Hiroshima-size explosions a day.

Yet what scares me, scares me beyond comprehension, is the almost universal disregard being shown by Governments and those with power and influence right across the world to what in anyone’s language is the most pressing catastrophe heading down the tracks. Not next year; not tomorrow, but now!

Or in Mr. McKibben’s words, once more from that Nation article:

But as scientists have finally begun to realize, there’s nothing rational about the world we currently inhabit. We’re not having an argument about climate change, to be swayed by more studies and journal articles and symposia. That argument is long since won, but the fight is mostly lost—the fight about the money and power that’s kept us from taking action and that is now being used to shut down large parts of the scientific enterprise. As Trump budget chief Mick Mulvaney said in March, “We’re not spending money on that anymore. We consider that to be a waste of your money to go out and do that.” In a case this extreme, scientists have little choice but to be citizens as well. And given their credibility, it will matter: 76 percent of Americans trust scientists to act in the public interest, compared with 27 percent who think the same thing about elected officials.

Whatever your response is to what I have already presented, the one thing that I do know is that you have been aware of humanity’s effect on our atmosphere for many, many years. Indeed, Bill McKibben wrote his first book twenty-eight years ago!

His 1989 book The End of Nature is regarded as the first book for a general audience about climate change, and has appeared in 24 languages; he’s gone on to write a dozen more books.

But I would be the first to acknowledge that back in 1989 while I did become aware of Bill McKibben and did purchase and read that book of his, I didn’t see the effects he prophesied. In addition, I didn’t understand the mechanisms that would bring those effects into place.

Now, today, it’s very difficult to deny that global weather systems are behaving in ways that most do not understand albeit we do understand how those weather changes are affecting our lives.

One person who did, and still does even more, understand the physics involved in our changing weather, is Patrice Ayme. For some nineteen years after Bill McKibben’s first book, Patrice published a post on his blog. I have been following Patrice’s blog for some years and while I would be the first to stick my hand in the air and declare that some of his posts are a little beyond me, there’s no question of the integrity of his writings and his bravery in spelling out the truth of these present times. (OK, the truth a la Monsieur Aymes but I would place a decent bet of PA being closer to the core truth of many issues than Joe Public.)

I am indebted to Patrice for granting me permission to republish that post. Please read it. Don’t be put off by terms that may not be familiar to you. Read it to the end – the message is very clear.

ooOOoo

Applying Equipartition Of Energy To Climate Change PREDICTS WILD WEATHER.

By Patrice Ayme, March 8th, 2008.

Lately, the world weather has been especially perplexing, influenced by the cold ocean temperatures of a La Niña current in the equatorial Pacific. For Earth’s land areas, 2007 was the warmest year on record.

This year, record cold is more the norm. Global land-surface temperatures so far are below the 20th-century mean for the first time since 1982, according to the National Climatic Data Center. Last month in China, snowstorms stranded millions of people, while in Mumbai, officials reported the coldest day in 46 years.

Yet, England basked in its fourth-warmest January since 1914, the British Met Office reported. The crocus and narcissus at the U.K.’s Royal Botanical Gardens at Kew flowered a week earlier than last year — 11 days ahead of their average for the decade and weeks ahead of their pattern in the 1980s. In Prague, New Year’s Day was the warmest since 1775.

“It is difficult to judge the significance of what we are seeing this year,” said Kew researcher Sandra Bell. “Is it a glitch or is it the beginning of something more sinister and alarming?”” (Robert Lee Hotz, Wall Street Journal, March 8, 2008).

Many scientists have pondered this question, as if they did not know the answer, but it is a straightforward application of thermodynamics.

A basic theorem of equilibrium thermodynamics, the EQUIPARTITION OF ENERGY theorem, says that the same amount of energy should be present in all degrees of freedom into which energy can spill.

(How does one demonstrate this theorem? Basically, heat is agitation, kinetic energy at the scale of atoms and molecules. This agitation can spill in a more organized manner, in great ensembles, such as vast low and high pressure systems, or large scale dynamics. See the note on entropy and negative temperatures.)

In the case of meteorology, this implies, oversimplifying a bit, that only one-third of the energy should go into heat (and everybody focuses on the augmentation of temperature). Now, of course, since the energy enters the system as heat, non equilibrium thermodynamics imposes more than one-third of the energy will be heat.

As time goes by, though, the other two degrees of freedom, potential energy (represented as the geometry of gradients of pressures, high and low pressure systems, hurricanes) and dynamics (wind speed and vast movements of air masses of varying temperatures and/or pressure; and the same for sea currents) will also store energy.

Thus the new heat created in the lower atmosphere by the increased CO2 greenhouse will be transformed in all sorts of weather weirdness: heat, cold, high and low pressures, wind, and big moves of big things. Big things such as vast re-arrangements of low and high pressure systems, as observed in the Northern Hemisphere, or the re-arrangement of sea currents as apparently also observed, and certainly as it is expected. Since it happened in the past (flash ice age of the Younger Dryas over Europe, 18,000 years ago).

As cold and warm air masses get thrown about, the variability of temperatures will augment all over.

In other words, record snow and cold in the Alps and record warmth simultaneously in England is a manifestation of the equipartition of energy theorem applied to the greenhouse warming we are experiencing. It is not mysterious at all, and brutal variations such as these, including sudden cold episodes, are to be expected, as more and more energy gets stuffed in the planetary climate, and yanks it away from its previous equilibrium.

Wind speed augmentations have already had a spectacular effect: by shaking the waters of the Austral ocean with increasingly violent waves, carbon dioxyde is being removed as if out of a shaken carbonated drink. Thus the Austral ocean is now a net emitter of CO2 (other oceans absorb CO2, and transform it into carbonic acid).

Hence the observed variations are the beginning of something more sinister and alarming. Climate change is changing speed. Up, up, and away.

Patrice Ayme
Patriceayme.com
Patriceayme.wordpress.com.

Note on entropy: Some may object that transforming heat into collective behavior of vast masses of air or sea violates the Second Law Of Thermodynamics, namely that entropy augments always, in any natural process. Well, first of all, the genius of the genus Homo, not to say of all of life itself, rests on local violations of the Second Law. Secondly, the most recent physics recognizes that fundamental considerations allow systems where increased energy lead to increased order (such a system is said to be in a negative temperature state).

Even more revealingly, a massive greenhouse on planet Earth would lead, as happened in the past, to a much more uniform heat, all around the planet, that is, a more ordered state. Meanwhile, the transition to the present order of a temperate climate to the completely different order of an over-heated Earth will bring complete disorder, as observed.

ooOOoo

Going to leave you with a picture taken from weather.com

An emaciated polar bear is seen on a small sheet of ice in this image taken in August in Svalbard, north of mainland Norway. (Kerstin Langenberger)

Please, please, please: make a difference! Environmentally, domestically and politically, please make a difference.

Mathematics Postscript

A postscript to The Conscious, Mathematical Brain

Many enjoyed my republication on the 30th January of Patrice Ayme’s essay that I entitled: The Conscious, Mathematical Brain.

I was talking about how our brains are mathematical organs at our last Freethinkers meeting in Grants Pass and Marcia from our local group emailed me the following:

fullsizerenderYou all have a wonderful weekend.

The conscious, mathematical brain!

A new week!

As I have frequently mentioned, I so enjoy having guest posts being sent to me.

They give you, dear reader, a break from yours truly and so very often they offer a new and interesting perspective on dogs, on us, and on the world.

This week there are three guest posts, in various guises, lined up and, who knows, there may be a couple more heading in.

But to the first of those guest posts.

Well, technically, more of a reposting today than a pure guest post. That reposting is of a most fascinating post published by Patrice Ayme on the 25th. January. It was called WE ARE MATHEMATICS. But there were parts of Patrice’s post that I struggled with so I am offering it to you with a rather long introduction.

I hope you enjoy it.

ooOOoo

Smack!

The sound of  an object falling to the floor of the shower, suddenly and without warning, nearly caused me to jump out of my skin.

I was washing my hair and had my eyelids tightly closed lest the shampoo suds got into my eyes. Inadvertently, I had felt my right elbow dislodge something from the top of the small corner shelf that held the bar of soap and the bottle of hair shampoo.

I let the flowing warm shower water rinse the suds from my face, opened my eyes and looked down. The object that had made such a sudden, loud noise was a plastic brush maybe three or four inches long. It had fallen to the wet shower floor some five feet below the corner shelf where the brush normally lived.

As I stared down at the brush, the warm water cascading comfortably down my body, I reflected that in the space of a fraction of a second my mind had computed the distance that the unknown object had fallen and offered me a sense of the speed it must have been traveling when it hit the floor.

Now don’t get me wrong! I didn’t come up with a precise answer to that question of how fast the brush was going but in that moment of thought I sensed both the distance the brush had fallen, five feet; plus or minus, and the effect of gravity in accelerating that brush even over such a small distance. (Later I calculated the brush hit the shower base going at around 10 fps.)

Now it would have never occurred to me that my brain was capable of almost instantaneous calculations, as in mathematical calculations, if I hadn’t read in the previous twenty-four hours a recent essay from Patrice Ayme. An essay that convinced me completely that, in Patrice’s words:

The world is not as astonishingly understandable, as Einstein would have it. Neuronal grid cell studies show that we are the world. Understanding the world is understanding ourselves.

The world is not just written in mathematical language, as Galileo found out. We are made mathematically. We think mathematically, because we are made of math. We are mathematics.

Patrice had opened my eyes, more accurately opened my mind, to something that was then immediately clear to me and will be to you, dear reader: Our brains have an intuitive and instinctive sense of space. Not space in some abstract sense of the term but space in the sense of spatial awareness.

Think how easily, how quickly, you understand distance. Whether it is a measure of distance in your own home or assessing how far away that bird is flying towards and setting down on a high branch of a tall pine tree.

Think how even with our eyes closed we can navigate around a familiar part of our lives. Think how the sailors of ancient times (and trust me not so ancient times) used ‘Dead Reckoning’ (DR) to navigate safely and securely across vast oceans.

Our brains could only do this if they were computing these spatial assessments mathematically.

OK, that’s enough from me. Here’s that essay from Patrice.

ooOOoo

WE ARE MATHEMATICS

Mathematically Built Brain: The Example of Grid Cells, Incarnating Algebraic Geometry.

Understanding how the cognitive functions of the brain arise from its basic physiological components has been the final frontier in logic and rational science for thousands of years. (As I tried to explain yesterday, the superstitious religious fanatics tried their best to bury all of science, and the scientific mindset, the essence of humanity; they nearly succeeded!)

The 2014 Nobel was given to John O’Keefe (a “half”!), the rest jointly to May-Britt Moser and Edvard I. Moser “for their discoveries of cells that constitute a positioning system in the brain.” I will develop here the philosophical viewpoint, which is broader (O’Keefe’s career was steered by the influence of Hebb, the famous psychologist, who got the idea of the outside patterns imprinting the neurocircuitry of the brain).

Here is Hebb: “Let us assume that the persistence or repetition of a reverberatory activity (or “trace”) tends to induce lasting cellular changes that add to its stability.[…] When an axon of cell A is near enough to excite a cell B and repeatedly or persistently takes part in firing it, some growth process or metabolic change takes place in one or both cells such that A’s efficiency, as one of the cells firing B, is increased.”

Well it turns out that evolution has had even more imagination than that. I will even propose Patrice’s Neural Theory, a vast generalization.

Galileo famously said the language of nature was written in mathematics. It turns out that it is much more than that. Our brain is mathematically organized. What Descartes consciously discovered, a coordinate frame in which to set-up calculus, is automatically generated in the brain. This is the meaning of grid cells.

Grid cells are neurons that fire when an animal moving of its own free will traverses a set of small regions (firing fields) which are roughly equal in size and arranged in a periodic triangular array that covers all of the available environment. They were discovered in 2005 by a couple (literally) of Norwegian researchers, the Mosers, and rewarded by the Nobel Prize in 2014 (shared with O’Keefe, from London, who invented the basic experimental technique, and discovered “place cells)

Once set, navigation can be done in the dark, blinded. Scientists’ discovery that rodents, bats and nonhuman primates have a system in the brain for so-called “dead reckoning navigation”… “Dead reckoning” refers to the ability to navigate without external cues. The term comes from ship navigation. A crew will “take a sighting” via cues such as the stars or landmarks to determine where the ship is on a map. Then, when the ship moves, ‘dead reckons’ to update location on the map paying attention to speed and direction. The Greco-Romans already had such systems, with little paddled wheels counting the distance covered over the sea. It turns out that ‘dead reckoning’ is enabled by the grid cell system, inside the brain.

Recording Of Grid Cells Activity Inside Rat Brain (Jeffery Lab and others.)
Recording Of Grid Cells Activity Inside Rat Brain (Jeffery Lab and others.)

Kate Jeffery, a professor of behavioural neuroscience at University College London puts it this way:

“The importance of grid cells lies in the apparently minor detail that the patches of firing (called ‘firing fields’) produced by the cells are evenly spaced. That this makes a pretty pattern is nice, but not so important in itself – what is startling is that the cell somehow ‘knows’ how far (say) 30 cm is – it must do, or it wouldn’t be able to fire in correctly spaced places. This even spacing of firing fields is something that couldn’t possibly have arisen from building up a web of stimulus associations over the life of the animal, because 30 cm (or whatever) isn’t an intrinsic property of most environments, and therefore can’t come through the senses – it must come from inside the rat, through some distance-measuring capability such as counting footsteps, or measuring the speed with which the world flows past the senses. In other words, metric information is inherent in the brain, wired into the grid cells as it were, regardless of its prior experience. This was a surprising and dramatic discovery. Studies of other animals, including humans, have revealed place, head direction and grid cells in these species too, so this seems to be a general (and thus important) phenomenon and not just a strange quirk of the lab rat.”

We should have looked for Plato’s cave. It turned out that this cave has been built, is being built inside our heads all along! This cave is built-in two ways: automatically (grid cells) and as a response to the environment, by.us, from the outside, from the environment, in.

(So it matters what our brain experienced before to mold afterwards what comes in anew from the outside! No experience is a neutral experience!)

That cave is both a topology (what’s near and what’s not, the logic of place), and a basic geometry (the grid and its grid cells). To have a grid built automatically is the equivalent of having a reference frame in mathematics. It makes sense if one wants to make mathematics!

And not just mathematics, but even Infinitesimal Calculus! It is indeed clear that animals such as dogs have a mastery of calculus: experiences have shown this, and anybody with a dog throwing a stick sideways in water will see the dog running along the shore a bit, and then jump in the water, so as to minimize the time to reach the stick, a typical calculus problem. Dogs can do calculus, because they can make algebraic geometry in their brains, having a reference frame made of these grid cells! (If they had no grid cells, they would not be able to do calculus.)

Thus Descartes rediscovered, consciously, something which had been found, evolved and calculated by evolution half a billion years ago (or more!). The reference frame, also known now as the neuronal grid cell system, is basic to all of mechanics, even Poincare’-Lorentz Relativity.  (An open question: Quantum Physics uses even more general reference systems, Hilbert spaces; I will therefore predict that the brain has also that sort of organization!)

The world is not as astonishingly understandable, as Einstein would have it. Neuronal grid cell studies show that we are the world. Understanding the world is understanding ourselves.

The world is not just written in mathematical language, as Galileo found out. We are made mathematically. We think mathematically, because we are made of math. We are mathematics.

We are not just looking at shadows in a cave, as Plato would have it. And the cave was not given to us by the gods, as Socrates had it. We are the cave, we, and our personal history, built it.

Any new experience, idea or emotion, taught or experienced, is another brick in that wall of perception and analysis, we better consider it carefully, before indulging in it. Call that the Principle of Mental Precaution But that Principle extends also to what we chose NOT to experience, which can be just as bad, if not worse.

You are not just what you think. You mentally are what you were submitted to, and what you decided to submit to. Fate is written in mathematical patterns, one theorem made out of neurons, their axons, dendrites and supporting glial cells, at a time.

Such theorems are written with the physics of minds, just as sturdy as the physics of stars. Just as hopeful, just as ominous.

Plato thought mathematics were “forms”, out there, outside of the physical world. This is not what science is finding. There are not “forms” out there, and physics, nature, somewhere else. Our minds are literally made of math.

So here is my theory:

Whatever exists in mathematics exists in the brain. And reciprocally.”

Patrice Ayme’

ooOOoo

I do so hope that this essay from Patrice fires you up as it did me. If it leaves you with questions, then offer them to me as a comment to this post and I will take it upon myself to have Patrice answer them.

Finally, did you pick up on the fact that it isn’t just our human brains that are mathematical organs, it applies to the brains of dogs as well!

Mathematics in action. (Photo courtesy of Pinterest)
Mathematics in action. (Photo courtesy of Pinterest)

If there’s any doubt ….

…. there’s no doubt!

My title and sub-title comes from commercial aviation. It’s one aspect of the safety culture that safely the millions of passengers who embark on a commercial flight each year. (IATA estimate that it will be 3.6 billion in 2016.) In other words, if the flight crew have even an inkling of an issue with the aircraft while in flight they will make an immediate decision to land.

Why I chose this title will become clearer as you read on.

The end of the Second World War so far as Europe was concerned came on May 8th, 1945. In other words: VE Day. London was not a pretty sight in 1945.

Toni Frissell’s famous image of an abandoned boy clutching a stuffed animal in the rubble of 1945 London.
Toni Frissell’s famous image of an abandoned boy clutching a stuffed animal in the rubble of 1945 London. (Image taken from this website page.)

What’s the relevance of May 8th, 1945 to me? Well exactly six months, to the day, before VE Day yours truly was born in Acton which was just six miles West of Marble Arch in the centre of London.

It has been a family legend that when VE Day was announced my mother looked at her six-month-old baby son and announced that he was going to live! For those first six months of my life in London were very dangerous. From that same website page where that photograph above came from one can read (my emphasis):

Nazi Germany continued to bomb London up until 1945 using a variety of delivery methods including V-1 and V-2 rockets. In total 1,115 V-2s were fired at the United Kingdom. The vast majority of them were aimed at London, though about 40 targeted (and missed) Norwich. They killed an estimated 2,754 people in London with another 6,523 injured.

I have very clear mental images of playing in and around bomb sites near our home right up to 1953 when there was a real push to clear the sites away ahead of the Queen’s Coronation on June 2nd, 1953.

German V-2 bomb damage on Uppingham Avenue, Stanmore, just a few miles from home
German V-2 bomb damage on houses in Uppingham Avenue, Stanmore, just a few miles from home. The bomb exploded on March 16th, 1945.

So what’s this all about and why do I see it as relevant to today’s world? Stay with me for a little longer.

Yesterday, Patrice Ayme left a comment to my Private Power post. He opened that comment by saying:

With all due respect, and abundant apologies for the daring image, we can’t write exclusively about dogs, lest we want to finish as dog food. As Paul is suggesting. Indeed I view seriousness in global inquiry as a basic moral duty.

Imagine Jews worrying just about dogs, while Auschwitz was being built; it’s arguably what happened, said Hannah Arendt (I’m paraphrasing; she was hated for it, though…) Some will scoff, but Kim in Korea is building one new H bomb every 5 weeks… One single H bomb, in the ‘right’ place, can kill more than Auschwitz.

On December 27th, Patrice published a post under the title of Isaac Asimov’s Foundation Trilogy. It started:

In the Real World, Foundations Saved Civilization Before:

The combination of imperial collapse followed by re-birth from Foundations within happened several times already, for real.

Civilizations collapsing into Dark Ages from the actions of dozens of millions of people occurred more than once. And then very small groups arose, often within the collapsing empire, and imposed new ways of thinking which enabled civilization to restart.

After I read his post I left a question as a comment: “Are you saying that our present civilization is on the point of collapse?”

Patrice replied:

Well, we are certainly tottering at the edge:
http://www.newyorker.com/news/news-desk/world-war-three-by-mistake
Playing Russian roulette works only that long. Unfortunately demoncrats did not care.

I then went across to that article carried by The New Yorker. It was an article written by Eric Schlosser, author of the book Command and Control: Nuclear Weapons, the Damascus Accident, and the Illusion of Safety and a producer of the documentary Command and Control from 2016.

It’s a long article but an extremely important read. Here are some of the key extracts:

ooOOoo

World War Three, by Mistake

Harsh political rhetoric, combined with the vulnerability of the nuclear command-and-control system, has made the risk of global catastrophe greater than ever.

 A dilemma has haunted nuclear strategy since the first detonation of an atomic bomb: How do you prevent a nuclear attack while preserving the ability to launch one?PHOTOGRAPH BY ANDY CROSS / THE DENVER POST VIA GETTY
A dilemma has haunted nuclear strategy since the first detonation of an atomic bomb: How do you prevent a nuclear attack while preserving the ability to launch one? PHOTOGRAPH BY ANDY CROSS / THE DENVER POST VIA GETTY

On June 3, 1980, at about two-thirty in the morning, computers at the National Military Command Center, beneath the Pentagon, at the headquarters of the North American Air Defense Command (NORAD), deep within Cheyenne Mountain, Colorado, and at Site R, the Pentagon’s alternate command post center hidden inside Raven Rock Mountain, Pennsylvania, issued an urgent warning: the Soviet Union had just launched a nuclear attack on the United States. The Soviets had recently invaded Afghanistan, and the animosity between the two superpowers was greater than at any other time since the Cuban Missile Crisis.

U.S. Air Force ballistic-missile crews removed their launch keys from the safes, bomber crews ran to their planes, fighter planes took off to search the skies, and the Federal Aviation Administration prepared to order every airborne commercial airliner to land.

President Jimmy Carter’s national-security adviser, Zbigniew Brzezinski, was asleep in Washington, D.C., when the phone rang. His military aide, General William Odom, was calling to inform him that two hundred and twenty missiles launched from Soviet submarines were heading toward the United States. Brzezinski told Odom to get confirmation of the attack. A retaliatory strike would have to be ordered quickly; Washington might be destroyed within minutes. Odom called back and offered a correction: twenty-two hundred Soviet missiles had been launched.

Brzezinski decided not to wake up his wife, preferring that she die in her sleep. As he prepared to call Carter and recommend an American counterattack, the phone rang for a third time. Odom apologized—it was a false alarm. An investigation later found that a defective computer chip in a communications device at NORAD headquarters had generated the erroneous warning. The chip cost forty-six cents.

[Two paragraphs later]

My book “Command and Control” explores how the systems devised to govern the use of nuclear weapons, like all complex technological systems, are inherently flawed. They are designed, built, installed, maintained, and operated by human beings. But the failure of a nuclear command-and-control system can have consequences far more serious than the crash of an online dating site from too much traffic or flight delays caused by a software glitch. Millions of people, perhaps hundreds of millions, could be annihilated inadvertently. “Command and Control” focusses on near-catastrophic errors and accidents in the arms race between the United States and the Soviet Union that ended in 1991. The danger never went away. Today, the odds of a nuclear war being started by mistake are low—and yet the risk is growing, as the United States and Russia drift toward a new cold war. The other day, Senator John McCain called Vladimir Putin, the President of the Russian Federation, “a thug, a bully, and a murderer,” adding that anyone who “describes him as anything else is lying.” Other members of Congress have attacked Putin for trying to influence the Presidential election.  On Thursday, Putin warned that Russia would “strengthen the military potential of strategic nuclear forces,” and President-elect Donald Trump has responded with a vow to expand America’s nuclear arsenal.  “Let it be an arms race,” Trump told one of the co-hosts of MSNBC’s “Morning Joe.” “We will outmatch them at every pass and outlast them all.”

The harsh rhetoric on both sides increases the danger of miscalculations and mistakes, as do other factors. Close encounters between the military aircraft of the United States and Russia have become routine, creating the potential for an unintended conflict. Many of the nuclear-weapon systems on both sides are aging and obsolete. The personnel who operate those systems often suffer from poor morale and poor training. None of their senior officers has firsthand experience making decisions during an actual nuclear crisis. And today’s command-and-control systems must contend with threats that barely existed during the Cold War: malware, spyware, worms, bugs, viruses, corrupted firmware, logic bombs, Trojan horses, and all the other modern tools of cyber warfare. The greatest danger is posed not by any technological innovation but by a dilemma that has haunted nuclear strategy since the first detonation of an atomic bomb: How do you prevent a nuclear attack while preserving the ability to launch one?

[Going to the closing paragraph]

Every technology embodies the values of the age in which it was created. When the atomic bomb was being developed in the mid-nineteen-forties, the destruction of cities and the deliberate targeting of civilians was just another military tactic. It was championed as a means to victory. The Geneva Conventions later classified those practices as war crimes—and yet nuclear weapons have no other real use. They threaten and endanger noncombatants for the sake of deterrence. Conventional weapons can now be employed to destroy every kind of military target, and twenty-first-century warfare puts an emphasis on precision strikes, cyberweapons, and minimizing civilian casualties. As a technology, nuclear weapons have become obsolete. What worries me most isn’t the possibility of a cyberattack, a technical glitch, or a misunderstanding starting a nuclear war sometime next week. My greatest concern is the lack of public awareness about this existential threat, the absence of a vigorous public debate about the nuclear-war plans of Russia and the United States, the silent consent to the roughly fifteen thousand nuclear weapons in the world. These machines have been carefully and ingeniously designed to kill us. Complacency increases the odds that, some day, they will. The “Titanic Effect” is a term used by software designers to explain how things can quietly go wrong in a complex technological system: the safer you assume the system to be, the more dangerous it is becoming.

ooOOoo

My greatest concern is the lack of public awareness about this existential threat, the absence of a vigorous public debate about the nuclear-war plans of Russia and the United States, the silent consent to the roughly fifteen thousand nuclear weapons in the world.

Is there a dog angle to all of this? You bet! For dogs as well as people are all innocents caught up in the madness of war.

nd sympathy to a now homeless man, who returned home from walking his dog to find his house destroyed and wife killed by a V1 flying bomb. London 1944
A policeman offering sympathy to a now homeless man, who returned home from walking his dog to find his house destroyed and wife killed by a V1 flying bomb. London 1944. (The dog is just below the Policeman’s left shin.)

Now do you see why I entitled today’s post If there’s any doubt. there’s no doubt.

For if we were the flightcrew of the good ship Earth we would be urgently looking for a diversion airfield upon which to land; and land now!

Wherever you are in the world, whatever you are doing, if you share the concern expressed so clearly by Patrice don’t do nothing. Even if all you do is to send a message on one of the social media apps that’s far better than doing nothing. All that evil requires to succeed is for good people to do nothing!

For I haven’t a clue as to when and how my life will come to an end but, as sure as hell, I would prefer that it isn’t six months to the day after the start of World War III.

Especially if that war came about as a mistake!

Foreign lands.

These seem like times where very little makes sense.

Blogger Patrice Ayme posted an item on Wednesday under the title of Doomed Dems. It was, inevitably, a commentary on the recent news regarding Donald Trump. Here’s how Patrice’s post opens:

So Donald Trump will be the Republican committee ( 😉 ) for the presidency. And Trump will, probably, be elected US president. Why? Because people want change, and they did not get it. Instead they got more of the drift down, after the reign of the teleprompter reading president. Average family income is DOWN $4,000 since (“Bill”) Clinton’s last year as president. According to a FOX News poll, 64% of Americans blame Wall Street. Meanwhile in a vast report in the New York Times, Obama celebrates, in May 2016, the alliance he said he made with Wall Street in 2008.

Later on in that same post, Patrice goes on to write about the horrific fire in Alberta, Canada, and the damage to trees in Yosemite National Park in California. At first sight those two events would appear disconnected. But not according to Patrice:

Meanwhile a friend of mine went to Yosemite ten days ago. She told me she could not believe the devastation of the forest. Most of it is fiery red. It is devastated by the Pine Bark Beetle. To kill the Beetle, one needs twenty days well below freezing. However, this hard freeze is now a memory. So the Beetle invades, and kills forest. Treating tree by tree is hopelessly expensive, and futile. Yes, the forests will burn soon, adding to CO2 in the atmosphere. And it is all the way like that to Alaska.

Fort McMurray, Alberta may not have seen the worst of a devastating wildfire.

Massive walls of flames prompted authorities to order the evacuation of all the city’s more than 80,000 residents last night. The blaze has been caused by un-naturally high temperatures. Such giant fires are our immediate future. Nobody said the Greenhouse crisis was going to be nice. More evacuations coming.

Anything to do with dogs? Well, yes!

For this coming Saturday I am giving a talk about my book, Learning from Dogs, to our local Rogue Valley Humanist and Freethinkers (both Jean and I are members) and it struck me that what Patrice wrote about and what we see all around us are part of the same big picture. That we need to be reminded of a few fundamentals. As I will be saying in my talk:

Dogs are creatures of integrity! Wow! Now you might see where this is leading to!

But more than that, much more than that, they offer us humans a model for a range of behavioural qualities that we ignore at our peril:

I then list the qualities that we see in our dogs, and continue:

Hold those values close to you for just a few moments. Imagine what would flow out across the world if those were the characteristics, the behavioural values, of us humans!

Finally, towards the end of that talk on Saturday I will be saying:

Nature will always have the last word regarding her natural world, to which we humans are so intricately linked. Standing alongside and respecting nature as the future comes to us will be so much wiser than pushing back against nature, and ultimately failing, trying to “convert” nature to some form of materialistic human resource. Because that route will only return those of us who survive to a life of hunting and gathering. Which, so many thousands of years previously, is where early dogs started humankind on the long journey leading to now.
Dogs have been the making of humans and a viable future for humankind on this beautiful planet depends on us never forgetting this oldest relationship of all, the one between dog and human.

Because if we, as a global society, don’t understand that when it comes to power all the plutocrats and all of their money come to naught in contrast to the power of nature then these present lands are going to become very strange indeed!

And nature is rapidly encroaching on these lands that we are now traversing.

Keep shouting it out!

The force of public opinion has never been more important; critically so!

As you all know this world of blogging: authors; followers; readers, is a great number of wonderful communities right across the planet. It is nothing like the traditional media, now owned and controlled by just a handful of large corporations, because the vast majority of blogging participants are free to say what they want, when they want.

Here’s an example.

Martin Lack is an Englishman who is the author of the blog Lack of Environment. As his home page quietly states:

Although scientificly trained (with degrees in Geology and Hydrogeology – see my About page), this blog arises from my having also got an MA in Environmental Politics and, as such, as the tagline indicates, is a blog on “the politics and psychology underlying the denial of all our environmental problems”… I hope you will take this on board; and enjoy the discussion.

“There is something fundamentally wrong in treating the Earth as if it were a business in liquidation” – Herman E. Daly (former World Bank economist).

The science about the chemistry of climate change especially the new danger of methane is clear. The commitment of our political leaders is less clear. But that doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t keep shouting out loud.

As Martin Lack did recently.

ooOOoo

Open Letter to David Cameron

29 March 2016

The Rt. Hon. David Cameron MP

The Prime Minister
10 Downing Street
London, SW1A 2AA

Dear Prime Minister,

Whatever happened to the greenest government ever?

Given my experience of working in environmental consultancy or regulation, I understand the importance of making pragmatic, risk-based decisions (as opposed to dogmatic, opinion-based ones).  I therefore believe that government policy should be formulated this way.  Unfortunately, however, this does not always seem to be the case.

As a pragmatic scientist, I am not ideologically opposed to nuclear power.  However, I do question the logic of pursuing ‘Hinkley Point C’ when equivalent investment in distributed renewable technologies – from domestic solar PV to submarine tidal stream – could probably generate more electricity faster.  Indeed, as Greenpeace has recently pointed out, the UK could meet nearly all its electricity generation needs from renewable energy sources by 2030.[1]

With regard to risk, the scientific consensus is that, in order to minimise anthropogenic climate disruption (ACD), the World must now embark upon the fastest-possible transition to a zero carbon economy.  Therefore, I also question the logic of simultaneously promoting investment in shale gas; discouraging investment in renewables; and cancelling investment in Carbon Capture and Storage research.

It is now over 50 years since scientists started warning of the climatic implications of continuing to burn fossil fuels;[2] and 50 years since fossil fuel company executives started spending huge sums of money on being “Merchants of Doubt”.[3]  As such, along with their counterparts in the tobacco industry, they have clearly not acted in the long-term interest of humanity as a whole.

However, as with the individual health benefit of ceasing to smoke tobacco, the sooner we stop burning fossil fuels the greater the collective environmental benefit will be. Therefore, I am pragmatically opposed to shale gas exploration because burning it is not consistent with the need to transition away from fossil fuels as fast as possible.

I am certain that you would like to secure an enduring political legacy; and would therefore like to ask just one question:

What could be better than being remembered as the Prime Minister that committed the UK to meeting nearly all its electricity generation needs from renewable energy sources by 2030?

Yours sincerely,

Martin C. Lack

————
[1] See: http://www.greenpeace.org.uk/blog/climate/uk-can-be-almost-entirely-powered-renewable-energy-2030-new-study-shows-20150921.

[2] Nuccitelli, D. (2015), ‘Scientists warned the US president about global warming 50 years ago today’, Guardian newspaper, 5 November 2015: London.

[3] Oreskes, N. & Conway E. (2010), Merchants of Doubt,  New York: Bloomsbury. See: http://www.merchantsofdoubt.org/

ooOOoo

Let me finish today’s post by republishing an exchange between Patrice Ayme and Martin over on a recent PA essay, that I republished in full in this place: Runaway Antarctica.

Martin:

I know I am wasting my time writing letters to David Cameron; and I know my opinions are irrelevant. However, the facts of history are not; nor will they be in the future.

Patrice:

I know you are doing the right thing. Writing to Cameron is entirely correct. But of course, he is a guy with just a salary and a few “savings”, a few tens of millions dollars of savings, maybe, or maybe not, and knew nothing about his recently deceased father having a fund of around 50 million dollars sheltered by shell companies, out there, somewhere related to Panama, or the British Virgin Islands, or the Bahamas, or Bermuda, whatever…

OK, David’s wife, officially, has a fund of more than twenty million pounds….

Martin:

For the record: I am socially-conservative (i.e. as opposed to liberal) but under no illusion as to the folly of what has been called ‘money fetishism’ (Karl Marx); and ‘growthmania’ (Herman E. Daly).

Patrice:

Hi Martin, thanks for the comment. I spent a whole hour reading the hard cover version of the paper the electronic version of which I criticized above. It’s quite a bit different. They use RCPs (Reasonable Carbon Projections, or the like in meaning). Yet, they don’t explain what they consist of exactly. All I know is that we are around 500 ppmv, and they work with 400 ppmv, in the 130 K-115 K years BP, when orbital conditions were cooler than now.

Plus we are going to be at 550 ppmv within ten years, at the present rate. The earliest date they have for the failure of Larsen C in their worst RCP 8.5 is 2055 CE. I would be surprised if it did not fail within ten years.

However, the paper version is more insistent on the danger of AIR warming, not just subsurface.

Also the Hansen paper has a scenario, which is suitably apocalyptic, but not apocalyptic enough in my book. Temperatures over the Arctic were strikingly high this winter, of the order of 4 to 5 degrees Centigrade higher than normal, and sometimes more. Nobody expected this sort of jumps. Except for yours truly!😉

Martin:

Thanks for the explanation, Patrice. This is all very reminiscent of the position of (Arizona) Professor Guy McPherson, who believes most scientists are in denial about the consequences of multiple positive feedback mechanisms we can already see operating:
http://lackofenvironment.wordpress.com/2013/02/19/what-on-earth-are-we-doing/

You all have a wonderful weekend and keep hugging those dogs of yours!

Runaway Antarctica

Do you hear the turnstile about to click!

Not so long ago I wrote a series of three posts under the titles of Interconnections One, Interconnections Two and, yes you guessed it 😉 , Interconnections Three. They were about the consequences of rising sea levels.

Now one might argue that this has nothing whatsoever to do with Learning from Dogs but I would disagree. For as I declare in The Vision of this blog:

It seems to me that a Vision statement should encapsulate just why the owners of the enterprise are committed to that venture.  The author of Learning from Dogs is committed to this project; here is the Vision.

Our children require a world that understands the importance of faith, integrity and honesty

Learning from Dogs will serve as a reminder of the values of life and the power of unconditional love – as so many, many dogs prove each and every day

Constantly trying to get to the truth …

The power of greater self-awareness and faith; faith that the only way forward for us is through the truth …

For in a very real and devastating way even a small rise in global sea level is going to cause tens of thousands of dogs, and their loving owners, to become homeless. We are long overdue a commitment from our global leaders and power-brokers to that, “.. faith, integrity and honesty.”

However, championing that greater self-awareness is what blogger Patrice Ayme does almost all of the time. With his kind permission, I republish his latest post on the state of the Antarctic Ice.

ooOOoo

Runaway Antarctica

I have written for years that a runaway Antarctica was certain, with half the icy continent melting rather spectacularly on an horizon of two centuries at most, and probably much less than that. This rested on the fact that half of Antarctica rests on nothing but bedrock at the bottom of the sea. At the bottom of what should naturally be the sea, in the present circumstances of significant greenhouse gas concentrations.

Visualize this: until sometimes in the Nineteenth Century, GreenHouse Gas (GHG) concentration was 280 ppm (280 parts per million), including the man-made sort. Now we are close to 500 ppm, using a variety of exotic gases we produce industrially, among them, CO2. In CO2 alone we are at:  Week beginning on March 20, 2016: 405.62 ppm. Weekly value from 1 year ago: 401.43 ppm. Weekly value from 10 years ago: 382.76 ppm. So the CO2 alone is augmenting at a bit more than 1% a year. Thus we will be at an equivalent of 550 ppm in ten years (including the full panoply of all the other man-made greenhouse gases, not just CO2). There is evidence that, with just 400 ppm, disaster is guaranteed.

Now visualize this:

antarctica-truth-revealed-nyt-2016-450
How Antarctica would appear if its ice melted: it’s half under the sea.

Why so watery? Because the enormous glaciers, up to nearly 5,000 meter thick, press down on the continent with their enormous weight. Since the end of the last glaciation, 10,000 years ago, Scandinavia has been rising, and is still rising (I long used a picture with a similar information about Antarctica’s bedrock.)

A paper published on line in Nature on March 30, 2016, that is, two days ago, “Contribution of Antarctica to past and future sea-level rise” opines that:

Polar temperatures over the last several million years have, at times, been slightly warmer than today, yet global mean sea level has been 6–9 metres higher as recently as the Last Interglacial (130,000 to 115,000 years ago) and possibly higher during the Pliocene epoch (about three million years ago). In both cases the Antarctic ice sheet has been implicated as the primary contributor, hinting at its future vulnerability. Here we use a model coupling ice sheet and climate dynamics—including previously underappreciated processes linking atmospheric warming with hydrofracturing of buttressing ice shelves and structural collapse of marine-terminating ice cliffs—that is calibrated against Pliocene and Last Interglacial sea-level estimates and applied to future greenhouse gas emission scenarios. Antarctica has the potential to contribute more than a metre of sea-level rise by 2100 and more than 15 metres by 2500, if emissions continue unabated. In this case atmospheric warming will soon become the dominant driver of ice loss, but prolonged ocean warming will delay its recovery for thousands of years.

Notice that the scenario evoked in the last sentence is different from my  very old scenario, which is similar to the one advanced in November 2015 by the famous Hansen and Al. (I raised the alarm before Hansen, at least seven years ago). In my scenario, and Hansen’s the ice sheets melt from below, due to warm sea water intrusion.

The West Antarctic Ice Sheet is larger than Mexico.

Here is a taste of the paper (I have a Nature subscription):

“Reconstructions of the global mean sea level (GMSL) during past warm climate intervals including the Pliocene (about three million years ago)1 and late Pleistocene interglacials2, 3, 4, 5 imply that the Antarctic ice sheet has considerable sensitivity. Pliocene atmospheric CO2 concentrations were comparable to today’s (~400 parts per million by volume, p.p.m.v.)6, but some sea-level reconstructions are 10–30 m higher1, 7. In addition to the loss of the Greenland Ice Sheet and the West Antarctic Ice Sheet (WAIS)2, these high sea levels require the partial retreat of the East Antarctic Ice Sheet (EAIS), which is further supported by sedimentary evidence from the Antarctic margin8. During the more recent Last Interglacial (LIG, 130,000 to 115,000 years ago), GMSL was 6–9.3 m higher than it is today2, 3, 4, at a time when atmospheric CO2 concentrations were below 280 p.p.m.v. (ref. 9) and global mean temperatures were only about 0–2 °C warmer10. This requires a substantial sea-level contribution from Antarctica of 3.6–7.4 m in addition to an estimated 1.5–2 m from Greenland11, 12 and around 0.4 m from ocean steric effects10.”

So notice: when CO2 ppm per volume was at 280 130,000 to 115,000 years ago, sea level was up to ten meter higher than now. And now we are at 500 ppmv…

And notice again: When CO2 ppmv was at 400, sea level was up to 30 meters (100 feet) higher than today. And now we are at 500 ppm, and, in a blink, in ten years, at 550 ppm.

Here is another example from the paper. I said all of this before, but to have scientists paid to do research in this area write it black on white in the world’s most prestigious scientific magazine, will no doubt endow me with greater, and much desired, gravitas. So let me indulge, not so much for my greater glory, but because it should help taking what I have long said more seriously.

“Much of the WAIS sits on bedrock hundreds to thousands of metres below sea level (Fig. 1a)13. Today, extensive floating ice shelves in the Ross and Weddell Seas, and smaller ice shelves and ice tongues in the Amundsen and Bellingshausen seas (Fig. 1b) provide buttressing that impedes the seaward flow of ice and stabilizes marine grounding zones (Fig. 2a). Despite their thickness (typically about 1 km near the grounding line to a few hundred metres at the calving front), a warming ocean has the potential to quickly erode ice shelves from below, at rates exceeding 10 m yr−1 °C−1 (ref. 14). Ice-shelf thinning and reduced backstress enhance seaward ice flow, grounding-zone thinning, and retreat (Fig. 2b). Because the flux of ice across the grounding line increases strongly as a function of its thickness15, initial retreat onto a reverse-sloping bed (where the bed deepens and the ice thickens upstream) can trigger a runaway Marine Ice Sheet Instability (MISI; Fig. 2c)15, 16, 17. Many WAIS grounding zones sit precariously on the edge of such reverse-sloped beds, but the EAIS also contains deep subglacial basins with reverse-sloping, marine-terminating outlet troughs up to 1,500 m deep (Fig. 1). The ice above floatation in these East Antarctic basins is much thicker than in West Antarctica, with the potential to raise GMSL by around 20 m if the ice in those basins is lost13. Importantly, previous ice-sheet simulations accounting for migrating grounding lines and MISI dynamics have shown the potential for repeated WAIS retreats and readvances over the past few million years18, but could only account for GMSL rises of about 1 m during the LIG and 7 m in the warm Pliocene, which are substantially smaller than geological estimates.”

I said it before. Including the details. So the evidence was clear, and out there. The optimism (it will take 5 centuries for 50 feet of sea level rise) is not supported by evidence. Actually collapsing channels coming from inverted rivers running up on the bellies of ice sheets are now obvious on satellite pictures and collapse of major ice shelves is going to be a matter of years, not centuries.

But science is made by tribes and these tribes honor the gods (of plutocracy) who finance them, and their whims. So they don’t want to make their sponsors feel bad. So they say unsupported, optimistic stuff, contradicted by a first order analysis.

Science is good, metascience, better. Metascience includes the sociological reasons which explain why some scientists will take some “facts” for obvious (although, coming from another sociology, they are not).

Deep in the Nature paper, in the quote above, or in four drawings and graphs of future sea level rise, one can find projections according to what various models “predict”… 130,000 years ago (!) The “Old Physics” model predicts one meter rise of the sea (this is the official UN maximal prediction for 2100). The new model, again starting with the present conditions, predict more than a six meter rise (!) This is a case of metascience playing with sea level.

This way, the authors of the paper will be able to say, one day: we told you so. While at the same time not irritating their sponsors now (because to understand what they are really saying takes quite a while, and has to be understood as tongue in cheek, when they pretend to apply the analysis to 130,000 years ago… What they really mean is six meters now, not just one meter… Bye bye Wall Street. Punished by its own instruments…)

The question is not whether we will be able to avoid a twenty meter sea level rise: that’s, unbelievably, a given (barring unforeseeable, yet imaginable technological advances to extract quickly a lot of CO2 from the atmosphere). The question is whether we will avoid a 60 meter rise.

Patrice Ayme’

ooOOoo

Let me add a footnote.

Namely, that on Yves Smith’s Naked Capitalism blog on Saturday was an item under the heading of A Wake-Up Call on Climate Change and Clean Energy.

By Eric Beinhocker, Executive Director, INET Oxford. Originally published at the Institute for New Economic Thinking website

A stark warning from Institute researchers on the probability that ‘2°C capital stock’ will be reached in 2017

A new study from the Institute for New Economic Thinking at the Oxford Martin School and the Smith School for Enterprise and Environment, University of Oxford, shows that we are uncomfortably close to the point where the world’s energy system commits the planet to exceeding 2°C.

In the paper, to be published in the peer-reviewed journal Applied Energy, the authors calculate the Two degree capital stock – the global stock of electricity infrastructure from which future emissions have a 50% probability of staying within 2°C of warming. The researchers estimate that the world will reach Two degree capital stock next year, in 2017.

Read the full item here.

It’s enough to make us all feel angry and hopeless. That would be understandable but wrong.

Go and read my Inconnections Three for within that post is this:

Want to fight climate change? Here are the 7 critical life changes you should make.

For the sake of millions of us and our wonderful pets stay with it and demand change from our politicians and leaders in every way that you can.

Mature, healthy trees.

Continuing the metaphor that our trees offer us.

In yesterday’s post I offered up the idea that:

The analogy with planting trees is very apt. For any clown can plant the tree but parenting that young tree into a mature forty-foot high beauty takes professional management.

That post had been inspired by a recent essay over at Patrice Ayme’s Thoughts regarding the observation by Andy Grove, the founder of Intel, that promoting start-ups without the commensurate focus on growing those start-ups into viable commercial concerns was strategically and politically incorrect. Back to that essay for a further extract:

However, American-based manufacturing is not on the agenda of Silicon Valley or the political agenda of the United States. Venture capitalists actually told me it was obsolete (before stepping in their private jets). That omission, according to Mr. Grove, is a result of anotherunquestioned truism”: “that the free market is the best of all economic systems — the freer the better.” To Mr. Grove, or Mr. Trump, or yours truly, that belief is flawed.

Andy Grove: “Scaling used to work well in Silicon Valley. Entrepreneurs came up with an invention. Investors gave them money to build their business. If the founders and their investors were lucky, the company grew and had an initial public offering, which brought in money that financed further growth.” 

The triumph of free-market principles over planned economies in the 20th century, Mr. Grove said, did not make those principles infallible or immutable. There was room for improvement, he argued, for what he called “job-centric” economics and politics. In a job-centric system, job creation would be the nation’s No. 1 objective, with the government setting priorities and arraying the forces necessary to achieve the goal, and with businesses operating not only in their immediate profit interest but also in the interests of “employees, and employees yet to be hired.”

As even the New York Times now admits, the situation has degenerated since 2010. Although the employment rate halved, in a slave state, everybody is employed. But neither the economy, nor the society, let alone progress and civilization are doing better.

“Insecure, low-paying, part-time and dead-end jobs are prevalent. On the campaign trail, large groups of Americans are motivated and manipulated on the basis of real and perceived social and economic inequities.

Conditions have worsened in other ways. In 2010, one of the arguments against Mr. Grove’s critique was that exporting jobs did not matter as long as much of the corporate profits stayed in the United States. But just as American companies have bolstered their profits by exporting jobs, many now do so by shifting profits overseas through tax-avoidance maneuvers.

The result is a high-profit, low-prosperity nation. “All of us in business,” Mr. Grove wrote, “have a responsibility to maintain the industrial base on which we depend and the society whose adaptability — and stability — we may have taken for granted.” Silicon Valley and much of corporate America have yet to live up to that principle.”

If we return to that analogy of the tree, think how long and how much attention must be put into the conditions that will promote not only sustained growth of that young tree but growth to the point where it can propogate its own saplings.

As it is for young companies. The skills that company managers require to nurture that company to the point of self-sustaining maturity are many and varied. But they are underpinned by the need to be truthful and trustworthy, to be devoted to the employees of the company and to instill in all who work, and finance, that company to “love the customer”. Not just those customers that are the big spenders but also, and especially so, the many, many smaller clients that can make or break a company’s reputation.

So with that in mind let’s take a peek at USA LLC and UK Ltd.

Here are the closing paragraphs from Patrice’s essay:

Our corruption is not just an economic and social problem, a political problem, and a civilizational problem, as it was under Aristotle.  It is a problem for the entire planet.

We empowered a demagogue“, laments Mr. Kristof. His true calling, and that of the Main Stream Media, was to empower plutocrats, and their obsequious servants. How sad they are.

Patrice Ayme’

Then there is Richard Murphy in the UK who writes the blog Tax Research UK. In a recent post, entitled The Party Political Problem he opened, thus:

I like being outside the fray of party politics. I wasn’t born with a sufficient capacity for compromise to believe that any political party has all the answers to all questions. And yet, equally, I can admire those who can make the sacrifice to take part in this process. It is, for better or worse, at the heart of democratic politics.

That demands that it be done well. This requirement is predicated on three things. The first is a willingness to pretend you have the answer to all things. The second is a leadership that knows this is not true and which as a result respects its opponents. The third is an acute appreciation of the fact that compromise in pursuit of a higher goal, whilst saving face, is the ultimate political aim: nothing really happens without the accommodation of others.

He then closes his post:

Passion, dogma and steadfastness, come what may, are not what makes party politics.

Conviction based on wisdom, understanding and compassion does.

But these qualities remain in far too short supply, even if they’re not quite out of stock, yet.

And that’s the party political problem.

Many people both ‘sides of the pond’ would nod heads in agreement with that.

My final peek is into an essay that was recently published by the quarterly journal The Baffler. The essay was from David Graeber under the heading of Despair Fatigue. Opening:

Is it possible to become bored with hopelessness?

There is reason to believe something like that is beginning to happen in Great Britain. Call it despair fatigue.

For nearly half a century, British culture, particularly on the left, has made an art out of despair. This is the land where “No Future for You” became the motto of a generation, and then another generation, and then another. From the crumbling of its empire, to the crumbling of its industrial cities, to the current crumbling of its welfare state, the country seemed to be exploring every possible permutation of despair: despair as rage, despair as resignation, despair as humor, despair as pride or secret pleasure. It’s almost as if it’s finally run out.

and closing, thus:

Twenty-first century problems are likely to be entirely different: How, in a world of potentially skyrocketing productivity and decreasing demand for labor, will it be possible to maintain equitable distribution without at the same time destroying the earth? Might the United Kingdom become a pioneer for such a new economic dispensation? The new Labour leadership is making the initial moves: calling for new economic models (“socialism with an iPad”) and seeking potential allies in high-tech industry. If we really are moving toward a future of decentralized, small, high-tech, robotized production, it’s quite possible that the United Kingdom’s peculiar traditions of small-scale enterprise and amateur science—which never made it particularly amenable to the giant bureaucratized conglomerates that did so well in the United States and Germany, in either their capitalist or socialist manifestations—might prove unusually apt. It’s all a colossal gamble. But then, that’s what historical change is like.

In other words, it’s this!

One of the age-old maxims from professional company managers is:

It’s always a case of putting people before profits!

Putting people before profits should be in the front of the minds of all our leaders and masters; both sides of the ‘pond’.

Or in tree language investing in this:

Clown work! (This is a Red Maple, by the way!)
An American Red Maple sapling.

to achieve this:

A mature American Red Maple tree.
A mature American Red Maple tree.

Come on good people, we really do need healthy, mature trees in our 21st C. societies.

Interconnections One.

The beat of a butterfly’s wings.

From Wikipedia:

The Butterfly Effect is a concept that small causes can have large effects. Initially, it was used with weather prediction but later the term became a metaphor used in and out of science.[1]

In chaos theory, the butterfly effect is the sensitive dependence on initial conditions in which a small change in one state of a deterministic nonlinear system can result in large differences in a later state. The name, coined by Edward Lorenz for the effect which had been known long before, is derived from the metaphorical example of the details of a hurricane (exact time of formation, exact path taken) being influenced by minor perturbations such as the flapping of the wings of a distant butterfly several weeks earlier. Lorenz discovered the effect when he observed that runs of his weather model with initial condition data that was rounded in a seemingly inconsequential manner would fail to reproduce the results of runs with the unrounded initial condition data. A very small change in initial conditions had created a significantly different outcome.

We all live in an interconnected world. Frankly, it’s such an obvious statement that one presumes that very few would not agree with the sentiment expressed within it.

But (and you knew there was a ‘but’ coming, didn’t you!) very few of us (and I include Jean and me to a very great extent) really understand, “A very small change in initial conditions had created a significantly different outcome.”

Take these few items; more or less randomly read over the last few days.

Such as this post over on Patrice Ayme’s blog.

Biblical Flood Starting Anew

Abstract: update on Sea Level Rise. The meat of the essay is at the end, in the section “THE SITUATION IS ACTUALLY CATACLYSMIC“.

Heard of The Flood? As in the Bible? Sea level rose 120 meters (400 feet), in the period centered around 10,000 years ago. The cause? More than half of Earth’s ice melted in a few millennia,  During the rest of the early Holocene, the rate of rise of the world’s ocean reached peaks as high as 60  millimeters (2.5 inches) per year. The melting of the ice happened because Earth’s positional and orbital parameters had made northern hemisphere’s summers too warm (most of the ice shields rested on the large continents of the north). Nowadays only two enormous ice shields are left: Greenland and Antarctica.

Those who enjoy catastrophes will love it: we have 75 meters of further sea rise to enjoy pretty soon, on our way to a Jurassic climate (the Jurassic was characterized by gigantic warm shallow seas on top of the continents). Here was the situation in the Miocene, when CO2 was at 500 ppm (where we will be at in ten years, see conclusion below).

Patrice said that the essence, the meat, of his essay was at the end. Here are his closing words:

Three scientific papers published in the last two months support my, admittedly drastic, point of view. One observed the collapse of a colossal glacier in northwest Greenland, eaten by a current at one degree C. It was a miniature reproduction of what to expect for entire ice shields. Two others observed the past, and that Antarctica was unstable at 500 ppm CO2. What they did not say is how dramatic the situation was. Indeed, sounding moderate is how they get funded by a benevolent, plutocratically ruled government (and by government, I also mean the corrupt Supreme Court, not just the latest elected buffoons). The scientists who evoked the 500 ppm of CO2 omitted two significant details, where the devil lurks. They claimed that it would take 30 years to get there. That’s not correct; at the present rate, we will add 100 ppm of CO2 within 25 years. But not just that: there are other man-made GreenHouse Gases (GHG): CH4, NOx, Fluorocarbons, etc. All these gases warm up the lower atmosphere much more than CO2. So the correct measurement is not CO2 ppm, but CO2 EQUIVALENT ppm.

We are right now ABOVE 450 ppm in EQUIVALENT CO2, and will be at 500 ppm within ten years. Let’s hope there will be more boats than on the Titanic.

Patrice Ayme’

P/S: If anything, the preceding is a conservative estimate. Indeed very serious scientists evaluated already the man-made greenhouse gases at 478 ppm in 2013. This means we will be above 500 ppm in CO2 equivalent within six years, in line with my previous analyses, such as “Ten Years To Catastrophe“. See:

http://oceans.mit.edu/news/featured-stories/5-questions-mits-ron-prinn-400-ppm-threshold

Now it’s not all ‘doom and gloom’ and there is much that each and every one of us can do. More of that in Interconnections Three on Thursday.

But to continue with this ‘wake up call’ I’m going to republish in full an item that was recently published over on Mother Nature Network: 11 alarming facts about sea-level rise. To stop today’s post being excessively long, I’m going to split that MNN article over today and tomorrow. Here are the first 5 alarming facts. (Don’t read them just before turning the light out when going to bed tonight!)

ooOOoo

11 alarming facts about sea-level rise

Russell McLendon,  February 26, 2016.
 Up to 216 million people currently live on land that will be below sea level or regular flood levels by 2100. (Photo: Shutterstock)
Up to 216 million people currently live on land that will be below sea level or regular flood levels by 2100. (Photo: Shutterstock)

The ocean is coming for us. Global sea levels are now rising by 3.4 millimeters per year, up from an average rate of 1.4 mm per year last century. In just 80 years, the ocean could be a full 1.3 meters (4.3 feet) taller than it is today.

That kind of planetary sea change can be hard to fathom — unless you live in a low-lying place like Miami, the Maldives or the Marshall Islands, where the effects of sea-level rise are already apparent. But within just a few decades, the problem will become unavoidable in major coastal cities around the world, from New Orleans, New York and Amsterdam to Calcutta, Bangkok and Tokyo.

We all know why this is happening. Rising seas are one of the most salient effects of man-made climate change, triggered by thermal expansion of seawater as well as the influx of melting glaciers. Yet many people still see it as a distant risk, failing to grasp how (relatively) quickly the sea is swallowing shores worldwide. And since half of all humans now live within 60 kilometers (37 miles) of a coast, this isn’t a niche issue.

To help put things in perspective, here’s a deeper look at the problem:

1. Global sea levels have already risen by 8 inches (200 mm) since 1880.

sea-level-rise-1880-2014

The chart above was produced by NASA’s Earth Observatory, based on data from the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and Australia’s Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization (CSIRO). Most of those historical data come from tide-gauge measurements, which are now complemented by satellite observations.

2. Not only are sea levels rising; the rate of their rise is rising.

Average global sea-level rise is now 3.41 mm per year, but the rate varies widely by location. (Image: NASA GSFC)
Average global sea-level rise is now 3.41 mm per year, but the rate varies widely by location. (Image: NASA GSFC)

On average, sea levels rose by 1.4 mm from 1900 to 2000. The yearly pace had surpassed 3 mm by 2010, and now it’s up to 3.4 mm per year.

3. That’s the fastest sea-level rise Earth has experienced in 3,000 years.

Cb5MxZ4WIAAAW06If not for surging carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, sea levels should have only risen about an inch or two last century, and might have even fallen. Instead, thanks to the highest CO2 levels at any point in human history, global sea levels rose by 5.5 inches (14 cm) between 1900 and 2000. That’s the fastest oceanic advance in 27 centuries, according to a study published Feb. 22, and it’s still speeding up.

“The 20th century rise was extraordinary in the context of the last three millennia — and the rise over the last two decades has been even faster,” says lead author Robert Kopp, a climate scientist at Rutgers University, in a statement.

“Scenarios of future rise depend upon our understanding of the response of sea level to climate changes,” adds co-author Benjamin Horton. “Accurate estimates of sea-level variability during the past 3,000 years provide a context for such projections.”

4. Every vertical inch of sea-level rise moves the ocean 50 to 100 inches inland.

Miami coastal flooding
Rising seas worsen regular flooding — like this 2015 high tide in Miami Beach — for many coastal cities. Miami is in the midst of a five-year, $400 million effort to upgrade its stormwater pump program. (Photo: Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

5. That’s already causing flood problems in many big coastal cities.

CLICK HERE TO SEE THE EFFECT ON BIG COASTAL CITIES

As the ocean invades coastal cities, the first signs of trouble are often urban saltwater floods. These can also happen naturally, though, so to determine the influence of rising seas, a new report by Climate Central models “alternative histories simulating the absence of anthropogenic climate change” at 27 U.S. tide gauges.

Out of 8,726 days since 1950 when unaltered water levels exceeded the National Weather Service thresholds for local “nuisance” floods, 5,809 didn’t exceed those thresholds in the alternative histories. “In other words,” the report explains, “human-caused global sea level rise effectively tipped the balance, pushing high-water events over the threshold, for about two-thirds of the observed flood days.”

Coastal flooding days have more than doubled in the U.S. since the 1980s, according to the report, in places ranging from Miami, Virginia Beach and New York to San Francisco, Seattle and Honolulu. According to a 2014 report, at least 180 floods will strike Annapolis, Maryland, during high tides every year by 2030 — sometimes twice a day. The same will be true for about a dozen other U.S. cities by 2045, not to mention many other low-lying urban areas around the world.

ooOOoo

To be continued tomorrow.