I hate "downer" stories like these; they're depressing. But they keep stacking up in my browser tabs, and I feel it's my duty to (a) release tabs so others can use them, and (b) at least tell you this stuff is going on. After all, it is a news blog.
In a nutshell, I've seen a steady run of stories like those below that just can't be ignored — unless the google releases more cool new glasses like these; then death can wait.
■ First up, we have an MIT study updating a controversial 1972 academic report called The Limits to Growth. That study looked at various outcomes of human population growth and resource consumption. The Smithsonian magazine reports on the updated study as presented to the think tank, Club of Rome:
Recent [MIT] research supports the conclusions of a controversial environmental study released 40 years ago: The world is on track for disaster. So says Australian physicist Graham Turner, who revisited perhaps the most groundbreaking academic work of the 1970s, The Limits to Growth.No highlighting from me; facts like these can just go highlight themselves. The key chart is here, by the way.
Written by MIT researchers for an international think tank, the Club of Rome, the study used computers to model several possible future scenarios. The business-as-usual scenario estimated that if human beings continued to consume more than nature was capable of providing, global economic collapse and precipitous population decline could occur by 2030. ...
Turner compared real-world data from 1970 to 2000 with the business-as-usual scenario. He found the predictions nearly matched the facts.
Of course, the Smithsonian offers this disclaimer:
However, the study also noted that unlimited economic growth was possible, if governments forged policies and invested in technologies to regulate the expansion of humanity’s ecological footprint. Prominent economists disagreed with the report’s methodology and conclusions. Yale’s Henry Wallich opposed active intervention, declaring that limiting economic growth too soon would be “consigning billions to permanent poverty.”Which is a happy-face rewrite of this, from the Club of Rome website:
Most scenarios resulted in an ongoing growth of population and of the economy until to a turning point around 2030. Only drastic measures for environmental protection proved to be suitable to change this systems behaviour, and only under these circumstances, scenarios could be calculated in which both world population and wealth could remain at a constant level. However, so far the necessary political measures were not taken.See? It's either a near-certain disaster or a wonderful global opportunity (maybe even a floor wax). As Stan Freberg once put it:
Christopher Columbus (to natives he encountered): Which reminds me, I want to take a few of you guys back on the boat with me to prove I discovered you."Is all how you look at it." Levity. I'm trying, folks. (Steve Hynd alerted me to this one; you can thank him here.)
Native: What you mean, you discover us? We discover you.
Columbus: You discovered us?
Native: Certainly. We discover you on beach here. Is all how you look at it.
■ And from New Scientist, this "climate" news (called global warming news in the real world):
Arctic sea ice may have passed crucial tipping pointYes, it's one study, and there are yes-buts throughout. But still, what do you do with a story like that? How, as a news/opinion writer, do you handle it?
The disappearance of Arctic sea ice has crossed a "tipping point" that could soon make ice-free summers a regular feature across most of the Arctic Ocean, says a British climate scientist who is setting up an early warning system for dangerous climate tipping points.
Tim Lenton at the University of Exeter has carried out a day-by-day assessment of Arctic ice-cover data collected since satellite observation began in 1979. He presented his hotly anticipated findings for the first time at the Planet Under Pressure conference in London on Monday.
Up until 2007, sea ice systematically fluctuated between extensive cover in winter and lower cover in summer. But since then, says Lenton, the difference between winter and summer ice cover has been a million square kilometres greater than it was before, as a result of unprecedented summer melting. These observations are in contrast to what models predict should have happened.
I could even add this, from Scientific American (my paragraphing):
The world is close to reaching tipping points that will make it irreversibly hotter, making this decade critical in efforts to contain global warming, scientists warned on Monday.If you put these stories together — the population story and the global warming story — you get a happy toxic mash-up of "Oh my god" and "What'dya gonna do?"
Scientific estimates differ but the world's temperature looks set to rise by six degrees Celsius by 2100 if greenhouse gas emissions are allowed to rise uncontrollably. As emissions grow, scientists say the world is close to reaching thresholds beyond which the effects on the global climate will be irreversible...
As a writer, I'm boggled. (And yes, those really are cool glasses, even though the google is very likely part of the State. What'dya gonna do?)
(To follow on Twitter or to send links: @Gaius_Publius)