Posted by: Dr Pano Kroko Churchill | July 5, 2012


Common sense is the collection of prejudices acquired by the age of eighteen. ~ Albert Einstein

Common Sense does not want us to change because CHANGE is painful. Yet the only path to adaptation ss the flexibility of the species towards change. And this is what Charles Darwin said, when he spoke that it is not the strongest, nor the prettiest, nor the most intelligent but rather the one who is easier to change that survives. Fittest is the one most flexible to change. And that is the species fit to survive. The one that changes easily…

Yet our other “old friend” Common Sense tells us that unless our pants are on fire… we are not gonna change. Even though, experience says, that when your pants are on fire, it might be too late to change, let alone douse the fire out. It’s hard to save yourself when on fire — especially if you have no water handy. Statistics say, that more than ninety five percent of self immolators perish… Just try to find survivors amongst those Tibetan monks who set themselves on fire to protest Chinese rule over Tibet and you’ll see the veracity of this claim.

And as such, Common Sense tends to edge us closer to the end. Pushing each day closer to going over the edge. Inch by inch, by focusing all of our activity, our resources and all of our energy in a tribal lemmings style dance over the precipice in the erroneous belief on doing the same old thing in times of crisis hoping to overcome the tempest by persistence. Over and over again hoping the end result will be somehow different this time. And it teaches us that by focusing on maintaining a business as usual attitude, we’ll sort out the problems and the Status Quo will maintain order and prosperity. Yet this fallacy is blinding us to the systemic threat of Collapse. Crises are times of Change and opportunity to adapt. Crises are to be taken advantage of in order to shape our future. Thus we don’t want to see Collapse, descending upon us because of our profligate ways and our unwillingness to adapt to the GREAT SHIFT happening just now, and change. Same like the Amerindians who couldn’t see the ships of Columbus anchored offshore because they didn’t compute this strange vision… and thus were unprepared for the invasion of the Europeans — and eventually they all more or less perished along with the Collapse of their civilization. The few to survive to day, are in rather diminished circumstances as specimens of an old era living amongst us as ghost walkers, as Chief Seattle once observed of the future.

So whether you see it or not, and whether you agree with the findings or not — this type of slow, creeping, and insipid, Collapse is upon us. Some call it “drift” and some call it a “crash” yet its all the same. Collapse of our Civilization due to environmental and climate impacts originating from our unsustainable and illogical growth and unchecked exploitation of resources and ecosystems.

And I don’t mean the end of the world type of collapse or the sky is falling in, or even Economic Collapse here — but something rather more important in the scale of Magnitude and a creeping insipid drift towards systems failure — type of collapse.

I speak of Earth Systems Collapse. Wholesale Collapse which we shall now term “The Collapse”

COLLAPSE as in Jared Diamond’s synonymous book. A collapse of our civilization because of our unsustainable living — with the continuation of Life in a vastly altered form. That type of collapse is what am speaking of…

And I speak of Collapse only because we’re pushing the Earth over the brink with each and every action we perform. Let’s not look at the big industry and business for a moment and just look at ourselves in the mirror. Because we are pushing forward this collapse with our own free will choices. Through our very middle class consumer determinism. With every car driving trip to work and back. With every market transaction we perform. With our weekly shop in the supermarket. With our heating and cooling of our adobe and our work space. With our airline travel to distant vacation & holiday spots on the other side of the world. With our economic and financial choices of savings and investment. And we are responsible – seemingly with every breath we take – because we are inching a step closer to COLLAPSE.

And am not just saying this because I want to spoil your lunch, or because we want to scare anybody, or rally the troops after the Rio+20 disaster, or to sound alarmist for you to wear a hair shirt…

Nor am I saying this because of the new and latest Environmental study you need to read…

Am saying this because we need to CHNAGE> And only because, I’ve seen the evidence for this with my own eyes. And if yesterday’s discovery of the Higgs Boson makes the Standard Theory of Particle Physics more complete, this study makes Environmental Science rather more disciplined and complete. It puts things in a timescale of urgency like never before.

If only we could communicate our findings about the Environment, the same way CERN does, and their celebrations reverbate across the Earth. Except that there is nothng to celebrate here but simply sobering and eye watering dismal results. Still we need to communicate this if we are to alter course and change the outcomes, or simply learn form the plants, and fast track adaptation and survive in a limited and altered fashion.

And in this way, this study in NATURE, corroborates our findings and the Environmental Parliament’s Science Community Consensus, because it shows you clearly, “the how” we are doing it. How we are bringing on the Collapse onto ourselves…

And I validated the results of this NATURE study independently. Because I use Complexity Theory and Systems Analysis in my day to day Finance life, and that allows me to build a “tree” and use it in the Environmental Life, in order to gaze into the Future, like nobody else can. And I’ve seen things that I hoped never to have to see…

And because of this I vouch that this new scientific paper in the journal Nature called “Approaching a state shift in Earth’s biosphere” is the real deal as a clarion call and a bell of WARNING clear as FIRE in a packed theatre house.

This warning alone — in a sane world — would be front page news. But our Common Sense does not allow us to believe the cry of the sobering science, because we’ve heard it far too many times before by all comers. Yet never before like this. Still our Common Sense has shut us down to stimulus from this type of efficgies in order to protect our current well being, sparring nary a thought about the future…

And it might also be, because this is an abstract type warning about the future, coming from scientists, nerds that never do well in the communications game.

Still it is a case specific warning coming from our very own Ecosystems and spelling immediate threat of COLLAPSE.  Because our localized ecosystems — the ones we depend upon for our Breath, for our Food, and Energy, and basically for our Lives — are under massive threat of imminent and sudden Collapse.

And this is not about Entropy alone and Complexity. Nor about higher Physics either. Its about the freaking FACT that our local ecological systems are known to shift abruptly and irreversibly from one state to another. And they do this, when they are forced across critical thresholds and then go on to collapse suddenly.

And in this post, we review the evidence of the global ecosystem as a whole reacting in the same way, and thus approaching a planetary-scale critical transition as a result of human influence. In other words, COLLAPSE is imminent upon us.

As examples of past global state shifts, the authors in the paper just published in the scientific journal Nature, cite the following:
1) The Cambrian explosion — “a conversion of the global ecosystem from one based almost solely on microbes to one based on complex, multicellular life,” which took a comparatively brief 30 million years.
2) The Big Five mass extinctions.
3) The last glacial-interglacial transition, which started about 14 thousand years ago.
The difference of all of the above with today is that human beings are generating “forcings” [= influences on biophysical systems] of unprecedented power at an unprecedented rate. These “forcings” include “human population growth with attendant resource consumption, habitat transformation and fragmentation, energy production and consumption, and climate change.” The authors emphasize that all these “forcings” far exceed – in both rate and magnitude – the forcings evident at the most recent global-scale state shift, the last glacial-interglacial transition.Human activity now dominates half of Earth’s land surface and affects twice that area. One-third of all available fresh water is diverted to human use. A full 20 percent of Earth’s net terrestrial primary production, the sheer volume of life produced on land every year, is harvested for human purposes. Extinction rates compare to those recorded during the demise of dinosaurs and average temperatures will likely be higher in 2070 than at any point in human evolution.Humanity’s footprint now covers all of the Earth. We are shaping the biosphere in our image. And the image isn’t benign but more like a cancer cell…We’ve warmed up our Atmosphere by more than three degrees Celsius and growing… and the land mass, the oceans and the extremes of the Earth will warm up significantly more.We put more Greenhouse gas emissions in our Atmosphere that ever before in History and we are accelerating the Carbon up there, by crossing the threshold of 400 ppmv of CO2 and with nary a sign of a slow down…The Global Shift has already been under way with our Civilization collapsing and the New has not been born yet, and the Old isn’t dead yet either…At this juncture we are bifurcating and trying to understand the Future this shift entails. Because Collapse does not mean “The End” same as in the Easter island, there are still people living today… And that might very well be the end result of this shift. A systemic collapse to where the level and the numbers of human beings remainng on this Earth will be minimal and certainly sustainable.So, what would such a global state shift entail in minute detail?
 So, what would such a global state shift entail in minute detail?Although, there’s no way to know for sure, given the number of systems interacting in unpredictable ways, we can learn from both history and complexity theory. Systems analysts and Complexity scientists say that there is no way how this will come out, but every little action by every person at every moment affects the outcome and in that sense YOU HAVE A ROLE TO PLAY.This is not a determinist system but a system in structural crisis and Your Free Will affects the outcome of this battle. Infinity theory further enforces that you are THE ACTOR of this outcome from this Earth shift…Still on the nitty gritty: Of the timescale most relevant to biological forecasting today, biotic effects observed in the shift from the last glacial to the present interglacial included many extinctions; drastic changes in species distributions, abundances and diversity; and the emergence of novel communities. New patterns of gene flow triggered new evolutionary trajectories, but the time since then has not been long enough for evolution to compensate for extinctions.

At a minimum, these kinds of effects would be expected from a global-scale state shift forced by present drivers, not only in human-dominated regions but also in remote regions not now heavily occupied by humans; indeed, such changes are already under way.

Given that it takes hundreds of thousands to millions of years for evolution to build diversity back up to pre-crash levels after major extinction episodes, increased rates of extinction are of particular concern, especially because global and regional diversity today is generally lower than it was 20,000 years ago as a result of the last planetary state shift. … Possible too are substantial losses of ecosystem services required to sustain the human population. … Although the ultimate effects of changing biodiversity and species compositions are still unknown, if critical thresholds of diminishing returns in ecosystem services were reached over large areas and at the same time global demands increased  …  widespread social unrest, economic instability, civilization collapse and massive loss of human life would surely result.

Yet now we don’t have the time to adapt because change in this shift happens so fast. FASTER THAN EVER BEFORE…

How close are we to such a global state shift?

Just to give you a hint: Other species of Life are doing their best to adapt to the changing Climate and the warmer atmosphere and planet. Case in point the flaura of Australia. This massive continent island has seen it’s vegetatin gradually shrinking as the place desertifies fast. In response all plants are producing smaller leaves and retreating into their core habitats or migrating towards the scarce water.

 “Australian plant species may have the potential to respond to, and cope with, increasing temperatures,”  according to a major study from the University of Adelaide. The change in leaf size could be an evolutionary adaptation to climate change, says Guerin, the chief biological botanist from Adelaide University.

Although this might be good news for some species, Guerin points out that adaptation is unlikely to help the most vulnerable species. “Other species have less potential to adapt. These species may rely more heavily on tracking favourable climate through migration but this can be problematic in a landscape fragmented by human activity.

And the fragile adaptation mechanism extends to the human family. Because most of us aren’t going to adapt successfully. One way to conceptualize this, is to visualize the percentage of the Earth’s terrestrial ecosystems that have seen local state shifts and how species there, have failed to adapt:Nature: Earth approaches a state shiftThe IMPORTANT QUESTION to ask is this:What percentage of local systems have to see state shifts before a tipping point is reached and the Earth as a whole enters a state shift? It’s impossible to say for sure, say the authors, but “landscape-scale studies and theory suggest that the critical threshold may lie between 50 and 60% although it could be even lower owing to synergies between emergent global forcings.”

Depending how you are tracking this, we’ve either surpassed the tipping point of 50% or we’re on track to hit 50 percent in about 10-15 years. Then we certainly enter the danger zone, facing an uncertain but looming shift into global conditions never witnessed by human civilization. (This reinforces the conclusions of a seminal 2009 study in Nature on our proximity to “planetary boundaries.”) And the semantic relationship of Quantum observation between the observer and the observed  system isn’t helping us here either…

Humans have already changed the biosphere substantially, so much so that some argue for recognizing the time in which we live as a new geologic epoch, the Anthropocene. Comparison of the present extent of planetary change with that characterizing past global-scale state shifts, and the enormous global forcings we continue to exert, suggests that another global-scale state shift is highly plausible within decades to centuries, if it has not already been initiated. As a result, the biological resources we take for granted at present may be subject to rapid and unpredictable transformations within a few human generations. Human activity now dominates more than 50 percent of Earth’s land surface and affects twice that area. One-third of all available fresh water is diverted to human use. A full 20 percent of Earth’s net terrestrial primary production, the sheer volume of life produced on land every year, is harvested for human purposes. Extinction rates compare to those recorded during the demise of dinosaurs and average temperatures will likely be higher in 2070 than at any point in human evolution.

Humanity’s footprint now covers the Earth. We are shaping the biosphere in our image, and it resembles an organism attempting to resist a Cancer and it’s unchecked, exponential biological growth patterns.

We don’t know how to cure cancers in our bodies, let alone on the planetary scale. We have no precedent for that. We have no idea if we could survive it, much less thrive and prosper through wiping out most all the other species on Earth. My bet s that we’ll be killing ourselves.
Here’s what the authors of this groundbreaking new Environmental study published in Nature — recommend: “Anticipating biological surprises on global as well as local scales, has become especially crucial to guiding the future of the global ecosystem and human societies. Guidance will require not only scientific work that foretells, and ideally helps to avoid, negative effects of critical transitions, but also society’s willingness to incorporate expectations of biological instability into strategies for maintaining human well-being.That dry phrase, “incorporate expectations of biological instability into strategies for maintaining human well-being,” implies a transformation in how humans think, plan, and behave that is hard to get your head around. Humans have been living as if biophysical resources are infinite for so long that we have only the faintest clue what it might look like to do otherwise.The time in which we can safely make such a transition, however, is running out.”



Because these are not normal times and as our old friend Albert used to say, leaving it all up to Common Sense isn’t gonna help, because we are not likely to solve the problems of today with yesterdays’ thinking — that created these problems in the first place.

In other words, following our Common Sense and doing nothing — means we are screwed.

And leaving it all up to Governments masquerading their illogical drift, as Common Sense isn’t prudent policy either.

Only getting together, huddling and creating the Ultimate Plan to combat this, makes sense.

Let us then get together and vet this plan.

Because only the Environmental Parliament has a real plan…

and we need to listen.

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