What a week for climate change. A blizzard of new studies and reports. Let's start in the Middle East – you know, that place where we dig up more oil than anywhere else in the world. Ironically, much of it will soon be uninhabitable by humans.
A new study shows that countries that border the Persian Gulf will soon be experiencing a heat index of up to 170°F – too hot and humid for even the strongest of humans to be able to survive outdoors for more than a few hours at a time. As Climate News Network explains it: Read more
It's an El Niño year, and so despite the fact that we're in a long term drought here in the Southwest, it's been a rainy summer. Photographer David Rankin chases flash floods in Southern Utah, and captured this one on August 30th as it came down a normally dry wash and emptied into Lake Powell at the entrance to the Grand Canyon.
Well, everything seems to be back to normal on Wall Street after a rocky start to the week. So what happened? Are we OK?
We're certainly back to "normal" if your idea of normal is mass delusion. For a couple of days we got a brief glimpse of what's really happening to the global economy, and then everyone went back to fantasyland. So yes, we're "O.K." – until it happens again. Which it will.
Here's what's going on to the best of my understanding:
Remember the 2004 movie The Day After Tomorrow, where fresh water from melting polar ice pours into the North Atlantic, pushing down the warm salt water and causing ocean currents there to stop flowing, thus initiating a global catastrophe?
Lots of people laughed at the premise. But if James Hansen and 16 other top climate scientists are correct, we may indeed be seeing the first signs of a complete shutdown to the circulation of the world's oceans.
I'm as horrified as anyone else at the terrorist attack that left nine people dead at a historic South Carolina church. And I'm disgusted by the culture that so clearly influenced the murderer.
It's not that this isn't important. But right now we have a bigger problem. Much bigger. Bigger than anything we can even imagine. And every week the news media and the political establishment manage to grab our attention with the latest terrorist attack or mass murder, or sports scandal – anything to divert our attention from the catastrophe that's gradually engulfing us.
This week, we learned that our fellow animals are going extinct at a rate that's up to 114 times faster than if we humans were not impacting their lives and their homes.
"We can confidently conclude," the authors of this new study write, "that modern extinction rates are exceptionally high, that they are increasing, and that they suggest a mass extinction under way."
Those who say that the Pope shouldn't get involved in the issue of what's happening to Planet Earth and all its inhabitants are either very stupid or very afraid. Or, in the case of the political establishment, both.
They have good reason to be afraid. Francis's encyclical, Laudato Si, is much more than a commentary on climate change; it's a sweeping indictment of the entire global capitalist system that's wrecking the planet.
Not that the Pope is a Marxist, as some of his critics like to label him. Far from it. The whole miserable Soviet system that promised a "paradise" to the working people of the world collapsed of its own dead weight in the early 1990s, leaving the field to its great competitor. But 25 years later, one can only conclude that globalized capitalism is no paradise either. It's turned out to be every bit as much a monster, leaving us in the early stages of an unfolding catastrophe.
"Mother Earth," the letter begins, "burdened and laid waste, is among the most abandoned and maltreated of our poor; she 'groans in travail' (Romans 8:22).
"We have forgotten that we ourselves are dust of the earth; our very bodies are made up of her elements, we breathe her air and we receive life and refreshment from her waters."
The road to a planned development that's been scrapped because the water table is drying up and creating sinkholes.
Here in the beautiful red rock country of Southern Utah, we’re running out of water. The water table is being sucked so dry that the ground is collapsing in some parts, and a section of Interstate 15 is now in danger of rupturing into a sinkhole.
The sinkhole is developing a few miles north of St George, a once-small, sleepy town that could get most of the water it needed from the Virgin River as it flowed out of nearby Zion National Park.
But 10 years ago, St George became the second fastest-growing metropolitan area in the country, and it's now expected to quadruple in population over the next 40 years.
As usual when it comes to the topic of drought, there’s a giant elephant in the room that almost no one wants to talk about. In California, the elephant is a cow and the unmentionable subject is animal agriculture.
While everyone's talking about cutting personal use of water by 25 percent and that almonds cost three gallons of water per nut, what we're not being told is that a single quarter-pound hamburger costs 660 gallons of water.
Or that a single gallon of milk costs 1,000 gallons of water.
In this second part of our interview with Andrew Harvey, he talks about how you can discover your own true mission and about what can happen when you bring deep spiritual awareness together with a passionate love of justice.
"You actually create a whole new force that over time can change the most intractable situations."
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Michael Mountain: You said last time that we're in a "worldwide global genocide of animals" and you asked:
It's unusual to find someone who combines a deep, mystical love of the Divine with a stark realism about how we humans are bringing on a mass extinction of life on this planet. Andrew Harvey is one of that rare breed.
Born in India, he won a scholarship to Oxford University, where he was awarded the high honor of a fellowship to All Soul’s College. Later, he studied Hinduism, Buddhism and Sufism, which led him to translate some of the works of one of the great Sufi mystics, Rumi.
Today, he teaches what he calls Sacred Activism, a combination of spiritual discipline and practical grassroots action – particularly in relation to our fellow animals. This is the first part of our interview with him.
An eerily beautiful video, created by a NASA super-computer, showing how human-generated carbon dioxide builds up in the atmosphere in winter and retreats in summer as trees and other plants photosynthesize much of it.
Note also how plumes of carbon monoxide, shown in gray, stream from fires in Africa, Australia and South America.
While passengers arriving from West Africa at Dulles International Airport last week were having their temperatures taken, this woman was sitting on the other side of the airport, in the Departures area, wearing a homemade, head-to-toe Hazmat suit.
The woman's paranoia might be excused if she were concerned about seasonal flu, which kills up to half a million people a year. But of all the things we can be seriously worried about right now (like mass extinction), catching Ebola in the Departures area of an airport is not one of them.
In a sane world, it would be headline news. Everything else would immediately come to a screeching halt to make way for a massive, worldwide attempt to turn things around. (Of course, in a sane world, the whole thing would never have happened in the first place!)
In our insane world, however, the news from the World Wildlife Fund telling us that in the last 40 years we've killed off roughly half the world's wildlife went by largely unnoticed.
What's behind the massive floods in Phoenix and Las Vegas that caused unprecedented death and destruction this week, along with the deepening megadrought in California, the chilly summer in several Midwestern states, and all the other weird weather effects this year?
For a simple answer, look to the latest figures on greenhouse gases from the World Meteorological Organization (WMO). Last year, they went through the roof, once again, with CO2 hitting 396 parts per million, the highest annual level since we started keeping records.
No human being has ever witnessed greenhouse gases at this level. Scientists say the last time Planet Earth was like this was probably about 2 million years ago, during the Pleistocene Era.
Their reign lasted roughly 170 million years, and the latest news is that what finally did them in wasn't simply the notorious asteroid that slammed into the Yucatan 65 million years ago. According to a new study, if the asteroid had hit just a little earlier or later (a few million years either way), the dinosaurs might well still be around today.
The new Cosmos series continues to take down those who prefer to believe that the Earth is flat, that we were all created in six days, and that we're not in the middle of a human-caused climate crisis. In this clip, Neil deGrasse Tyson explains why global warming can give you a freezing winter.