Portents of the unthinkable 

According to the Fermi Paradox the failure to date to achieve radio communication between Earth and extraterrestrial civilizations can be attributed to their short longevity due to inevitable self-destruction. Tragically Homo “sapiens” may not constitute an exception.

The most extensive catastrophe in the history of Earth―the end-Permian- mass extinction 251 million years-ago, triggering atmospheric and marine warming, ocean acidification, toxic H2S and CH4 emanations and anoxia, has led to a loss of some 57% of biological families, 83% of genera and 81% of marine species.

Casualties of the current Anthropocene mass extinction may reach a similar order of magnitude.

With a looming nuclear war on a rapidly heating greenhouse planet the collective insanity of an innovative yet unwise biped mammal, led by a money-dominated ideology implemented by cabals of corporations, billionaires and their mouthpieces, is tracking toward an extinction on a scale analogous to those of the end-Permian or the end-Cretaceous events, including a destruction of its own civilization, taking a multitude of species down with it.

Trying to survive on scorched and flooded terrains, or drowsing in front of celebrity-populated fluorescent TV and computer screens in suburbia international, the residents of planet Earth are perpetually bombarded by advertising, trivial and parochial disinformation and infotainment, while most of the media, practicing double standards, diverts attention from the progressively degraded biosphere.

As stated by Chomsky: “The smart way to keep people passive and obedient is to strictly limit the spectrum of acceptable opinion, but allow very lively debate within that spectrum….

Betrayal is everywhere. Contrary to the late 20th century disarmament agreements are nowhere to be seen, instead the power-to-be decided to user force. False promises made before elections are routinely broken. $Trillions continue to be spent on the construction of ever deadlier weapons of mass destruction, war games, space games by the rich, gambling and entertainment, while nature is poisoned by hydrocarbons, greenhouse gases, acid water, insecticides, micro-plastics and radioactive waste. In a winner-takes-all world the term “defence” has been converted from the protection of life to the killing of manufactured “enemies”.g/2022/03/what-

If the history of the 21st century is ever written it would be reported that, while large parts of the planet were becoming uninhabitable, the extreme rate and scale of global warming, migration of climate zones (>100 km per decade), extent of polar ice melt, sea level rise, ocean warming, acidification and methane release from permafrost threatened to develop into one of the extreme mass extinction events in the geological history of Earth.

As concentrations of atmospheric greenhouse gases exceeded 500 ppm CO2-equivalents (Figure 1a), rising at a rate an order of magnitude faster than in earlier geological hyper-thermal events, was rising higher than 4oC above pre-industrial temperatures (Figure 1b), threatening to exceed the rise rates of the great mass extinctions.

fig1 1

fig1a

 

Figure 1. (A) The rise in CO2 since 1700, from 280 ppm to near 500 ppm total equivalent CO22; (B) Earth system moves to a new state (after W. Steffen).

Climate scientists have been ignored, or silenced or replaced by an army of economists and politicians, ignorant of the physics and chemistry of the atmosphere, but quantifying the cost-benefit economies of mitigation much like corner shop grocers. Climate science ceased to be a factor in formulation of climate policies by governments. Proposed mitigation action mostly focused on proposed reduction of emissions, neglecting amplifying feedbacks and tipping points projected by leading climate scientists such as James Hansen.

But climate change was not the only threat hanging over the head of humanity and nature. In the words of J. Robert Oppenheimer, the chief scientist of the “Manhattan Project” The physicists have known sin

As the proliferation of nuclear weapons, with the probability of a nuclear war has increased, while atmospheric scientists indicated that even a ‘limited’ nuclear exchange involving cities threatens to saturated the atmosphere with aerosols, leading to a ‘nuclear winter’.

nuclear bomb test

Figure 3. The Castle Bravo 15 Megatons thermonuclear bomb test, Bikini Atoll, Marshall Islands, 1 March, 1954.

At the root of the MAD (mutual assured destruction) policy is omnicide, springing out from a murderous tribalism and herd mentality of the species and hinging on race, religion, ideology, territorial claims and the concept of an “enemy” perpetrated by demagogues and warmongers, leading to an Orwellian 1984 world where “Oceania has always been at war with East-Asia”, as in the current “forever wars“. Prior to World Wars I and II national forces and ideologies collided, capitalism, fascism and socialism. Now the competition is purely about dominance. At the core of superpower conflict between the Anglo-Saxon world and the Slavic or Chinese worlds are false premises of moral superiority, but in reality naked grabs for power.

But in the core of human conscience is its mythological nature, a mindset springing from the mastery of fire where, for longer than one million years, members of Homo erectus, perched at campfire, watching the flickering flames, developed insights, imagination, a fear of death leading to dreams of omniscience and omnipotence, aspiring for eternal life.

In the Neolithic the fear of death has driven humans to construct pyramids in order to enshrine immortality, undertake human sacrifice and ultimately fight nature to appease the gods, becoming the most barbarous species ever existed. As expressed by Albert Einstein: “The splitting of the atom has changed everything bar man’s way of thinking and thus we drift into unparalleled catastrophes

A/Prof Andrew Glikson, Earth and paleoclimate scientist [email protected]

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