Nature’s Dangerous Decline ‘Unprecedented’ Species Extinction Rates ‘Accelerating’

Nature is declining globally at rates unprecedented in human history — and the rate of species extinctions is accelerating, with grave impacts on people around the world now likely, warns a landmark new report from the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES), the summary of which was approved at the 7th session of the IPBES Plenary, meeting last week (29 April – 4 May) in Paris.

“The overwhelming evidence of the IPBES Global Assessment, from a wide range of different fields of knowledge, presents an ominous picture,” said IPBES Chair, Sir Robert Watson. “The health of ecosystems on which we and all other species depend is deteriorating more rapidly than ever. We are eroding the very foundations of our economies, livelihoods, food security, health and quality of life worldwide.”

What I’ve learned making a film about Orthodoxy and climate change

“The whole earth is the living icon of the Face of God.” ~ St John of Damascus

For nine months now, I’ve been making a film about the Orthodox Church and climate change. I have seventy hours of interviews with hierarchs, clergy, monks, lay leaders, and scientists in the can so far, and I have hundreds of hours of beautiful, impactful, and current footage of landscapes, churches, wildlife, and of areas ~ read more ~

Interview with American poet Scott Cairns about poetry, poetics, art, and climate change

"...That's the disposition that I hear in patristic texts opening, opening, not shutting it down to some dead meaning. I have witnessed that in poetry during my younger life. Becoming Orthodox just shortly before I turned 40, realizing that there was a reason I hungered for that because that's actually the truest thing about language and the truest thing about our relationship to revelation through language. The world is inexpressible and what one learns to do is to hear everything as a provisional, albeit necessary involvement, of understanding. It doesn't eclipse what's going to be revealed next. And that's the exciting aspect of Orthodox Liturgy and even the vision of the world. Trust, honor it, love it for what it is and wait for it to open up. Examine your relationship with this world as also potentially one of opening..."

The Face of God Film

Through beautiful shots of the natural world, church architecture and iconography; through glimpses into our services, which offer creation back to the Creator as “thine own of thine own”; through interviews with church leaders and meditations on the lives and teachings of the saints, this film will humbly attempt to show viewers that God is alive in His creation. It will call the faithful to action — not to one kind of political activism or ideology, but to prayer and reflection on how to preserve the fragile beauty around us, on which our lives depend.

DEEP ADAPTATION: A Map for Navigating Climate Tragedy

The purpose of this conceptual paper is to provide readers with an opportunity to reassess their work and life in the face of an inevitable near- term social collapse due to climate change. The approach of the paper is to analyse recent studies on climate change and its implications for our ecosystems, economies and societies, as provided by academic journals and publications direct from research institutes. That synthesis leads to a conclusion there will be a near-term collapse in society with serious ramifications for the lives of readers. The paper reviews some of the reasons why collapse-denial may exist, in particular, in the professions of sustainability research and practice, therefore leading to these arguments having been absent from these fields until now. The paper offers a new meta-framing of the implications for research, organisational practice, personal development and public policy, called the Deep Adaptation Agenda. Its key aspects of resilience, relinquishment and restorations are explained. This agenda does not seek to build on existing scholarship on “climate adaptation” as it is premised on the view that social collapse is now inevitable. The author believes this is one of the first papers in the sustainability management field to conclude that climate-induced societal collapse is now inevitable in the near term and therefore to invite scholars to explore the implications.

Green Attica Symposium – Introduction

I have arrived now in Athens, and I preparing for a week-long symposium convened by His All Holiness, Patriarch Bartholemew, on climate change and refugees. HAH has convened 150 people from all over the world for this symposium – including Bill McKibbon (of 350.org), some clergy, many leading scientists and politicians, and a number of leading business people. We have received endorsements and video messages of support from Jane Goodall, among others. Our work will be to travel with HAH to a number of Greek islands in the morning to tour the refugee camps forming there and then, in the evening, to hold meetings, discussions, and listen to presentations and lectures. Our goal is to find initiatives which can be developed international which will both address the problems exacerbated by climate change – in this case refugees and population displacement.

Over the course of the next five days I will be posting here the events, pictures, and findings of this historic symposium. I want to document as closely as possible what happens here, as this is already considered a historic event.

A full list of participants can be found here: greenatticasymposium.org, as well as our schedule and lecture list. I hope you find these report ages front the front lines interesting, and I welcome discussion which arises from them.

We are all staying at the magnificent Divani Carevel hotel in central Athens, with views of the Acropolis and the city. Some of us have been invited tomorrow to begin the symposium by meeting at Mars rock – the famous place of the muses and of course Paul’s preaching – where we will each provide a short reflection on what we think should be one area of climate change that should receive special attention and for which we are asked to provide a possible solution.

Stay tuned!

World Day of Prayer for Creation – September 1st

‘The World is Charged with the grandeur of God… the Holy Ghost over the bent/ World broods with warm breast and with ah! Bright wings.’ These are the first and last lines from a poem by Gerard Manley Hopkins. They contain, I think, an exact summary of Orthodox Church teaching about creation and perhaps a good approach to climate change. We hold that everything, from atoms to galaxies, is created by, reveals, is filled with and ‘charged’ with the ‘grandeur’ and glory of the ~ read more ~

An Ecologist’s Guide to Writing Obituaries

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about what it means to be a young ecologist in the Anthropocene—how my job will be different from ecologists who came before. Perhaps my generation will be defined by our capacity to handle death and dying.

In 2004, I submitted an application that was to be my first step toward being a fourth-generation funeral director. My college sophomore self presented an audacious vision for applying sustainability sciences in an effort to “green” the toxic practices employed by most Catholic-serving funeral homes, including my family’s in Newark, New Jersey. The application statement was inspiring but, admittedly, sloppily compiled. Understandably, the business-mentoring-for-liberal-arts scholars program declined my submission. Then, in that very same week, a very different door opened: Dr. Janet Mann, renowned biologist and dolphin behaviorist, emailed to offer me a semester-long undergraduate position in her lab. The familiar gave way to the exciting, exotic unfamiliar.

If you were an elephant …

That will be too much for most. Indeed, it’s a mistake to assume that in order to have a mind one has to have a mind that is like human minds. So let’s just say that, according to the evidence, it’s not obviously ridiculous to invite you, the human, to imagine yourself as an elephant. There’s some biological justification for what sounds like a whimsical, sentimental literary device. You and the elephant both have minds, wrought from the same stuff. And your minds engage with the world using the same devices. Your neurological hardware differs only in sensitivity: sodium and potassium surge in the same way through the same molecular gates when you and the elephant step on a nail; the same ancient hormones mediate pleasure, anger and stress. “If you prick us,” ask the elephants (using a chromatic orchestra of sounds, and well over 100 distinct body movements), “do we not bleed?” Indeed they do.

We can be cautiously Beatrix-Pottery with elephants. When the temporal glands near their eyes stream in circumstances that, for us, would be emotional, they’re crying. When a bereaved elephant mother carries her dead baby round on her tusks, or trails miserably behind the herd for weeks, her head hanging down, she’s grieving. When other elephants sit for hours around the body of a dead elephant, they’re mourning. When they cover an elephant corpse with soil or vegetation, or move elephant bones, they’re being reverential. When they cover a dead human, or build a protective wall of sticks around a wounded human, they’re showing an empathic acknowledgment of our shared destiny that we’d do well to learn. These, dear reductionists, are, as you would put it, the most parsimonious hypotheses.

DEMOCRATIC PUBLISHING [BETA]: A Manifesto

Full disclosure first: I am an ebook developer. I run a small company that makes ebooks and book trailers. We also do a lot of consulting for publishers and organizations, helping them build custom digital publishing systems. We are still learning, struggling, and trying to do things right. I love what we do. I love the people I work with and the clients we work for. The ebook developer community is full of people who are professionals trying to make the most beautiful and innovative ebooks possible given the restraints, obfuscations, variability, and voodoo-code of the device world we make them for. I don’t think I’ve ever seen an industry display more professionalism than this one. Ebook makers basically rock. However, I am also an author (An Altar in the Wilderness), an Eastern Orthodox priest, and single full-time dad of three kids. Additionally, I am a lecturer on spiritual ecology, the climate and the environment, and a backcountry enthusiast. It’s important for me to disclose this outright because I am speaking from all these frames in what follows.

All that said, I have a simple proposition to make.

I think that we must stop making ebooks for devices - now. Not later, and certainly not at some indefinite future point. Instead, I think we should channel all our energy, hard work, and collective intelligence into solving, developing, and standardizing the Portable Web Publishing model. I believe we should do this for the following three reasons, in order of importance. I can think of more, but these three will do for now.

An Orthodox Christian Response in Support of the Indigenous and non-Indigenous Water Protectors in Standing Rock, North Dakota, and their Principles

In as much as the assembly of Indigenous Nations in Standing Rock, North Dakota, in union with those that have gathered to support them, are calling for the protection of our valuable and God-bearing water and earth, and in as much as they do so as Protectors in prayer for the whole world, Orthodox Christians like me will stand in solidarity with their efforts and lend our prayers to their own.

Andrew Sullivan: My Distraction Sickness — and Yours

Since the invention of the printing press, every new revolution in information technology has prompted apocalyptic fears. From the panic that easy access to the vernacular English Bible would destroy Christian orthodoxy all the way to the revulsion, in the 1950s, at the barbaric young medium of television, cultural critics have moaned and wailed at every turn. Each shift represented a further fracturing of attention — continuing up to the previously unimaginable kaleidoscope of cable TV in the late-20th century and the now infinite, infinitely multiplying spaces of the web. And yet society has always managed to adapt and adjust, without obvious damage, and with some more-than-obvious progress. So it’s perhaps too easy to view this new era of mass distraction as something newly dystopian.

But it sure does represent a huge leap from even the very recent past. The data bewilder. Every single minute on the planet, YouTube users upload 400 hours of video and Tinder users swipe profiles over a million times. Each day, there are literally billions of Facebook “likes.” Online outlets now publish exponentially more material than they once did, churning out articles at a rapid-fire pace, adding new details to the news every few minutes. Blogs, Facebook feeds, Tumblr accounts, tweets, and propaganda outlets repurpose, borrow, and add topspin to the same output.

“IT ALL TURNS ON AFFECTION”

The Pond by Jenny Hainsworth Auld

“I mean, not economics, but economy, the making of the human household upon the earth … This is the economy that the most public and influential economists never talk about, the economy that is the primary vocation and responsibility of every one of us.
“Even so, land and people have suffered together, as invariably they must. Under the rule of industrial economics, the land, our country, has been pillaged for the enrichment, supposedly, of those humans who have claimed the right to own or exploit it without limit. Of the land-community much has been consumed, much has been wasted, almost nothing has flourished.
But this has not been inevitable. We do not have to live as if we are alone.”

Noam Chomsky on The Costs of Violence – Part 2

Banksy Graffiti Art On West Bank Barrier

In brief, the Global War on Terror sledgehammer strategy has spread jihadi terror from a tiny corner of Afghanistan to much of the world, from Africa through the Levant and South Asia to Southeast Asia. It has also incited attacks in Europe and the United States. The invasion of Iraq made a substantial contribution to this process, much as intelligence agencies had predicted. Terrorism specialists Peter Bergen and Paul Cruickshank estimate that the Iraq War “generated a stunning sevenfold increase in the yearly rate of fatal jihadist attacks, amounting to literally hundreds of additional terrorist attacks and thousands of civilian lives lost; even when terrorism in Iraq and Afghanistan is excluded, fatal attacks in the rest of the world have increased by more than one-third.” Other exercises have been similarly productive.

Noam Chomsky on the masters of mankind (Part 1)

René Burri’s original photo from São Paulo in 1960. Credit René Burri/Magnum Photos

When we ask “Who rules the world?” we commonly adopt the standard convention that the actors in world affairs are states, primarily the great powers, and we consider their decisions and the relations among them. That is not wrong. But we would do well to keep in mind that this level of abstraction can also be highly misleading.

States of course have complex internal structures, and the choices and decisions of the political leadership are heavily influenced by internal concentrations of power, while the general population is often marginalized. That is true even for the more democratic societies, and obviously for others. We cannot gain a realistic understanding of who rules the world while ignoring the “masters of mankind,” as Adam Smith called them: in his day, the merchants and manufacturers of England; in ours, multinational conglomerates, huge financial institutions, retail empires, and the like. Still following Smith, it is also wise to attend to the “vile maxim” to which the “masters of mankind” are dedicated: “All for ourselves and nothing for other people” -- a doctrine known otherwise as bitter and incessant class war, often one-sided, much to the detriment of the people of the home country and the world.

In the contemporary global order, the institutions of the masters hold enormous power, not only in the international arena but also within their home states, on which they rely to protect their power and to provide economic support by a wide variety of means. When we consider the role of the masters of mankind, we turn to such state policy priorities of the moment as the Trans-Pacific Partnership, one of the investor-rights agreements mislabeled “free-trade agreements” in propaganda and commentary. They are negotiated in secret, apart from the hundreds of corporate lawyers and lobbyists writing the crucial details. The intention is to have them adopted in good Stalinist style with “fast track” procedures designed to block discussion and allow only the choice of yes or no (hence yes). The designers regularly do quite well, not surprisingly. People are incidental, with the consequences one might anticipate.

AS OF May 2016: Climate Change in Pacific

Sea-level rise, erosion and coastal flooding are some of the greatest challenges facing humanity from climate change.

Recently at least five reef islands in the remote Solomon Islands have been lost completely to sea-level rise and coastal erosion, and a further six islands have been severely eroded.

These islands lost to the sea range in size from one to five hectares. They supported dense tropical vegetation that was at least 300 years old. Nuatambu Island, home to 25 families, has lost more than half of its habitable area, with 11 houses washed into the sea since 2011.

This is the first scientific evidence, published in Environmental Research Letters, that confirms the numerous anecdotal accounts from across the Pacific of the dramatic impacts of climate change on coastlines and people.

When I Dream of a Planet in Recovery…

When I Dream of a Planet in Recovery…

But in those humans and non-humans who survive, there is another feeling, emerging from below and beyond and around and through this sorrow. In the time after, those still alive begin to feel something almost none have felt before, something that everyone felt long, long ago. What those who come in the time after feel is a sense of realistic optimism, a sense that things will turn out all right, a sense that life, which so desperately wants to continue, will endure, will thrive.

XII. Letter Eleven: Friendship

Letter Eleven on Friendship

In the same way, since, for each member of the Church, the friend of a brother must be the friend of a brother, but only the friend of this partic­ular brother, not the friend of everyone, there must necessarily be a force that orders and maintains the individuality of the union of friends. To­gether with a uniting force that takes one outside individual existence, there must be an isolating force, which sets a limit to diffuseness and in personality. Together with a centrifugal force, there must be a centripetal one, This force is jealousy, and its function is to isolate, separate, delimit, differentiate. If this force did not exist, there would be no concrete church life with its specific order. Instead, we would have protestant, anarchistic, communistic, Tolstoyan, etc. mixing of all with all. We would have total formlessness and chaos. The force of jealousy is alive in both friendship and marriage, in an eparchy as well as in a local parish or a monastery. It is alive everywhere. 8 Everywhere it is necessary to have definiteness of connections and constancy of unions, be it with a friend, a wife, a starets, a pastor, a bishop, a metropolitan, or a patriarch. In other words, everywhere there must be not only love but also jealousy. There must be jeal­ousy toward friend, wife, congregation, brothers, eparchy, or local church. We must now get a deeper insight into this concept, which is so important but usually so little explored.

The Beetles: Eighty-Nine Million Acres of Abrupt Climate Change

The Beetles: Eighty-Nine Million Acres of Abrupt Climate Change

During the peak of the attack, all across western North America there were so many pine beetles that they began attacking other species like fir and spruce. The total of 89 million acres of mortality, at a conservative 80 trees per acre, amounts to 7 billion red conifers. And all this is due to only 0.74 degrees Celsius of warming by 2014, on average across the globe.
Young trees are sprouting up in the oldest kills because the young are very vigorous. But their ecosystem has changed. These forests are no longer located in the climate where they evolved. In our current and exponentially warming climate, young lodgepole in these impacted forests will inevitably succumb to beetles, disease or fire before they mature. What remains will be ecosystem chaos.
We are undergoing the beginning of a grand reordering of ecological systems. This is more than simply a harbinger of things to come. An extinction bomb has gone off and it will not stop going off until we stabilize our climate.

Gravitational Waves Exist: The Inside Story of How Scientists Finally Found Them

How we discovered gravitational waves

Just over a billion years ago, many millions of galaxies from here, a pair of black holes collided. They had been circling each other for aeons, in a sort of mating dance, gathering pace with each orbit, hurtling closer and closer. By the time they were a few hundred miles apart, they were whipping around at nearly the speed of light, releasing great shudders of gravitational energy. Space and time became distorted, like water at a rolling boil. In the fraction of a second that it took for the black holes to finally merge, they radiated a hundred times more energy than all the stars in the universe combined. They formed a new black hole, sixty-two times as heavy as our sun and almost as wide across as the state of Maine. As it smoothed itself out, assuming the shape of a slightly flattened sphere, a few last quivers of energy escaped. Then space and time became silent again.

IN THE LIGHT OF HOME

Those eloquent Welsh folks have a word for something we vagabond Americans can’t seem to name: hiraeth. It means something like homesickness for a home you cannot return to, or even a home that never existed at all; an intense longing for one’s motherland; a grief-tinged nostalgia for the lost places in the world where one’s heart once fit.

Zika and the New Climate Dystopia — Human Hothouse as Disease Multiplier

There are a plethora of diseases out there. Diseases we don’t know about. Diseases locked away in far-off, rarefied corners of the world. Diseases that operate in small niche jungle environments. Diseases that live in only cave systems or within a single species. Diseases that were locked away millions of years ago in the now-thawing ice. Diseases that, if given a vector — or a means to travel outside of their little rarefied organic or environmental niches — can wreak untold harm across wide spans of the globe.

Dark Ecology

Dark Ecology by Paul Kingsnorth

By Paul Kingsnorth

These are the things that make sense to me right now, when I think about what is coming and what I can do, still, with some joy and determination. If you don’t feel despair, in times like these, you are not fully alive. But there has to be something beyond despair too; or rather, something that accompanies it, like a companion on the road. This is my approach, right now. It is, I suppose, the development of a personal philosophy for a dark time; a dark ecology. None of it is going to save the world – but then there is no saving the world, and the ones who say there is are the ones you need to save it from.

An Altar in the Wilderness – Book Trailer

Kaleeg Hainsworth, drawing upon his experiences in the Canadian wilderness, grounds his book in the literary, philosophical, mystical and historical teachings of the spiritual masters of both East and West, outlining the human experience of the sacred in nature. He offers a vision of life in which a human being stands in the world of nature as at an altar built in the wilderness, a sacred offering in a holy place.

The Ecology of Language

By Abbie Simmonds

Robert Macfarlane recently reminded us of how many words we are losing in the UK on a daily basis and the danger that poses to the future of our countryside: ‘[We are in] an age when a junior dictionary finds room for “broadband” but has no place for “bluebell'”. What will happen when children can no longer name Oak or Beech, Sparrow or Robin? Will they wish to protect an area of nameless land inhabited by nameless creatures?

To take away a person’s name is to ‘de-humanise’, making it easier to avoid any sort of messy emotional attachment and opening the ‘thing’ up to exploitation, abuse or extermination. If we are losing the lexicon of the natural world, is it any wonder that rainforests full of trees, insects and animals are being destroyed by CEOs of foreign companies who have reduced the entire, living ecosystem of the Amazon to a ‘commodity’?