While this site focuses primarily on climate change, the problem is so interwoven with the machinery of the global economy that I end up absorbing a lot of economic information as a byproduct. Lately this financial chatter has been particularly hair-raising, and as much as it pains me to be the constant alarmist, I’d be remiss if I saw danger on the horizon and didn’t warn people.
So here goes:
There’s a high likelihood we will experience a large market correction (read: crash) this year, to the tune of 50% or more. This forecast is based on a few rather grim articles that have come out recently from respected industry insiders. The first is from Chris Martenson, a biochemist and author whose work on exponential growth curves I already follow and respect for its tie-ins to climate change and the Limits to Growth. Chris’s warning is similar to the one he gave in the months preceding the crash of 2008, which turned out to be right and made him look pretty smart in the process. His article, for which this blog post is named, predicts a sizable crash in the May – September range of 2013.
I admit I’m not savvy enough to understand everything in that article…I definitely still consider myself a layperson where economic issues are concerned. But the gist of the article is that stocks are overbought/overvalued and that coupled with the world’s crushing debt, rising energy costs, and willingness to print unlimited amounts of money to paper over our systemic problems, we’re living a lie that will soon blow up in our faces.
Sure they’re beautiful in their way, and their brutal austerity holds a certain fascination for the Western observer. But mostly, deserts suck…they’re barren wastelands hostile to life. Somewhere deep in our bones we long for land that is lush and fertile, so it’s little wonder that cultures worldwide associate deserts with things like burning, death, and Hell.
No Arab loves the desert. We love water and green trees, there is nothing in the desert. No man needs nothing. — Prince Faisal, Lawrence of Arabia
Therefore, if we could find a way to transform deserts back in to fertile, productive land, we’d be doing ourselves and the planet a huge favor. Not only would it allow people to thrive in places that were previously uninhabitable, but all of the new vegetation would draw large amounts of carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere, in effect reversing climate change. Luckily, biologist Allan Savory has discovered a tremendously effective (and somewhat counterintiutive) solution to the problem: grazing large herds of livestock in ways that mimic nature.
To me, the scariest thing about climate change is that it will soon move beyond our control. That’s because as the Earth warms, we cross a “tipping points” after which climate change becomes self reinforcing. Trapped greenhouse gases will be released as the the Permafrost thaws, and then the Earth will continue to heat up no matter what humanity does.
The best estimate we have of when we’ll reach this tipping point is at the 1.5°C mark above pre-industrial levels. As we’re currently at ~1°C above pre-industrial, there’s little doubt from the climate models that we’ll cross this threshold within the next 10 years or so.
Check out this video about tipping points. It’s a quick 6 minutes and will give you an idea of the scale of what we’re talking about.
These days I tend to beat myself up for screwing around; my biggest time sinks are video games (I never did quite kick my Civilization 5 habit) and television (my beloved Boston Celtics are kind of out in the wilderness). The reason, I think, is that I’ve internalized the threat of climate change. I feel it in my guts, hanging over me, demanding a response…so naturally any leisure time I afford myself ends up feels like a betrayal.
It’s not healthy of course. We all need time to decompress and set our minds right, and often enough the best ideas and breakthroughs come when we’re doing something else entirely. Yet it’s still hard to rationalize taking the time to pilot Napoleon through the Industrial Age or scream obscenities at Lebron James when you see a hard stop to human civilization looming. Time now feels precious.
Last week I was pleased to get an advance screening of the new documentary Greedy Lying Bastards, which details the connections between American corporations and the denial of climate change science. If you’re unaware that corporate douchebags have been peddling denial in pursuit of profit, or if it’s just been too long since your last bought of uncontrollable rage, this is the movie for you!
If my effusive love of apartment living didn’t come through in the Shannon and Nick talk a few weeks ago, allow me restate it for you now. Meeting strangers from the internet, co-habitating with them and turning them in to your friends is one of my favorite things in the world. A few years after Shannon, I lived in another apartment that was similar in many ways, on Dimmick Street in Somerville. Dimmick was a great place to live, full of interesting characters and possessed of a certain spirit that I absolutely adored. This spirit is best encapsulated by the fact that roommates who moved away were still considered part of the family, and indeed most kept their keys so they could come back and visit anytime they wanted. Or perhaps that’s just how I imagined it to justify my own behavior, because after moving out I frequently snuck back in to raid the fridge and scrawl ridiculous/creepy things on the household whiteboard.
Karen was one of the core roommates at Dimmick, and therefore one of the gatekeepers whose approval I needed before I could move in. My interview, like much of life in the house, was strange and spontaneous, and when I was asked to tell an impromptu joke, I sealed the deal by telling the only joke I know. These days, Karen lives with her husband Will and their 4 year old daughter Jane. Will is a lawyer at a respected Boston firm, while Karen runs Knox Cannon, a political strategy and fundraising shop for Massachusetts Democrats.
Last month the world was captivated by eye-popping footage of the Chelyabinsk meteor as it streaked across the sky in Russia’s Ural region. Humanity was lucky that the meteor detonated high above the earth’s surface, as the explosion was 30 times more powerful than the nuclear blast at Hiroshima. Aside from injuring more than 1000 people and giving us a glimpse inside the corruption endemic to Russian society, the meteor served to remind us that we are now, as ever, at the mercy of space should it ever choose to assert itself.
Chelyabinsk also kickstarted many other stories about near-Earth asteroids, so many in fact that I’ve had trouble keeping track. So for you asteroid lovers, doomsday junkies and Russian corruption enthusiasts, here’s a quick rundown of what else is going on in the world of hot, angry space projectiles:
2012 DA14 – On the same day as the Russian meteor, in an unrelated coincidence, a larger asteroid named ‘2012 DA14’ passed by Earth. It was about 17,100 miles away at its closest.
2013ET – This weekend, an asteroid the size of a city block will pass within ~600,000 miles of the Earth (roughly 2 1/2 times the distance to the Moon). If you’ve got a telescope hanging around, have a look, it’s observable now.
Siding Spring (C/2013 A1) – Technically a comet and not an asteroid, Siding Spring has a chance of impacting Mars in October 2014. If it did, the explosive yield would be roughly one billion megatons…that’s one million billion tons of TNT. The resulting crater would be hundreds of kilometers across.
Apophis – That’s a great name for a potential world-ender…it sounds so manly and intimidating, doesn’t it? Apophis measures about 1000 feet in diameter, and would do dinosaur-level damage if it ever collided with Earth. It will give us a close shave in 2029, and it’s very unlikely (though still possible) that it could hit us when it returns in 2036. We get a third bite at the apple in 2068, at which point scientists ballpark we’ve got about a 1 in 3,000,000 chance of getting hit.
As a parting gift, here’s a video of Neil Degrasse Tyson doing an appearance on The Daily Show a few nights ago. He and other astrophysicists have been making the case for decades that Earth needs funding for asteroid defense (which would be done with tractor beams!). Might be time to start listening, hmm?