Is Extinction True?

The word about the Holocene Extinction, AKA the Sixth Mass Extinction, is beginning to spread. Lowbrow naysayers have linked together unrelated studies with the attitude, “Here we go again…” Others dismiss the work of the research team by casting aspersions on Paul Ehlrich, who has produced fatalistic studies in the past (which still hold relevant truths). A fair and informative interview with head researcher Gerardo Ceballos can be found at this link:

Given the naysayers are pooh-poohing the extinction for self gratification, the mariner feels certain that industries and reactionaries who have vested interests in keeping culture and economy the way it is, prefer nothing should change and will take delaying actions beyond the naysayers skepticism.

No one can predict with certainty how long the extinction process will take. This makes it easy for many to sit by the side of the road and wait to see what happens. “Waiting” is self destructive. No one wants to give up automobiles for enforced mass transit; utilities don’t want to shut down electrical plants in favor of distributed non-fossil fuel electricity; the coal industry doesn’t want to be banished; the magic of fracking, which isn’t magic and is a dirty industrial process, doesn’t want tightly controlled regulations that will cut into profits; households still want strawberries in grocery stores in January; travel destinations don’t want transportation restricted; households and industries don’t want to be relocated to restore an endangered habitat….ad infinitum.

The only point that no one except politicians seems to challenge is that global warming is happening increasingly fast. There is too much data to refute that. How fast is a matter of conjecture but it is easy to get into a conversation like, “I remember crabbing for Maryland crabs; I took home a bushel in one day!” The mariner knows firsthand that doesn’t happen anymore. He’s sure the reader can think of a personal comparison where wildlife was more plentiful, beaches were pristine, and water birds, seals and otters weren’t covered in crude oil.

Remember the Passenger Pigeon? It was by far the most numerous bird species in North America at the turn of the 1900’s. There were billions of them across all of North America. Deforestation and commercial hunting wiped out the Passenger Pigeon. The last one died in a zoo in 1914. The Passenger Pigeon is an example of how Homo sapiens expedites mass extinction. In the post, Advocacy at Home – Specie Ecology, posted earlier this month, the mariner provided a list of endangered animals that went on for pages. The mariner provides again a short quote from the Cree Indians:

“Only when the last tree has died, the last river been poisoned, and the last fish been caught will we realize we cannot eat money.”

As Naomi Klein says in her book, This Changes Everything, the Earth’s biosphere is not a for-profit issue. The world’s cultures and priorities must turn away from capitalistic solutions and reinvest – at cost – in the biosphere for our own survival.

The mariner leaves this issue for awhile. Like yeast in bread, the idea of mass extinction needs time to rise. He asks only that the reader pay attention to the news and magazine articles that discuss global warming, water shortage, weather energy and changes to the oceans, polar ice, and disappearing creatures because humans have destroyed their habitat.

Ancient Mariner

Shifting Gears for the Future

Should the reader look forward to see future progress that will knock out extinction – do not look backward for a measure of speed. The reader will be disappointed.

Media news filled additional air time in Charlotte by going down the street to the State Capitol where the Confederate war flag is displayed. Now, all the republican candidates for President can say, “Not my problem,” save two: one who ran last time, Romney, and Jeb somebody. The mariner will not join the fray; it is covered nonstop on 24-hour news stations. There must be some usable information once in a while.

What the mariner finds important is the fact that racism is still a large and unresolved stigma in the American culture and what that means about the speed with which we will take steps to avoid extinction. Consider the following speed:

  • Twenty slaves were the first to arrive on US soil at Jamestown, Virginia on August 20, 1619.
  • In 1641, Massachusetts was the first state to legalize slavery.
  • In 1705, Virginia passes legislation that slaves are real estate.
  • In 1787, it was a better than usual year, relatively speaking. The Northwest Ordinance forbids slavery, except as criminal punishment, in the Northwest Territory (later Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Michigan, and Wisconsin). Residents of the territory are required to return fugitive slaves. Also in 1787, states (including South Carolina) began putting tariffs on interstate and international slave trade; a few ban trading slaves altogether.
  • In 1788, the newly ratified US Constitution claims that each slave is 3/5 of a person – but only for tax purposes.
  • In 1819, Virginia outlaws the education of slaves and, with North Carolina, removes restraints on interstate trading of slaves.
  • The decade of the 1850’s was not good for slaves. Many states rescinded earlier trade limitations, new laws providing the right to be a free African American were rescinded, and finally, in 1857, The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in the Dred Scott case by denying citizenship to all slaves, ex-slaves, and descendants of slaves and denies Congress the right to prohibit slavery in the territories.
  • In 1861, South Carolina secedes from the Union, followed by Mississippi, Florida, Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana, and Texas. Virginia, Arkansas, Tennessee, and North Carolina also secede. It is the beginning of the Civil War.
  • In 1862, Lincoln signs several acts that, more or less, allow slaves and free African Americans to participate in the Civil War and, indirectly, though no one said so, the 3/5 person law became dysfunctional even if it was still is a part of the Constitution.
  • In 1863, Lincoln signs the Emancipation Proclamation.
  • In 1869, Tennessee passes legislation to create an all white government that opposes racial equality. Many states follow.
  • In 2015, the Confederate War Flag still flies at the Capitol of South Carolina and requires the heinous murder of nine religious African Americans in a hallmark African American church to request that the flag be removed. There is reticence by republicans across the board.
    • The mariner interjects for a moment to point out that it has been 244 years since the first slave arrived, a terrible civil war has transpired, the economic culture of slavery still persisted not through ownership but through outright abuse and tyranny. Any freed slave is fortunate to receive a salary other than a shack without utilities. In 244 years, how has the US culture changed? Virtually not at all; Tennessee’s idea in 1869 for all white government persists to this day. African American voting in government is gerrymandered against quite intensely. While legislation may have shifted a little, the American culture still does not include the African American as an equal citizen with equal rights.
    • In the future, even greater incursions into corporate American power and the consumer culture will be necessary to slow the clock of the sixth extinction. Beyond that, not only is extinction civil war, it is global war. Extinction includes Putin, ISIL, China and its allies, suppressed Africa. Even more troublesome, the United States itself, long a leader in creating the sixth extinction.

The mariner pursued the history of the African American experience as a model that depicts how difficult it is to alter large social, economic and political behavior that has been deeply ingrained for hundreds of years. The African American’s historical plight has become the plight of all mankind. The US has not made much progress with racism. Regarding extinction, is this to be expected for the next 244 years?

Ancient Mariner


On Friday, Stanford University released a study by internationally prestigious scientists that declared planet Earth is well into the sixth mass extinction (Holocene). The report has charts and other references that indicate the fabric of the planet’s ecosystem is collapsing at an ever increasing rate. The report predicted the collapse would occur in about three human lifetimes (315 years+or-). The report further suggested that humans will be one of the earlier extinctions because of human dependence on so many environmental and specie services, e.g., naturally cleaned water, pollination by bees, and stable weather patterns for vegetation.

The mariner is befuddled that no television outlet grabbed this issue. If the reader hadn’t come across an article on a few websites, the reader would never know that extinction of Homo sapiens has become a statistical reality – near enough that today’s elementary school children will have their lives disrupted in significant if not fatal ways. Despite what the Bible says about Armageddon, it will not occur in one day. It will occur faster and faster over time. For the most part, symptoms will involve starvation, disease, economic collapse, vandalism and true anarchy as governments will not have the resources to quell the collapse of rule by law.

There is a book on this subject published recently by Naomi Klein, This Changes Everything: Capitalism versus the Climate. (The mariner’s town library has a copy as well as a copy of The Sixth Extinction by Elizabeth Kolbert). Klein has written several books on the subject of economic greed destroying the planet. Following is an excerpt from the New York Times book review for This Changes Everything:

“Klein diagnoses impressively what hasn’t worked. No more claptrap about fracked gas as a bridge to renewables. Enough already of the international summit meetings that produce sirocco-quality hot air, and nonbinding agreements that bind us all to more emissions. Klein dismantles the boondoggle that is cap and trade. She skewers grandiose command-and-control schemes to re-engineer the planet’s climate. No point, when a hubristic mind-set has gotten us into this mess, to pile on further hubris. She reserves a special scorn for the partnerships between Big Green organizations and Immense Carbon, peddled as win-win for everyone, but which haven’t slowed emissions. Such partnerships remind us that when the lamb and the lion lie down together, only one of them gets eaten.

In democracies driven by lobbyists, donors and plutocrats, the giant polluters are going to win while the rest of us, in various degrees of passivity and complicity, will watch the planet die. “Any attempt to rise to the climate challenge will be fruitless unless it is understood as part of a much broader battle of worldviews,” Klein writes. “Our economic system and our planetary system are now at war.”

The point is, there is a mountain of resistance to change – especially on capitalist philosophy and the ingrained demand for ever increasing profits. How long will it take Earth’s humans to break the most successful profit engine in history? The Mass Extinction report implies that everything must be corrected in two lifetimes to prevent full collapse of the environment.

The mariner includes one chart from the report that ties the development of the mass extinction, or conversely, the destruction of the global environment, back to the beginning of the industrial age.

extinct animals

An easy to read article is available at the following link:

As Naomi Klein pointed out (and Pogo), our own perceptions of what is good, better and best for each human, each of all species, and the planet environment itself, is a myth. We do not have a model of human behavior that matches the reality around us – nor will reality accept it. Yet, humans are delinquent and tardy in how they manage their own place on the planet.

How many years will it take for humans to eliminate arrogance and hubris and recognize that we are not the reason for the Earth to exist?

How many years will it take for core cultural values to recognize that Homo sapiens is not, by a high count, the superior species. We are more dependent on many other species than they are on us.

How many years will it take to dismantle capitalism and nationalism? If history serves correctly, once a nation has cured its unstable situation of war and abuse, it won’t be until the third generation thereafter before that nation will have leaders unscarred and unbiased in their decisions about national policy and culture.

The mariner will have more on the Holocene as matters develop. He presents only high level concepts and ideas in this post; he depends on the reader to pursue links and news sources that will add more substance to this issue.

Ancient Mariner

Red Brain, Blue Brain

The following information was published in the PLoS ONE journal on February 13, 2013:

“Red Brain, Blue Brain: Evaluative Processes Differ in Democrats and Republicans

Liberals and conservatives exhibit different cognitive styles and converging lines of evidence suggest that biology influences differences in their political attitudes and beliefs. In particular, a recent study of young adults suggests that liberals and conservatives have significantly different brain structure, with liberals showing increased gray matter volume in the anterior cingulate cortex, and conservatives showing increased gray matter volume in the in the amygdala.

Here, we explore differences in brain function in liberals and conservatives by matching publicly-available voter records to 82 subjects who performed a risk-taking task…. Although the risk-taking behavior of Democrats (liberals) and Republicans (conservatives) did not differ, their brain activity did. Democrats showed significantly greater activity in the left insula, while Republicans showed significantly greater activity in the right amygdala….. These results suggest that liberals and conservatives engage different cognitive processes when they think about risk, and the results support recent evidence that conservatives show greater sensitivity to threatening stimuli….. Conversely, liberals had stronger responses to situations of cognitive conflict than conservatives.”

Red brain art

The mariner apologizes for the scientific journal lingo – rather dry reading. He will paraphrase while contemplating what this means in the world of politics and beliefs in general. His comments easily can be interpreted too literally; the reader should consider the mariner’s informal interpretations as parables.

Republicans orient attention to external cues. What this means is Republicans find it less important to understand how they feel inside; more important is their control of potential risk outside.

On the other hand, Democrats orient attention to perceptions of internal feelings – how they feel about the external cues. This orientation also borders the temporal-parietal junction, and may reflect the perceptions of internal feeling and motivation in others as well.

Now the reader has a clear and firm understanding of the difference between a Republican and a Democrat. The mariner perceives this may not be true. Let’s take a real example but remember that simply saying something for clarity may be overstated and may not be wholly true in the first place.

Republicans are good managers because they are risk averse. Republicans are sensitive to anything that blocks their range of decisions in dealing with risk. Therefore, Republicans do not like labor unions because labor unions have the ability to limit what the Republican may want to do regarding job profiles and salary – risk-laden issues in any business. This does not mean Democrats aren’t good managers, too. Remember the statement in the journal lingo: “Although the risk-taking behavior of Democrats (liberals) and Republicans (conservatives) did not differ….” In other words, a good manager will deal with risk appropriately – liberal or conservative.

The Democrat manager, however, is sensitive to his/her feelings about jobs and salary and, because the temporal-parietal junction is nearby, empathy may play a role in how the risk is perceived. As long as labor unions play by fair rules, the Democrat is more likely to accept why being in a union is important to the employees’ perception of risk.

How are we doing? Maybe one more example. But to keep it simple, no elected government folks are allowed:

Bah, Humbug! People have nothing to do with global warming! Republican or Democrat? We don’t really know for certain but several surveys show that this is a Republican. Global warming is nothing if it is not constrictive, behavioral (the right amygdala doesn’t know about behavioral) and interferes with profit strategies across the board. A Republican would run from the restrictive regulations that cure global warming. The same is true of the fossil fuel industry, the banking industry and a myriad of other corporate interests that do not want to be curtailed in their decision making regarding risk to profit.

What is the future of humanity if it all boils down to Left Posterial Insula versus right amygdala?

Ancient Mariner

NASA Website

A very interesting place to visit once in a while is the website of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA). There are many articles shedding light on global conditions around the planet. The mariner lists three to whet the reader’s appetite:

(NASA) released a study of the Earth’s aquifers using new satellite technology that studied the 37 largest aquifers from 2003 to 2013. The study reported that one-third of the aquifers are stressed. The most stressed are in heavily populated and frequently poor areas. To see map and report go to:

Another study reported that it would take 11 trillion gallons of water to replenish California’s loss during the four-year drought. Go to:

Study shows increasing carbon emissions could increase US droughts. Droughts in the U.S. Southwest and Central Plains during the last half of this century could be drier and longer than drought conditions seen in those regions in the last 1,000 years, according to a new NASA study. Two very good videos are available showing the drought regions:

There are many more NASA reports about the condition of the Earth. It’s worth a visit once in a while.

Ancient Mariner



The mariner is a member of Food and Water Watch, an advocate for clean, fresh water around the world, making water available to all human beings, and opposed to privatized management of food and water policy, that is, food and water should be managed by governments, not corporations. Food and Water Watch (FWW) is a watchdog for all sorts of wasteful food and water practices, especially the pollution of the fresh water that is available and the unnecessary cost of  ‘bottled’ water. Corporate advertizing contends than bottled water is better for you than tap water – which is not true, and also has a high profit margin.

Last night he watched C-SPAN coverage of a FWW conference. The main speaker was Maude Barlow, who was instrumental in forming FWW in 2005. Ms Barlow is Chair of the Board of Directors. She has a remarkable reputation. Ms Barlow has a standing in food and water issues similar to that of Martin Luther King in the Civil Rights movement or Ralph Nader in auto safety.

The mission statement for FWW is:

“Food and Water Watch champions healthy food and clean water for all. We stand up to corporations that put profit before people, and advocate for a democracy that improves people’s lives and protects our environment.”

An environmental phrase often heard is climate change. Food and water issues are intertwined with climate change. For example, the excessive amount of carbon dioxide settles into the world’s oceans. This causes acidification of ocean waters that in turn kills just about everything that lives in the oceans. In her book, The Sixth Extinction, Elizabeth Kolbert points out that ocean acidification is the cause of the Permian extinction (third great extinction). 95% of all marine species went extinct. Coral reefs did not return for 10 million years.

Very much in the news is the debate over fracking (hydraulic fracturing) – the process of forcing natural gas to the surface by sending water underground at high pressure. Similar to the damage caused by strip mining for coal, the water doesn’t stay where it’s put and turns up in all the wrong places. Even the Great Lakes, the largest source of fresh water in the world, are not immune to fracking pollution. Many of us may have seen the news clip where a man could set his kitchen tap water on fire.

FWW looks into many food situations. In her presentation, Ms Barlow said everyone should stop eating meat because it is not an efficient use of water, given the amount of meat per unit of water the animals require.

FWW is an advocate of home grown organic vegetables. Have you planted your bell peppers yet?

The mariner could go on but everything you want to know – or in some cases would rather not know, is on the FWW website. The material is presented well and if the reader has never thought about the big issues in food and water, it will be enlightening.

He ends with one statistic: Not counting the ‘permanent’ ice at the poles, only 1% of Earth’s water is drinkable.

Ancient Mariner

Dismantling the Petro World

The last post implied, if the reader did not take the content as factual, that the future for the western coalition of nations faced a collapse of its economies and would be fortunate to be called second tier nations. The reason that the BRIC (Brazil, Russia, India and China) nations will overwhelm the western economy is because they have the oil, gas, and the population growth to take over the world economy – somewhat like Walmart, Target and CVC moving into a neighborhood. Any local retail outlets that survive will be less than robust for sure.

Aside from nations, the petrochemical industry is the largest set of global organizations in the world. Asking them to go out of business or scale down to ten percent of what they were is not a winning strategy for global warming. Yet this is the fear that those who deny scientific information hear – that the petro economy is a common source of wealth and making the changes in corporate behavior, the way neighborhoods are built, the way every person consumes food, energy, space and nonrenewable minerals must undergo a transformation that challenges capitalism and suggests something more akin to socialism. So, global warming doesn’t exist.

While searching the Internet, the mariner came across an article in the Nation Magazine for November 2011. The article was written by Naomi Klein, a Canadian author who writes books on the climate and its confrontations with capitalism, human nature, and disappearing resources, including the disappearance of national economic policies. Klein’s current book, “This Changes Everything, Capitalism versus the Climate,” is on the best seller list at the moment.

The entire article is available at,2


In the Nation article, Klein makes a six point case that makes a reader think it is easier to climb a cliff covered in ice than to change the petro paradigm:

  1. Reviving and Reinventing the Public Sphere

…Traditionally, battles to protect the public sphere are cast as conflicts between irresponsible leftists who want to spend without limit and practical realists who understand that we are living beyond our economic means. But the gravity of the climate crisis cries out for a radically new conception of realism, as well as a very different understanding of limits. Government budget deficits are not nearly as dangerous as the deficits we have created in vital and complex natural systems. Changing our culture to respect those limits will require all of our collective muscle—to get ourselves off fossil fuels and to shore up communal infrastructure for the coming storms.

  1. Remembering How to Plan

…Every community in the world needs a plan for how it is going to transition away from fossil fuels, what the Transition Town movement calls an “energy descent action plan.” In the cities and towns that have taken this responsibility seriously, the process has opened rare spaces for participatory democracy, with neighbors packing consultation meetings at city halls to share ideas about how to reorganize their communities to lower emissions and build in resilience for tough times ahead.

  1. Reining in Corporations

…But we are also going to have to get back into the habit of barring outright dangerous and destructive behavior. That means getting in the way of corporations on multiple fronts, from imposing strict caps on the amount of carbon corporations can emit, to banning new coal-fired power plants, to cracking down on industrial feedlots, to shutting down dirty-energy extraction projects like the Alberta tar sands (starting with pipelines like Keystone XL that lock in expansion plans).

  1. Relocalizing Production

…Climate change does not demand an end to trade. But it does demand an end to the reckless form of “free trade” that governs every bilateral trade agreement as well as the World Trade Organization. This is more good news —for unemployed workers, for farmers unable to compete with cheap imports, for communities that have seen their manufacturers move offshore and their local businesses replaced with big boxes. But the challenge this poses to the capitalist project should not be underestimated: it represents the reversal of the thirty-year trend of removing every possible limit on corporate power.

  1. Ending the Cult of Shopping

…This growth imperative is why conventional economists reliably approach the climate crisis by asking the question, How can we reduce emissions while maintaining robust GDP growth? The usual answer is “decoupling”—the idea that renewable energy and greater efficiencies will allow us to sever economic growth from its environmental impact. And “green growth” advocates like Thomas Friedman tell us that the process of developing new green technologies and installing green infrastructure can provide a huge economic boost, sending GDP soaring and generating the wealth needed to “make America healthier, richer, more innovative, more productive, and more secure…”

The bottom line is that an ecological crisis that has its roots in the overconsumption of natural resources must be addressed not just by improving the efficiency of our economies but by reducing the amount of material stuff we produce and consume.

  1. Taxing the Rich and Filthy

…That means taxing carbon, as well as financial speculation. It means increasing taxes on corporations and the wealthy, cutting bloated military budgets and eliminating absurd subsidies to the fossil fuel industry. And governments will have to coordinate their responses so that corporations will have nowhere to hide (this kind of robust international regulatory architecture is what Heartlanders mean when they warn that climate change will usher in a sinister “world government”).

Most of all, however, we need to go after the profits of the corporations most responsible for getting us into this mess. The top five oil companies made $900 billion in profits in the past decade; ExxonMobil alone can clear $10 billion in profits in a single quarter…

Naomi Klein pulls no punches in this article in the Nation. The quotes provided here by the mariner provide an insight into her perspective but a great deal of reasoning remains in the article. He recommends that his readers go to the link provided above and discover the whole painting and all the colors in it.

Ancient Mariner