The Threat to Science No One Talks About
The 21st Century has its own Library of Alexandria and global warming is threatening to burn it down. This is probably the greatest threat to science and no one is talking about it. Now is the time to courageously speak the truth about our planetary crisis.
The global civilization that arose in the last 500 years now teeters on the brink of collapse. It’s structural fragility can be seen in the patterns of rising inequality, systemic political corruption, and an unraveling biosphere. Humanity is on the brink of another Dark Age and we had better prepare our knowledge stores for what is coming.
I have dedicated my life to helping humanity make the transition through the death of industrial capitalism and into the new “living systems” inspired paradigm that will need to take its place. More than a decade ago, my focus was on reframing global warming so that more people could help avoid the worst-case scenarios for ecological collapse. Sadly I must report that this effort has completely and utterly failed.
As I have written elsewhere, the climate doomsday already happened. It is now 2017 — nearly thirty years since the first Congressional hearing on global warming in 1988 — and nothing has been done to halt the destruction of the Earth’s planetary stability. According to the Stockholm Resilience Institute, we have now passed at least four of the nine “planetary boundaries” that define a safe operating range for our global economy. Add to this things like the giant financial bubble on the verge of bursting and we are in serious trouble indeed.
In a word, we are now fully in collapse and it is very unlikely to be avoided. Actions that would have taken us down a different course were needed decades ago. Historians, if they exist in the future, will write about the tragic failures of leadership in this unique period in time.
There are complicating factors like the thermal inertia of the world ocean that no one seems to be talking about either. Heat pumped into the atmosphere today will take 40 years to absorb (a powerful lag time that doesn’t get any of the attention it deserves) and the ocean will hold this heat in for several hundred years (estimates range from 300 to 1000).
Let this sink in. All the crazy extreme weather we are experiencing now is only being impacted by a global ocean warmed by pollution released in the early 1980’s. Even if we stop releasing greenhouse gases right now, we will continue to see intensification of harms for many decades to come. This is how serious our current predicament is.
Back to the 21st Century Library of Alexandria. We have our own sacred and irreplaceable body of knowledge that is now at risk of destruction by ideological forces. The principle ideology is laissez-faire neoliberal economics that treats the environment as external to market functions and gives it a value of zero in its accounting books.
Stated plainly, the religious cult of modern economics is destroying our civilization. When a civilization collapses, the elites go down with it — including those who were trained in the advanced educational practices ranging from science and medicine to technology and all the technical skills that accompany them.
We are about to lose all of our progress in science and technology.
In the last few months, I have been re-evaluating my mission in life. No longer am I trying to avert disaster (it is too late for that now). Instead I see all that is at risk of being lost through half a century of destabilization and collapse. Humanity is on a global “Easter Island” and we are cutting down all our life-giving trees with all the efficiencies that 21st Century artificial intelligence and robotics can provide.
The look and feel of science could still fully embrace the paradigm of living systems in the future. But it must survive the turmoil of a collapsing civilization that is now so confused about basic facts that it has completely lost any capacity for discernment. Just as the librarians in Alexandria grasped at as many sacred scrolls as they could carry in their arms, those of us who value knowledge must quickly and decisively build protective storehouses for what has been learned in the last thousand years.
This is a task I take up with honor and full dedication. It is something that now must be done for the great-great-grandchildren of everyone alive today. Time is of the essence. Every moment of delay will have consequences.
What will you do to protect and preserve science?
Onward, fellow humans.
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