The End of Nature

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Bill McKibben’s argument:

Human activity has murdered the planet’s nature; altering the air, wildness is dead.

Three contributing problems to consider as the cause of the murder:

A. Acid rain, the high pH of fog, or precipitation downwind of power plants / cars.
B. Ozone hole, or aerosol CFC pollution destroys UV radiation screen.
C. Global Warming, (Greenhouse gas pollution) climate change.

An interpretation of the methane (CH4) component of the climate problem:

Tandem affects:

Natural sources of methane

Soils (anaerobic) &
are major sources of methane trapped in the anaerobic layers where organisms thrive on it to live without oxygen. Once released by facultative anaerobes the methane become a gas -- trapping heat in the atmosphere

Human sources of methane

Agriculture, cows, rice, pigs
Power plants, cars
Melting of the permafrost
Mines & deforestation

The tandem quality or character means that humans generate additional sources (anthropogenic) of CH4 that is not capable of being absorbed by natural processes.

Capacity of natural controls are exceeded
• More methane accumulates in the atmosphere
Methane traps heat

More readily retains heat than CO2
• Takes less CH4 to retain more heat
• Thermos bottle effect on the air

What is the problem of synergy? (see: more on capacity concept)

How does an analogy of the bicycle wheel and weights relate to loading the atmosphere with too great an amount (mass) of CH4 or methane than it can absorb?

Relation to Leopold:

Land Ethic is the logical conclusion to and application of an ecological conscience.

Ethics are defined as a means of imposing constraints or limitations on otherwise inherent, intrinsic or characteristic behavior.

1. An ethical sequence is?
2. What is the meaning of Leopold’s idea of the “A : B cleavage?
3. What is the definition of conservation?
4. How can we recognize the ecological integrity? By what signals:

Bill McKibben’s additional argument:

“We have built a greenhouse, a human creation, where once there bloomed a sweet and wild garden.”

The near future …. We have killed off nature—that world entirely independent of us which was here before we arrived & which encircled and supported our human society.”

p. 96.

“Instead…each cubic yard of air, each square foot of soil, is stamped indelibly with our crude imprint, our X.”

“We don’t know, we can’t know.”

“The salient characteristic of this new nature is its unpredictability, just as the salient feature of the old nature was its dependability.”

“…On a global scale it [nature] has been a model of reliability.”

That old dependable quality of nature’s stability has vanished an we must renegotiate our relation to this new ungovernable character we have helped to create by destabilizing the air and water of the globe.

p. 98-99.

But now it is broken for us, too—nature’s lifetime warranty has expired.”

p. 99.

“We are altering the climate…at ten to sixty times the natural rate of change.”

“It may turn out that we are not much more suited by our genes to quick adaptation than the musk oxen.”

p. 100.

“The uncertainty itself is the first cataclysm, and perhaps the most profound one.”

We “can’t count on enough snow falling to fill the reservoirs that feed our faucets, or if we have to worry that too much water will evaporate in the heat,”

p. 100.

“Within safe bounds” is no longer available to us. “Nature has always provided the ‘deep, constant rhythms,’ is now altered beyond predictable recognition.

p. 102.

Does a new warming period mean a triggering of another ice age after 10,000 years?

A period of glacial advance could commence within a century.

[unlikely, but unknowable.]

pp. 106-108.

Sea level will rise more quickly (not as great as 1990 predictions) but will affect half the world’s people and over flood the Maldive Islands, among others, with 187,000 residents.

pp. 109-116.

New York City’s draw on the fresh water supply of the Delaware River would have to be curtailed.

p. 116.

“And the literally blinding sun—will rob us of our sense of security…we live in a different world; therefore life feels different.”

p. 138.

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