Underestimating the Challenges of Avoiding a Ghastly Future

The February episode of Nature Bats Last featured a conversation with Professor Paul Ehrlich where we discussed his recent bomb shell paper titled “Underestimating the Challenges of Avoiding a Ghastly Future” co-written with two former guests on the show Corey Bradshaw and Geraldo Ceballos et al.
The episode is embedded here:

“We report three major and confronting environmental issues that have received little attention and require urgent action. First, we review the evidence that future environmental conditions will be far more dangerous than currently believed. The scale of the threats to the biosphere and all its lifeforms—including humanity—is in fact so great that it is difficult to grasp for even well-informed experts. Second, we ask what political or economic system, or leadership, is prepared to handle the predicted disasters, or even capable of such action. Third, this dire situation places an extraordinary responsibility on scientists to speak out candidly and accurately when engaging with government, business, and the public. We especially draw attention to the lack of appreciation of the enormous challenges to creating a sustainable future. The added stresses to human health, wealth, and well-being will perversely diminish our political capacity to mitigate the erosion of ecosystem services on which society depends. The science underlying these issues is strong, but awareness is weak. Without fully appreciating and broadcasting the scale of the problems and the enormity of the solutions required, society will fail to achieve even modest sustainability goals.”
Underestimating the Challenges of Avoiding a Ghastly Future

Guy mentioned the following paper also co-written by Professor’s Ehrlich and Ceballos:
“The ongoing sixth mass species extinction is the result of the destruction of component populations leading to eventual extirpation of entire species. Populations and species extinctions have severe implications for society through the degradation of ecosystem services. Here we assess the extinction crisis from a different perspective. We examine 29,400 species of terrestrial vertebrates, and determine which are on the brink of extinction because they have fewer than 1,000 individuals.”
Vertebrates on the brink as indicators of biological annihilation and the sixth mass extinction

The issue of collapse and extinction is becoming more mainstream by the day. Check out the article below from the L.A. Times”
“It’s not hard to find the “collapseology” studies they are talking about. In a report for the sustainability group Future Earth, a survey of scientists found that extreme weather events, food insecurity, freshwater shortages and the broad degradation of life-sustaining ecosystems “have the potential to impact and amplify one another in ways that might cascade to create global systemic collapse.” A 2019 report from the Breakthrough National Center for Climate Restoration, a think tank in Australia, projected that a rapidly warming world of depleted resources and mounting pollution would lead to “a largely uninhabitable Earth” and a “breakdown of nations and the international order.” Analysts in the U.S. and British military over the past two years have issued similar warnings of climate- and environment-driven chaos”. Op-Ed: Collapseologists are warning humanity that business-as-usual will make the Earth uninhabitable

At the beginning of the interview I asked Paul how he was recovering from the Australian bush fires that wiped out 20% of Australia’s forest in one fire season: ‘Unprecedented’ globally: more than 20% of Australia’s forests burnt in bushfires

I'm an anti-imperialist, environmental activist and blue ocean sailor, who is passionate about the earth and all it's inhabitants without favour. Brace for imminent impact as we bare witness to the non-linear unraveling of the biosphere and habitability disappearing for most if not all complex life on the only habitable planet we know of. To quote President Niinistö in North Russia: ‘If We Lose the Arctic, We Lose the World’. Folks we have lost the Arctic.

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15 comments on “Underestimating the Challenges of Avoiding a Ghastly Future
  1. Kevin Hester says:

    Guy mentioned the Aerosol Masking effect.
    This link from the extremely conservative Physorg proves the hypothesis that when we lower emissions the temperature will rise !
    Damned if we do, damned if we don’t:


  2. Trish Kaiser says:

    EXCELLENT interview! Thanks to all involved.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. denimoon says:

    Thank you, Kevin, for keeping us informed!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. This popped up today, Kevin, and fits right in here. And probably on a number of other threads! What a list!

    Can We Exit This Road to Ruin?



    Liked by 1 person

    • I followed the link and read the original Jan 31st publication and one of the key sentences in the piece that immediately stood out, and a most optimistic one to my mind, is not only in the title of the piece; “Face a Ghastly Future” but reinforced again in the first paragraph; “in the next several decades.”

      What? As if the the nebulous ‘future’ listed in the first paragraph that we ‘face’ are not ALREADY HAPPENING all across the world? Hell, they had a typhoon in the Western Pacific that had sustained 305mph winds last year. At beach level! Holy shit! I mean, really, three hundred miles an hour winds??? And two named hurricanes slammed Nicaragua (or was it Honduras?) at the same place ten days apart during the most hurricanes a season ever recorded…where they ran out of names!

      Oh, and by the way did you know they aren’t going to use the Greek Alphabet this year? The hurricane forecasters are just going to start over with another ‘A’ name. I have thought up a far more relevant list the storms should be named after but then nobody ever listens to me. I think using last names gives more reality to these storms. Like Koch, Reagan, Cheney etc for Atlantic storms. And businesses for the Western Pacific; Weyerhouser sounds like a match along with Superstorm Exxon or Typhoon Dutch Shell…

      So… Since there are decades left to enjoy the poison fruits of a technological oil-driven industrial oligarch-operated militarized Empire I’d best get right on out there and buy one of those three-ton Dodge ‘fully loaded’ monster V-10 pick-up trucks with the million candlepower light bar across the roof and lots of shiny chrome so I can drive the highways in style to visit all the beeyoutiful places dragging my 2.5 ton fifth-wheel home-away-from-home behind it. All on credit of course. After all, that’s what credit cards are for. Live the Dream!

      I try not to remember what George Carlin said about the American Dream…gotta be asleep to believe it just puts a damper on the entire concept of being a consumer rather than a citizen don’t you think?

      Or maybe I should just do the cruise ship regatta back and forth across the oceans to all the beeyoutiful places instead? But maybe, since obviously the pandemic isn’t going to hurt anybody but, you know, like India and Africa and all those other backwards 3rd world societies that no corporation would lessen their profit margins to help; I’ll just hop on jets like the Boeing MAX and travel in style at far quicker speeds so I get there sooner…unless the damned thing falls out of the sky of course.

      Kevin, it was 80 goddamned degrees here yesterday. Yes, about 27C at 4pm at the end of April. First hummingbird showed up last week about a month early…and I’ve got one feeder out because there are NO flowers showing except dandilions yet… Web weather said to expect little change this week so of course I woke up to rain this morning. Nobody saw it coming, completely unexpected. Unpredictable weather shifts from the destabilizing climate but remember it’s going to be decades before it gets bad…

      And the earlier mass extinction events listed in the paper ‘could’ happen within the next few hundred years. Think most people are gonna give a shit with wording like that? It’s like they are self-censoring the extreme emergency conditions and yes I do understand the impacts on their status and income if they get too frisky about warnings…They get labeled ‘extremists’ or ‘activists’ or ‘conspiracy nuts’ and that’s it, their office turns into a broom closet and next week the rug disappears and the one after that the phone gets turned off…

      Big sigh. My take on the article is that it’s not edgy enough, not enough here&now impact. People will continue to be complacent and we’ll have another record number of Atlantic hurricanes this year, and monster wildfires, and it’ll probably be hotter this summer, and people will still go to walmart and buy crap from amazon that they don’t need or will break in a week, and people will still die from Covid every day in increasing numbers as the 2nd Wave of this Pandemic, the new mutated variant strains, rip through the vulnerable populations. I’m sure not much of an optimistic old surfer dude, am I?


      Liked by 1 person

  5. Now that is what I call a catchy picture! One that would surely, in this neoliberal RWNJ mountain area, cause many to immediately rush out and stock up even more ammo than they already have because, after all, this isn’t going to happen to them since we don’t live in the city…and god is on our side…and this is Amurika land of the free and home of the brave…and more bullets will save you from the libbrls commie socialists…

    A 17 minute youtube clip that probably won’t load on dial-up as usual. So far it says 5 seconds but I’ll probably shut it off since it would be at least a couple hours of downloading IF it would even complete. Hey, 9 seconds and a very depressed voice just said “I want to talk to you about” then it cut off.

    Well, we all suspect what is coming at us like a runaway train and that’s all based on the science that is completely censored from corporate news sites, so I guess I really don’t need to listen to this guy. If youtube would ever load I would but it’s been over 20 minutes and it’s now up to 14 seconds. I went downstairs and poured some orange juice. I give up. Another that I can’t listen to.

    The t-storm masses cleared out, so far no fire smoke visible nor do I smell anything burning yet from the huge bolts that were flashing out my windows at 1am yesterday morning. I guess we’ll see here in the next few days if there are any hidden embers that will cook off more wildfires in my area. We passed the average wildfire numbers for the entire season last month….



  6. Steve Wondering says:

    Hey! Kevin, since there is no longer a monthly NBL… Will you be doing more blogging on here?
    This website has a lot of old articles! How is Rakino Island these days?

    Liked by 1 person

    • Kevin Hester says:

      I’ll still be collaborating with Guy and our collective work will appear here.
      Lately I have been taking our own advice and spending ore time in nature and less online.
      Tomorrow Guy, Mimi German and I will be discussing the implications of abrupt climate change and the nuclear issue.


  7. Hey Kevin, I wish I could do the same here! I do like being in these mountains going hiking even if it isn’t up in the higher elevations areas but with the incredibly dense smoke, pm 2.5 ashfall raining down from the sky, and of course the incredible heat that forces me inside by 11am every day there just isn’t any nature time that is accessible. It’s so bad that I haven’t been walking my own ridgeline in the morning with the dogs for more than the absolutely minimum necessary for their needs. Dogs don’t need this much ash in their lungs, either, and with their hairy coats they overheat even faster than I do.

    So far it’s been pretty much three months of this in a row with the last two being beyond belief. The Washington State governor just closed ALL state forest lands and campgrounds due to the worst ‘drought’ fire conditions ever experienced. Nobody is allowed in the woods to do anything at this point. Bluntly, it’s stay the hell out of the mountains at this point here. It’s so dry that one could conceivably start a raging wildfire just hiking and striking sparks from rocks rolling under your feet. No, I’m not kidding.

    It was 110F/43.5C today at 3:30pm. A whole degree cooler than yesterday. Didn’t feel any different….

    And especially true since my old computer is conking out and I can no longer even access my own email as the program from my webmaster has updated and, though the website address loads up, it cannot open it any longer. This has been going on for three weeks now and I’ve been having to go once a week to a kind neighbor’s who has let me run through what has come in to check for book orders etc etc but I can’t really sit and talk with friends and family through email at this point.

    Funny that the computer still goes online but at least it does that. I took the computer to the wizard fix-it guy this week and even an updated browser won’t connect and he tried three different downloads and none worked. The machine is too old!

    My newer HP with Windows 10 operating system I picked up a year ago won’t work with the dial-up connection and unfortunately I’m not able to afford the monthly cost of high speed. At least I can still read about the world though I cannot talk to people about it except on websites like yours. So I will continue to if you don’t mind too much.

    Things seem to be spiraling down in so many ways at this point, ya know? Entropy?



  8. wqjcv says:

    A few years ago, Nova Scotia had a severe drought, and everyone was banned from doing anything in the woods. In terms of groundwater levels, NS is facing a longer term problem, as lack of snow cover in winter is exceeding what normal rainfall is summer can replenish. That our winters are longer than our summers may have something to do with it too!


  9. Yeah wqjcv, I hear you.

    Big problem here in the inland PacNW, too, and also turning into a long-term worry. Lack of snow cover getting worse every winter with incredibly quick melt-offs very early in Spring in the higher elevations. It is not re-charging underground aquifers worth a damn as the water just runs off into the creeks & river and heads towards the Columbia and hence to the ocean. This continues to worsen with nearly nothing here at my elevation in winter now.

    Used to be 3 or 4 feet of pack around the house from late Oct/Nov through…at least March before it finally would melt. Now I’m lucky to see a foot of pack at any point in the winter that isn’t under a tree getting limb-loads dropped. My snowboarding hill went from 305″ average 20 years ago to the ‘new’ 250 inch a season…and last year the total was 133″ and the year before was 125″ and that includes any and all early season snowfalls that melts away before a base gets started.

    I’ve been seeing more and more rain days earlier, too, as in Jan & Feb at my elevation. Not supposed to happen here. Never did before. And this year…looking back on the calendar the first rain day was Jan. 1st!! Which continued for a couple of weeks before even a sprinkle of snow showed up. Oh my it’s bad. I’m currently waiting to see if the overcast cloud cover will turn into a lightning/T storm (weather said maybe) and we certainly need any damned rain but not lightning strikes!

    But the smoke from the wildfires is just as bad and I think this cloud cover may actually be keeping the smoke more condensed and closer to the ground. Ugh, N95 mask wearing or you end up coughing after 20 minutes. Using eye-drops to get the debris out of my eyes when I come inside because rubbing them is not an option.

    We have been at ‘unhealthy’ levels of particulate & smoke for weeks. Not much wind looking out the window at the conifers, either, so who knows what the clouds are going to produce. It was 104’F the last couple of days but 90s today…Wet bulb is obvious even if it does feel cooler because sticky is the name of the game.

    This sucks.


    Liked by 1 person

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Kevin Hester

Kevin Hester is currently living on Rakino Island, a small island in the Hauraki Gulf near Auckland, New Zealand, monitoring the unravelling of the biosphere and volunteering at the Rakino Island Nursery is currently developing a proposal to create a marine reserve near by. The Island has no grid tied electricity or reticulated water.  I catch my own water from the roof and generate my electricity from the ample solar radiation on the island.

My Submission to the Ministry of the Environment
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