Friday 20 March 2015

Reflecting on near-term extinction of humans

Countdown to extinction

I am coming up to the 4th anniversary of "Seemorerocks" in the next month. During that time I have had lots of time to find information that I regard as important for people to know and relay it out to those who are willing to read that information.

I came to a realisation about this yesterday - and that was by busying myself with this information I was able to actually void, to some extent, truly internalising the true horror of what we are witnessing.

Of course, I am acutely aware of our collective human predicament and feel it. But when one is just reading this information it somehow remains at an abstract level until one has personal experiences that help one truly internalise it.

That has partially happened by researching and chronicling what is happening literally at our front gate - that is the drought here in Wellington and the state of our own Hutt river, which is something that most people don't want to see. Even after the publication of the recent article that went out in local papers throughout the entire Wellington area, people have commented about my picture appearing in the paper, and almost no one has addressed the content, or has failed to notice the most important parts of it.

Then, I realise I have been experiencing considerable grief as a result of some information that I have become privy to, but am not yet at liberty to divulge, but also by travelling out to witness the devastation caused by an attack on the living stream with Roundыup herbicide.

I went to a seminar last weekend about telling truth to power, in which one person talked about her activist friends or acquaintances: they were all either dead or chronically ill.  That seems to be the price of being honest enough not to keep quiet in the face of Evil.

I am convinced (and I know most people reading this probably will not disagree) that this species is facing a perfect storm, created by ourselves and are certainly facing, not just the collapse of human, industrial society, but extinction of the species - within ten, twenty, thirty, forty years? Almost certainly within one human lifetime.

Just have a look at articles and reports that have come through in the last few days and it is not difficult to see that we are on a runaway train that is gaining speed and momentum.


Just think of the drought in California, now in its 4th year.

Just this week NASA has come out this week and said that the state has one year of water left

It does not take much imagination to realise how this will affect a state with 38 million people inhabiting an area of and that has been able to feed the whole of the rest of the country.

Just have a look at this infographic

Here are a few of the other headlines from the last day or so:

California tightens water restrictions amid historic drought

Some rice farmers in Northern California are skipping planting their crop this year and choosing instead to sell their water rights to Southern California. The Metropolitan Water District is desperately searching for water to add to its low supply.

This water is simply NOT going to come back. Once the aquifers are gone (used to produce shale oil or bottles water by Nestle), that's it.

"As California farms and cities drill deeper for groundwater in an era of drought and climate change, they no longer are tapping reserves that percolated into the soil over recent centuries. They are pumping water that fell to Earth during a much wetter climatic regime – the ice age.

"Such water is not just old. It’s prehistoric. It is older than the earliest pyramids on the Nile, older than the world’s oldest tree, the bristlecone pine. It was swirling down rivers and streams 15,000 to 20,000 years ago when humans were crossing the Bering Strait from Asia."

Reuters / Lucy Nicholson

And the situation goes far beyond California to the entire US south-west. Expect in short order what Guy McPherson calls "the Dustbowl without end"

With California’s scary, record-breaking drought capturing so much attention lately, an important bit of news about the dearth of water across a much larger region has gotten short shrift.

I’m talking about the Colorado River Basin, which supplies water to 40 million people in seven states — including Californians

Apart from California and many other areas of the globe that are seeing drought, it is Brazil that has attracted the most headlines recently,
It may have the world's biggest water supply and the seventh biggest economy, but that's not enough to keep water running during the country's worst dry stretch since the 1930s

In New Zealand drought (and certainly its underlying causes) is scarcely mentioned, and instead we see asinine headlines like the following.

Think the decline of the Roman empire

Sizzling: Wellingtonians enjoyed the sun, surf and sand at Oriental Bay.

Wellington may be renowned for being wet and windy but it looks set to become a holiday destination after a record breaking summer for tourism.

Accommodation guest nights for January hit a 15-year high in the capital, increasing by 10 per cent compared with the previous year, Statistics NZ figures show.


I had to find out from an American-based publication that last winter (in June, at east) there was little or no snow on the Southern Alps, at least in July, the warmest on record.

No one (but no one) writes about this, but, with a "weak" el-Nino coming during our southern autumn and winter, it is not difficult to join the dots and come to some conclusions about what this might mean for Canterbury's snow-fed rivers, already low because of summer drought and the looting for irrigation to feed the dairy monster.

There is already evidence that climate change and drought was the ultimate cause of the war in Syria and generally the water situation in those parts of the world looks particularly dire.

Women working in fields in northeastern Syria in 2013
The world is already in the throes of an epidemic of local and regional water shortages, and recent scientific studies show that unless this trend is reversed, escalating water scarcity will lead to more forced migrations, civil unrest, and outbreaks of conflict 

Extreme weather and sea level rise in the Pacific

The last week has seen the worst weather ever seen in the South Pacific devastate Vanuatu. It is difficult to imagine how a country with 65 inhabited islands, is going to ever recover in time for the next devastating cyclone.

One island experienced a 6.5 earthquake, a volcano and a cyclone - all within a short period of time

This is just the beginning.

Meanwhile the plight of islands such as Tuvalu and Kiribati that are succumbing to sea level rise, goes unmentioned in the world's media - and it is not hard to see why.

Why mention the elephant in the room?

Flooding in Tuvalu after Cyclone Pam.
A storm surge associated with Cyclone Pam inundated low-lying Tuvalu last week
Meanwhile in Arorae (Kiribati)

King Tide 17th March 2015

Arorae is a tiny island in the southern part of the Republic of Kiribati in the middle of the Pacific Ocean

Locate Arorae on google map at: 


A we all know by now it is to the Arctic that we need to look to see where the greatest changes are occuring which are determining the future fate of humans on this planet.

I would like to acknowledge those people who have been responsible for me learning the true state of the world climate: Guy McPherson, without whom I would not be able to write these words; Paul Beckwith and other scientists from the Arctic Methane Emergency Group (AMEG); Natalia Shakhova and Oleg Semiletov and their group of scinetists studying methane releases from the East Siberian Sea; and,last but not least Sam Carana, Malcolm Light, Robertscribbler and others, who keep us informed of developments.

Right through the northern winter we have seen anomalous conditions where cold air from the Arctic has been brought into the mid latitudes of North America and Europe by the Jet Stream while the Arctic itself sees warm conditions because of warm air from the south and water coming through from the south through the Fram and Bering Straits.

Arctic sea ice has hit a record low for its maximum extent in winter, which scientists said was a result of climate change and abnormal weather patterns.

This winter has seen the Arctic sea ice extent reach a record low for winter and in recent days warm storms have battered the Arctic sea ice, further weakening it.

Not only are levels of greenhouse gases (predominantly CO2, but also methane and other gases) risen, but we have seen a drop-off in the oxygen content (of the very stuff we need to survive) of the atmosphere, from above 21 % down to 17% and below.

"Evidence from prehistoric times indicates that the oxygen content of pristine nature was above the 21% of total volume that it is today. It has decreased in recent times due mainly to the burning of coal in the middle of the last century. 

Currently the oxygen content of the Earth’s atmosphere dips to 19% over impacted areas, and it is down to 12 to 17% over the major cities. 

At these levels it is difficult for people to get sufficient oxygen to maintain bodily health: it takes a proper intake of oxygen to keep body cells and organs, and the entire immune system, functioning at full efficiency. 

At the levels we have reached today cancers and other degenerative diseases are likely to develop. And at 6 to 7% life can no longer be sustained".

Reinforcing the process of warming on the planet are 49 positive, self-reinforcing feedbacks, identified by Guy McPherson and detailed here:

In addition to new ones we are getting further confirmation coming through of positive feedbacks identified by Guy some time back.
One of the major ones is that the Amazon, the lungs of the planet, is turning from a carbon sink to a net emitter of carbon.

The Amazon rainforest has been absorbing about 2 million tonnes of carbon dioxide annually

The Amazon rainforest is losing its ability to absorb carbon dioxide in the atmosphere as trees are dying, which could have negative implication on climate change across the globe

Meanwhile, in the midst of a climate change- caused drought in the midst of its wet season Brazil wants to fell millions of trees for aluminum


  1. Humans have had a good run on planet earth but sadly (or maybe its not so sad) our time has run out. Fossil fuel civilization is a one way death march for our biosphere..its simple thermodynamics. Even if we didn't have climate change our civilization would still have a limited lifespan.

    Here are some predictions of temperatures I have collected over the years:

    Hans Schellnhuber: 15 C+ by 2200. In other words complete surface extinction and hydrogen sulfidication of the oceans.

    Malcolm Light: 4 C by 2030, 8 C by 2050 based on exponential Arctic methane.

    James Lovelock: 2 C+ by 2025 (inferred from books). This means 3.5 C for Africa, in other words total annihilation. 95% of my family lives in Africa. This is especially disconcerting. 6 C+ before end of century.

    Paul Beckwith: 5-6 C+ by 2025-2035

    Keep your voice loud Robin Westenra. Thank you.

  2. Sadly as a species we deserve it. As a species we separated ourselves from other species yet we are animals just like all other animals, and we are now in overshoot and collapse. But the ones who do not deserve this tragedy which is about to befall them are nonhuman animals. As if they haven't suffered enough. Nonhuman animals have been murdered and tortured in their trillions since our arrival on the planet. We kill more nonhumans in 4 days for unnecessary purposes of palate pleasure than all humans killed in wars, plagues, murders and genocides in all of human history. We murder them because we can, because they are vulnerable. And that says it all about us. We are ignorant bullies.

    In addition, we are completely self obsessed and incapable of working as a community and community has been destroyed by governments and corporations. And here we are, at the end of our time on Earth. Lucky for the planet, it will be able to recover in a few million years. Not so lucky for the other species on the planet. Eventually though bacteria will evolve and in a few million year new species will cover the Earth, different to who is here now, and it will be beautiful as well. The good news is they will be fortunate enough not to have the likes of our species sharing with them.

  3. Welcome to my world Robin, hence my middle name - Thankyoufornotbreeding.

  4. Robin, you are an honest fellow who looks objectively at what is happening before our eyes.
    I am in the same sinking rowboat with you.
    I "knew" it intellectually in 2008, & I went overboard when Semelitov observed the one kilometer methane plumes in 2011.
    I accept the simple truth that the big-enough-to-kill-us methane burp will occur in the next 1 to 5 years.
    It is overwhelmingly probable that Malcolm Light's fatal prediction will be confirmed.
    The dramatic increase in planetary methane this last year is proof plenty.
    I do not understand &/or fathom the gradualist position of Gavin Schmidt & others.
    They will soon be overwhelmed by the observational data.
    Enjoy the time left.


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