Op-Ed: How cracking down on organized crime could save a tiny porpoise from extinction 

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<https://www.latimes.com/opinion> Opinion

The vaquita, nicknamed the “panda of the sea” for its black-rimmed eyes and
mouth, is nearly extinct. Fewer than 15 are believed to exist.

(Los Angeles Times)

By Richard Ladkani

July 21, 2019

3:05 AM

Why should you care about the vaquita, a tiny porpoise you have probably
never seen, living in a sea you may have never touched, with a fate tied to
a fish you likely didn’t know existed?

Because the vaquita is a powerful symbol of what we are losing on our
planet. If we can’t save this smallest and most endangered porpoise on
earth, what hope is there for rhinos, tigers or elephants? Unless
governments and societies the world over get much more involved in saving
endangered creatures, we will be destined to live in a terribly quiet world
with nothing wild.

The vaquita is on the brink of extinction. Fewer than 15 are believed to
exist, all in the Sea of Cortez, the gulf separating Baja California from
mainland Mexico. As the giant sea-bass totoabas are poached, vaquitas –
nicknamed “pandas of the sea” for their black-rimmed eyes and mouth – are
caught as bycatch in massive commercial fishing nets and die.

The drop in vaquita numbers from almost 570 in 1997
y.html> to a fraction of that today is directly linked to organized crime,
which drives the trafficking in totoaba swim bladders with complete
disregard for the destruction it leaves behind. A single bladder can fetch
up to $100,000 in China. There are millions to be made off of them, which
makes the trade almost unstoppable without the implementation of radical

It is not like the Mexican authorities haven’t tried. They declared the
vaquita habitat a natural reserve, imposed a fishing ban, helped fund the
VaquitaCPR <http://www.vaquitacpr.org/> rescue program, made the use of
gill nets illegal and started a compensation program for fishermen barred
from going out to sea. None of this has been able to stop the killing spree.

The chaos began after the Chinese hunted the bahaba, a giant sea bass in
nearby waters to the brink of extinction about a decade ago. As they
searched for a replacement, they found it nearly 8,000 miles away in the
totoaba, inhabiting an incredibly beautiful ecosystem that undersea explorer
Jacques Cousteau once described as the
ml> “the aquarium of the world.”

After the Chinese mafia of Tijuana joined forces with the Mexican drug
cartels, the brutal hunt began for the totoaba, nicknamed “the cocaine of
the sea.” Both the vaquita and the totoaba are listed as critically
endangered by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of
Wild Fauna and Flora <https://www.cites.org/eng/disc/what.php> .

To catch the totoaba, fishermen are lured into illegality by the prospect of
riches and later extorted by the cartels. They drop thousands of gill nets
into the sea, anchoring them to the ocean floor, creating walls of death. In
addition to annihilating the totoaba, the nets snare turtles, sharks, sea
lions, birds, even whales. The vaquita is the most endangered victim of this

The laws to protect the marine environment in the Sea of Cortez are weakly
enforced. Illegal fishing is still widely viewed in Mexico as a petty crime
and widespread corruption enables it, especially among the military and
police. Mexico’s new government under President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador
has shown little interest in environmental issues, even halting a program
that provided monetary compensation to fisherman barred from all fishing
within the vaquita refuge – driving more of them into working illegally with
the cartels.

If more isn’t done, this enchanting and unique ecosystem three hours south
of the U.S.-Mexico border will be lost forever, along with the vaquita and
the totoaba. To prevent this, the local fishermen cannot be sidelined
without viable options to provide for their families and the international
community – especially the U.S. and China, but most of all Mexico – needs to
take a more aggressive stance in cracking down on transnational crime
syndicates that are decimating this marine life.

In June, two Chinese nationals were arrested when their vehicle was stopped
for speeding in Orange County and they were found transporting totoaba swim
bladders worth nearly $4 million
ly-an-estimated-20-vaquita-remaining-in-the-wild/> . In March, Chinese
authorities prosecuted 11 people for smuggling $119 million worth
of the bladders. And late last year Chinese customs officials confiscated
980 pounds of bladders
estimated to be worth about $26 million.

Of course, there is no second chance when it comes to extinction and time is
running out. Yet it is not too late to turn the tide, even for the vaquita.
DNA studies by scientists who research the vaquita show that the porpoises
can come back, even from very low numbers. All they need is a safe habitat,
which means space to roam without any nets.

Employees from nongovernmental organizations such as Earth League
International <https://earthleagueinternational.org/our-team/> and Sea
Shepherd <https://seashepherd.org/> have been working relentlessly to stop
the killing and disrupt the criminal totoaba networks, often at the risk of
their own lives, but their efforts can only buy time. Government agencies
need to step in and resolve the crisis.

The cartels are feasting on profits that rival the drug trade’s, yet they
encounter little to no resistance. Until making money off of stalking and
killing marine animals is recognized for what it is – organized crime – and
punished accordingly, the dwindling vaquita and totoaba in the azure waters
of the Sea of Cortez won’t stand a chance.

Richard Ladkani <http://www.richardladkani.com/> ‘s recently released
ry-review-20190710-story.html> “Sea of Shadows,” is about the battle to save
the vaquita.


<https://www.latimes.com/opinion> Opinion
<https://www.latimes.com/topic/op-ed> Op-Ed

Ohio’s butterfly population has fallen by a third, and researchers say the findings spell trouble for bees

A study published Tuesday found that one-third of Ohio's butterfly population had died between 1996 and 2016. The results are troubling for more important pollinators like bees, researchers said.

(CNN)Aside from a crushing loss for biodiversity, the steep decline in the US butterfly population could represent a trend for fellow insects that power American agriculture.

In what they say is the largest and longest study of butterfly populations in North America, a team of researchers found that Ohio’s butterfly population declined by a third over 20 years.
From 1996 to 2016, thousands of volunteers recorded the number of butterflies they spotted across Ohio over a six-month period.
Researchers attribute the decline to climate change, habitat degradation and insecticides used in commercial farming, according to the findings, published Tuesday in the journal PLOS One.
But it’s occurring at a rate that outpaces previous estimates, researchers said, and it could spell trouble for important insects like bees.

Butterfly deaths could signal trouble for bees

The butterfly plays a small but vital role in keeping ecosystems alive. The insects pollinate flowers while they feed on nectar, a process that produces the crops humans eat. The US Forest Service estimates that 80% of the world’s crops rely on animal pollinators like monarchs to power the industry.
Butterflies don’t have anywhere near the same reach or frequency as power-pollinators like beesor even flies. But their decline could portend a downward trend shared by more significant insects for which research is lacking, said study author Tyson Wepprich, a postdoctoral research assistant at Oregon State University.
“We don’t know yet if what’s happening with butterflies is what’s happening in native bees,” he said. “But the worry is that the environmental effects that negatively impact butterflies have the same impact on bees.”

Ohio’s monarch butterfly was hit hard

While the overall butterfly population declined throughout the study, some species declined at a steeper rate.
Ohio’s monarch butterfly population was hit particularly hard, shrinking at a rate of 7% every year. The migratory insect spends the summer in Ohio before traveling to Mexico in the fall, according to the Ohio Department of Natural Resources.
Scientists are split on the root of the monarch’s troubles. Most researchers, Wepprich said, believe that a decline in milkweed plants, which the monarchs feed on for toxins that keep larger insects and animals from eating them, across the Midwest is the primary factor. Herbicides that farmers use to control weeds on their land often kill milkweed as well.
Others argue that the stress that occurs in different stages of migration and the changing quality of its wintering site in Mexico are to blame. The culprit could be any or all of the three, Wepprich said.
Oddly, some species like the wild indigo duskywing thrived through the course of the study. Its population tripled over the course of the study as it learned to feed on exotic plants used along Ohio’s roadsides to prevent erosion, he said.
“I think each species has its own story,” he said. “If the resources are there, insects can recover.”

Earth’s Ancient Life Forms Are Awakening After 40,000 Years in Permafrost

main article image
A sample of the reawakened moss. (P. Boelen/BAS)

8 JUL 2019

From about 1550 to 1850, a global cold snap called the Little Ice Age supersized glaciers throughout the Arctic. On Canada’s Ellesmere Island, Teardrop Glacier extended its frozen tongue across the landscape and swallowed a small tuft of moss.

Thanks to this latest exploit, evolutionary biologist Catherine La Farge arrived centuries later at Teardrop’s melting edge to find the tuft of the species Aulacomnium turgidum finally free from its icy entombment. The moss was faded and torn but sported a verdant hue – a possible sign of life.

Climate change stories often highlight the teetering fragility of Earth’s ecological system. The picture grew even more dire when a United Nations report said that 1 million of our planet’s plant and animal species face the specter of extinction.

But for a few exceptional species, thawing ice caps and permafrost are starting to reveal another narrative – one of astonishing biological resilience.

Researchers in a warming Arctic are discovering organisms, frozen and presumed dead for millennia, that can bear life anew. These ice age zombies range from simple bacteria to multicellular animals, and their endurance is prompting scientists to revise their understanding of what it means to survive.

In 2009, her team was scouring Teardrop’s margin to collect blackened plant matter spit out by the shrinking glacier. Their goal was to document the vegetation that long ago formed the base of the island’s ecosystem.

“The material had always been considered dead. But by seeing green tissue, “I thought, ‘Well, that’s pretty unusual’,” La Farge said about the centuries-old moss tufts she found.

She brought dozens of these curious samples back to Edmonton, lavishing them with nutrient-rich soils in a bright, warm laboratory. Almost a third of the samples burst forth with new shoots and leaves.

“We were pretty blown away,” La Farge said. The moss showed few ill effects of its multi-centennial deep-freeze.

It’s not easy to survive being frozen solid. Jagged ice crystals can shred cell membranes and other vital biological machinery. Many plants and animals simply succumb to the cold at winter’s onset, willing their seeds or eggs to spawn a new generation come spring.

Thanks to these adaptations, mosses are more likely than other plants to survive long-term freezing, said Peter Convey, an ecologist with the British Antarctic Survey.

On the heels of La Farge’s Canadian moss revival, Convey’s team announced it had awakened a 1,500-year-old moss buried more than three feet underground in the Antarctic permafrost.

“The permafrost environment is very stable,” said Convey, noting that the perennially frozen soil can insulate the moss from surface-level stresses, such as annual freeze-thaw cycles or DNA-damaging radiation.

The regrowth of centuries-old mosses suggests that glaciers and permafrost are not merely graveyards for multicellular life, but they could instead help organisms withstand ice ages. And as human-caused warming peels away ice cover in the Arctic and Antarctic, whoever makes it out of the ice alive is poised to dominate the budding polar ecosystems.

But “when something can survive in situ,” said Convey of the moss his team discovered, “that really accelerates the recolonization process.” These mosses can paint a lifeless landscape green almost overnight, paving the way for other organisms to arrive and establish.

While the elderly mosses discovered by La Farge and Convey are remarkable, the clique of ice age survivors extends well beyond this one group of plants.

Tatiana Vishnivetskaya has studied ancient microbes long enough to make the extreme feel routine. A microbiologist at the University of Tennessee, Vishnivetskaya drills deep into the Siberian permafrost to map the web of single-celled organisms that flourished ice ages ago.

She has coaxed million-year-old bacteria back to life on a petri dish. They look “very similar to bacteria you can find in cold environments [today],” she said.

But last year, Vishnivetskaya’s team announced an “accidental finding” – one with a brain and nervous system – that shattered scientists’ understanding of extreme endurance.

As usual, the researchers were seeking singled-celled organisms, the only life-forms thought to be viable after millennia locked in the permafrost. They placed the frozen material on petri dishes in their room-temperature lab and noticed something strange.

Hulking among the puny bacteria and amoebae were long, segmented worms complete with a head at one end and anus at the other – nematodes.

“Of course we were surprised and very excited,” Vishnivetskaya said. Clocking in at a half-millimeter long, the nematodes that wriggled back to life were the most complex creatures Vishnivetskaya – or anyone else – had ever revived after a lengthy deep freeze.

She estimated one nematode to be 41,000 years old – by far the oldest living animal ever discovered. This very worm dwelled in the soil beneath Neanderthals’ feet and had lived to meet modern-day humans in Vishnivetskaya’s high-tech laboratory.

Experts suggested that nematodes are well-equipped to endure millennia locked in permafrost.

“These buggers survive just about everything,” said Gaetan Borgonie, a nematode researcher at Extreme Life Isyensya in Gentbrugge, Belgium, who was not involved in Vishnivetskaya’s study.

He said nematodes are ubiquitous across Earth’s diverse habitats. Borgonie has found teeming communities of nematodes two miles below Earth’s surface, in South African mine shafts with scant oxygen and scalding heat.

When environmental conditions deteriorate, some nematode species can hunker down into a state of suspended animation called the dauer stage – dauer means duration in German – in which they forestall feeding and grow a protective coating that shields them from extreme conditions.

Vishnivetskaya is not sure whether the nematodes her team pulled from the permafrost passed the epochs in dauer stage. But she speculated that nematodes could theoretically survive indefinitely if frozen stably.

“They may last any number of years if their cells stay intact,” she said.

Borgonie agrees. While he conceded that the finding of Pleistocene-aged nematodes was “a huge surprise,” he said “if they survived 41,000 years, I have no idea what the upper limit is.”

He views nematodes’ virtuosic endurance in a cosmic context. “It’s very good news for the solar system,” said Borgonie, who believes these feats of survival may portend life on other planets.

Here on Earth, many species are spiraling toward extinction as humans jumble the global climate. But near the thawing poles, a hardy few organisms are revealing incredible stamina.

It is ecological gospel that some creatures – from birds to butterflies to wildebeest – survive by migrating vast and hazardous distances to find favorable habitat. More recent discoveries hint at a different migratory mode: through time.

After protracted slumber in Earth’s icy fringes, bacteria, moss and nematodes are awakening in a new geologic epoch. And for these paragons of endurance, the weather is just right.

2019 © The Washington Post

This article was originally published by The Washington Post.

Climate change isn’t our only existential threat

Ira Helfand, a medical doctor, is a member of the international steering group of the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons, the recipient of the 2017 Nobel Peace Prize. He is also co-president of the International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War, the founding partner organization of ICAN and itself the recipient of the 1985 Nobel Peace Prize. The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of the author. View more opinions on CNN.

(CNN)America confronts a long list of critical problems and they all require urgent attention. But among them, two issues stand out: catastrophic climate change and nuclear war are unique in the threat they pose to the very survival of human civilization. The enormity and imminence of these twin existential threats cannot be overstated and how to confront them must be the central issue of any presidential campaign.

Ira Helfand

Climate change and the danger of nuclear war are closely related. As climate change progresses over the coming decades, large areas of the planet will beunable to support their human population. As a result, there will likely be forced migrations on a scale unknown in human history, and an enormously increased risk of conflict, including nuclear conflict. Nuclear war, should it come, would cause further catastrophic climate disruption and widespread global famine.
Fortunately, there is a much greater focus on climate change in this election cycle than in 2016 when it received scant attention in the campaign despite the enormous differences in the policies espoused by the major candidates. This time around, the growing demand for action, especially by young people, and the daily reminders of the escalating damage to the planet, are forcing this issue to the fore where it rightly belongs.
Progressives in Congress have put forward a comprehensive plan to deal with this crisis in the form of the Green New Deal, and there is the real possibility that a post-Trump administration will embrace this plan or some variant on it. Unfortunately, there is much less attention at this point in the campaign to the growing danger of nuclear war. That must change.
Former Secretary of Defense William Perry has said that the danger of nuclear war is greater than it was during the Cold War, and the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists has set its iconic Doomsday Clock to 2 minutes to midnight, the closest it has been to a nuclear apocalypse since 1953, after the US tested the hydrogen bomb. Relations between the US and Russia are the worst they have been in three decades and the current tension is replete with nuclear saber-rattling from both sides. War between the nuclear superpowers is an ever-present threat.
Furthermore, research done over the last 15 years has shown that even a very “limited” nuclear war, involving less than 0.5% of the world’s nuclear weapons, would be enough to cause catastrophic global climate disruption and a worldwide famine, putting up to 2 billion people at risk. Such a war would not necessarily involve the great powers. A war between nuclear-armed India and Pakistan could easily produce this level of global climate disruption.
Even if none of the nine nuclear-armed states makes a deliberate decision to launch nuclear weapons, the possibility of an accidental war remains. There have been at least six episodes during the nuclear weapons era when either Moscow or Washington began the process of launching its nuclear weapons in the mistaken belief that it was already under attack. As Robert McNamara, President Kennedy’s defense secretary, famously stated, “We lucked out. It was luck that prevented nuclear war.” As long as they continue to maintain nuclear arsenals, the security “policy” of the nuclear-armed states is essentially a hope for continued good luck.
The last time the world was this close to nuclear annihilation, in the 1980s, the need to prevent nuclear war was front and center in the nation’s political discourse. A vast popular movement formed that demanded and won a freeze in the nuclear arms race.
The danger today demands a similar response, and this time the effort must focus on the complete elimination of nuclear weapons.
A campaign to focus national attention on this issue has begun to take shape around the Back from the Brink platform, a Green New Deal for the nuclear threat. Supported by more than 200 professional associations, faith communities, peace and environmental groups, it has been endorsed unanimously by the US Conference of Mayors, and by the municipalities of Baltimore, Los Angeles and DC, as well as being approved overwhelmingly by the California and Oregon legislatures and the New Jersey General Assembly.
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In 2017, 122 nations voted to establish the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons. The US boycotted those negotiations and has not yet signed the treaty. The Back from the Brink campaign calls on the United States to embrace the treaty and lead an international effort to prevent nuclear war. It specifically urges the US to enter now into negotiations with the other nuclear-armed states for a verifiable, enforceable, timebound plan to eliminate their nuclear arsenals as the only way to guarantee that they are never used. We cannot know for sure that we will be able to eliminate nuclear weapons; we do know what is likely to happen if we don’t.
The United States cannot afford to elect a good president in 2020. It must elect a great president, and at this moment in time, greatness means the ability to deal successfully with the danger posed by climate change and nuclear weapons.

The problem with predicting the end of the world

There have been many end-of-the-world prophecies in the past. Why is this one somehow different?

JUNE 30, 2019 5:00PM (UTC)
Last month I interviewed Jay Inslee, the Washington governor running for president who is positioning himself as the climate change–aware candidate. In the introduction for that piece, I wrote that the stakes for that issue are literally “apocalyptic” — meaning if global warming doesn’t get addressed, the world as we know it will end.

But after publication, two of my acquaintances took umbrage with this statement. There have been many end-of-the-world prophecies in the past, they reasoned. Why is this one different?

I have to admit that they raised a valid point, discomforting as it may be to admit. There have been many occasions in human history in which vast swathes of civilization were convinced that the end of days was near. Considering that I’m writing this right now in 2019, obviously those doomsday predictions did not come to pass. Hence, if we are to argue that the crisis posed by man-made climate change is somehow different from all those other occasions, we need to ask ourselves: How?

“This is a case in point: what civilizations claimed the end of the world was happening?” Naomi Oreskes, professor of history of science and affiliated professor of earth and planetary sciences at Harvard University, told Salon by email. “In Europe, there is a long history of millenarianism, but that is associated with Christian theological belief, not science. In the U.S., there have been religious cults that anticipated the end of the world (or its equivalent) but again, these claims came from extremist or what scholars call “non-conforming” religious groups.”

Oreskes did point out that there was a moment in history when the world “pretty much did come to an end” (for certain European societies, at least). That was in the 14th century, during the Black Death. She noted that, if European science had been more advanced then, the plague could have conceivably been predicted.


“For both the people who died, and for those who lived on in societies that were severely disrupted, it was the end of the world as they knew it. I think, in that way, the Black Death is an interesting analogy for us. I don’t believe humans will go extinct from anthropogenic climate change, but I do believe the disruption could be as severe as the Black Death,” Oreskes told Salon.

“Now, scientists did not predict the Black Death,” she added. “If they had, and if they had had a way to contain it, surely their civilizations would have been wise to pay heed?”

Michael E. Mann, distinguished professor of atmospheric science at Penn State University, told Salon that many of the people who compare the threat posed by climate change to other apocalypse predictions do so in bad faith “because it sounds plausible to the person on the street despite its falsehood.” He then drew two more important comparisons to explain the seriousness of man-made climate change.

“The two best analogies (i.e. of global environmental problems) that we have faced in the past are acid rain and ozone depletion,” Mann wrote to Salon. “In both cases, science recognized the problems early on, the damage they were doing was already detectable, but we acted in time to avert catastrophe. Global climate change is an even bigger problem because of the centrality of the burning of fossil fuels in modern societal infrastructure.”

“That having been said, these past threats — acid rain and ozone depletion — provide an excellent model for our policy intervention can be used to avert catastrophe,” he continued. “The implications are just the opposite of what the critics are claiming.”

This is not to say that one should be cautious, rhetorically speaking, in using terms like “apocalypse” to describe the future. Kevin Trenberth, distinguished senior scientist in the Climate Analysis Section at the National Center for Atmospheric Research, warned against potential hyperbole in describing the impact of climate change.

“It is not right to say ‘end of the world’ because the world will go on with or without humans,” Trenberth explained in an email to Salon. He continued:

Rather, it is an existential threat in the sense that civilization as we know it is seriously threatened. How this happens is a major issue: We can see signs from the Syrian war related refugees threats. As water and food supplies become chronically insufficient, does that mean some countries are fine and others are doomed, are there regional conflicts and then wider spread conflicts, is there any kind of international governance that can work? […] Does ebola become a global threat? It seems to me to be highly unlikely to wipe out humans, or end the world, but more likely to result in widespread strife and maybe a major downsizing of the population. i.e. boom (recent) to bust. How is the bust manifested?

Peter Gleick, president emeritus of the Pacific Institute, was even more cautious, even scolding this reporter for potentially feeding into a “false narrative.”

“I don’t support the ‘end of the world’ narrative,” Gleick wrote. “I don’t believe there is any scientific assessment that does.”

He added, “I also don’t support the ‘human extinction’ sub-narrative. Indeed, I’d argue that climate deniers are far more likely to push the ‘end of the world’ narrative, misleadingly, in order precisely to be able to say ‘See, the world didn’t end, therefore climate change is a fake problem.'”

Gleick pointed to a recent Vice story about  a climate change “scenario report,” which he called “misleading.” “That Vice story completely misrepresented the report, but was seized on by climate deniers,” Gleick said. He said that Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s (D.-N.Y.) “comment about the end of the world in 12 years — made colloquially to raise concern about climate change — has similarly been seized on by climate deniers to prepare, in 12 years, to say ‘See, the world didn’t end. Those radicals are always exaggerating about environmental problems.'”

“I hope you aren’t going to feed this false narrative,” Gleick pleaded. “It detracts from the very real and massive disruptions (but not ‘world ending’ or ‘human extinction causing’) that climate change might cause if we don’t accelerate efforts to address it. The truth is bad enough.”

I do agree with Gleick, to a point — certainly it is important not to overstate matters, or to make concrete predictions that could be disproven and thereby harm the larger political case. At the same time, it is important to remember that, just as human fallibility is what got us into the mess of man-made climate change, so too will humans be fallible in attempting to fix the problem. Those who have made hyperbolic statements in the past should be more careful in their language going forward, but they should not be vilified so long as their intentions were intellectually honest. The stakes are too high for the people who want to prevent catastrophe to tear each other apart like the Judaean rebels in “Monty Python’s Life of Brian.”


Philosophically speaking, I think Jay Inslee’s perspective on global warming might be the most sound. (Note: I do not intend to endorse Inslee for president, but merely cite him as a political leader who offered useful insight on how to approach the problem). When speaking to Salon last month, he warned that “we are facing the conclusion of a place to live that would be unrecognizable, and what year or decade that actually becomes the cliff is unknown, but it is out there and we are now facing very severe damage already today.”

“This is not an issue of tomorrow,” Inslee continued. “This is an issue of damage and pain today, and I’ve seen that from the people whose homes burned down in Seminole Springs, California, to the people whose nonprofits were flooded in Davenport, California.”

He added, “So I think one of the points I’d like to make is that yes, there is an apocalypse out there where things become unrecognizable to us. But this is about our injury today and that’s one of the reasons that people are recognizing the necessity of action today.”

A Glint Of Light And A Hint Of Life: Mars Is Getting Very Interesting Right Now

The bright spot in the distance was photographed days before the rover detected a possible sign of life on the Red Planet.

NASA’s Mars Curiosity rover spotted a strange glowing object that seemed to hover just above the surface of the Red Planet earlier this month.

While the glint on Mars has captured the imagination of folks on social media, it was likely just sunlight, a cosmic ray or a camera artifact. But in an unrelated development days later, the rover detected something else ― and it could be a long-sought signal of possible microbial life on or inside the planet.

Help us tell more of the stories that matter from voices that too often remain unheard.

The glowing object was captured on camera ― look at the right side of this raw image taken from the NASA website on June 16:

Here it is zoomed in:

It doesn’t appear on any of the images snapped before or after, taken about 13 seconds apart, so if it was an object of some kind it moved quickly. More likely, however, it was nothing too out of the ordinary.

“In the thousands of images we’ve received from Curiosity, we see ones with bright spots nearly every week,” Justin Maki of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory said in 2014 when a similar flash of light made headlines. “These can be caused by cosmic-ray hits or sunlight glinting from rock surfaces, as the most likely explanations.”

So, the flash of light was unlikely to be a sign of activity on the planet.

But something else was detected on Mars last week that just might be a sign of life: methane. The New York Times reported that Curiosity detected a spike in methane, which, if confirmed, could hint of microbial life hidden beneath the surface of Mars.

There were other possible explanations:

Curiosity Rover


Something in the air tonight

I detected the largest amount of methane ever during my mission: ~21 parts per billion by volume. While microbial life can be a source of methane on Earth, methane can also be made by interaction between rocks and water. https://go.nasa.gov/2ZC0xvc 

1,077 people are talking about this

The rover spent the weekend conducting follow-up tests in an attempt to confirm the results, with more analysis ongoing. NASA said the rover had detected methane in the past, and the planet seemed to have seasonal peaks and dips.

Definitive answers could be tough to come by.

“With our current measurements, we have no way of telling if the methane source is biology or geology, or even ancient or modern,” Paul Mahaffy of NASA’s Goddard Spaceflight Center said in a news release.

NASA is coordinating with the scientists working with the European Space Agency’s Trace Gas Orbiter, which is orbiting Mars, to find the origin of the gas.



Mars Photos

Deadly heat waves projected in the densely populated agricultural regions of South Asia


Eun-Soon Im,1* Jeremy S. Pal,2* Elfatih A. B. Eltahir3


The risk of human illness and mortality increases in hot and humid weather associated with heat waves. Sherwood and Huber (1) proposed the concept of a human survivability threshold based on wet- bulb temperature (TW). TW is defined as the temperature that an air parcel would attain if cooled at constant pressure by evaporating water within it until saturation. It is a combined measure of temperature [that is, dry-bulb temperature (T)] and humidity (Q) that is always less than or equal to T. High values of TW imply hot and humid conditions and vice versa. The increase in TW reduces the differential between hu- man body skin temperature and the inner temperature of the human body, which reduces the human body’s ability to cool itself (2). Because normal human body temperature is maintained within a very narrow limit of ±1°C (3), disruption of the body’s ability to regulate temperature can immediately impair physical and cognitive functions (4). If ambient air TW exceeds 35°C (typical human body skin temperature under warm conditions), metabolic heat can no longer be dissipated. Human exposure to TW of around 35°C for even a few hours will result in death even for the fittest of humans under shaded, well-ventilated conditions (1). While TW well below 35°C can pose dangerous conditions for most humans, 35°C can be considered an upper limit on human survivability in a natural (not air-conditioned) environment. Here, we consider maximum daily TW values averaged over a 6-hour window (TWmax), which is considered the maximum duration fit humans can survive at 35°C.

“The big challenge is still to deliver emissions reductions at the pace and scale needed, especially in a world where economies are driven by consumption.”

Sonja van Renssen.The inconvenient truth of failed climate policies. Nature Climate Change  MAY 2018

Published online: 27 April 2018 https://doi.org/10.1038/s41558-018-0155-4

New Report Suggests ‘High Likelihood of Human Civilization Coming to an End’ Starting in 2050

The climate change analysis was written by a former fossil fuel executive and backed by the former chief of Australia’s military.

Image: Mark Garlick/Science Photos Library via Getty Images



A harrowing scenario analysis of how human civilization might collapse in coming decades due to climate change has been endorsed by a former Australian defense chief and senior royal navy commander.

The analysis, published by the Breakthrough National Centre for Climate Restoration, a think-tank in Melbourne, Australia, describes climate change as “a near- to mid-term existential threat to human civilization” and sets out a plausible scenario of where business-as-usual could lead over the next 30 years.

The paper argues that the potentially “extremely serious outcomes” of climate-related security threats are often far more probable than conventionally assumed, but almost impossible to quantify because they “fall outside the human experience of the last thousand years.”

On our current trajectory, the report warns, “planetary and human systems [are] reaching a ‘point of no return’ by mid-century, in which the prospect of a largely uninhabitable Earth leads to the breakdown of nations and the international order.”

The only way to avoid the risks of this scenario is what the report describes as “akin in scale to the World War II emergency mobilization”—but this time focused on rapidly building out a zero-emissions industrial system to set in train the restoration of a safe climate.

The scenario warns that our current trajectory will likely lock in at least 3 degrees Celsius (C) of global heating, which in turn could trigger further amplifying feedbacks unleashing further warming. This would drive the accelerating collapse of key ecosystems “including coral reef systems, the Amazon rainforest and in the Arctic.”

The results would be devastating. Some one billion people would be forced to attempt to relocate from unlivable conditions, and two billion would face scarcity of water supplies. Agriculture would collapse in the sub-tropics, and food production would suffer dramatically worldwide. The internal cohesion of nation-states like the US and China would unravel.

“Even for 2°C of warming, more than a billion people may need to be relocated and in high-end scenarios, the scale of destruction is beyond our capacity to model with a high likelihood of human civilization coming to an end,” the report notes.

The new policy briefing is written by David Spratt, Breakthrough’s research director and Ian Dunlop, a former senior executive of Royal Dutch Shell who previously chaired the Australian Coal Association.

Read More: Scientists Warn the UN of Capitalism’s Imminent Demise

In the briefing’s foreword, retired Admiral Chris Barrie—Chief of the Australian Defence Force from 1998 to 2002 and former Deputy Chief of the Australian Navy—commends the paper for laying “bare the unvarnished truth about the desperate situation humans, and our planet, are in, painting a disturbing picture of the real possibility that human life on Earth may be on the way to extinction, in the most horrible way.”

Barrie now works for the Climate Change Institute at Australian National University, Canberra.

Spratt told Motherboard that a key reason the risks are not understood is that “much knowledge produced for policymakers is too conservative. Because the risks are now existential, a new approach to climate and security risk assessment is required using scenario analysis.”

Last October, Motherboard reported on scientific evidence that the UN’s summary report for government policymakers on climate change—whose findings were widely recognized as “devastating”—were in fact too optimistic.


While the Breakthrough scenario sets out some of the more ‘high end’ risk possibilities, it is often not possible to meaningfully quantify their probabilities. As a result, the authors emphasize that conventional risk approaches tend to downplay worst-case scenarios despite their plausibility.

Spratt and Dunlop’s 2050 scenario illustrates how easy it could be to end up in an accelerating runaway climate scenario which would lead to a largely uninhabitable planet within just a few decades.

“A high-end 2050 scenario finds a world in social breakdown and outright chaos,” said Spratt. “But a short window of opportunity exists for an emergency, global mobilization of resources, in which the logistical and planning experiences of the national security sector could play a valuable role.”

Update: This story’s headline has been updated to reflect that the paper suggests 2050 is when the analysts suspect widespread global strife will begin.

Will climate change kill everyone — or just lots and lots of people?



The debate over whether climate change will end life on Earth, explained.

A sign on a trail in Austria marks how quickly glaciers are receding.
 Sean Gallup/Getty Images

Is climate change going to end human civilization for good, and so soon that we may as well not bother saving for retirement?

That’s the theory put forward in a recent viral Vice post: “New Report Warns ‘High Likelihood of Human Civilization Coming to an End’ Within 30 Years.’”

The Vice story summed up a new report from the Breakthrough National Centre for Climate Restoration, an Australian think tank, arguing that the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change analysis of the impacts of climate change understates how much harm it’ll do, and that in reality we face something much worse, with runaway feedback effects amplifying the initial warming until the Earth is “largely uninhabitable.” It doesn’t actually argue that the world will end in 30 years, but it suggests we’ll reach the tipping point by then.

The story went up on Vice with an orange-tinged, haunting illustration of the Statue of Liberty submerged to the neck by rising seas. The post was shared more than 70,000 times on Facebook and left readers terrified, despairing, and sharing doubts about whether it’s ethical to have children.

The Breakthrough report — and the media coverage of it — frustrated many climate scientists. In a detailed response, six researchers argued that the report overstates the risks from climate change, and that subsequent reporting overstated it even further. The fact is that even the most pessimistic reports, evaluated responsibly, don’t suggest climate change will end human civilization, much less within our lifetimes. (Don’t stop saving for retirement.) Vice later altered the headline to “New Report Warns ‘High Likelihood Of Human Civilization Coming To An End’ Starting Within 30 Years’ — and even published a rebuttal.

But the Vice piece tapped into what’s actually been a long-running and sometimes contentious conversation about the climate crisis — specifically, about whether it’s merely just devastating or in fact an existential risk to humanity.

Beneath the disagreement over climate risks is a disagreement over worldviews. From one perspective, quibbling over whether climate change will kill millions or billions is a silly waste of time when, in either case, we urgently need to act. But from another perspective, the difference is deeply significant — for example, it changes whether potential solutions that carry significant risks, like some forms of solar geoengineering, are warranted.

Another broad disagreement is whether alarmism makes our prospects of tackling climate change better or worse. As some people see it, we’re not doing nearly enough to fight climate change, so we’d better focus in on the worst-case scenarios in case that will be what it takes to finally spur people to action. Others, though, worry that alarmism, far from motivating people, leads to paralysis — too much despair about the future to even bother working on it.

So, yes, the Vice story did hype up the threat from the climate crisis — and it likely won’t be the last of those stories we’ll see.

The argument that climate change will kill us all

The expected effects of climate change, according to organizations like the IPCC and the World Bank, are fairly terrifying.

They suggest the planet’s climate will change fast enough to cause widespread droughts and famines, the spread of insect-borne diseases, the displacement of populations, and a worsening of severe poverty.

But here’s one thing they don’t predict: mass civilizational collapse.

Most models warn that as a result of climate change, the incredibly rapid progress humanity has been making in life expectancies and in ending extreme poverty will stall — or that we could even lose decades of the progress we’ve made. If extreme poverty gets as bad as it was in 1980 due to climate change, that will be an immeasurable humanitarian failure, and hundreds of millions of people will die. But the 1980s definitely did have human civilization, and the future in this version would too.

Another way of looking at it is that the predicted effects of climate change are very bad, but not in a cinematic way. Sea levels will rise, but not up to the Statue of Liberty’s neck (if all the ice in the world melted, sea levels would rise to approximately the statue’s waist). Lots of people will die, most of them low-income. It’s not surprising that this gets less viral attention than extreme, extinction-focused scenarios.

But that isn’t to say extreme scenarios are made up from nothing. Where do some people conclude that climate change might swallow up civilization itself?

Well, for one thing, lots of climate policy analysts agree that the IPCC is too optimistic. In particular, the IPCC has kept insisting that it’s still possible to keep warming under 2 degrees Celsius when at this point, that’s really unrealistic. As my colleague David Roberts put it:

Models have often included unrealistically low estimates of current and future emissions growth, unrealistically early peaks in global emissions, and unequitable estimates of emission curves in developing countries (implicitly assuming stunted development). … Models routinely show 4 or even 6 percent annual reductions, a rate of emissions decline that has never been achieved by anyone, anywhere, ever, much less consistently over 50 years.

So it’s not surprising that some people got interested in more pessimistic models. What if we assume that we don’t get our emissions under control? What if we assume that there are severe “feedback cycles” where warming causes the release of carbon dioxide currently contained in the land and in the oceans, fueling further warming? And what if, instead of trying to model the most likely outcome, we look at outcomes that may only have a 10 percent chance of occurring but would be particularly disastrous if they did?

It says, for example, “attention has been given to a ‘hothouse Earth’ scenario, in which system feedbacks and their mutual interaction could drive the Earth System climate to a point of no return, whereby further warming would become self-sustaining. This ‘hothouse Earth’ planetary threshold could exist at a temperature rise as low as 2°C, possibly even lower.”

“Our argument is in essence that on the present path, including the commitments in Paris, warming will be three or three and a bit degrees,” Spratt told me. “If you include climate cycle feedbacks, which are not included in the IPCC analysis, it’ll be effectively higher.” For both those claims, there’s significant published science backing him. Then he gets to the controversial bit: “Three degrees may end our civilization.”

For that claim, he cites climate scientist John Schellnhuber, who said in an interview early this year, “if we get it wrong, do the wrong things … then I think there is a very big risk that we will just end our civilisation,” and UN Secretary General António Guterres, who has said “The problem is that the status quo is a suicide.”

It’s hard to know how to interpret remarks like those in an interview, but Spratt’s take is that the end of human civilization is not just a possibility but a likely outcome if we continue down our current path. Many people had no trouble believing it.

Scientists objected. Here’s what they said.

Six climate scientists reviewed the accuracy of the report and Vice’s write-up at Climate Feedback, a nonprofit that works to improve climate reporting by getting comments from scientists on striking claims in the press. Their responses were scathing.

“This is a classic case of a media article over-stating the conclusions and significance of a non-peer reviewed report that itself had already overstated (and indeed misrepresented) peer-reviewed science,” wrote Richard Betts, who chairs the department for climate impact research at the University of Exeter and leads the European Union project that studies the impacts of extreme global warming.

The Breakthrough report does indeed gather claims from other papers, climate leaders, and thinkers. But it selected many of the scariest and most speculative papers and presented them without being clear about how plausible they are.

And some of its most outrageous claims are just wrong. The report argues that if temperatures continue to rise, “fifty-five percent of the global population are subject to more than 20 days a year of lethal heat conditions beyond that which humans can survive.” That’d be terrifying. But Betts points out that this is based on the definition of a “deadly heat wave” from a paper that defined a deadly heat wave as one above a threshold where at least one person is expected to die (based on historical data). And some of the temperatures identified as deadly are as low as 86 degrees Fahrenheit (30 degrees Celsius) with high humidity — hot, but not what comes to mind from the phrase “lethal heat conditions beyond what humans can survive.”

“The report’s authors have merely read (or possibly seen without actually reading) a few of the scariest papers they could find, misunderstood (or not read properly) at least one of them, and presented unjustified statements,” Betts added.

“The scenario constructed in this report does not have a ‘high likelihood’ of occurring,” wrote Andrew King, a research fellow at the University of Melbourne.

Spratt says that it needn’t be likely to be an important focus. “Sensible risk management is to look at what are the worst feasible options and take actions to stop them occurring,” he told me. “In risk management, we ask what is the worst possible outcome and avoid it. We don’t assume that middle-of-the-road outcomes are the worst thing around, because that’d be disastrous.” That said, he agreed that much of the media coverage, including the viral Vice article, was “over-the-top and often misleading.”

But the scientists who reviewed the article didn’t just object to the headlines. They felt that the core claim — that 3 or 4 degrees of warming could destroy civilization — was also deeply unlikely. “While there is plenty of scientific evidence that climate change will pose increasingly existential threats to the most vulnerable individuals in society and to key global ecosystems,” wrote UCLA researcher Daniel Swain, “even these dire outcomes aren’t equivalent to the ‘annihilation of intelligent life,’ as is claimed in the report.”

One important thing here is that “suicide,” “catastrophic,” and “end of civilization” are all nontechnical terms, and people may have very different things in mind when they use them — especially if we’re looking at interviews rather than at papers.

I also talked to some researchers who study existential risks, like John Halstead, who studies climate change mitigation at the philanthropic advising group Founders Pledge, and who has a detailed online analysis of all the (strikingly few) climate change papers that address existential risk (his analysis has not been peer-reviewed yet).

Halstead looks into the models of potential temperature increases that Breakthrough’s report highlights. The models show a surprisingly large chance of extreme degrees of warming. Halstead points out that in many papers, this is the result of the simplistic form of statistical modeling used. Other papers have made a convincing case that this form of statistical modeling is an irresponsible way to reason about climate change, and that the dire projections rest on a statistical method that is widely understood to be a bad approach for that question.

Further, “the carbon effects don’t seem to pose an existential risk,” he told me. “People use 10 degrees as an illustrative example” — of a nightmare scenario where climate change goes much, much worse than expected in every respect — “and looking at it, even 10 degrees would not really cause the collapse of industrial civilization,” though the effects would still be pretty horrifying. (On the question of whether an increase of 10 degrees would be survivable, there is much debate.)

Does it matter if climate change is an existential risk or just a really bad one?

That last distinction Halstead draws — of climate change as being awful but not quite an existential threat — is a controversial one.

That’s where a difference in worldviews looms large: Existential risk researchers are extremely concerned with the difference between the annihilation of humanity and mass casualties that humanity can survive. To everyone else, those two outcomes seem pretty similar.

To academics in philosophy and public policy who study the future of humankind, an existential risk is a very specific thing: a disaster that destroys all future human potential and ensures that no generations of humans will ever leave Earth and explore our universe. The death of 7 billion people is, of course, an unimaginable tragedy. But researchers who study existential risks argue that the annihilation of humanity is actually much, much worse than that — not only do we lose existing people, but we lose all the people who could otherwise have had the chance to exist.

In this worldview, 7 billion humans dying is not just seven times as bad as 1 billion humans dying — it’s much worse. This style of thinking seems plausible enough when you think about past tragedies; the Black Death, which killed a quarter to a third of all humans alive at the time, was not one-third as bad as a hypothetical plague that wiped us all out.

Most people don’t think about existential risks much. Many analyses of climate change — including the report Vice based its article on — treat the deaths of a billion people and the extinction of humanity as pretty similar outcomes, interchangeably using descriptions of catastrophes that would kill hundreds of millions and catastrophes that’d kill us all. And the existential risk conversation can come across as tone-deaf and off-puttingly academic, as if it’s no big deal if merely hundreds of millions of people will die due to climate change.

Obviously, and this needs to be stressed, climate change is a big deal either way. But there aredifferences between catastrophe and extinction. If the models tell us that all humans are going to die, then extreme solutions — which might save us, or might have unprecedented, catastrophic negative consequences — might be worth trying. Think of plans to release aerosols into the atmosphere to reflect sunlight and cool the planet back down in the manner that volcanic explosions do. It’d be an enormous endeavor with significant potential downsides — we don’t even yet know all the risks it might pose — but if the alternative is extinction then those risks would be worth taking.

But if the models tell us that climate change is devastating but survivable, as most models show, then those last-ditch solutions should perhaps stay in the toolkit for now.

Then there’s the morale argument. Defenders of overstating the risks of climate change point out that, well, understating them isn’t working. The IPCC may have chosen to maintain optimism about containing warming to 2 degrees Celsius in the hopes that it’d spur people to action, but if so, it hasn’t really worked. Maybe alarmism will achieve what optimism couldn’t.

That’s how Spratt sees it. “Alarmism?” he said to me. “Should we be alarmed about where we’re going? Of course we should be.”

Swedish teenager Greta Thunberg has taken an arguably alarmist bent in her advocacy for climate solutions in the EU, saying, “Our house is on fire. I don’t want your hope. … I want you to panic.” She’s gotten strong reactions from politicians, suggesting that at least sometimes a relentless focus on the severity of the emergency can get results.

So where does this all leave us? It’s worthwhile to look into the worst-case scenarios, and even to highlight and emphasize them. But it’s important to accurately represent current climate consensus along the way. It’s hard to see how we solve a problem we have widespread misapprehensions about in either direction — and when a warning is overstated or inaccurate, it may sow more confusion than inspiration.

Climate change won’t kill us all. That matters. Yet it’s one of the biggest challenges ahead of us, and the results of our failure to act will be devastating. That message — the most accurate message we’ve got — will have to stand on its own.


 I decided not to have children when I was in my 30’s, about 15 years ago. It was really a heartbreaking decision, but I did not want to bring a new life into a world that was clearly out of control and destroying it’s own home. The details on climate change were already known, but mostly hidden and not talked about, and certainly not as dire as todays news. My goal was to adopt an older child, but without the support of my partner I did not pursue that plan, and am now childless. I know how hard that choice is, and would like to listen to and support others through their journey. There are so many ways to use my nurturing, caregiving, mothering desires in my life. I’m very happy and content with my decision.

Julie O’Keefe, 53
birthstrike ecologicalbreakdown systemchange ecocide familychildren socialcollapse regeneration rewilding extinctionrebellion

 I am an Environmental Systems Scientist, 52 years old, and have been following climate science for a long time (although it´s not my research area). I used to give public talks on climate in Australia and New Zealand, then I went to sleep on the issue – children and every day life took over. It has only been in recent years that I have re-awoken to the likely horrors that await us. Things seem to changing faster now – I think they´ll progress faster than the scientists have predicted, as feedbacks start to kick-in. As I read recently, we have emitted 50% of all emissions in history in the last 30 years! I´ve seen the glaciers melting, the fires, the tornadoes, typhoons and cyclones, the devastated lives, and this is just the beginning. I fear for the future of my children, I imagine them dying with me when climate change decimates our food supply. I despair at the ignorance and willful greed and callous campaigns of the fossil fuel industries to maintain business as usual when they could have been part of the solution, and I´m disgusted at our politicians, who care more about pandering to powerful lobbies than protecting our futures. I love my children they are here, but had I realised how bad things are going to get, what the future brings, I would not have brought them into the world – I will certainly have no more – I had a vasectomy to make certain. I very strongly agree with the goals of BirthStrike, and ExtinctionRebellion and the school strikes – we need change more than ever.

Jeremy Wilkinson, 52
birthstrike ecologicalbreakdown socialcollapse extinctionrebellionsystemchange children ecocide family climatechange

 I was planning on having a family in the future, I’m 25 and single and not currently in a position where I would be having children any time soon but I did certainly want to have children in the future.
I had been thinking since 2015 about other factors that effect how/when/if I should ever have children. Other existential risks as well as technological advances that I felt should be taken in to account with the decision.
It was the IPCC report last October that spurred me into realising Climate Change is also an existential risk and I quickly reprioritised and learnt as much as I could up to Christmas.
In a nutshell, the course humanity is currently on is far more dire than I had realised with regards to climate change, on top of all the existential risks I paying attention to prior to October. I know that unless we take action and successfully prevent a number of things taking place, then it is highly probable our species will be extinct before this century ends. I want to contribute to the survival of our species, as well as the countless other animal and plant species at risk. You can’t maintain a civilisation if no more children are born, of course, but right now I need a certain number of things to happen and for history to change course, big time, before I can accept that we have attained future suitable for starting a family in.

Oliver Graves, 25
birthstrike extinctionrebellion systemchange children familyecologicalbreakdown climatechange socialcollapse

 I first learned of climate change in the early eighties, when I was in my early 20s. This, combined with the efforts to turn then rural china and india into consumer populations, made it clear that bringing another American in the world would only accelerate planetary systems breakdown, which would then have to be borne by this child. Meanwhile, so many children already in the world need parents. Having children flew in the face of common sense then, and does so even more now.

Koohan Paik-Mander, 58
birthstrike systemchange extinctionrebellion ecologicalbreakdownsocialcollapse family children

 Humans are having a phenomenally profound negative impact on our earth and little seems to be done to halt and attempt to reverse the the effect of global issues, such as climate change and pollution. Drastic changes are long overdue and urgent political action needs to be taken to bring about social changes to the way in which we live and consume. Global warming must become the driving force behind the decisions that we as individuals make in our daily lives. As a young professional, I am already challenged to fulfill my personal and professional duties to the best of my ability whilst upholding high regards for the environment; subsequently I recognise that parenting would only make this harder. By refraining from bearing children, I will be able to invest more time and energy into making positive lifestyle changes which will reduce my carbon footprint and consumption of manufactured products. Achieving the plastic free and sustainable lifestyle which I aspire towards will be a timely process and one in which I do not, at present feel I could succeed in and achieve whilst raising a family.

K, 28
birthstrike extinctionrebellion systemchange childrensocialcollapse ecologicalbreakdown climatechange family

 Growing up, I always felt aware of the potential of environmental breakdown. For the last 30 years environmental studies have shown that we are heading for an unsustainable or even unsurvivable future on this planet, so it doesn’t make a lot of sense to me to bring new life into this world.
My husband and I spent years trying to decide whether to have children, but ultimately the deciding factor was the uncertainty over climate.
I do not feel like I would be able to ensure that any child I had had a reasonable chance of a good future where they could thrive.

Louise H, 39
birthstrike systemchange extinctionrebellion climatechangeecologicalbreakdown socialcollapse children family

 I am 60. My daughter is 30…she isn’t planning on kids…many reasons. Geo-politically & environmentally speaking the world is moving toward an ugly breakdown that the act of bringing children into this world would render cruel and unusual punishment. Abrupt Climate Change is the be all and end all of critical situations the world shares, and if more children are born and not given the tools to adapt (if even possible) our current generation will set up the next generation for unimaginable hardships and horrors.

Sandy Blue Ocean, 60
birthstrike ecologicalcollapse ecologicalbreakdown climatechangesocialbreakdown children systemchange extinctionrebellion

I grew up in South Africa, it was a beautiful childhood but tainted by the apartheid government.  Even as a child I was aware of the planet and her fragility.

When climate change first reared her ugly head back in the 80’s I was constantly commenting on changing weather patterns (which no-one else thought was weird), I started to feel internally alarmed.

Then people began talking about the hole in the ozone layer,  & climate change suddenly became topical.  What alarmed me most was that although everyone was talking about it, no one  was doing anything about it.

It’s been that way ever since. We watch in horror as forests burn, species are made extinct, environments destroyed, over fishing, I could go on and on…Our planet is at crisis point. If we keep talking and don’t implement rapid and extreme changes, there will be no future for anyone.

Lisa Cohen-Veit, 51
birthstrike ecologicalbreakdown socialcollapse fertility childrensystemchange extinctionrebellion

 Although I was never one of those young girls who fantasized about getting married and having children, I have recently been pondering the idea now that I’m entering my thirties. But along with my slowly growing interest in creating offspring, my knowledge and awareness of the climate crisis has increased at a much faster rate. I am now comfortable and at peace with my plan to not have children, and I no longer see my reasons as selfish. Instead, I view my choice as more of a self-less one. It is, of course, enjoyable to entertain the idea of having children, especially when you share your life with a partner you love very much. But I think it is unfair to bring a child into the world and place the immense responsibility of dealing with a severely unstable world on them. I have enough anxiety when I think of my future, let alone the future humans will have to deal with over the next 100+ years.

Lyndsay R, 29
birthstrike ecologicalbreakdown systemchange fertilityclimatechange children socialcollapse extinctionrebellion

 Our world is dying. If carbon emissions globally ended tomorrow, the environment still would not ever completely recover. In my lifetime, we have seen catastrophic loss of species and life globally including ocean dead zones and food desserts. This is the result of an unsustainable way of living, this is the result of human interference with the environment and the mentality of harvesting what was never ours to take. To bring a human being into this world only to live with the consequences of our destruction is the most cruel thing I could bestow on another being. I hope one day the earth can heal in ways we can’t predict but for now, I do all I can. I reject the concepts of property ownership and live minimally and low waste. I have rejected the idea that my life is any more valuable than any other species and work to promote animal rights nationally and globally. We will not change the world unless we drastically and urgently change our understanding of our origin story. That humans were placed on earth not as Masters of all that it holds but guardians and protectors from the harms we have the potential to cause. Change must come now, if not for our natural world, for the sake of the future generations who will call what is left of the planet, home.

Elene Rangel, 20
birthstrike ecologicalbreakdown climatechange children familyclimateaction zerowaste extinctionrebellion systemchange

 I’m a teacher, and see the young coming through, and it scares me! The decline in general health is scary, and the attitude towards the world, breaks my heart. Many of the next generation is more of a parasite than my own, more concerned with consumption and their rights than anything else. This world now is not good enough for my offspring… I wouldn’t wish this future on anyone else, never mind my own child.

Christine A Coxon, 41
birthstrike ecologicalbreakdown socialcollapse climatechangechildren family systemchange

 The future terrifies me, it terrifies me that one day we won’t have wildlife, our oceans will be full of nothing but plastic and poison, the only nature we will see will be in books. The wonders of the world will disappear amid a caving climate – I don’t want to bring children into that kind of world and I don’t want to add to the pressure on an already breaking environment, since a young age I have researched the detrimental affects humans have had on the planet and that is what first introduced me to the notion of not having children and not bringing them up in a world where the hope of things improving are dwindling.

Sophie Milano, 27
birthstrike ecologicalbreakdown systemchange climatechangechildren family future extinctionrebellion

 I think if I were to have a child and they were to turn 18, what will life be like for them? Current governments staying in power is bad enough, corporations running everything even worse but worse of all is climate change and it’s ignored by corporations, government, media and by so many people. So, I think if nothing huge is changed, my child at 18 will never be able to see so many animals in the wild such as elephants, rhinos etc, my child will be constantly hearing of food, water, land shortages on the news, wars being fought over these things. The fact we moaned about 1.5million people coming to Europe in the last few yrs but will face 10’s of millions heading to Europe in the next decades purely due to climate change and how this will affect jobs, food, and literally everything we take for granted. Disasters constantly all over the world. Places like Miami, New York and many other coastal places, Islands all over the world flooded daily or even gone. I’m 37 and will witness all this and I’m terrified of my own future as I still can’t even afford to move out my parents and get stable work, how on earth is my child suppose to survive in the future we have destined for them

Drew, 37
birthstrike ecologicalbreakdown ecologicalcollapse socialbreakdownfertility climatechange children family systemchange

 I am on Birthstrike because the number one parental responsibility is to keep your child safe, and therefore in a world like this, to fulfill your parental responsibilities ironically means not having your own children, but to strive to save ALL of life instead and to enable future generations to be able to be born safely in the future. When scientists predict the last harvest in the UK to be in roughly 60 years, I’m terrified for my generation’s life, let alone future generations. There are countless people that feel this way, but #BirthStrike is the first platform to give us a voice.

Anna, 20
birthstrike ecologicalbreakdown ecologicalcollapse climatechangeclimateaction systemchange extinctionrebellion children fertility

When I was a child the mere mention of climate change would cause me to have a panic attack. The idea that the world could go through such a catastrophe, or that I would live to see it happen, was too much for me to handle. It fostered mental illnesses such as anxiety and depression. I went through periods of denial because that’s the only way I knew how to deal with it.

Now I’ve come to terms with the reality that climate change is real, and knowing how that anxiety robbed me of my childhood and caused me so much suffering, I can’t bring an innocent child into the world knowing that they will have it even worse than I did, and that they will not even begin to have a full life.

Amber W, 22
birthstrike ecologicalbreakdown ecologicalcollapse socialcollapseclimatechange climateaction systemchange children

The driving force behind global challenges, including climate change, is our current economic models do not account very well for the externalities they cause.

Secondly, our political and economic systems, well at least most, are predicated on growth as a key function of their stability.

Third, the hegemony of the day has set the two final pavings stones of philosophy between two books. One is, Huntington’s a clash of civilizations and the other is Fukyama’s The End of History and The Last Man. This means the past and the future are cut off and we are driving around in a cul-de-sac of capitalism and conflict.

Combined, the orthodoxy has entrenched itself to protect a way of life that is not tenable on this planet.

There are alternatives, for example Kate Raworth brings up doughnut economics which adds many important concepts. For example, that the household should be recognized as part of the real economy and that the cost of the externalities should be calculated into price. Of course, this is transitional thinking needed to move forward. Moving all the way, would cause those living over their personally allotted ecological carrying capacity to be severally taxed to the point where they could not…we have a long way to go. “

Shane Murray, 46
birthstrike systemchange ecologicalbreakdown ecologicalcollapsechildren fertility extinctionrebellion 6thmassextinctionclimatechange

I created the website dietdissonance.com to create awareness of the diet and why/how people decide to follow a plant-based lifestyle. While the information on that website is focused on dietary choices, it is thoroughly researched and I’ve included a Facts Page where people can find links to the research available on the covered topics (http://dietdissonance.com/facts_regular.html) It was during this research phase of building this website that I really began to feel like humanity was too stubborn and so strongly driven by immediate gratification, that any sizable change to our health or the health of the planet was unlikely to take place. Even at the risk of death and disease of ourselves and the world around us, people continue to eat meat. I’m not sure how to convince others to change their ways, but I’d like to figure it out before it’s too late.

I’ve always been anxious about my biological footprint, and became vegan five years ago in an effort to decrease my global impact. Once vegan, I found it easier to pursue other areas of environmental impact, and have tried to follow a zero waste lifestyle as well as participating in activism/outreach and my local DSA. At this point, for me, I really enjoy zero waste and veganism, but every time I read/hear about the environment, or when there is a big storm, or our government (or other governments) do things that are in direct disregard for the natural world/our future on this planet, I feel really lost. This “lost” feeling is also a feeling of emptiness. It is very depressing to feel powerless, to feel like the people in your life (and the ones who aren’t) somehow don’t care at all about the future that we are all creating together. I don’t understand how others are able to just ignore or disregard the facts, especially now that we are experiencing more dangerous natural storms.

Katie Jundt, 23
birthstrike ecologicalbreakdown ecologicalcollapse childrenfertility climatechange climateaction systemchange

 I’ve been undecided whether or not to have children. But now this world definitely does not seem to be a a place to bring a little life into. Also doing that would just add to the draining of our planetary resources.

Anne-Sofie Raundahl, 33