Evidence of the slow rolling ecological collapse

Northern California, known for its rugged coastline and ancient redwood forests, boasts an abundance of natural gifts that make this part of the country unique, both on land and in the ocean, where a plethora of sea life attracts divers from around the world.

One of the Pacific’s most renowned features in this part of the country are the lush kelp beds brimming with marine life.

But since 2014, thanks in large part to climate chaos, the bull kelp forests have been decimated, around 90 percent devoured and eaten clean by an invasion of purple sea urchins mowing their way through the kelp and leaving behind what is known as an “urchin barren.”

Purple sea urchins have destroyed about 90 percent of the kelp forests off the Northern California coast.Dr. Cynthia Catton / CDFW

The purple sea urchin is native to the region, but a perfect storm of warming waters and a disease that killed off starfish, its predator, led to an explosion in its population. The urchins’ seemingly insatiable appetite has prevented the kelp beds from fully re-growing.

The effect has been devastating to local divers as they’ve watched their livelihoods and the environment they love, wither away.

On a sunny Saturday morning, a group of divers gathered and geared up to descend into the waters in an ongoing effort to tackle the ever-burgeoning purple urchin population.

Joshua Russo has been spearheading the volunteer effort to remove purple urchins, working with the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, the Noyo Center for Marine Science and Reef Check California, to try to mitigate their numbers.

He organizes periodic events for recreational divers, who go into the urchin barrens and remove as many purple sea urchins as they can.

“People have been wanting to do something about this since it first started,” Russo said. “We can finally get in the water and do something as divers, people who care so much about the ocean and what’s in it.”

The divers must have a California fishing license and can remove only up to 40 gallons of urchins a day.

Unlike red urchins, whose insides are consumed as uni in sushi restaurants, the purple variety are in a state of starvation and produce very little edible parts. Instead, they are composted or used as bait to attract fish for photography and fishing, though some people still search through numerous purple urchin shells for small amounts of edible uni.

Progress comes slowly. The ultimate hope is to remove enough purple urchins that the kelp can grow back in small patches and proliferate once again along the coast. The underwater plant is the foundation of the near-shore ecosystem, providing a home and food for many species of fish, crustaceans and other marine life.

“With a loss of kelp, you’re going to have a very, very profound impact on an ecosystem,” said Tristin McHugh, Reef Check California’s north coast regional manager. “It’s like losing your redwoods. What would happen if you saw 90 percent of your redwoods drop dead right now?”

For McHugh and many others, the biggest problem is awareness. Most people don’t even realize what sort of a catastrophe is happening below the sea surface.

“This is the fight of our generation,” she said. “If we can’t set ourselves up right now, there’s going to be nothing for our kids further down the line.”



from NBC news

Catastrophe is “probable”, and extinction “is possible”.

On any day, between 10,000 and 30,000 bushfires burn around the planet.

Realms as diverse and distant as Siberia, Amazonia, Indonesia, Australia and California are aflame. The advent of “the age of fire” is the bleakest warning yet that humans have breached boundaries we were never meant to cross.

It is time not only to think the unthinkable, but to speak it: that the world economy, civilization, and maybe our very survival as a species are on the line. And it is past time to act.

It isn’t just fires, It’s the incessant knell of unnatural (human-fed) disasters: droughts, floods, vanishing rivers, lakes and glaciers and the rise in billion-dollar weather impacts.

It is the spate of extinctions, the precipitous loss of sea fish, birds and corals, of forests, mammals, frogs, bees and other insects. It is the march of deserts and the waxing of dead zones in the oceans.

It is an avalanche of human chemical emissions poisoning our air, water, food, homes, cities, farms and unborn babies, slaying nine million a year.

It is the probability there will be no Arctic before the end of this century and rising seas expelling 300 million from their homes.

It is the ominous seepage of methane from the world’s oceans, tundra, swamps and fossil fuels, threatening runaway heating of 7 to 10 degrees or more.

It is the drift of billions of tons of soil from lands that feed us into the blind depths of the ocean, placing food security on a knife-edge as farming systems fail amid a turbulent climate and degraded landscapes.

It is the rising toll of noncommunicable diseases killing three people in every four.

It is the $1.8 trillion spent weaponizing nations for the true “war to end all wars”. Unchained by political malice or blunder, robot weapons of mass destruction commanded by artificial intelligence will choose who lives and who dies.

Yet a global citizen movement of scientists, youth, elders and women is demanding urgent action in the face of a growing risk of collapse. Its scientific warnings, Extinction Rebellion and the school strike for climate are flooding the streets of the world’s cities.

Pope Francis plans to add “ecological sin against the common home” to the Catholic catechism. The Bank of England’s governor, Mark Carney, warns of “abrupt financial collapse” due to climate change. In its annual assessment of catastrophic risks, the Global Economic Forum sees the mounting danger.

Prof Jem Bendell, of the University of Cumbria, UK, is among the voices warning that the collapse of civilization may have begun. Because we cannot easily predict its pace, trajectory or magnitude is no reason for inaction, he says. His paper, Deep Adaptation: a Map for Navigating our Climate Tragedy, predicts: “There will be a near-term collapse in society with serious ramifications for the lives of [citizens].” Catastrophe is “probable”, it added, and extinction “is possible”.

Yet so far only a handful of countries – France, Canada, Britain, Ireland and Argentina – have declared even a climate emergency. Most governments continue to move at a glacial pace and turn a blind eye to the nine other mega-threats threats menacing humanity. Why?

Because a worldwide counter-revolution is underway, intended to paralyze action on climate, environmental loss, extinction, toxic air water and food. It is financed by “dark money” from a terrified fossil fuels sector through shady institutions. It pours hundreds of millions of dollars into global propaganda to discredit climate and environmental science, seduce government and deceive the public.

More sinister still is the growing control of the fossil fuels lobby over governments and the world media – not only in floundering western democracies but also Russia, China, Brazil, India, and Saudi Arabia.

Now a new UN report says fossil corporates plan to ramp up carbon emissions 50% to 120% by 2030 beyond the limit for a safe human future (1.5C degrees). Despite the renewables boom, fossil infrastructure investment has rebounded in 2019 after three years of decline, the International Energy Agency says. On the face of it, the fossil lobby has turned the tide.

There are only three motives to so hazard civilization: greed, malice, and ignorance. Either the returns are so great that fossil executives are willing to cook their own grandchildren, or they are blind to the risks. Since these are technical people, the latter does not ring true: oil majors like Shell and ExxonMobil have revealed in court they understood exactly what they were doing to the planet for nearly 50 years. Ignoring it, they then sought to deceive humanity while ramping up carbon output.

The world is dividing into two opposing movements: the concerned “survivors” – the young, the old, the wise, the educated, the informed and the pragmatic – and the cynics backing the very global system that will precipitate collapse.

Some scientists’ estimates for how many lives collapse will cost range from 50%-90% of the human population. The number is not knowable because human behavior, like war, cannot be foretold. The process starts with famines and water crises, both already in evidence, leading to refugee tsunamis and multiplying conflicts.

As this truth sinks in, the part of humanity committed to survival is seeking legal redress. Columbia Law School documents more than 1,640 ongoing lawsuits against fossil fuel companies and/or governments. But the law is slow, and justice can be bought.

It is time to speak the unspeakable.

Without urgent action to terminate fossil fuel use, return the planet to a state of ecological health and address all 10 mega-threats in an integrated way, our worst fears will become our fate. Collapse becomes inexorable.

Doing nothing or too little sentences humanity to collapse – economic, societal, even existential. It is time to discuss this, openly, honestly, truthfully.

We have only one rational choice: to choose to survive.

This demands all necessary actions – although they spell the end of existing systems of energy, food, water, money, defense, transport and politics – and their replacement with new ones, universally dedicated to a viable, just and sustainable human and planetary future.

Julian Cribb The Guardian