Tag Archives: oil

Peace… or die

Liberty Doom by azrainman

  • Part 1: Peace… or die.
  • Part 2 Monkey wrenching the war machine
  • Part 3: The Horrors of War (including video)

Part 1: Peace… or die.

'Shock and Awe' Bagdad 2003

On August the 2nd President Obama reaffirmed his plan to end the War in Iraq (AKA ‘Operation Iraqi Freedom’ AKA ‘Operation New Dawn’).  Between 2003 and 2010 the UK spent £4.5 billion and the total cost to the U.S. economy is estimated at $3 trillion. The Iraq Body Count project estimates the violent civilian deaths from the conflict to be between: 94,902 – 103,549. At a time when scientists were reporting on the increased speed and severity of climate change the most powerful nation on earth backed up by the nation in which the industrial revolution started were doing exactly the wrong thing. The world needed to be uniting to combat climate change and move away from fossil fuels. Instead a coalition of politicians and corporations backed up with the planet’s fiercest war machine were invading a sovereign state to steal its oil. Now is an appropriate time not just to look at the gross stupidity of this war; but also to reflect on how the process of war is diametrically opposed to the emergence of a human civilization that might survive this century.

An early victim of the Iraq War

War is the apex of human stupidity. It is the antithesis of sustainability. It is the most extreme example of waste. Wasted resources, wasted human potential, wasted land, wasted minds and wasted lives. The modern era’s most bellicose nation, The USA, has allocated $533.8 billion to the Department of Defence in fiscal year 2010. The U.S. military is the single largest consumer of energy on the planet. In 2007 it used 132.5 million barrels of oil (363,000 barrels per day). Imagine what all these resources could do if aimed at ending global poverty or conserving biodiversity or actually doing something good in the world. Now in a sick irony they are sure to miss a twitchy Pentagon is warning us of peak oil reporting that output may dip causing massive shortages by 2015. One obvious solution is to stop burning unimaginable quantities of oil in the violent quest for more oil.

US soldiers in Iraq

The absurdity of expending precious, dwindling resources on deliberate destruction and pollution at a time when the scientific community is in agreement that human activity is driving the current ecological crisis is compounded by the fact that at the same time as fighting this war for oil it has also been engaged in international negotiations for a binding climate treaty. Well surprise surprise we haven’t signed one yet. How are nations suppose to agree a binding treaty which in effect is an agreement to share the atmosphere, a pivotal moment in the ethical evolution of our species, when countries are still bombing each other and fighting wars for resources!? It is time to grow up.

It’s not just the climate. The ongoing rise in human population and per capita consumption means that everywhere you look resources are running out; from oil to fish to fresh water. As resources are increasingly constrained we face the spectre of escalating violence and increasing wars for resources. Bold pre-emptive action is required to ensure we allocate resources fairly and safeguard against a surge in brutality.

Child in front of a burning oil well in Iraq

The fundamental changes to our world we currently are living through mean that finally war’s time has come. Exponential population growth means that our species now controls a majority stake in the planet’s biology; emergent new technologies transform our potential to change our world and resource depletion pushes ecological systems close to collapse.  With great power comes great responsibility and our ethics and morality must now take a great step forward to match that of our technological progress. The novel treaties and structures required to bind our species to a common goal are already well under way. Now is the time to use the international framework of the United Nations to begin the process of agreeing treaties binding nations to disarmament, cooperation and peace.

The British military in Kuwait pre-invasion

Part 2 Monkey wrenching the war machine

Statue in front of the UN in NYC

‘There will always be war… it is a part of human nature’.

This is a logical fallacy that has dogged human progress for generations. The persistence of war significantly reduces the probability of the persistence of humanity. This is most obvious in the case of nuclear obliteration. Less obviously but more significantly the solution to climate change and resource constraints is a treaty based on global cooperation. This will not be possible in a world of antagonistic nation states.

Peace is possible

The logical statement is ‘there will not always be war’. This is true because either we will remain a world of antagonistic nation states and annihilate each other / be wiped out by runaway climate change or we will become sustainable which requires uniting as a species, rising above the limitations of the outdated concept of the nation state and together creating a globally regulated resource based economy. Either way, war is over.

‘Naive, idealistic, dreamer’ we hear the jaded, soulless readers of the right wing press spit out of their fearful faces. It’s not idealistic. It’s pragmatic. It isn’t naive either. We know, full well that there is a small powerful minority of men who have a vested interest in keeping fighting wars, of course, this has always been the case but the information age is tipping the balance in favour of the peaceful.  Information activism brings the horrors of war into clear view and we understand more clearly than at any time in history why wars are fought, who is driving them and how they manage to coerce the young people of their country over to another to commit murder and more than at any time we have the tools to stop wars before they start (see below).

Film: The Power of Nightmares

The Zeitgeist Movement-Activist Orientation Guide identifies 3 motivations for war. 1) Industrial Profit, maximized for the elite 2) Resource Acquisition (theft) 3) Geopolitical Alignment to increase the ease of further industrial profit and resource theft. Whether you make bombs, mine resources or pump oil the spoils of war equate to bumper profits unachievable in peace time. When the time is right governments and corporations collude to create the conditions for an invasion. Fear, nationalism / racism and twisted morality can all be manipulated via propaganda to stoke the flames. The information age means increasingly the general public is not fooled but even as far back as 1935 the shine was coming off the industrial war machine. In the words of Two-Time Congressional Medal of Honor Recipient, Major General Smedley D. Butler:

War is a racket. It always has been. It is possibly the oldest, easily the most profitable, surely the most vicious. It is the only one international in scope. It is the only one in which the profits are reckoned in dollars and the losses in lives. A racket is best described, I believe, as something that is not what it seems to the majority of the people. Only a small “inside” group knows what it is about. It is conducted for the benefit of the very few, at the expense of the very many. Out of war a few people make huge fortunes…”

US veterans protest against the war

Another vile racket was the international slave trade. Tens of millions of people suffered horrendous fates and a small number of slave traders amassed vast fortunes. No doubt the slave traders said in their defence that it was a natural feature of the human condition. Fortunately, the good people of that time had the vision to see forward to a fairer, better world and stood up for what they believed in. William Wilberforce in a speech before the House of Commons, 18 April 1791:

William Wilberforce

“Let us not despair; it is a blessed cause, and success, ere long, will crown our exertions. Already we have gained one victory; we have obtained, for these poor creatures, the recognition of their human nature, which, for a while was most shamefully denied. This is the first fruits of our efforts; let us persevere and our triumph will be complete. Never, never will we desist till we have wiped away this scandal from the Christian name, released ourselves from the load of guilt, under which we at present labour, and extinguished every trace of this bloody traffic, of which our posterity, looking back to the history of these enlightened times, will scarce believe that it has been suffered to exist so long a disgrace and dishonour to this country.”

Anti war protest

War is not a fundamental part of human nature. War is the most sinister part of human nature manifested, magnified and exploited by evil, powerful men. The fact that wars are created by a tiny number of people makes them easier to prevent in the information age. We must more effectively and proactively go after warmongers; isolating and stopping them. Like the great Wilberforce before us we can be bold and ambitious and wipe away this scandal to create a better world. We are conditioned to believe that war is inevitable because this is all that we have seen but another world is possible. In fact, another world is imminent… our species has to learn to cooperate to survive.

Ending war is no more farfetched then ending slavery, giving women the vote or going to the moon. Martin Luther King ‘had a dream’ and it became reality. So we must dream it, plan it, and then make it happen.

UN peace poster

Things you can do right now:

  1. Take and maintain a united zero-tolerence attitude to violence and aggression. Hold to account anyone who attempts to use violence as a means to an end by use of non violent direct action and all other available means.
  2. Go ethical: change your bank and if you have money to invest put it only in ethical funds. Did you know that most banks will invest your money with the arms industry? This makes you complicit in the industrial war machine. Take a stand, wash the blood of your hands and switch to an ethical bank e.g. in the UK: Smile. For ethical investment: Triodos. Make a point of telling your current bank why you are leaving.
  3. Fax / email / speak to your MP (or political representative). Tell them that you want your country to take a lead in peaceful foreign policy, supporting the United Nations and reducing the military budget. In the UK now is a critical time to stand against the nightmare of the Trident Missile System. Who the hell are we going to use it on!?
  4. Sign up for organized protests, for example via Avaaz or 38 degrees.
  5. Cultural: let’s make involvement in the death industry a taboo alongside racism and incest. Do you know someone who designs missiles? Or a soldier? Let’s make the case in a polite and non-judgemental way that there are far better ways for them to be spending their time and that it is no longer acceptable to be making a living from war.
  6. Name and shame: we all know Donald Rumsfeld was a key architect of the Gulf war and that more than anyone he profited via his large stake in Halliburton. Who else profiteers from war? Let’s get a public list together and let them know what we think of their sick existence.
  7. Arrest Tony Blair (and get paid!) check out: http://www.arrestblair.org/
  8. Be Peaceful.
  9. Any other suggestions? Please post in the comments below.

Part 3: The Horrors of War (including video)

Important speech by US Iraqi war veteran

The information age means that wars fought in distant lands can now be brought into our homes. The immediacy of information flows makes it far harder for those in power to conceal either their motives for war or the atrocities committed to achieve their aims. For example, Wikileaks is an “uncensorable system for untraceable mass document leaking“. In April it released a secret video (see below) showing US air crew falsely claiming to have encountered a firefight in Baghdad and then laughing at the dead after launching an air strike that killed a dozen innocent people, including two Iraqis working for Reuters news agency. The video brings into sharp relief, if we needed reminding, how appalling, uneven, cold blooded and ultimately devastating modern warfare has become.

Collateral Murder

A classified US military video depicting three airstrikes from a US Apache helicopter on July 12, 2007 in New Baghdad, Iraq.  At least eighteen people were killed in the airstrikes, including two journalists working for Reuters, Saeed Chmagh and Namir Noor-Eldeen. The video was recorded by the gunsight camera on the Apache helicopter, identified as Crazyhorse 18, and is accompanied by the radio communications of the helicopter gunmen as they communicate with their commanders and troops on the ground.

U.S. Army specialist Ethan McCord was one of the first on the scene after the helicopter attack. He describes what he saw:

Ethan McCord

“The top of one guy’s head was completely off… another guy was ripped open from groin to neck. A third had lost a leg … Their insides were out and exposed. I’d never seen anything like this before.”

Then McCord carried a child crying from a black minivan caught in the barrage of 30mm bullets. Inside, he found a frightened and wounded girl, perhaps 4. Next to her was a boy of 7 or so, soaked in blood. According to McCord their father,

“…was slumped over on his side, like he was trying to protect the children, but he was just destroyed… I started seeing images of my own two children back home in Kansas.”

Unsurprisingly McCord was devastated by his experiences. The Pentagon is struggling to deal with legions of young people warped by the stress of war. Back home McCord was dosed with antidepressants but turned to a zombie and took to downing pills with whiskey and walking around the house with a military knife. However, he isn’t doing so badly in June 32 members of the US military could bear it no longer and killed themselves.

The terrible legacy of the Iraq War goes beyond the trauma of the heart and minds of the survivors. The use of depleted Uranium in Iraq is now causing a surge in birth defects passing on the suffering to a new generation of innocents.

Nuclear War (it’s a mother fucker)

Music by Sun Ra:

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The biggest no–brainer ever

 

Death by fossil fuel

All the eyes of the world are turned to the beaches of the most dominant nation of our times. The world is watching closely as this pivotal culture wrestles with this unprecedented environmental catastrophe. Will Obama use this as his movement to make a clean break and fundamentally restructure the energy infrastructure in the same way that 9/11 was used as the catalyst to restructure US foreign policy? Will regulation be changed in such a way that big business can no longer dictate the terms of its own scrutiny?  Will BP finally be seen for the serial offender and gross violator of nature that it really is… yada yada.

Obama looking as serious as possible

A Nigerian man stands in front of the flare that burned him (Source: http://www.chrishondros.com)

But wait a second… is this really an unprecedented environmental catastrophe? Or is it really that a far bigger fuss is made when the USA and its sacrosanct way of life is threatened? Just across the Atlantic a far larger spill has been ravaging the coastal ecosystem, poisoning the people and devastating a way of living for over two decades. Nobody is watching and nobody cares. Presumably this is because this is not an aspirational culture. It is not a holiday destination and could it also be because the oil is harder to see on the people’s skin? This is Africa and the people being poisoned are Nigerian.

A ruptured pipeline burns in a Lagos suburb after an explosion in 2008 which killed at least 100 people. Photograph: George Esiri/Reuters

The companies operating (Shell, Agip, ExxonMobil) may be different but the catastrophe is exactly the same. This is the inanity of Obama rounding on BP and calling it ‘British Petroleum’. It doesn’t matter which company it is or which country it is head office is based in. This is the same dirty shit. This is massive corporations that have grown too big to control doing what they were set up to do. Converting natural capital into cash as fast as humanly possible to satisfy the false god made manifest by the demons at Harvard Business School that have for years spread their sick sermon of shareholder return over people and the planet. These tormented cogs in an ungodly machine have sold their souls along with the planet and now we reap the vengeance as hell is brought down to our earthly paradise.

Kids play football in front of a flare (Source: http://www.chrishondros.com)

The Nigerian coastline has had to endure 1.5m tons of oil. More oil is spilled from the delta’s network of terminals, pipes, pumping stations and oil platforms every year than has been lost in the Gulf of Mexico, What isn’t spilt is shipped to… you’ve guessed it! Our favourite Empire… the Niger delta supplies 40% of all the crude the United States imports. The burden of its role as furnace stokers of the bloated, inefficient and distended US machine is almost too much to bear. Life expectancy in its rural communities, half of which have no access to clean water, has fallen to little more than 40 years over the past two generations.

A devastated land

In this unregulated, pioneer land western companies bribe the government and suffocate dissent allowing them to cut endless corners and operate as cheaply as possible. By their sick algebra the most profitable means of extracting the black gold is simply to burn the accompanying gas (a scarce and valuable resource) off in flares (definition below). In Nigeria there are flares that have been burning continuously since 1972.  You don’t need a degree in atmospheric or environmental science to know that deep down this is just wrong.

All this goes to show without a shadow of a doubt that we do not face a choice. The questions have already answered and it is a no-brainer. Two roads bifurcate in front of us. One leads to a sustainable future in which we shift rapidly away from fossil fuels; live more locally; work fewer hours; shift our attentions from consumption to creativity; from competition to cooperation and provide space for the natural world to recover and evolve. This way of life is not mysterious. It is not fanciful. It is not utopian. It is practical and people are already doing it. Transition Towns show how to implement an ‘energy decent plan’ and check this new report from the Centre from Alternative Technology and NEF outlines a zero-carbon vision of the UK within 20 years.

The other road leads straight to hell. People of earth… the choice is yours.

Deepwater Horizon in flames off the coast of Louisiana (Photo Credit: Courtesy of Steadfast TV)

Gas flare definition (source: wikipedia)

A gas flare, alternatively known as a flare stack, is an elevated vertical conveyance found accompanying the presence of oil and gas wells, rigs, refineries, chemical plants, natural gas plants, and landfills. They are used to eliminate waste gas which is otherwise not feasible to use or transport. They also act as safety systems for non-waste gas and is released via pressure relief valve when needed to ease the strain on equipment. They protect gas processing equipments from being overpressured. Also in case of an emergency situation, the flare system helps burn out the total reserve gas.[1][2][3]

Extensive flaring makes Nigeria glow bright in the dark of Africa

Flaring and venting of natural gas from oil & gas wells is a significant source of greenhouse gas emissions. Its contribution to greenhouse gases has declined by three-quarters in absolute terms since a peak in the 1970s of approximately 110 million metric tons/year and now accounts for 0.5% of all anthropogenic carbon dioxide emissions.[4] The World Bank estimates that over 150 billion cubic metres of natural gas are flared or vented annually, an amount worth approximately 30.6 billion dollars, equivalent to 25 percent of the United States’ gas consumption or 30 percent of the European Union’s gas consumption per year.[5] This flaring is highly concentrated: 10 countries account for 75% of emissions, and twenty for 90%. The largest flaring operations occur in the Niger Delta region of Nigeria. The leading contributors to gas flaring are (in declining order): Nigeria, Russia, Iran, Algeria, Mexico, Venezuela, Indonesia, and the United States.[6] In spite of a ruling by the Federal High Court of Nigeria (that forbade flaring) in 2005, 43% of the gas retrieval was still being flared in 2006. It will be prohibited by law as of 2008. [citation needed]Russia has announced it will stop the practice of gas flaring as stated by deputy prime minister Sergei Ivanov on Wednesday September 19, 2007.[7] This step was, at least in part, a response to a recent report by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) that concluded Russia’s previous numbers may have been underestimated. The report, which used night time light pollution satellite imagery to estimate flaring, put the estimate for Russia at 50 billion cubic meters while the official numbers are 15 or 20 billion cubic meters. The number for Nigeria is 23 billion cubic meters.[8]

This is not a chimney

A Cooling Tower

A Chimney

It looks like a chimney… but it’s not! At a fossil fuel burning power station the chimney looks like this:

So what are these enormous concrete monstrosities? These belching behemoths are cooling towers. In the UK’s creaking, outdated power stations coal is burnt to heat water to steam. The steam is sent through turbines at high speed generating electricity. Once through the turbine a huge amount of energy remains in the hot water. For some reason the geniuses who designed these power plants decided that instead of using this heat for something useful like… er… heating… they would call it ‘waste heat’ and fart it into the sky. Some power stations also fart the heat into rivers killing fish. Great move guys!

Cooling Towers at sunset

The really stupid thing is that this electricity is then transmitted along wires to houses where, yes, you’re not going to believe this; it is used to generate heat in electrical heating devices. This process is massively inefficient. More than 75% of the carbon in those lumps of coal is released into the atmosphere for no good reason at all.

This insanity goes someway to explain why countries like Denmark and Sweden are so much more efficient then the UK. When I was in Copenhagen for COP 15 it was exciting to see a small power station within the city limits. This power station only had a chimney. It didn’t need cooling towers because all the ‘waste’ heat was being piped into the city to keep the homes snug. There are no boilers in homes over there (so no need for a boiler scrappage scheme); just large tanks storing the plentiful hot water. Using the hot water produced from generating electricity to heat neighbourhoods is known as district heating or combined heat and power (CHP). Most exciting of all was the giant company name emblazoned on the side of the building… DONG energy. This is clearly the way to warm a city!

Dong Energy in Copenhagen: no cooling towers

It is almost certainly not a coincidence that the countries that lead the world in energy efficiency are also the countries with the highest levels of equality. Efficiency and equality are two noble steeds drawing civilization forth to a better future.

The flip side to the gross inefficiency that lies at the heart of our green and pleasant land is that enormous efficiency savings and therefore emission reductions are readily available. All the government has to do is legislate to pass an Emissions Performance Standard (EPS) to ensure our electricity supply is subject to similar efficiency rules as everything else in our lives (fridges, cars, homes). Simple, you might think. Well it is, but unfortunately, politicians tend to be the snivelling dishonest type. In their quest to service the needs of big business they fail again to serve their true constituency… the people.

The big 6 energy companies in the UK have a great time enjoying both a deregulated market and historic and ongoing megasubsidies (£1676 million a year since 1990). You would think all this money might be spent on innovation, new technologies or improving service. Unfortunately as with the deregulated rail network we get increasing prices and worse service. Deregulation was supposed to give the consumer more choice but the myth of the free market flounders yet again. The ‘Big Six’ meet regularly behind closed doors racking up profits by keeping domestic bills broadly ‘in line’ with one another, restricting energy supplies to competitors and demanding laborious accreditation and credit requirements for new companies. As MP Alan Simpson points out deregulation has delivered an energy cartel but not energy security.

The Direct Approach

The Big Six are: Scottish and Southern Energy, Scottish Power, British Gas, EDF Energy, E.ON UK and npower. The members of this exclusive club are now fat, powerful and greedy. They resist any regulation to reduce emissions whilst ripping off the consumer during a cold spell. Energy companies’ profit margins have increased for the fifth quarter in a row, while wholesale costs continue to fall. No doubt their CEOs are enjoying winter in the Caribbean on their yachts while your gran shivers at home wearing her entire wardrobe with a tea cosy on her head.

Yeah right

Instead of moving us to a new energy model the government is putting its’ efforts into an approach The Big Six approve of. It’s called Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS). This involves capturing pollution at the chimney and pumping it underground. Despite the fact that this makes power stations 20% less efficient and despite the fact that its effectiveness is yet to be proved the government is throwing a £9.5 billion subsidy at it in the building of four new coal-fired power stations. Describing this as throwing good money after bad is the understatement of the millennium.  This ‘solution’ is the same old bullshit with a new hat on.  It’s still big, it’s still dirty it’s still inefficient… and guess what?… you’re still paying for it! Families will  have to pay a new levy on electricity bills for at least the next 20 years in order to fund this dubious technology that keeps us bound to burning fossil fuels for years to come. The government continues to rein back the noble steeds backing instead the old inefficient knacker ridden by the big fat cats.

Instead of tackling the pollution at its source the government is focusing its energy down stream on the consumer despite the fact that by this point most of the enegy has been wasted already. In this Act on CO2 advert the government skilfully uses fear and the love of our children to try to create behaviour change.

However, there isn’t much point telling people to unplug their mobile phone chargers when the companies doing the charging have a carte blanche to tip us into apocalyptic meltdown and the electricity being delivered to your house is dirtier than an oil spill in the Persian Gulf. Yes, the future is scary, in large part because our leaders are cowardly and are not making the bold joined up move to a low carbon future we so desperately need.

The government should commit to building no more old-school power stations. Instead of enormous power stations in the countryside let’s see smaller power stations around cities burning waste, secondary bio fuels and other fuels and making use of all the heat generated by connecting up to district heating networks. All new homes built should be on brown field sites joined to such a grid.

If the government doesn’t join up it’s messaging to electricity users with that to generators it risks losing any credibility on climate change when we need leadership from government most. Right now this would be a disaster and would undermine a lot of the good work that Act on CO2 has done on the consumer side.  We need to prioritize our actions in such a way that those that reap the greatest reductions in emissions are enacted first. Of course, the biggest polluters must be looked at first and hardest. By wimping out of regulating Europe’s biggest polluters what message is the government sending to us?

The usual suspects?

The repeated failure of our government to take appropriate action and reign in the power companies gives concerned citizens only one course of action. As Al Gore, Sir David King and a UK jury have made clear civil disobedience is now urgently required. Is it is time to break the law for a higher cause?

Hasta la vista baby!

 

Climate sceptic!? You do the maths…

Our Atmosphere: you gotta love it!

The process behind altering the earth’s atmosphere and therefore its climate is now well understood. Humans mine from the earth and from the bottom of the oceans the compressed fossils of organisms that lived on the planet eons ago. These beings were sustained by the energy captured from ancient sunlight beamed through space in an epoch before the first mammals had even evolved.

Geological Time Spiral

Photosynthetic organisms use the energy of sunlight to turn CO2 from a gas in the atmosphere into the living matter of all the creatures on earth. When these plants, algae and plankton are eaten the matter is passed up the food chain. When living organisms die if they are not consumed by another they may be transformed to soil, sedimentary rock or the infamous, so-called fossil fuels (coal, oil and gas). Thus the total mass of organic matter has been increasing on earth continuously since the dawn of life.

Prehistoric Life

The industrial revolution and subsequent, derived technological expansion reverses this process. Power stations, the boiler in your cupboard and the engine in your car take the fossilized remains of ancient animals and burn them. This combustion releases the energy that was captured back in the day and returns the complex organic carbon matter back to molecular form (CO2 and water). Because we live in a ‘fossil fuel economy’ almost everything we do has a carbon footprint. However, because this is a new science and only recently taught in schools many people struggle to understand what a carbon footprint actually is. A carbon footprint is the carbon released into the atmosphere from whatever you do…  but how can we conceptualize this?

People discussing climate change often use the unit of a tonne of co2. We know that on average in the UK we release 11 a year, about 1 a month. In the US it is about double this. Specific activities can be given a carbon footprint. For example, flying to New York releases about 3 tonnes of co2 and flying to Australia about 10.

What is this tonne? Where is this tonne? What is it doing? Even within the low carbon world this practical information is not well understood. Presumably this is because we are discussing an invisible gas. This may get to the heart of the climate challenge. No one can see it happening. The ‘greatest threat humanity has ever faced’ is invisible and gradual (until it goes non-linear that is; if feedback loops amplify change so that it ‘runs away’ change will be fast and irreversible).

Last year I worked with a crack squad of artists, architects, event producers and the world’s leading projection company to construct a sculpture the size of 1 tonne of co2 at COP 15 and project upon it a range of climate themed audio visuals.

Standing in front of the work of art elicited a range of psychological, emotional and physical responses. This mega monolith manifested in downtown Copenhagen was so big (8m x 8m x 8m) it was shocking; but it was the accompanying data that really knocked the wind out of you. In total humans release 80 million of these suckers every day (2006 data). Stacked on top of each other these would go to the moon and back 1.5 times (every day). In a year the figure is 28,431,741,000 tonnes. In other words we have got cubes coming out of the ying yang!

The Cube from the Air

The exhibit culminated with a Kenji Williams performing Bella Gaia in front of the cube with exclusive NASA footage projected in the background.

This staggering scale is even more sobering when it is made relative to the total volume of the atmosphere. From the scale of us humans busy with our daily endeavours on the planet’s surface the atmosphere seems enormous. It dwarfs us. However, at the scale of the planet the atmosphere is almost unnoticeable. The atmosphere and oceans are so small in comparison to the overall earth it is comparable to a film of water on a billiard ball. Even all the mighty oceans only make up 1/4000 of the earth’s total mass.  The scale height of the atmosphere is about 8.5 km.[8] Whereas the radius of the earth is 6,371.0km[3] in other words the earth is more than 1000 times bigger than the atmosphere.

 

The third rock from the sun contains around it a thin layer of water, gases and vapour at a temperature of between −89 °C to 57.7 °C (mean = 14 °C). Within this exists all of the known life in the universe and all that most of us holds dear. For astronauts in space seeing this can be an epiphany. Here are some reactions to seeing our home from space:

An Astronaut

Looking outward to the blackness of space, sprinkled with the glory of a universe of lights, I  saw majesty – but no welcome. Below was a welcoming planet. There, contained in the thin, moving, incredibly fragile shell of the biosphere is everything that is dear to you, all the human drama and comedy. That’s where life is; that’s were all the good stuff is.

– Loren Acton, USA

For the first time in my life I saw the horizon as a curved line. It was accentuated by a thin seam of dark blue light – our atmosphere. Obviously this was not the ocean of air I had been told it was so many times in my life. I was terrified by its fragile appearance. – Ulf Merbold, Federal Republic of Germany

A Chinese tale tells of some men sent to harm a young girl who, upon seeing her beauty, become her protectors rather than her violators. That’s how I felt seeing the Earth for the first time. I could not help but love and cherish her.  – Taylor Wang, China/USA

The total annual emissions of greenhouse gasses from human activity are a not insignificant percentage of the total atmospheric mass. If our atmosphere was the size of an apple, every year we are sticking a pea size amount of poisonous gas into it. We have been doing this since 1750. It is not unbelievable that doing this would create a change to our atmosphere and to our climate. It is unbelievable that we have been doing this for 250 years and we are still around to talk about it. Why aren’t we already extinct!? The resilience of the earth’s atmosphere is largely down to the dynamic nature of the ecological systems that make up the biosphere. At this point it may be worth pointing out that at the same time as pumping vast amounts of gas into the biosphere we are also removing the great forests of the world which draw co2 out of the atmosphere.

Personally I sincerely wish it was true that a group of scientists had invented climate change as an elaborate plot to usher in a world government who will curtail the rights of US gun toters, ban Christianity and create a homosexual communist utopia. The inconvenient truth that just will not go away is that thousands of different scientists in different parts of the world, using different techniques and speaking different languages are measuring and monitoring the same phenomena. We are changing our atmosphere and our climate.

Whatever your ideological stand point you need a healthy atmosphere to breathe. The people who are slowing down and hampering global efforts to preserve our atmosphere fit into 3 different categories. They are either not educated to the level to enable them to understand the science; they are stupid or they work for the fossil fuel industry. If you can’t understand the science for whatever reason, we politely ask you: please step aside; your ignorance is deadly. Those who can understand the science are aware of an enormous imminent threat and are working hard to find solutions. For the other category you are worse than irresponsible. You are traitors to your species, your planet and this grand evolutionary adventure. Your greed is endangering all of the life on this planet. The best thing we could do with you would be to stick you on a planet that doesn’t have an atmosphere and see how you like it when your eyes pop out of your skull rapidly followed by your evil little reptilian brain.

Sunrise on Earth

Oil on the Brain, review of There Will be Blood

Oil on the Brain

Oil on the Brain

This visceral, poignant, haunting behemoth of a movie takes no prisoners. It is simultaneously an unrelenting portrait of an evil man and the documenting of a period of history in which the world changed forever.

Drilling for oil is an inherently violent business. Man build’s giant machines to invade the earth and draw out the fossilized remains of organisms that existed millennia ago. The violence of their resurrection is matched by the fearful depths the prospectors will sink to within themselves to reach the black gold. The dark, seemingly limitless wealth in the belly of the earth is like the limitless evil we can draw on should we be so motivated.

Our antihero, Plainview, is tormented and evil yet presents himself as an honest family man, an `oil man’. This draws an unbroken connection between the dark insanity of the early days of oil and the republican oil men today who also are steeped in blood whilst professing Christian family values. More than this, that these wild, violent times are the immediate foundation of our culture throws our `civilization’ into sharp relief.

Finding this cheap almost limitless source of energy under our feet propelled humanity on an expansive projection that would subjugate much of the living world. We have changed our planet using oil powered technologies. If we ever needed reminding that this happened without a master plan this film is it. It is in a frenzied state that we have transformed our society into raging fire, fuelled by fossil fuel that is consuming the rest of the biosphere.

Emerging from the misery of oil exploration, with the greed and avarice, danger and death, presented with the back drop of a changing planet, with oil wars raging, we have this starkly beautiful film. This honest work of art allows us to see not just our own story but the interior workings of the mind of the species that sits atop the apex of life on this planet. At worst, we are stupid, bald monkeys on a collision course with extinction. But there is beauty on the road to oblivion; the dark horror the film describes is juxtaposed with the creative genius of the making of the film. It is humanities creative abilities that make existence worthwhile. Maybe there is hope.