PETER GLEICK (President, Pacific Institute)
We have acted as though we were independent of the environment. We’ve burned fossil fuels, we’ve overused our renewable resources, in the belief that we could do that forever.
VAN JONES (Founder, Green for All)
People are complaining about the economic crisis we have right now? You ain’t seen nothing yet. You know, if we continue down this suicidal pathway where we basically turn living stuff into dead stuff and call that economic growth, this will look like the good old days.
JANINE BENYUS (President, Biomimicry Institute)
If you were to pull back from the earth, what you would see is sort of a refugee movement if you will. And species are moving their ranges farther north to get to cool, from south to north, and from the valleys up to the mountaintops.
The climate system is already moving beyond the patterns of natural variability within which our society and economy have developed and thrived. These parameters include global mean surface temperature, sea-level rise, ocean and ice sheet dynamics, ocean acidification, and extreme climatic events. There is a significant risk that many of the trends will accelerate, leading to an increasing risk of abrupt or irreversible climatic shifts…There is no excuse for inaction. We already have many tools and approaches – economic, technological, behavioural, management – to deal effectively with the climate change challenge. But they must be vigorously and widely implemented. (British Science Association, March 13 2009)
THOMAS HOMER DIXON
The large spread out suburbs that we’ve grown accustomed to, the strip malls, the big box stores with their enormous parking lots around them all of those have been made possible because we have had cheap gasoline as energy becomes much more expensive, you’ll see that those areas become less desirable places to live.
That doesn’t mean that there isn’t oil left on the planet, but what’s left on the planet is gonna be increasingly difficult to obtain —more costly and more remote areas, in areas that are at risk for hurricanes or other environmental dangers or political dangers.
JAMES HOWARD KUNSTLER (Author, The Long Emergency)
Our agriculture system is almost wholly dependent on cheap oil. Tremendous amounts of diesel fuel that are used in planting, in harvesting. And then moving the stuff all these vast distances.
We have a global food system that’s fundamentally unsustainable. It’s based on the use of petrochemical inputs for fertilizers, pesticides, herbicides, and also for the use of petrochemicals for transporting food in ever larger quantities ever further distances. We’ve built enormous cities in places where there’s in many cases no good agricultural land close by. The only way these cities can subsist is by continual importation of enormous amounts of food from long distances away. And, of course, those imports come by way of trucks, by rail, but ship and in some cases by airplane, all of those relying on diesel fuel or gasoline. As those fuels become more expensive, the whole system becomes more brittle.
RICHARD HEINBERG (Senior Fellow, Post Carbon Institute)
We in the U.S. have gotten used to the idea that we’re somehow immune to natural limits and it’s the other people who are going to suffer.
JOHN PODESTA (President, Center for American Progress)
Sometimes it takes a big shock to get people, you know, out of the inertia that’s built into the system.
BRAHMA CHELLANEY (Center for Policy Research)
The western countries went through a very energy intensive development process, became rich by burning coal and burning oil, can countries like India and china, do it without burning as much fossil fuel as the west.
THOMAS HOMER DIXON
The frog will sit there, because it’s not able to detect the small changes in temperature that are making its life increasingly dangerous. And we’re in the same sort of situation. We’re so adaptable in our evolution as a species, an adaptability that’ll allow—that has allowed us to really, in a sense, conquer nature, and conquer the world. But at this point that adaptability is actually a real threat to our existence.
These glaciers provide stream flow in the summer, during the dry months that you can use to irrigate your crops. When those glaciers are gone, you’ve got no stream flow in the summer. And so you’ve got a massive drought situation.
DAN GILBERT (Professor of Psychology, Harvard University)
It seems unlikely to me that we here on the island we call North America, can sit happily with all of our resources while the rest of the world simply goes quietly into that good night so that we can continue to consume at our present rate. Very few people lay down and die. When they recognize that their lives are threatened, they do whatever it takes.
EUGENE LINDEN (Author, The Winds of Change)
When one species proliferates beyond any other, ultimately it sort of knocks out the life support system, and it collapses. And in a way, that’s what we’re doing at every level around the world.
Growing population, meaning growing demands on the land, resulting in deforestation and soil erosion, which tied into warfare, there was chronic warfare among the Mayan states.
There were these series of extended droughts, and those droughts just kept hammering away and hammering away. And you lose your forests, you lose your soils, if you lose your soils you can’t grow anything, and if it stops raining then forget about it.
The end game for the Mayans must have been horrible indeed. It’s highly likely that there were also periods of starvation. And it’s a truly hideous and ugly way to die.
Civilizations in the past have lost the fight. They have collapsed as a result of the inability to deal with several different events going on at once. I think the takeaway is that honestly we are not that special.
The pattern is clear. Civilizations that grow too large and consume too much damage their own life support systems. As resources run out, they begin to fight each over what little is left. Then, they either starve, or leave. But in our case, where can we go?
I think Easter Island is the perfect metaphor because it’s this small fragile island, sitting within the Pacific Ocean, it’s very remote, and, and it, it no longer was able to sustain the population that lived there. It’s no different than Earth being this small planet, in a vast galaxy.
IAN LIPKIN (Director, Northeast Biodefense Center)
People get their seeds for corn and for grain from a few manufacturers. And they’re genetically very, very similar. So if in fact an agent were to come onto the scene that was capable of infecting one it would rapidly spread.
An enormous reservoir of methane, produced by decomposing plants and animals, lies buried beneath the frozen Arctic tundra. It has been there since the Ice Age. If the tundra melts and the gas is released, global temperatures would soar.
A potentially very large arctic source of methane to the atmosphere is the decay of organic matter in the form of dead plant, animal, and microbial remains that have been frozen in shallow permafrost (1-25 metres below the surface) for tens of thousands of years. This important source of atmospheric methane is not currently considered in modeled projections of future warming. The amount of carbon stored in the organic matter of arctic permafrost is staggering. It is estimated to be around 750 to 950 billion metric tons—equal to or larger than the nearly 800 billion metric tons of carbon currently in the atmosphere in the form of carbon dioxide. (Source: UNEP Yearbook 2008, Page 40)
JAMES HOWARD KUNSTLER (Author, The Long Emergency)
One of our political leaders said, not too long ago, that the American way of life is non-negotiable. And we’re gonna discover the hard way that, when you don’t negotiate the circumstances that are sent to you by the universe, you automatically get assigned a new negotiating partner. Named reality. And then it will negotiate for you. You don’t even have to be in the room.
ANTHONY FAUCI (Director, National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases)
When people are hungry and malnourished, they are clearly more susceptible to infections. As you continue to have displacement with floods, there’s no doubt that’s a perfect setup for certain types of infections.
The more people you have, the more of them that are malnourished, the more susceptible we are to having transfers of dangerous microorganisms, viruses, from animal populations which we’re pushing larger and larger groups of people into contact with. Then we have rapid transport systems. So, you know, in 1600 if a plague ship left Japan to go to India nobody in India got the plague because everybody on the ship either died or got, become immune during the trip…You can move things around very fast today. You haven’t heard any planning about quarantines, have you? Or closing the borders or really putting in huge stock piles of anti viral drugs and so on? I would think that the biggest chance of most of the people listening to this show, of them dying from something other than natural causes, you know, a large scale disaster, it would be a large scale super-flu of one kind or another, or some related disease. (Paul Ehrlich, Author, The Population Bomb, in conversation with Michael Bicks for ABC News)
One of the real challenges we may face in the future is—the possibility of some kind of global pandemic— a disease that sort of sweeps across, a new disease that sweeps across the planet—because we’re all so tightly connected together. Now, humankind represents one of the largest total masses of similar organic material on the planet. In other words, we’re a bit like a mono-crop, like a field of corn or wheat that is all the same genetically. And we know that when you have a mono-crop—that’s all the same genetically, that if a disease affects one plant, it tends to sweep across everything in the field because—because every plant stalk is equally vulnerable. And in some sense, humankind is the same. We’re genetically very similar. And we’re all packed together now, especially in our large cities. And in the developing world in poor countries where those cities are often under supplied with healthcare and with public health—these are breeding grounds for the emergence of new diseases that then can spread around the planet through—our global air traffic system and our transportation networks. (Thomas Homer Dixon, Professor of Global Systems, University of Waterloo, in conversation with Linda Hirsch for ABC News)
THOMAS HOMER DIXON
Collapse is not something that actually happens overnight. It’s the result of an accumulation of stresses, an erosion of the internal strength of society, so that it just becomes like an eggshell. And one last shock breaks it.