The Core of Scientific Knowledge -
Nature is BIG(sometimes),
The first philosophical issue is to define Nature.
This is not an easy task. Many philosophers, poets, and peasants have offered definitions. In my humble view, Nature is the universe, its contents, and their interactions. From the perspective of an inhabitant of Earth, the strongest societal influences in Nature, ignoring major catastrophic events, evidently result from processes with unique underlying temporal periodicities, clocks that tick at various rates, and that are therefore predictable, to some degree.
The cycle of daylight is the first ecologically significant clock on Earth.
Seasonality is perhaps the strongest cycle, and most generally important, particularly given that climate is defined as expected seasonal weather. Local Weather Forecasters face many dilemmas, and provide many services, and usually resort to climate (historical) patterns and records as their best starting place.
A quick and clear distinction between climate and weather is:
Climate is What you Expect, and
Weather is What you Get.
A perturbation of the seasonal cycle is by definition "Climate Change". These perturbations include such "unmanageable" events and processes as volcanic eruptions - punctuated by major earthquakes, and collisions with large meteors - unscheduled events within the larger time stream. The relative persistence of their combined effects is the ultimate issue.
Since overland traders and seafaring began, maps and traveler's notes have become ever more valuable. Today we track everything in near real time, via satellites. For example, the importance of the 2-7 year cycle or pattern referred to as El Niño-Southern Oscillation (ENSO) is a frequent natural reminder about complex interactions of the global ocean, atmosphere, and continental heat budget cycling - and seasonality. It was not until time series of ocean temperatures and other process maps became possible, that El Niño's larger, more dynamic global manifestations were appreciated.
The ENSO cycle is a quasi-periodic perturbation of seasonal climate, or the "expected" pattern. The persistence of the changes wrought by any particular ENSO Event are usually only traceable for a few months to just over a year in local ecological or weather phenomena, along any coastline or inland. However, within the ocean itself, the physical patterns that are induced include both short-term Kelvin waves, and longer-term Planetary waves. The latter can continue to affect large ocean regions, and their ecologies for over a decade. c.f., J.J. O'Brien, Florida State University COAPS). SeaWIFS color satellite imagery has been extended from the oceans to the globe in its present configuration, and under its present management (OrbImage, Inc.).The intent of these efforts is to measure and monitor ecosystem changes on the land as well as in the sea. there is alot of ground-truth data that also needs collecting, and calibrations made for these data too be made truly representative of more than just the surface few millimeters of either system.
Dr. Theodor Landscheidt, of Schroeter Institute for Research in Cycles of Solar Activity, has shown that the El Niño/La Niña climate variation reflects solar activity, and allows proper forecasts for these phenomena, several seasons in advance of the present climate and ocean models.
These observations, along with recent work done by H. Svensmark and Nigel Calder suggest that "solar activity turns out to be the dominant factor in climate change. IPCC scientists can no longer uphold their contention that solar variability over the next 50 years will not induce a prolonged forcing significant in comparison with the effect of increasing carbon dioxide concentrations." and that "the impact of the sun's variability has been underestimated in a way that reverses the proportions" of it's contribution to warming and cooling of the earth's atmosphere by the Global Climate Modeling community involved in the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Reports, hence the abundant scientific skepticism regarding the IPCC Report Conclusions...
On longer, decadal to century scales there are 11-22, 60-70, 80-90, and 200 -220 year cycles of recurrent solar activity and orbital patterns and resultant changes, as well as millennial scale processes of about 2,400, 22,000, and 100,000 years (for a discussion of these and the longer Milankovitch cycles (see recent work by Galactic Cosmic rays have also been considered as a 'signal' worth watching, as their arrival and interactions within earth's already complex climate and weather system is slowly becoming more appreciated, as various monitoring devices have been set up, and studied, over the recent century. The influence of the sun's double cycle on their entry into the earth's magnetosphere has been thought provoking, leading many to look closer.
Staff at the Armagh Observatory in Ireland, recently published important documents linking Galactic Cosmic Rays to low cloud cover, that may explain some of the general cooling that occurred during the Little Ice Age, when solar activity was low, and therefore Galactic Cosmic rays were presmably high.
Occurring on similar long time scales are the global plate tectonic processes, subductions and emergences of mountain ranges and plateaus around the world.
From his studies of glaciers, and paleo-moraines, Alfred Wegener (d1930) proposed continental drift in the early 20th century. But, his hypothesis was only accepted by a few southern hemisphere scientists who happened to be familiar with the geologic evidence that he had tried to explain via his new ideas. There was tremendous scientific community rebuttal, not fact-based skepticism as in the Global Warming Greenhouse Gas debate, providing a tanatalizing analogy for the difficulties of changing dominant popular modes of presenting scientific ideas, as if they were facts, when in fact, they are merely unsubstantiated opinions, needing validation...
Vindication came for Wegner's ideas and facts, when his concept was reborn in the 1940-1950 period, as scientists explored the deep oceans, and discovered the mid-Atlantic Ridge (in the newest ocean), and analogs within the Pacific, Arctic, and Indian Ocean basins.
In 1962, Harry Hess, described a mechanism for sea floor creation, or spreading via these mid sea-floor ridges, providing the necessary engine for plate tectonics, and supporting Wegener's now vindicated theories. This forever changed the general understanding of relationships between planetary geology, species radiations, and many other puzzles in evolution and related paleosciences.
These are ancient patterns over which human influence was nil. Theories abound. Yet, knowledge that these are important, recurrent patterns, can provide substantial insight into necessity of both short- and long-term adaptabilities.
The first real issues in Nature surround the fight over terrain/territory in the more stable domains, including the Division of Territory in Society - as per Ed Stephan - then there are the more dynamic ones, the aquatic and even galactic domains...
Among those amazing insightful people whom helped boost science above religion was Thomas H. Huxley. Born on May 4, 1825, and expired on June 29, 1895, THH deserves resurrection into the fame he once enjoyed.THE HUXLEY FILE is a memorial to his achievements in many fields.
As human population pressures increase, the requirements for capabilities to cope with these challenges from both Nature - and human society - grow. Communications of temporal context and knowledge about environmental trends will need to be scaled up. Destabilization of local and global social systems is inevitable. Changing concerns, and social responses to perceived environmental threats are now reflected in a rapid accumulation of restrictions and regulations that are imposed by state and federal governments.
Water will certainly become, if it is not already, the most precious natural resource, over which many struggles will ensue. Of course, the answer is right before our eyes: Lets make more fresh water! But, of course, if we want to be really efficient, and sustainable we need to learn more about how to harness the energy from the sun.
There was little environmental concern before cities and urbanization began...
Progress has not been without its toll in human lives. Understanding about environmental negligence has grown steadily since the putative beginning-of-the-end of feudal society. Starting in the 14th Century, much of western society began to industrialize, creating new hazards, and strong societal responses. This has grown to the present decade's near phobias concerning environmentally unsound practices in many more enlightened communities.
Human health in general has improved, however, primarily due to the general recognition and regulation of only a few social systems, i.e., via treatment of drinking water, and the management of sewage. Yet, in spite of the obvious, many communities still argue heatedly over need for tertiary waste treatment, and pass their waste downstream. Today, in the dawn of the 21st Century, there are far more locations without modern sanitation, and water treatment, than with. Of course, sanitation is not the only issue, given the different vulnerabilities of each location on earth, to an array of challenges. These include seismic events; seasonal rainfall - that ranges from adequate to too much, or lack thereof; freezes; lightning strikes, tornadoes, and tropical cyclones, all of which take thousands of lives each year. The 'marginalization' of the poorer sectors of societies often locates these folks in the more vulnerable situations. There is not much difference between inhabitants of any southeastern US trailer park, situated in a river flood plain and the hundreds of thousands of people living in the lowlands and shorelines of Bangladesh, for example. They are all very vulnerable, to an array of events.
However, moving the Management of our ever-expanding human habitat into the 21st century, via Whole-System Management concepts as many of us have been trying to implement for decades, was met be utter disbelief by folks who are bought into the "Global Warming is Bad" rhetoric of the recent decades.
Global Warming is really not the question. The cause is the real question, and it is not clear to anyone that rising CO2 is the culprit - or even a bad thing. In fact, the relative role of CO2 in Global Warming is quite small in contrast to that of Water Vapor.
Sea level will continue to rise, despite anyone's efforts. There are about twenty thousand years worth of submerged sites of villages, middens, and land-bridges that do not represent 'disasters', but another natural phenomenon with which humans have coped many times over their histories. The situation, as I pointed out earlier is about marginalization, due to over-population - not Global Warming, per se.
The recent releases about the IPCC Report are 'crisis or dread factor' loaded, to the point of doing more harm than the well recognized post "Little IceAge" Warming has managed to date, unless you count the explosion of humanity that resulted as a negative consequence. That seems to be the one issue that noone wants to face, although it is the ONLY real 'controllable' factor.
There is not a question about whether or not warming has taken place since 1820s or so. The trick is to decide whether or not it really is worse than the alternatives. Scare tactics are a pain in the ass. Noone has a clue as to what will happen, except that things will be different. That is a GIVEN. Historians have provided sufficient evidence.
The idea is to learn to cope. That's what humanity has been all about.
Mostly, we cope too well. For Example:
3000BCE, at the end of the last Thermal Maximum ~100 Million people on Earth.
At about 7 BCE, era of expanding Roman Empire ~250 Million people on Earth.
At about 1350, at the end of the Medieval Warm period ~300 Million people on Earth.
At about 1700, within the Cold Maunder Minimum period ~ 600 Million people on Earth.
At about 1800, near the end of Little Ice Age - California colonized ~ 900 Million people on Earth.
At about 1900, after beginning of Warming Trend - whales decimated:petroleum introduced ~1.6 Billion people on Earth.
At about 1927, first California sardine bloom measured ~2 Billion people on Earth.
At about 1950, as the UN agencies started 'educating' food producers ~2.4 Billion people on Earth.
At about 1960, Soviet industrial fleet on move; England-Iceland dispute ~3 Billion people on Earth.
At about 1975, 2 years post US Congress Endangered Species Act ~4 Billion people on Earth.
At about 1989, recent bloom sardine catches peak Chile/Japan, ~5 Billion people on Earth.
In Fall 1999, just in Time for Climate Regime Shift - etcetera ~6 Billion people on Earth and counting...
Every Time it Warms, we swarm...
It took 3000 years to get from 100 million to 300 million, but only one century to get from 1.6 Billion to 6 Billion...
Other recent articles sum up nicely many other basic questions, particularly those about the 2001 IPCC Report, and 'its adocates':
"W" may not have been wrong to reject Kyoto.
Sallie L. Baliunas put it so well in her article with James K. Glassman:
"Without computer models, there would be no evidence of global warming, no predictions of disaster, no Kyoto. . By simulating the climate on giant, ultra-fast computers, scholars try to find out how it will react to each new stimulus - like a doubling of CO2. An ideal computer model, however, would have to track five million parameters over the surface of the earth and through the atmosphere, and incorporate all relevant interactions among land, sea, air, ice and vegetation. According to one researcher, such a model would demand ten million trillion degrees of freedom to solve, a computational impossibility even on the most advanced supercomputer."
(The Weekly Standard Magazine, June 25, 2001/Vol 6, Number 39: "Bush is Right on Global Warming")
The air we breath carries residues of civilization, as well as other natural hazards. Cleaning or removing these residues is not realistic, and the issues defaults to minimization of emissions. The burden usually lies with industry, and societal will.
To date, Nature has been left that task.
Most of the more elaborate changes in household sanitation, and more hygenic dental and medical practices during the recent century merely minimize the passing on of disease. The consequences of household and community practices that might promote or not, contagion and infections reflect cultural situations. For example, the term "crusty old gentleman" describes well the usual practice of 19th century Viennese medical doctors wiping their soiled hands upon their lapels - as a symbol of stature.
Remember, another lesson from history: Ignaz Semmelweis and Oliver Wendell Holmes were ridiculed for their crusade to have doctors wash their hands before and after examining pregnant women, or delivering babies. It was simply not a popular notion in its day. In major parts of the world, even today, this seemingly minimal effort of sanitary practice is not assured.
Modern methods are continuously evolving for extending lives of individuals, even those with diseases. This usually amounts to minimizing exposures to secondary infections - or modern corrective surgical procedures that remove or replace faulty plumbing. As we have learned during the recent decade, even such breakthroughs as antibiotics provide ethical dilemmas beyond their well known limited benefits over time, and new solutions must be continuously sought.
New Technology for Waste Treatment,
H2O Conservation, and Recycling vs
Conventional Minimal Treatments
The long history of environmental racism - or classism - has cost society far more than is generally recognized. New techniques and technologies are needed for handling wastes, as well as in creation of new by-products that can be used to sequester and stabilize them. In fact, what may well be needed, as reflected in the recent awareness of the importance of water quality, will be a new set of technologies for treating human refuse, that use less water, and provide even more isolation of these products from important water and food supplies. Downstream may need to be redefined in utilitarian terms.
It is also imperative that we begin to educate the next generation in generalized principles of recycling. Otherwise, it may well be that the end of the 20th Century will have seen the halcyon days of humanity, and, that each day, with the addition of each additional cohort, the 21st Century will see the general degradation of the quality of life of everyone, everywhere. It is the responsibility of scientists, educators and present stewards of the global environment to do all they can to slow down this general degradation, through far greater efforts to educate everyone about the changing needs of citizenship for the 21st Century. Namely, rethinking, and rescinding social norms that are inconsistent with sustainable high quality of life.
We all must stimulate searches for solutions, not enhanced rhetoric. We must promote and reward proactive remediation of many common societal practices and living conditions. We must discourage creeping toleration of incremental and generally declining quality of life.
The options for the 21st Century are extensive, almost too many. They are not all, however, necessarily expensive. The only way to accomplish these ambitious objectives is to develop the sense of imperative and cohesiveness that will accelerate the engines of change. Information is the key! Only recently have the agricultural community been able to persuade governments of the importance of having access to weather records from all over the world to help plan for the future, and cope with the known natural cycles and events that will continue to disrupt society. These are great commitments, by individuals and institutions. They will require careful nurturing to sustain.
Priorities, Priorities, Realities
Bjorn Lomborg has taken a lot of criticism from wannabe saviours of the Earth - whose bases are often not realistic, or even science based. His approach was to look at the array of issues, and possible solutions. In May 2004, he invited an array of interested expertise to Copenhagen to look into the world's most pressing problems, and via economic principles, make decisions about prioritization, = levels of need related to costs and likely benefits. Their brief Itinerary and Objectives and their eventual Final Conclusions all, readable.
In this light, I and many people are suggesting a near-revolution in the way that students and teachers work together, more as a community of masters and apprentices, role models and mentors, rather than conventional assigned regurgitation of pseudo-facts from textbooks - by shovelers of pearls in the academic hog pen.
What will sustain this merger of interests?
That is The Question.
Denial is the root of most catastrophe. There are lessons from history, well represented in the arts, literature, and sciences, that need to be imparted, and these may well be the weft and warp that can be woven into the fabric of a stronger 21st Century society based on knowledge, and fact.
Disinformation, then - Mythos - and other misplaced beliefs are simply maladaptive. Adaptability and knowledge, not faith-based good intentions, will be the key to success in the next decades. Well organized social structures, that minimize confrontation, yet maintain realistic perspectives of environmental, hence social conditions, will be the most successful. Critical thinking is the key to adaptability, and informed decision making that promotes true sustainability. Today, almost all ethnic cultures are sub-sets of a Global Culture. A lesson needing learned by everyone is that somewhere, there are already solutions to most natural challenges, if we pay close attention. Perhaps the most difficult lesson is about "How to Listen, and See Solutions", particularly those that have helped pre-adapt many old cultures to rigors of their habitats...
IT IS ALL ABOUT TIME, AND
CHANGING HOW HUMANS VIEW
Not Their World,But...