Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Start Something to Live For

American author of Aquaponic Gardening Sylvia Bernstein on union of fish and veggies. Publisher of Mother Earth News Bryan Welch's optimism of non-partisan activism. Canada's oil capital shut down by climate change. Radio Ecoshock 130626 1 hour.

Get ready for your new food source: aquaponics. But first...


In Canada, an extreme rainfall event, made worse by a stalled weather system likely powered by an unstable Arctic and climate change, has closed down the country's oil trading capital.

In Calgary Canada, nature accomplished what politics could not. The largest oil company headquarters, including suncor Energy, Imperial Oil and Shell saw their head offices closed, as downtown Calgary was evacuated and left without power for days. Trading in Canadian crude oil stopped.

Alberta towns more than a hundred years old were evacuated, flooded, and wrecked. At least 75,000 people in the major oil-trading capital of Calgary were ordered out of their homes. Most of them do not have any flood insurance, as "over-land" insurance is no longer sold in Canada following the previous record flood of 2005. Billions of dollars of damage to homes, businesses, roads, bridges and all kinds of infrastructure occurred.

The TransCanada highway connecting to the West Coast was shut down for days.

The oil-promoter in Chief, Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper flew to his hometown of Calgary, clearly shocked that climate change could affect Alberta itself.

"I’ve seen a little bit of flooding in Calgary before,” he said. “I don’t think any of us have seen anything like this.”

Perhaps if Harper had not shut down climate research facilities, including the Polar research station, and muzzled Canadian climate scientists, he might have heard about research from Rutgers University (Jennifer Francis) showing Jet Stream patterns were stalling due to melting Arctic sea ice. Extreme precipitation events are happening all over the world. Even in Alberta.

The Premier of the Canadian province of Alberta, Alison Redford flew back from New York, where she was promoting the Keystone XL pipeline to ship polluting Tar Sands oil to the United States. She too was shocked at the devastation. Who could have guessed an over-heated atmosphere could hold so much water?


Canadian television anchors and reporters were unable to utter the words "climate change" or "extreme precipitation event" - even as similar floods hit Europe and India. The CTV network reported the strange "blocking high" heating Eastern Canada with summer, while keeping a swirl of storms and extreme rain in the West. The stalled Jet Stream appeared on the map, without explanation.

I'm Alex Smith. This is Radio Ecoshock telling it like it is.

Later we'll hear one brief radio clip, the only major media report I could find, telling Canadians the real cause of the "weird weather" that strikes again and again, now as the new normal.

But first, let's get back to basic solutions for right living.

We'll start with my interview with one of the North American pioneers of a brand new method of clean food production, aquaponics. It has just arrived in North America. I predict within ten years you will be buying organic local produce and fresh fish from neighborhood fish and veggie operations. Or maybe you'll grow it all yourself in your own back yard. Sylvia Bernstein, author of Aquaponic Gardening tells us how.

Later we'll talk with the driving force behind the world's largest outlet for sustainable living: Bryan Welch. He's the CEO of Ogden Publications, publisher of The Mother Earth News, the Utne Reader, and Grit. Bryan explains his optimism in dark times, and why we need it to change the world into the lives we want.


Listen to/download this Radio Ecoshock Show in CD Quality or Lo-Fi

Listen to/download my interview with Sylvia Bernstein on aquaponics in CD Quality or Lo-Fi

Listen to/download my interview with Bryan Welch, publisher of Mother Earth News in CD Quality or Lo-Fi

Please go ahead and share, Facebook or Tweet these links to anyone you think would be interested!

LISTEN DO THIS PROGRAM RIGHT NOW (Courtesy of archive.org)


Sylvia Bernstein in her aquaponic greenhouse in Colorado.

A Google search for "aquaponics" brings about 3,380,000 results. And yet the field is less than five years old in America, maybe 15 years in North America.

Of course, as listener and song-writer Smokey Dymny points out "Chapter 13 of Bill Mollison's Permaculture, A Designer's Manual (1988) laid this methodology out in detail. Permaculture magazines and teaching institutes have followed up with up to date developments in the years since." The permaculture folks used ponds and planting together.

But aquaponics adds a new methodology, growing plants in media like gravel, rather than soil ("hydroponics") and delivering the fish effluent directly to the plant roots in a systematic way.

Here are a few informal notes on the History of Aquaculture from my talk with Sylvia Bernstein, author of Aquaponic Gardening - the premiere book on the subject in North America.


Fish have been feeding land plants since time immemorial, especially when we consider floods. Perhaps the Hanging Gardens of Babylon was an example of the earliest civilized aquaponics. Wiki suggests the Aztecs or people of South China and Thailand practiced a form of aquaponics.

"The development of modern aquaponics is often attributed to the various works of the New Alchemy Institute and the works of Dr. Mark McMurtry et al. at the North Carolina State University.[10] Inspired by the successes of the New Alchemy Institute, and the reciprocating aquaponics techniques developed by Dr. Mark McMurtry et al., other institutes soon followed suit. Starting in 1997, Dr. James Rakocy and his colleagues at the University of the Virgin Islands researched and developed the use of deep water culture hydroponic grow beds in a large-scale aquaponics system.[9]"

- Wikipedia


"The first aquaponics research in Canada was a small system added onto existing aquaculture research at a research station in Lethbridge, Alberta. Canada saw a rise in aquaponics setups throughout the ’90s, predominantly as commercial installations raising high-value crops such as trout and lettuce. A setup based on the deep water system developed at the University of Virgin Islands was built in a greenhouse at Brooks, Alberta where Dr. Nick Savidov and colleagues researched aquaponics from a background of plant science. The team made findings on rapid root growth in aquaponics systems and on closing the solid-waste loop, and found that owing to certain advantages in the system over traditional aquaculture, the system can run well at a low pH level, which is favoured by plants but not fish.

The Edmonton Aquaponics Society in Northern Alberta is adapting Dr. Savidov's commercially sized system to a smaller-scale prototype that can be operated by families, small groups, or restaurants. They intend to further develop the closed solid waste loop.[11]" - Wikipedia on Aquaponics


Here is a large helpful site based on the back yard experimental movement in Australia.

We didn't have time to go into the important role Australians played in developing aquaponics. The Aussies experimented and really made it happen. I doubt we'd have current results without the Australian role. But the real founder of aquaponics is...


The modern practice really began from research starting only 30 years ago, principally by Dr. James Rakocy at the University of the Virgin Islands. Rakocy was an aquaculture specialist who looked at ways to use plants to filter water for fish. "Waste in a contained aquaculture system is a big problem" says Bernstein. People had used water hyacinths to filter fish waste, but Rakocy thought why not grow food instead, like lettuce or tomatoes? That innovation started modern aquaponics.

His system was commercially oriented, called deep water raft-based production.

Rakocy is now retired, after a 30 year career. In the meantime, there was grass-roots experiments in Australia about home and back yard aquaponic gardening. That was more focused on using gravel. Modern aquaponics developed mainly in Australia around 2001 - and became popular in the United States only in the past 3 or 4 years.

Wiki lists ten key principles of aquaponics developed by Dr. Rakocy:

"Ten primary guiding principles for creating successful aquaponics systems were issued by Dr. James Rakocy, the director of the aquaponics research team at the University of the Virgin Islands, based on extensive research done as part of the Agricultural Experiment Station aquaculture program.

“Use a feeding rate ratio for design calculations

Keep feed input relatively constant

Supplement with calcium, potassium and iron

Ensure good aeration

Remove solids

Be careful with aggregates

Oversize pipes

Use biological pest control

Ensure adequate biofiltration

Control pH"

- Wikipedia


Sylvia Bernstein's 2009 book was first widely available book about aquaponics. It is called "Aquaponic Gardening, A Step-By-Step Guide To Raising Vegetables And Fish Together." Find it on Amazon here.

Sylvia Bernstein runs this helpful site with lots of aquaponics info.

Her main web site is: theaquaponicsource.com

Sylvia also plays a pivotal role in a new organization, the Aquaponics Association, founded just about 2 years ago.

They have held conventions for "aquapons" as they call themselves. The next is the 2013 Conference in September 20-22nd in Tucson Arizona, with Joel Salatin as lead speaker.

It is rare for aquaponic practitioners to meet in person. Most of the development and skill sharing for this new field was developed on the Internet. It's an amazing hybrid of high tech communication enabling a new type of safe food production at a time we need it badly.

Their first conference was in Orlando Florida 2 and a half years ago, leading to the founding of this association. They have almost 500 members now and still growing.

In our interview, we also discuss recycling an "IBC Tote" to make fish tanks on the cheap. IBC stands for Intermediate Bulk Container. One whole IBC tote can be made into a 275 gallon fish tank. Or cut it in half to make two grow beds out of it.

But Bernstein warns to check carefully what was stored in that tote before - it must be food stuffs, and not toxic chemicals! Also, the PH of the fish water/plant solution is very important, and so the tote cannot have carried high or low PH chemicals. You can also use blue plastic storage barrels.

Some fish will grow bigger and faster than others, so they don't all mature as a single crop like veggies (at least that's true with tilapia). We also discuss other fish that are more tolerant of cold water, like cat fish and trout, for folks living further north. In Colorado, Sylvia brings her fish tank indoors, from her outdoor greenhouse, during the winter months.

The fish do not smell, just as any other aquarium does not smell. You could do the whole operation indoors, say in a basement, with grow-lights for the plants.


The fish are intriguing (and tasty!) - but don't forget the fantastic results aquaponic growers get with fast-growing production in the plant side of things.

The plant roots are not always submerged in water, but are flooded with nutrients and then drained for air, automatically in repeating cycles - assuming you are using a media like gravel, and not a raft-based deep water culture.

Because the plants get lots of oxygen, water, and abundunt food - they don't have to focus energy on developing large root systems. Their roots may be quite small, and that energy goes into the leaves or fruits we want.

Sylvia adds composting red worms to her media.

There is a wave of interest in America in aquaponics for several reasons - chief among them being food security and food sovereignty. The government is not protecting our food supplies from GMO's, pesticides, hormones and toxic chemicals. Aquaponic production guarantees real organic food safety.

Sylvia is worried about climate change and it's impacts on mass food production. Aquaponics lets her produce her own supply of safe food. Plus...it's fun and good for the mind. Her greenhouse is so alive - with water flowing, fish, plants growing. Also, aquaponics is fantastic teaching tool for neighbors and children to learn biology and natural ecosystem interdependence.

When Sylvia studied agricultural economics at UC Davis, there was no sense of this delicate balance of natural systems. They learned to add chemicals, but never the consequences, like impacts on groundwater, rivers, and dead zones in the oceans.

Her site theaquaponicsource.com has plenty of free info and a community board. But they also have a store where they sell parts, or even a complete turn-key system if you are not the do-it-yourself kind of person, or do not have the time to set one up from scratch.


Find lots of photos of aquaponics experiments at the University of Arizona here.

Note lack of phosphorus in aquaponics system leads to use of greens like lettuce.

"Plant crops in aquaponics are usually limited to lettuce and other leafy crops, since they readily use the nitrogen available as a waste in aquaculture systems but don't need phosphorus (which is not present in aquaculture systems) as many fruiting plants do."

- U of Arizona

But Rakocy grew tomatoes as well... he added calcium, potassium and iron.

Here is a You tube video of Sylvia explaining aquaponics, created by thedailycamera.com

For three bucks you can get a .pdf download with tons of links for aquaponics, from the National sustainable Agriculture Information Service, here.

... and just search for "aquaponics" on You tube to watch hours of people just like yourself, setting up this new form of food production. It's very educational, and very possible.


Before we continue with our drive toward a sustainable world, let's take another quick moment to reflect on the dying path of fossil fuel destruction. Perhaps you've heard the Calgary, the oil-capital of Canada, was more or less shut down by flash flooding and over-flowing rivers.

As fate would have it, I was in Calgary on the night of Wednesday June 19th, as the black skies filled with thunder for almost a dozen hours. Sheets or rain, torrents of rain drenched the city. All the foothills let loose, creeks became rivers, rivers became fast-running lakes filling streets, homes, entire neighborhoods and towns. Fearing the water supply would become contaminated, there was panic buying of bottled water, until the shelves ran dry. As always, few were ready for an extreme rainfall event in the dry prairie.

Alberta is rich with wealth from the oil wells and the Tar Sands. But even that economy will reel from the billions of dollars of uninsured losses. The famous Calgary Stampede looked doubtful, as major stadiums, parks, and the downtown core flooded. Apartment towers stood empty in the dark.

The ruling party of Canada, the party of climate denial, was due to convene their annual conference in Calgary the next week. That was postponed.

Here is a brief clip from the government-supported Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, the program Current Events hosted by Anna Maria Tremonti. It's possibly the only report from a climate scientist in the days of non-stop coverage of the Alberta floods. The speaker is Robert Sandford, the EPCOR Chair supporting the United Nations "Water for Life" Decade.

[Excerpt from podcast interview with Bob Sanford and host Anna Maria Tremonti from the The Current, episode "Severe flooding in southern Alberta" from June 21, 2013. Find it here.]

That was Robert Sandford, explaining the science behind extreme rainfall events due to climate change. Even he did not have the courage to suggest we must reduce our emissions of fossil fuels as a solution, speaking instead of adapting to wilder climate swings.

NASA in America, hardly a radical source, confirms we can expect more extreme rainfall events due to climate change. And in this third warmest May recorded since temperature records were kept on planet Earth, flooding in Central Europe cost $22 billion dollars! The Alberta flooding will cost billions of dollars, being likely the most expensive "natural" disaster in Canada's history. Read this story of Calgary's "Manhattan moment" by Andrew Nikiforuk.

Enough. The same madness of denial goes on all over the world. In my opinion, all we can do as individuals who know that physics and nature will not be denied, is to keep pushing the movement toward a sane sustainable society. We are about to talk to an optimist driven by the vision it can be done.


Bryan Welch, publisher and editorial director of Ogden Publications.

This is my second interview with Bryan Welch, the powerhouse behind the Mother Earth News, Mother Earth Living, the Utne Reader and Grit. In addition to his active editorial role in the Mother Earth News, Bryan is CEO of the parent company Odgen Publications. He's right to say that company is the largest media force for sustainable living in the world.

Our first interview was about his book "Beautiful and Abundant, Building the World We Want". It's done very well - but to be honest, I had a hard time agreeing with his positive message, given the flood of bad news I cover on Radio Ecoshock. Plus, as a green, selling "abundance" to the American people seemed like a bad idea. We didn't end on a happy note.

This time, I was in a better space, and understood what Bryan is really trying to say.

As an example: who is reading Mother Earth News? Surely it's mostly liberals, Democrats, environmentalists? Not really Welch tells us in this interview. People who want better food and more self reliance may very well be Conservative, even Republicans. Welch feels he can get the message of sustainability out to a much wider audience if the politics are left out of the mix. That's my take anyway.

As to the idea of abundance, he's not talking about more useless shopping for stuff. It may well be abundance of community relations, of innovation. But we can't have that abundance, he tells us, unless we control population.

I raise the caveat that is we also demand beauty, there should be no dark, ugly holes hidden in the process of our society. For me, that means no destructive strip mining in the Tar Sands or Appalachia, or dangerous tanks of radioactive waste, behind our production and consumption. There should be beauty all the way.

Bryan explains why, despite the flow of negative reports in the media, we may be living in one of the better times for humanity.

This interview was less of a wrestling match, I felt, and better communication of Bryan's vision - which does lead to so much good information and alternative community action in his various publications. Bryan explains his philosophy here, and of course in his book.

Do I agree with everything Bryan Welch, or any of my guests say? Maybe you will disagree with some things. Radio Ecoshock is not a show where guests express my own personal state of mind. It is a platform, your platform, supported by you the listener, to hear the visionary voices, and the real do-ers, helping you make your own life choices.

This is a thought-provoking interview, well worth your time.

Visit Bryan Welch's blog on Mother Earth News here.


Thank you for listening, and being part of Radio Ecoshock. Find out how to support this program at our web site ecoshock.org. Your donations and memberships keep me going.

It also helps me pay for the tons of green audio files we offer on our web site, and from this blog. Downloads cost money, and we get thousands of shows downloaded every week.

I'm Alex Smith. If anything you hear on Radio Ecoshock makes you part of the solution, my job is done. Let's meet again next week.


We end the program with the hit song "Something To Live For" by Vancouver's own Barney Bentall and the Legendary Hearts.

Barney has a fascinating story. He came from an extremely wealthy family, and could have made his own fortune in the family business. Instead, he was lured into Rock and Roll. Not only did Bentall make many of his own hits, and play concerts around the world, he has appeared as a back-up musician for many of the world's most famous artists. Barney Bentall has also supported many non-profit and fund-raising events around Vancouver - so he really does have a "legendary heart".

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Growing the Life You Want To Live

From the Mother Earth News Fair, we hear about Life on the "Farmstead." Lisa Kivirist turning your dreams of small scale food into a living in Wisconsin. Lisa has tips for us all. Then we go solar with author and speaker Dan Chiras, plus solar electrician Brad Burkhartzmeyer - the questions you would ask are answered.

Download/listen to this Radio Ecoshock Show in CD Quality or Lo-Fi

Download/listen to my interview with Lisa Kivirist in CD Quality or Lo-Fi

Download/listen to my interview with Dan Chiras in CD Quality or Lo-Fi

Download/listen to my interview with Brad Burkhartzmeyer in CD Quality or Lo-Fi

Listen to this Radio Ecoshock right now (courtesy of archive.org)


Lisa Kivirist and John Ivanko

Let's meet Lisa Kivirist.

There were so many useful angles to this interview. For one thing, we learn about the transition out of the city. But what will you do there to survive and pay the bills? Lisa and her husband John Ivanko managed a balance of food production, local business, and book writing - successful for the past 17 years.

They've developed and then written about "ecopreneurship" - developing an income from what you love to do - and what is good for the Earth. Oh and by the way, Lisa and John run a "carbon negative business". They soak up more carbon than they emit. Isn't that the only way to a future?

Their latest book is "Rural Renaissance: Renewing the Quest for the Good Life". If you want to learn from this dynamic couple personally, book into their top-rated green bed and breakfast outside Monroe, Wisconsin. Find their web site here.

Just one of the many tips that impressed me: setting a time after the Christmas feasting to really eat up all those supplies you bought in bulk, or stored away from the previous season. A time of buying no food, but working up good recipes from what you have.

Linda is an experienced and engaging speaker, and we had some laughs along the way. Enjoy this one!


Dan Chiras

Radio Ecoshock continues from the Mother Earth News Fair in Puyallup Washington. Does it pay to go solar? Dan Chiras worked alternative energy for three decades, writing 30 books in the process. Dan visited me in the Radio Ecoshock mobile studio.

Dan is a 30 year veteran of the battle to bring clean green energy to America. Currently he's the Director of the Evergreen Institute located in Gerald, Missouri. Dan also has two blogs in Mother Earth News magazine.

His first blog is on building Net Zero energy homes. In fact, if you search for "Dan Chiras Net Zero Energy" you'll land in his Mother Earth News blog. Or you can go to the Mother Earth News web site and find the blog here.

One of Dan Chiras's many books that appealed to me was "Things I Learned Too Late in Life".

His second Mother Earth News blog is called "Dan Chiras on Loving Life". It may sound corny, but Dan thinks a positive love for people and all Nature can be healing for the planet.

Behind all that, are mountains of books, articles, You tube videos, and public appearances by Dan Chiras - absolutely crammed with plans and tips to install everything from solar to wind and beyond.

In our interview, we concentrated on solar energy. On of our previous off-grid guests suggested the real place to start is not solar electricity, but "solar thermal" even just to heat hot water for your home. We talk through all that, and Dan gives us a lot in a short interview.


Brad Burkhartzmeyer

We just have time to squeeze in a few minutes with a very experienced solar designer and installer from Washington State, Brad BurkHartzmeyer.

Brad founded Sun's Eye solar power which has installed lots of solar juice in area of Tacoma Washington, and beyond. It becomes apparent during our interview the importance of checking out the training and credentials of your solar installer. Maybe the guy down the road is not your best choice. Some states require a trained electrician, with more courses on solar installation. Others do not. Buyer check it out!

In the program I only had time for just a sample from my full 18 minute interview with Brad Burkhartzmeyer. We talk about roof angles, solar water heating and more. Get the full interview as a free mp3 download here.

If you've ever considered solar power, give that interview a listen.

At one point I was wondering. Brad suggested the average full solar power system costs between twenty and thirty thousand dollars. Twenty thousand for a solar system? No way I thought. Then I get in my $25,000 car which will break down in three years and costs thousands to run every year. Maybe a lifetime supply of sun power would be a better buy.

Plus, the system will pay for itself, and can even turn a profit, if your local provider allows meters that can run backwards, paying you for the extra power you produce. A nice check coming in.

We know electricity rates will just go up and up. With solar you get a guaranteed low rate, which just gets more competitive as time goes by.

At the Mother Earth News Fair, the whole mobile radio studio was powered by the sun. Join me won't you, in the clean energy revolution?


You can help support this program, at our web site, ecoshock.org.

My thanks to listeners who made it possible to record so many great guests at the Fair.

I'm Alex Smith, saying there's lots more Radio Ecoshock coming next week. Let's meet again then.

We finish up the program with a small slice of sun-loving music by Vastmandana, out of Oakland California.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Civilization: Change It or Leave It

Can we return to the primitive? Miles Olson on personal rewilding. Asoka Bandarage on "middle way" out of collapse. Organic grow and cook with Barbara Damrosch of Four Season Farm. Radio Ecoshock 130612 1 hour

Could you leave civilization and survive? Are we permanently plugged in?

I'm Alex Smith Welcome to a mixed bag of greens this week. You'll hear Sri-Lankan-American author Asoka Bandarage's solutions for collapse, plus a classic conversation from the four seasons garden to your dinner table, with one of America's best known organic growers, Barbara Damrosch. But first we try to escape from the voices of society, with author and "professional dropout" Miles Olson, from the Mother Earth News Fair.


Listen to/download this Radio Ecoshock Show in CD Quality (56 MB) or Lo-Fi 14 MB

Listen to/download my interview with Miles Olson (24 minutes) in CD Quality or Lo-Fi

Listen to/download my interview with Asoka Bandarage (19 minutes) in CD Quality or Lo-Fi

Listen to/download my interview with Barbara Damrosch (15 minutes) in CD Quality or Lo-Fi



Author and vagabond Miles Olson.

The following description is blatantly stolen from the Mother Earth News Fair blurb, for June 1st & 2nd in Puyallup, Washington.

"How to Walk Away from Civilization

Miles Olson is an author, teacher and "professional dropout" who has spent the past decade living in the woods of Vancouver Island.

Workshop Description

Ever wondered what it would be like to head to the hills and try to live off the fat of the land, outside the normal routine of modern life? Author Miles Olson shares his experiences, reflections and musings in rewilding, based on a decade of living intimately with the land and building a "feral homestead" on Vancouver Island.

Other Workshops

Fire by Friction

How to Make a Folded Basket

Speaker Bio

Miles Olson is an author, teacher and "professional dropout" who has spent the past decade living in the woods of Vancouver Island. His experiences have put him at the forefront of the rewilding movement and given him a unique perspective on the relationship between humans and wildness.

Visit www.milesolson.net for more information.

As you'll discover in the interview, Miles struck a long-standing cord with me. As fate would have it, my family owned part of an island in Northern Ontario. I spent two months there, for my first 17 years, without electricity or really much connection to, or news from, the outside world. We seldom wore shoes, and spent a lot of time in the water, like amphibians.

Then in the late 1970's, I went "back to the land" - again in a distant cabin with no electricity for 10 years. So I understood intuitively what Miles Olsen was telling us - about the voices of civilization we all carry in our heads, and what happens when those instructions and demands go silent. Nature awaits our consciousness, but it's not easy making the transition.

If you do, it's just as hard to come "back". The traffic and structured chaos of cities can feel so un-natural. Miles chose to develop a homestead "squat" outside a town on Vancouver Island, with a few like-minded people. He didn't get the standard job and house. Yet somehow he wrote the book "Unlearn, Rewild: Earth Skills, Ideas and Inspiration for the Future Primitive" from New Society publishers.

If Miles Olson writes as lucidly as he talks, this should be a worth-while book. I felt the spark from him, as we met for the first time on radio, at the Mother Earth News Fair.


Author and teacher Asoka Bandarage

You know our environment, species, climate and economy are flirting with collapse. It's global, and needs global eyes. Last week we played a reading by Asoka Bandarage. Now it's time to speak with her.

Is it possible we could be organic, solar-powered humans, and still destroy the ecology of the world? Is there an inner destructive force we need to examine, and change, in order to evolve, or even to survive?

Asoka Bandarage is the author of the new book, Sustainability and Well-Being: The Middle Path to Environment, Society and the Economy published by Palgrave MacMillan.

Find her web site here.

Asoka Bandarage (Yale Ph.D.) is the author of numerous publications in the fields of global political economy, environment, population, women's studies and peace and conflict resolution. She is a college professor and has taught at Brandeis, Mount Holyoke, Georgetown, American and other universities. She has published several books, ranging from an expert analysis of the recent civil war in her native Sri Lanka, to a wide-ranging view of women in the population crisis. She also writes for the Huffington Post.

In this Radio Ecoshock interview, our guest takes us from the early stages of collapse, into a different path, the middle path.

We know little to nothing about Sri Lanka, other than it is near India, was called Ceylon, and suffered both a tsunami and a civil war. For example, did you know that agrichemicals have caused widespread cancer in farm workers in Sri Lanka. Asoka tells us the same disease and death befalls farm workers in other parts of the world, including Central America. The chemical companies and the governments know very well what causes these cancers. Some toxic pesticides banned in North America and Europe are still used in developing countries, sprayed right on workers while they toil in the fields. What choice do they have?

But Asoka Bandarage draws from the Buddhist traditions, finding a way balanced between over-consumption in the industrialized countries, versus the under-consumption of the billion or more very poor people on this planet. No, this isn't the vision of rampant capitalism, or even the "liberal" reports from the United Nations. From her years of experience teaching, travelling and writing - Asoka brings her own unique voice to our global crisis.


Barbara Damrosch of Four Season Farm

Again, here is the description of Barbara from the Mother Earth News Fair brochure:

"Feasting From Your Four Season Garden

Workshop Description

Learn how to grow and store a year-round produce supply. Find out how to raise food without much time, work or garden space, and discover what Barbara Damrosch has learned about bringing that food to the table. In the kitchen she follows the same motto she follows in the garden: If it's complicated, you're doing it wrong.

Speaker Bio

Barbara Damrosch, called the "queen of organic growers" by The New York Times, is one of the nation’s most respected garden experts and writers.

She is the author of Theme Gardens and The Garden Primer, and writes a weekly column for The Washington Post called "A Cook’s Garden." She appeared as a regular correspondent on the PBS series The Victory Garden, and co-hosted the series Gardening Naturally for The Learning Channel.

Damrosch and Eliot Coleman operate Four Season Farm, an experimental market garden in Harborside, Maine, that is a nationally recognized model of small-scale sustainable agriculture.

Visit www.fourseasonfarm.com for more information."

I knew about Barbara, from my previous Radio Ecoshock interview with her husband, Elliot Coleman of Four Season Farm. Here is the listing for that interview:

How to grow food in winter, even in Northern climates. Master gardener Eliot Coleman, from Four Seasons Farm in Bar Harbor Maine, grows (and sells) vegetables year-round, using inexpensive portable "hoop house" greenhouses, with no added heat source. Classic how-to interview, from Radio Ecoshock Show 111207 23 minutes 5 MB

I felt an immediate bond with Barbara. She's a very intelligent woman who has trained her brain on growing things, eating and living on what she grows, and then communicating the whole experience in ways that we can use. That is so valuable, she is nationally and internationally recognized.

We talked about their new project, their first cookbook. It's called "The Four Seaon Farm Gardener's Cookbook". Really it's half a how-to-grow-it manual, followed by excellent recipes for preparing and enjoying what you grew. I've got a copy, and it's a keeper for sure.

During the interview, I raise the problem of busy people trying to grow food and prepare it well. Do we have time really? Barbara was all over that.

She gave us a few tips, ready for her presentation at the Mother Earth News Fair - on how to cook the fast way. I also like her perspective on using different recipes to keep eating the same crop when it comes in - like three or four weeks of asparagus. It's really living on what you can grow, in season.

We just chatted easily. Barbara has a new column in the works, but no big book projects. She wants to get back to Harborside Maine, and just enjoy her time in the garden and kitchen. She's earned that... but somehow I'm doubtful. Barbara Damrosch has been giving so much, to millions of people for so long - can she just live a quiet life? We'll see.


My thanks to the Mother Earth News for arranging some great interviews at their recent fair in Puyallup Washington. There's plenty more for you, in coming shows. I met such unusual and productive people. Even when I had doubts, every guest brought a surprise, a new perspective you'll want to hear.

My special thanks to all the listeners who donated at our blog or web site, so I could afford to get my recording gear to the Fair. I literally couldn't have done it without memberships and donations from listeners like you.

I had access to a Fifth Wheel type trailer, parked right outside the main pavilion on the Puyallup Fair Grounds. I did interviews every hour, with feature presenters, all day. It was amazingly quiet inside this mobile studio - producing radio quality audio with the crowd right outside! Of course it was all solar powered radio, with the 120 Watt solar panel on the roof providing more electricity than I needed. There are four six volt batteries to store the sun's power.

If you like what you hear, you too can become part of the program, at www.ecoshock.org.

I'm Alex Smith, thank you for listening again this week.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Will Humans Go Extinct Soon?

Investigating claims of near-term extinction for humans. Clips from Guy McPherson, John D. Cox, Dr. David Archer. Interview w. John Michael Greer. Analysis of predictions by Malcolm Light of the Arctic Methane Emergency Group (AMEG). Radio Ecoshock 130605 1 hour.

Listen to/download this Radio Ecoshock Show in CD Quality (56 MB) or Lo-Fi (14 MB)

Listen to/download the 12 minute interview with John Michael Greer in CD Quality or Lo-Fi


Mike Ruppert: "The last time you were on about a year ago, you said essentially at that point, that the only thing that could save us was an immediate cessation of all industrial activity. How much further do we have to go now?"

Dr. Guy McPherson: "I strongly suspect that because of those positive feedbacks, even completion of the on-going collapse will not prevent near-term human extinction as a result of climate change - a scenario that would involve geoengineering, a complete collapse, and 27 other miracles that you might come up with that would actually allow our species to persist beyond another human generation."

That was Dr. Guy McPherson, speaking on Mike Ruppert's Lifeboat Hour on the Progressive Radio Network, April 21st, 2013.

Are you living in the last human generation? Now that the 2012 Mayan Calendar craze is over, there is a new movement claiming we are heading into "near-term human extinction". One group says the Northern Hemisphere will be devoid of people by the 2030's, with the population of the Southern Hemisphere dying out a few years later.

Why? Due to a combination of events caused by climate change. The Arctic will release very high levels of methane gas. It will come, they say, from frozen methane on the shallow sea bed, now exposed by the end of sea ice. And from the land, from rotting vegetation frozen over the ages in the Permafrost, now released.

Methane is at least 20 times more potent as a greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide. For a few years, it may be as much as 100 times more powerful. If a lot of methane is released in a decade or two, global mean temperature may rise more than 10 degrees Centigrade some say. It could be twice that in the Arctic. Could our complex industrial civilization could survive? It's unlikely agriculture could feed our current billions. Most current species would disappear in the 6th great extinction. Are humans immune to extinction?

Is it happening already? Arctic sea ice is melting more each year. should we try to cool the Arctic, if not the world? That's the view of a small but growing group of scientists and concerned citizens. It's called geoengineering.

Most scientists caution we have not reached such a desperate stage yet. Geoengineering could just make things worse. It's never been done; we don't know the side-effects.

Two weeks ago we had the Australian author Clive Hamilton on Radio Ecoshock. Clive explained the big risks of attempting to block out the sun, called Solar Radiation Management. In his book "Earthmasters" Hamilton describes a somewhat unholy alliance of billionaire Bill Gates, a small clique of worried and respected scientists, some nuclear weapons lab types, and some of the world's biggest oil and coal companies. They are all pushing geoengineering to cool the world.

We are going to investigate near-term human extinction. We'll peer into one of the primary sources of this idea, Malcolm Light, from the Arctic Methane Emergency Group.

You may find some of his solutions outrageous, but they have been presented in all seriousness to the British Parliament. The AMEG group wants geoengineering to start this year, in 2013.

We'll hear who is spreading this ultimate climate despair. Some are people I respect, my friends. Others are from the fringe, the anonymous spaces of the Internet.

I also interviewed a German scientific expert on extinction, and a widely published author. It's a wild mix, as we encounter the strangest and most fearful prediction of human demise.

Oh, and one more thing. I can't give you the final answer. We don't know yet, do we? In fact, as collapsenik Dmitry Orlov writes in his blog, we can never know whether we are extinct!



Let's begin with that voice that tweaked my brain. My Radio Ecoshock Show for December 5th, 2012 was called "On the Road to Extinction." It features a speech by Dr. Guy McPherson, delivered at the Bluegrass Bioneeers Conference in Kentucky. Guy, you will remember, is a qualified natural scientist who left the University of Arizona to pursue his own free speech. I wondered if the extreme statements Guy made about extreme global warming were true. I spent two days cross-checking pretty well everything he said. I posted my results online. His sources all checked out.

None of those scientific papers and authoritative reports said humans would go extinct before 2050. Guy McPherson made that jump, in part due to a frightening scientific-looking paper by Malcolm Light. I'll get to that.

These days Guy's blog "Nature Bats Last" features stories like "The irreconcilable acceptance of near-term extinction" by Daniel A. Drumright, and "On the Acceptance of Near-Term Extinction" by Gary Gripp and "Preparing For Near-Term Extinction" by Carolyn Baker. These people explain how they came to accept that humans are done-for, and soon. How do we cope with living in the end-times? There are others, a growing chorus of others. They take this belief very seriously, as if already proved by science and developments in the real world.

I disagree.

I think humans will still be around, trying to survive a continually warming world, for hundreds of years, if not more. Shortly, I'll explain why. We'll hear about the long human history of end-times thinking from popular author and commentator John Michael Greer. I've got a Radio Ecoshock reading from a new book by Asoka Bandarage about current trends of extinction in aboriginal peoples. Author John Cox wonders if we might choose extinction.

You can hear more of Guy McPherson on near-term human extinction on the Gary Null Show on May 14th, 2013. Find it on here on prn.fm.


Before we go digging into the science of near term human extinction, let's get a different view, this time from John Michael Greer, author of over 20 books and the Arch-Druid.

[Greer interview]

Essentially, Greer points out we've had a string of "end of the world" incidents, from Y2K to the end of the Mayan Calendar. Greer thinks we'll always need a replacement for that kind of thinking, and "near-term human extinction" could be it. He has his own theory of a bumpy decline which he calls "catabolic collapse". Greer was heavily criticized by those who believe near term human extinction is inevitable and is a scientific point of view. When I raised the danger that all sorts of end-times seekers and tin-foil types would pile on board this new idea, participants in the Near Term Extinction discussion site, - yes that's online already - they said "of course, we know that. But that doesn't change the science behind what we are saying."


Let's look at that science. In his seminal post June 20th, 2012, titled "We're Done", Guy McPherson links to this quote from Malcolm Light: quote: “This process of methane release will accelerate exponentially, release huge quantities of methane into the atmosphere and lead to the demise of all life on earth before the middle of this century.”

McPherson has defended Malcolm Light and the Arctic Methane Emergency Group in a various places, including Transition Voice, the organ of the Transition Movement.

Now remember, I'm not questioning McPherson's other sources, including Utah Professor Tim Garrett, the International Energy Agency, and a long list of others. I've checked those, and Guy is right. They are frightening predictions of warming up to 6 degrees Centigrade, or more, by 2100 - a climatic catastrophe for sure.

I'm concerned with the conclusion that we will be wiped out, soon, and especially using Malcolm Light of the AMEG group as a source.

Malcolm Light's core article, posted on The Arctic Methane Emergency Group web site is titled: "Global Extinction within one Human Lifetime as a Result of a Spreading Atmospheric Arctic Methane Heat wave and Surface Firestorm".

In what looks like a scientific paper, complete with complex graphs and charts, we find this stunning announcement: "The absolute mean extinction time for the northern hemisphere is 2031.8 and for the southern hemisphere 2047.6 with a final mean extinction time for 3/4 of the earth's surface of 2039.6."

Well that's pretty precise isn't it? On August 2031, say goodbye for those of us in the Northern Hemisphere. There is a lot in this article. I won't call it a scientific "paper" until I can find evidence it was peer-reviewed or published in an official journal.

This theory, and the radical solutions I'll discuss in a minute, were presented to the Britain's Environmental Audit Committee. The UK Parliament responded to this all-party committee's report "Protecting the Arctic". This AMEG paper went beyond the fringe into serious consideration by a major government.

What was the Committee told, as published by AMEG? Quoting from Malcolm Light's article, "This process of methane release will accelerate exponentially, release huge quantities of methane into the atmosphere and lead to the demise of all life on earth before the middle of this century."

We get slightly different estimates of when humans will go extinct in notes to one of the complex graphs in Light's article. It reads:

"Figure 8 shows a different method of interpreting the extinction fields defined by the (12 +-3) + 6% year long lifetime of methane (IPCC, 1992) assumed to have been instantaneously injected into the Arctic atmosphere in 2010 and the lifetime of the globally spreading methane atmospheric veil at different methane global warming potentials. The start of extinction begins between 2020 and 2026.9 and extinction will be complete in the northern hemisphere by 2057. Extinction will begin around 2024 in the southern hemisphere and will be completed by 2087. Extinction in the southern hemisphere, in particular in Antarctica will be delayed by some 30 years. This makes property on the Transantarctic mountains of premium value for those people wish to survive the coming methane firestorm for a few decades longer."

Let's pick up on that key phrase "assumed to have been instantaneously injected into the Arctic atmosphere in 2010". That leads to a building block of the whole theory, and the panic to geoengineer the planet.

An unlikely source has disputed the essential point. Somewhere out there in cyberspace is a person who made tens of thousands of posts on the site democraticunderground.com. She or he used the name "Muriel Volestrangler" - which just happens to be an alias used by British comedian John Cleese.

"Muriel" says Malcolm Light cherry picked the very worst single measurement of methane release in 2010, a startling spike reported by the American agency NOAA, from the Arctic Svalbard base on the day of November 16th, 2010. Light uses that spike for all his subsequent frightening calculations.

But here is what New Zealand blogger, Climate Show radio host Gareth Renowden wrote in his "Hot-Topic" blog about the graph Malcolm Light used:

"The graph comes from NOAA’s Earth System Research Labs Global Monitoring Division’s new data visualisation web page here (you’ll see a CO2 graph first, but click on the menu to the left of the graph to get the methane version). The readings for the last year are preliminary, and shown in brown. The last five data points are so far off the chart that they are almost certainly going to be rejected as being caused by local contamination. That’s happened before — the green dots show when — and at the moment other Arctic sites are not showing a similar rise. However, Svalbard is close to sea floor methane hydrate deposits that are known to be venting gas".

--- end Quote from Gareth Renowden at hot-topic.co.nz

Muriel Volestrangler tells us the data points showing the big methane spike have been revised by NOAA, who always said such measurements were provisional. I checked. The spike is gone. The steady rise over the decades is back. You can see it for yourself at the NOAA site linked above.

Therefore, most of the calculations in Malcolm Light's paper are not based on reality. They show what could happen, maybe, if there was ever a big release of methane in the Arctic, which continued at the new high level. But that hasn't happened at all. There's no doubt about it. Actual methane levels in the global atmosphere have NOT spiked beyond the gradual increase expected. No emergency. Yet. Although it could happen...

Volestrangler finds several more gross assumptions, all for the worst, and unprovable hypothesis in the Malcolm Light paper. Muriel writes:

"But since the basis for it all is a one month anomaly at one measuring station, which has since been counted as a false reading, it is all based on a mistake. He's taken that one month error, and extrapolated it until the world has heated up by 14 degrees C, which he says will therefore be an extinction event."

It's good news if Malcolm's paper is faulty, unless you have an agenda that requires governments to act in panic.


At AMEG we find only this: "Malcolm Light, specialist in earth sciences, blogger at globalwarmingmlight.blogspot.com". He claims a PhD from the University of London, but we are not told in what field.

I checked that blog address, but globalwarminglight has been taken over by companies selling financial services. Dead end.

An article at the Ecologist Magzine describes Light as an inventor and retired professor. Not much information there.

In a post at peakoil.com, Light says of himself: "Malcolm Light, retired Arctic oil, mineral and climate researcher". Getting closer.

I followed up on papers published by Malcolm Light, which he cites in his AMEG posting. Here is one titled "Saline Fluid Flow and Hydrocarbon Migration and Maturation Related to Geopressure, Frio Formation." It's from the place where Malcolm Light worked: The Bureau of Economic Geology at the University of Texas, Austin. He is a petroleum geologist who spent most of his career in Texas preparing information to assist extraction of fossil fuels.

Now we understand the vision that Malcolm Light is advancing to solve the climate crisis - a solution which hardly anyone in the environment community knows about.

Digging around on the Net, we find Malcolm Light has two main answers for the methane emergency. Other scientists like David Archer at the University of Chicago dispute there is any such emergency at this time.


The first he calls "Project Lucy". I found it at the Iowa City Climate Advocates site. In this paper, Malcolm Light gives himself a new description, quote: "Malcolm Light, PhD (Univ. of London), consultant with many years of experience in methane, diamonds and numerous related topics."

Here is Light's solution Number 1. Quote: "Project Lucy therefore aims to design, build and test a microwave transmission system targeting low-altitude methane clouds with the aim of breaking the first C-H bond as soon as the methane erupts into the atmosphere from the Arctic Ocean. The transmitters can be mounted on submarines, planes and after 2015 on boats and drilling rigs when the Arctic ice cap has melted."

Light also calls for the use of HAARP, the High Frequency Active Auroral Research Program super radio wave broadcasting facility in Alaska to break up methane. He wants to use the multi-billion dollar secret military facilities, in both the United States and Russia, to emit a very specific frequency. Not only will this break up methane into less harmful chemicals, Light claims. It will create a bi-product of nanodiamonds, tiny flecks of diamonds, in the upper atmosphere, which would serve to reflect more sunlight away from Earth. Lucy in the sky with diamonds.

Malcolm Light bases this whole radio waves kill methane and makes diamonds theory on experiments in making artificial diamonds, under high pressure, in laboratories. No one has ever tried what he suggests. so far I can't find a scientist who can make any sense out of this proposal in the real world. Perhaps someone could try it and see, if anyone would fund the research.

At least I like the idea that radio will save the world! That matches my own hopes with Radio Ecoshock.


Malcolm Light's second way to save the world from the alleged Arctic Methane Emergency is far more dire. Characteristic of the answers seen by a petroleum geologist, or big fossil fuel companies, his solution is to install a massive array of gas drilling rigs in the Arctic, trying to capture methane from the sea and land, before it can rise up into the atmosphere.

This second plot is has the delightful name "The Angels Project". I found this in a PowerPoint presentation by Light, titled "A Proposal for the Prevention of Arctic Methane". "ANGELS" is an acronym for "Arctic Natural Gas Extraction Liquefaction Sales".

The sub-title reads: "A Proposal for the Prevention of Arctic Methane Induced Catastrophic Global Climate Change by Extraction of Methane from beneath the Permafrost - Arctic Methane Hydrates and its Storage and Sale as a Subsidized "Green Gas“ Energy Source".

One slide says:

"This 'methane hydrate gun', which is cocked and ready to fire at any moment, is an extremely serious scenario that will cause abrupt climate change (CCSP, 2008; IMPACTS 2008). Even if this subsea volume of Arctic methane is released over a longer interval of some ten to twenty years it will still result in a massive feedback on global warming and drive the Earth on an irretrievable plunge into total extinction."

Shell Oil, Exxon/Mobil, StatOil, and all the majors will be thrilled to hear we MUST start massive drilling for natural gas in the Arctic, right away, or go extinct!

Light continues:

"After 2015, when the Arctic Ocean becomes navigable (Figure 5. Piomass in Naumer, 2012) it will be possible to set up a whole series of drilling platforms adjacent to, but at least 1 km away from the high volume methane eruption zones and to directionally drill inclined wells down to intersect the free methane below the sealing methane hydrate permafrost cap within the underlying fault network."

He predicts huge methane plumes erupting from certain identifiable areas of the Arctic Sea (from troubled areas of the sea bed). These should be capped instead by drilling rigs, and the energy used instead of oil or coal.

Quote: "Separated methane is stored in LNG tankers for sale to customers as a subsidised green alternative to coal and oil for power generation and for air and ground transport."

And here is how the world will be convinced to burn this methane:

"Support should be sought from the United nations, World Bank, national governments and other interested parties for a subsidy (such as a tax rebate) of some 5% to 15% of the market price on Arctic permafrost methane and its derivatives to make it the most attractive LNG for sale compared to LNG from other sources."

"This will guarantee that all the Arctic gas recovered from the Arctic methane hydrate reservoirs and stockpiled, will immediately be sold to consumers and converted into safer byproducts. This will also act as an incentive to oil companies to produce methane in large quantities from the Arctic methane hydrate reserves. In this way the Arctic methane hydrate reservoirs will be continuously reduced in a safe controlled way over the next 200 to 300 years supplying an abundant "Green LNG" energy source to humanity."

I note the "safer byproducts" of burning methane (natural gas) is carbon dioxide, the global warming gas that lasts up to 100,000 years. Malcolm glosses over that.

So... we will run the world from the Arctic methane erupting from clathrates and permafrost melting? Global warming will force us to capture this massive source of greenhouse gases and convert our society to methane power. Forget about solar or wind power, tidal, or simple changes to drastically lower power use. We'll turn lemons into lemonade as the Arctic warms. We'll spray sulfates too, using aircraft, to cool the Arctic, and hope those radio waves create some reflective "nanodiamonds" in the upper Troposphere or lower Stratosphere to further deflect sunlight. It's a total industrial solution to the woes of industrial civilization.

Think about this for a moment or two. As I say, we are forced to extract and burn still more climate-wrecking fossil fuels or go extinct, Malcolm Light claims. But we only have a limited amount of carbon we can still burn and stay below two degrees. I doubt there is enough left in that budge even to build and install this fleet of Arctic drilling rigs. Never mind the huge emissions required to convert methane into LNG.

No such Arctic drilling has been tried. Shell Oil's attempts last year turned to disaster when they tried to withdraw their rig before winter. It crashed aground in Alaska.

Beyond that, we haven't a clue whether the methane will really appear mainly along certain fault lines Malcolm Light has splashed across a colorful graph in his AMEG paper.

None of that research has been done. Does anyone really believe we can capture meaningful amounts of methane from a geologic release occuring across the vast Arctic tundra, and coastlines tens of thousands of miles long? The whole world economy would have to be converted to drilling rigs to capture a tiny percent of the methane. It doesn't make sense.

Adding it up, it's a huge and possibly dangerous fantasy, with near-term human extinction nowhere in sight.

The UK government responded to the Environment Audit Committee's report by saying they do not envisage an ice-free Arctic in the next few years, or a collapse of the major ice sheets on Greenland.

The Government wrote:

"Geo-engineering techniques for the Arctic at present do not offer a credible long term solution for tackling climate change. Further research is needed to understand how such techniques work and their wider impacts on climate systems. In the meantime, therefore, we remain unconvinced that using 'technical fixes' is the right approach and efforts should not be diverted from tackling the fundamental drivers of global climate change."


There are all sorts of curiosities lurking around in the AMEG plan to save the Arctic, and the world. They suggest the move away from burning dirty bunker oil in ships is a mistake. Ships should burn the dirtiest, most sulfur-laden fuel we can find, to add more sun-deflecting clouds. Commercial aircraft, they suggest, should get fuel additives that create chemtrails to ward off the sun. Unbelievably, they use the word "chemtrails" thus setting off another whole Internet hive of paranoia.

You can download AMEG's plan for the Arctic as a .pdf file here.

In fact, I think a case can be made that Malcolm Lights paper does two things:

First, it creates a story to bring the public, and even environmentalists, on board for massive gas drilling in the Arctic. That's something the big oil and gas companies want badly.

But it also stirs up the noise level around climate change, which may be just as important to the major energy companies. As University of Chicago climate scientist David Archer told us in a Radio Ecoshock interview, once the public becomes over concerned about methane, coming from the far away Arctic, we can forget about our own roles in burning carbon every day, in our cars, homes and factories. It's carbon dioxide that really counts in the long run. Carbon dioxide, not methane, will last determine the heat of the world for the next 100,000 years - for millennia after the short-lived methane has broken down.


Let's hear a few words from David Archer on Radio Ecoshock. Check out this Radio Ecoshock interview from our February 15, 2012 show.

That was climate scientist David Archer, author of the book "The Long Thaw" and an editor at realclimate.org. We talked on the Radio Ecoshock Show February 15th, 2012, as part of my survey of three scientists, including AMEG's Peter Wadams interview here.

Read more about David Archer and the methane debate here at Joe Romm's blog at ThinkProgress.

Perhaps in the next few decades we will see a significant burst of methane from the Arctic. It's something that should be monitored much more. We should spend a billion dollars on research, to determine the real level of threat from the frozen methane in the shallow sea beds, and from melting permafrost on land. I've done several Radio Ecoshock shows about all this, and will continue to do so.

I think AMEG has done some good work. We've had good interviews from ice expert Dr. Peter Wadhams from Cambridge, and Paul Beckwith from the University of Ottawa. Paul taught us all about the jet stream, the latest science. I hope to have him back as a guest.

But I think the paper by Malcolm Light is flawed. It may be based on faulty data and unproven assumptions. At this point it's nothing more than an interesting idea, in the realm of science fiction.

We may very well experience a methane emergency in the Arctic. It's possible without the work of AMEG we might not be watching as we should. Let the group carry on, but without the histrionics about near-term extinction of humans, and re-assessing their role assisting big fossil fuel companies, whether intended or not.

I'm Alex Smith. This is Radio Ecoshock.


I can't wrap up a show on human extinction without saying that other very serious scientists, public policy wonks, and artists are deeply concerned with it. As we learn more about biology, it's apparent that all species have gone extinct sooner or later. You may recall my interview with Dr. Peter Ward about the Medea Hypothesis - that all forms of life are ultimately self-destructive. Find that on our web site with a Google search. Or listen to my 25 minute interview with Peter about the Medea Hypothesis here.

In last week's program, I considered one argument for our survival - that some humans will continue to live directly from nature even if our complex world civilization fails completely. We heard from National Geographic author Scott Wallace, and his book "The Unconquered". If you missed that, download it here.

We hear other ways of facing ultimate threats to our humanity, from the author of a brand new book titled "Sustainability and Well-Being". As I read through my review copy, I was startled to find author Asoka Bandarage says some humans are already going extinct. In fact, the aboriginal people we were counting on may be the first to disappear. In the show I play you a reading from that new book, recorded for Radio Ecoshock by Asoka from her book "Sustainability and Well-Being", published by Palgrave.

We may not go extinct in some wave of deaths, but in smaller collections of endangered humans.

This is another reason why I disagree with the theory of near-term human extinction. It doesn't fit with what biologists know about extinction, unless you believe a Malcolm Light type apocalypse where the whole atmosphere catches fire or the oceans suddenly die.


To understand more, I called up Dr. Franz Essl. He is from the Department for Biodiversity and Nature Conservation, in the Austrian Environment Agency, in Vienna. Essl was co-author of a new paper titled "Europe’s other debt crisis caused by the long legacy of future extinctions".

I intended to play you the interview, but... to be honest the phone line was too poor to get audio easily understood. I apologize to you and Dr. Essl.

Here are some of the highlights of that interview.

Essl began by explaining that species go extinct after a long delay. Quote:

"In ecology there is an understanding that species reaction to changes in environment often follows with considerable delay. That means the impact of changes caused by human activity like habitat fragmentation or habitat loss often translates with a delay of years, or many years, or even with decades to the full loss of species in the given habitat. This is well understood on a local level.

So if a site is being reviewed to a fraction of it's former size we can expect quite a substantiation fraction of species will finally go extinct in this habitat. However we are not aware of a scheme of this phenomenon on a larger scale, so if this applies to the full range of species on a large geographical scale like a continent. This was the reason we started to analyze this phenomenon on a larger scale, to get an idea of how important this might be on a global scale.

What they found was amazing. Changes to ecology say in 1910, before the First World War, determined exinction of a species up to one hundred years later.

The authors chose Europe because most members of the EU had similar record-keeping on biodiversity, records that went back at least a century. European countries also kept track of Red List species, those who were most endangered.

I asked: It seems important for the public to realize extinction is not just about polar bears, tigers or some exotic large mammals in far away places. Are there dangers of extinctions of simple plants and fish in Europe?

Essl said: "If you have a close look on Red Lists in each country in Europe, you see quite a lot of species which are in the most severe categories in the Red Lists, which means they have a strong risk of getting extinct in these countries.

We also analyzed the proportion of species which are Red Listed in Europe. We looked at seven different taxa ranging from fish to mammals, and also to plant species like ?? plants. And what we found was the currently on a national scale in Europe between 20 to 40 percent of species are already considered to be at risk of getting extinct in the future.

So there are many species. Some of them are prominent species well-known to the wider public because of their conspicuousness, or their activity. Others are much more species that are at risk of getting lost at the national scale which are much less known. However they might be very important in eco-function or conferring other benefits to human well-being. So this is really a very important phenomenon.

And I have to say not only a European phenomenon of course. It's also a phenomenon which applies at the global scale. So the IUCN [International Union for Conservation of Nature], which is the global conservation union, which provides Red List assessment on the global scale has found in a recent assessment in the year 2012 that approximately 30 percent of all vertebrate species are being at risk of getting lost globally in the coming decades.

That's really a very important phenomenon that we have created and I am convinced of a global extinction problem.

Thirty percent of all vertebrate species, which includes mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians, and fish! Earth's ecosystems, this study found, works at a slower time-scale than humans. We haven't realized the delay factor. Many species we see now are already headed for extinction, determined perhaps a generation ago.

If pre-war social and industrial expansion caused such damage, I shudder to think what the new chemicals released in the 1970's and 80's will do decades from now. Or the mass expansion of cities and industrial agriculture.

Dr. Franz Essl told me:

"I suspect in regions which have just been transformed even more strongly than Europe, recently, like in emerging industrialized countries, for instance China, or other South East Asian countries, or countries who have lost a large fraction of their natural habitat in their recent history like some countries in the sub-tropical and tropical regions, might expect an even more delayed, or more pronounced delay in species loss.

This is particularly worrisome because many of these countries are the mega-biodiverse countries which means the most, or a huge proportion of global biodiversity. And a very strong delay of species extinction. That might mean lots of species are really at risk of getting lost in the long term.

This study did not even try to calculate the impacts of climate change. Socio-economic development itself was enough to drive massive extinctions. Climate change will add to that in the coming century.

The paper "Europe’s other debt crisis caused by the long legacy of future extinctions" was published in April 2013 in the prestigious Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Another take-away from this look at the biology of extinctions, I think, is that humans are very unlikely to go extinct all of a sudden. We may have already set the stage for out extinction, but it may take a hundred or more years to play out. Personally, I think humans will limp along, surviving through changes larger than anyone has dared to imagine.

Make no mistake, I'm deeply worried by the reports we carry on Radio Ecoshock.

The author of the new book "Scatter, Adapt and Remember", Annalee Newitz, thinks humans will survive anything. She looks through our ways of surviving past crisis despite incredible odds.

Even James Lovelock, the British inventor and scientist who years ago warned we were doomed to massive climate change, didn't predict a total end to the species. He speculated humans would end up as a few breeding pairs surviving around the Arctic Sea, the last place cool enough to support our mammalian life form. But given the climate record so far, that would take hundreds of years, if it ever gets that bad.


Perhaps we can only go extinct if we accept that as our fate. Our last clip comes from 2005, by author and long-time Sacramento journalist John D. Cox . Cox was speaking at the launch of his book "Climate Crash: Discovering Rapid Climate Change and What It Means to Our Future". He brought up one of the few cases of extinction in our recent history, namely the Viking settlement on the coast of Greenland. They were hit by climate change, as the times became colder.

Find the full John D. Cox book launch on C-Span here, as recorded July 12, 2005 at the National Academy of Sciences. My clip comes from the Q and A.

John D. Cox asks, why did the Norse fail in Greenland, while the Inuit survived? The Norse failed to adapt, there was a cultural identity which prevented them from learning from the Inuit. They chose to become extinct there. Will we decide to adapt? Or will we decide to stay the same, and thus be extirpated?

Will we choose extinction, even when more natural ways of survival are known, are right before our faces? Are we too inflexible to survive, to wedded to the many fossil powered slaves we all enjoy, from cars to dishwashers and vacation flights?

As John Michael Greer suggests, we may bump down some hard stairs for a few hundred years. I expect plenty of mass die-offs, a decrease in human population, and forced climate migrations. But in 2050, I think my grandson will be alive, and despite all, he'll be glad to be alive. That is the way we are.

Please support Radio Ecoshock if you can, at our web site at ecoshock.org.

I ask you to educate yourself to the challenge, by listening to our scientists and authors in past shows, as free mp3 files on our site. Support your local non-profit radio station, so we can stay on the air.

I'm Alex Smith. Don't give up to near-term extinction thinking. Use wit, love and persistence to change the paradigm. And don't be afraid to have fun.