For perhaps the last ten years a tumour has been growing slowly in my kidney. For all this time the only symptom really has been a slight discomfort on my left side, at times a bit like a ‘stitch’ you get from running. I have several times mentioned it to doctors but until last November none wanted to investigate. Eventually one agreed to send me for an ultrasound and from that investigation we determined what it was. But what was slowly growing has speeded up dramatically and seems to have spread to my bones and lung, perhaps my brain too. I will find out soon but coming with that is a very poor prognosis. It looks very unlikely that I will finish my life’s work, or at any rate achieve or see the results I have worked for.
This is as true for our world sadly. Over the last ten years we have seen the problem growing but not enough to get our governments to act. We plodded on in denial and ignoring whatever warnings we were getting as they were mostly small symptoms if taken on their own and might be attributed to many causes. But suddenly the problem is being laid bare and terminal it seems to be.
“This March, global levels of CO2 passed 400 parts per million.
Although short-term local measurements of 400 ppm have been recorded previously, this marks the first time since record keeping began that CO2 levels were above 400 ppm globally for a month.
Already we’re seeing the deadly effects of climate change in the form of rising seas, monster storms, wildfires, and extreme weather of all kinds. Passing 400 ppm is an ominous sign of what might come next — and it sends a clear signal that the world must act ahead of the UN climate talks in Paris this December.
The safe level of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is 350 parts per million. The only way to get there is to immediately transition the global economy away from fossil fuels and into renewable energy, energy efficiency, and sustainable farming practices.
The last time CO2 levels were this high, humans did not exist. Our dependence on fossil fuels is fundamentally changing the nature of the planet — and it’s time to act.
There are many articles about this but what is disturbing is that 400 was set as the point of no return some time ago, when presumably it was hoped that we might prevent that happening.
Oil companies knew the science long ago but seem to have decided that as no other companies or nations were about to stop fossil fuel extraction and use, they should carry on regardless. Governments have been quite dependent on that decision.
Meanwhile there are ominous signs from the nuclear power station in Japan that was hit by the earthquake in March 2011.
“.TEPCO admitted for the first time on 12 October 2012 that it had failed to take stronger measures to prevent disasters for fear of inviting lawsuits or protests against its nuclear plants. There are no clear plans for decommissioning the plant, but the plant management estimate is thirty or forty years.
A frozen soil barrier has been constructed in an attempt to prevent further contamination of seeping groundwater by melted-down nuclear fuel, but in July 2016 TEPCO revealed that the ice wall had failed to stop groundwater from flowing in and mixing with highly radioactive water inside the wrecked reactor buildings, adding that they are “technically incapable of blocking off groundwater with the frozen wall”
…..In June 2016, it was revealed that TEPCO officials had been instructed on 14 March 2011 not to describe the reactor damage using the word “meltdown”. Officials at that time were aware that 25–55% of the fuel had been damaged, and the threshold for which the term “meltdown” became appropriate (5%) had been greatly exceeded. TEPCO President Naomi Hirose told the media: “I would say it was a cover-up… It’s extremely regrettable.”
…..Three investigations into the Fukushima disaster showed the man-made nature of the catastrophe and its roots in regulatory capture associated with a “network of corruption, collusion, and nepotism.” Regulatory capture refers to the “situation where regulators charged with promoting the public interest defer to the wishes and advance the agenda of the industry or sector they ostensibly regulate.” Wikipedia
It is the tip of an iceberg but here we see the problem with fossil fuels and the problem with one of the favoured alternatives – clean nuclear power. We still do not know how to process the spent fuel effectively and safely even as “KPMG reports 653 new nuclear facilities planned or proposed for completion by 2030.” Wikipedia
In Britain the reprocessing plant Sellafield is a good example:
“Sellafield’s biggest decommissioning challenges relate to the leftovers of the early nuclear research and nuclear weapons programmes. Sellafield houses “the most hazardous industrial building in western Europe” (building B30) and the second-most (building B38), which hold a variety of leftovers from the first Magnox plants in ageing ponds. Some of the problems with B38 date back to the 1972 miners’ strike: the reactors were pushed so hard that waste processing could not keep up, and “cladding and fuel were simply thrown into B38’s cooling ponds and left to disintegrate.” Some of the problems date back to the original nuclear weapons programme at Sellafield, when Piles 1 and 2 were constructed at breakneck speed, and safe disposal was not a priority. Building B41 still houses the aluminium cladding for the uranium fuel rods of Piles 1 and 2, and is modelled on a grain silo, with waste tipped in at the top and argon gas added to prevent fires” Wikipedia
Needless to say there is a complete lack of the necessary funding for such things these days.
Well these do not really spell the end of the world until we look at what is happening to so many species becoming extinct and why. Until we look at the constant threat of war and nuclear war. Until we look at pollution and the state of the oceans. But even though the doomsday clock has been moved closer to midnight we have not yet received a terminal diagnosis and for good reason.
Take my condition for example. It can be assessed and various medicines and therapies prescribed. As a result and from looking at the data available from those with these conditions they can suggest a possible length of time before the condition kills. Every day many thousands of people are told how long they have to live. Obviously they would not be living forever anyway but the verdict is how much sooner that expected death will come. However there are always examples of people who have defied the sentence and have even managed to overcome the condition. We may not know how but the internet is full of such tales and many healing organisations claim to be able to do this. A change of lifestyle can make a big difference as can certain interventions. Even our body’s immune system can step in.
With our world there is a sentence too. Not that many agree with it. Some look at the blue sky and still green grass and cannot comprehend that anything is seriously amiss. They breathe in the nitrous oxide emitted by diesel engines but as it is invisible and in many cases has no smell they cannot imagine the damage it does within. It is as true with smoking tobacco. We are all told about the risks but whatever harm is done is deep inside and causes no unpleasant symptoms until far too late.
So there is a general denial and wishful thinking. The whole subject of impending doom is very unpopular. It makes people feel uncomfortable, even angry. The media will make a fuss about many things but tend to avoid the shortening length of time life has on the planet. Every now and then we will be told part of the story – the coral reefs perishing or some newly endangered species. But there is little evidence of a life style change let alone an effort to clean up the existing pollution and to remove the dangers. We are still bristling with nuclear weapons which can wipe us all out yet are about to modernise them. Depleted uranium is becoming a weapon of choice, not a last resort.
As for the religions they have been lying for centuries about various matters. But one enduring matter is what might be called prophecy. That is how one saviour or another is about to arrive and put it all right. That is something that was expected 2000 years ago, 1000 years ago, very recently and even in the distant past. It is the miracle cure, something often promised to the terminally ill by faith healers but very seldom delivered.
My family and I are of course upset by my health condition and prospects. We would be even if I was at a much more advanced age. But death in the family is something we must all face at some time. It is a fact of life. We like all the other species fight for survival from the day we are born. The enemies may be predators, diseases, food shortages, drought, accidents and many other factors. Some of us will live longer than others. As for our world it has faced mass extinctions before, cosmic catastrophes and disasters. Some form of life usually survives to start again even if it takes millions of years. Life is only possible here because of very unusual conditions. We are not too close to a fairly stable star nor too far away. Water is abundant as is oxygen and nitrogen. But in cosmic terms that will only be the case for a relatively short time after which this rock will not be able to host life. We humans may dream of getting off our planet while the going is good but there are major hazards involved in moving elsewhere.
If there is a massive nuclear war or famine undoubtedly some will survive a bit longer – in bunkers or in valleys that avoided nuclear strikes. But life as we know it will not survive. Life in a bunker is not really comparable to what we have. It is more like the patient on life support – they are not going anywhere while dependant on that. Whether the human can survive or not is debateable. But our civilisations will not. The point is that we could extend our survival dramatically if we acted sensibly now. And if I knew what to do to ameliorate my condition so could I. Possibly there is a wonder drug or marvellous stem cell treatment but it is unlikely I will be offered that on the NHS if there is. There may be some herbal cure but the evidence is lacking while rumours circulate without any foundation. So it is with our world. There are many political views about what we should do. There are green lobbies and oil lobbies. Some suggest survival is only possible if we have a war and wipe out the nations that might hurt us before they do, some say the opposite. Governments declare that we need more nuclear power, others maintain we should rely on wind and solar power. Some say we should genetically modify our food, others that we should eat organically. But one thing is certain – we live in a world which sometimes covers things up, especially bad news. We live in a world where some seek riches at any cost to all others. And we do not live in a world that is prepared to stop what it is doing and change fast to meet every threat that has emerged so recently.
In fact if there will be any solution it probably only can come from a single entity whose integrity cannot be doubted. We don’t need a dictator but we do need a teacher and someone who can point out to all of us including the vast corporations that we are heading for needless disaster and have created a hell on earth for most of our populations when this planet could be a paradise. It is what happens when our Monopoly game reaches its conclusion, when the cupboard is bare and needs restocking, when our children are brought up to sell their souls for riches which is to say go to work to earn a living without considering the effect they are having on others and without compassion for the hungry living nearby. An article today speaks about the coming of such a one but also speaks of how this prediction has been around a very long time, so long that it is probably too late. Have we reached the end or is common sense about to intervene? Tragically far more likely is yet another false messiah sprung on us working for some lobby which I am sure they are considering even as I write