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Reviewing "At Work in the Ruins"

"At work in the ruins, finding our place in the time of science climate change pandemics & all the other emergencies" by Dougland Hine (2023) is an excellent book for our times. The author is an extremely aware and courageous person, it is not easy facing hard truths let alone try to get others to face them. There are layers of confronting complexity, many things we currently do are unsustainable and even without global warming our destruction of soils, vegetation, ground water, surface water, atmospheric water systems and ecohydrological cycles, and animal driven nutrient cycles - will destroy our life support system and us. People don't like to understand those things which is part of the problems that are already profoundly impacting our lives and will effectively destroy all futures, soon, unless addressed.

The narrow framing of the "problem" while ignoring ~3/4 of the larger problems is producing perverse outcomes and will hasten our demise. Before one can "solve" a complex problem one must first understand the problem as completely as possible - and also understand the limits of their understanding and the limits of our science and technologies and human minds to a utilitarian degree. Civilisation operates on the equivalent of "the answer given to a 4 year old" by an indigenous elder, for analogy, in an excellent talk by Phillip Zylstra on decolonialising fire mismanagement in Australia.

Western civilisation and sciences traditionally break things down to pieces and believe we can understand the whole by understanding the pieces, pieceworkers, divided and controlled. Dougald does not specifically critique aspects of the science as I can in the context of biogeophysical Earth System reality, unlike what Lovelock saw, that the artificial divisions scientists impose on our Earth System reflected in diverse, specialised, scientific disciplines do not reflect actual divisions in our Earth System but are "spheres of influence inhabited by academic scientists", and most scientists and citizens in general pretend or believe they are separate from what they are measuring, and that they are unbiased. Dougald nicely dissects the illusion of separation and the issue of bias and how "following the science" (as currently framed) will lead to a "fish tank" dead end, and the path there will likely be very nasty.

He explores the way that "following the science" led to diverse and variously draconian actions during covid lockdown which polarised people and turned many into nasty zealots. Dougald was in Sweden at the time, which drew rather different conclusions "from the science". But to fully understand the limits of science in the context of our Earth System one must understand that many of the perverse outcomes are a result of how the problem has been deliberately framed as a matter of greenhouse gases which can be "solved" by turning multifunctional components of our climate system (Earth System - landscapes) into industrial PV heat islands to stoke the endless growth our cancerous system requires to keep the priveledged few at the top of a heap which will collapse. Furthermore, the corporations who caused most of the problems now want to be subsidised to steal functional landscapes from indigenous peoples who have been productively maintaining functional ecosystems for millennia so they can claim "net zero" from forests that were safe carbon stores as they were a colonial land grab and accounting trick paid for by the "consumers"..

Dougald is very clear that, our civilisation as we know it will soon collapse, but for those who want "hope" he states that this world will end but it won't be the end of the world full stop. And he offers another shred of hope on narrow paths off the "broad path" to nowhere, or the highway to hell (my analogy) we are currently on, and offers practical suggestions for those who would like to survive the collapse. But, those who love "hopium" will be disappointed.

Hope is actually counterproductive. Coherent action is required to create even a chance of a hope of salvaging a radically altered, but survivable biosphere.

So, I will attempt to outline the real problems and what the "solution" might look like from the perspective of someone who has worked in agriculture, defense (as a Boilermaker) construction - from foundations up, concrete, timber, steel, domestic and commercial, engineering, electric hydraulic mining equipment, design and construction, underground trucking, civil infrastructure, water supply and sewage treatment, all sorts of destructive stuff, then all aspects of our Earth System to check and iteratively improve human systems transformed to have positive impacts in our environment and facilitate rapid ecosystems restoration towards the functional condition it was in 12,000 odd years ago before colonial agriculture.

Our technologies cannot reproduce what nature has provided for free, and bandaids like wanton sulfate aerosols or sunshades in space will do more damage than they try to address (unless aerosol use is performed where appropriate as part of coherent global action) - our biosphere currently cycles about 10 times more carbon through our atmosphere each year than we add as carbon dioxide.
If photosynthesis is reduced by 25% for example, emissions from decomposition and respiration will continue but only 3/4 of that will be removed from Our atmosphere which would effectively triple the CO2 emissions caused by our actions, and ocean acidification would accelerate.

Hansen mentions the "Faustian pact" of aerosols masking locked in greenhouse forcing and how reducing sulfate aerosols from ship fuels to reduce human deaths from pollution has unmasked the enhanced greenhouse effect and led to the great acceleration of heating we are experiencing. An impact Hansen does not mention to my knowledge is that those aerosols were also reducing photosynthesis and agricultural production in China, no doubt in the oceans and most of the northern hemisphere.

Those details are not in the book, the author is not a scientist but understands the issues - however, he is contending within the mainstream, sabotaged framework of "climate change" - a term deliberately chosen by right wing think tanks during George W Bush's election campaign instead of "global warming" because it was found to be less scary by market researchers as related by George Monbiot in his book "Don't even think about it, why our brains are wired to ignore climate change"; and the jargon was adopted globally by the old boys network. Dougald Hine recounts an argument he had with Monbiot in his book. In any case both of those authors use the term "Climate change" in the mainstream sense as synonomous with "global warming" - because that has been the way "climate change" has been deliberately framed as part of a divide and conquer strategy as old as civilisation.

"The climate deception dossiers" recounts the obfuscation deliberately spread about global warming since the release of the 1965 "Restoring the Quality of Our Environment" report they cite as (Revelle 1965) as doors Hansen et al in "Global warming in the pipeline". I cite that report as (council and committe 1965) because the whole report is about our Earth/human System/s and Revelle edited the fossil fuel/enhanced greenhouse effect section which included an outline of how and why atmospheric circulation patterns would change due to different water vapor responses in polar regions compared to the equator and other effects and encompassed the dire projections Hansen et al have refined for a doubling of CO2 which is significantly higher than the minimist IPCC figure 3.3°C compared to Hansen et al's 4.8°C.

Restoring the Quality of Our Environment pages 9, 39, and 121-122 are especially relevant - and civilisation and mainstream science with a few exceptions like Hansen have gone backwards through infantile reductionist codswallop ever since. Global warming in the pipeline. Note that this paper is all about the one variable of temperature increase.
Hansen is aware of the other aspects of our climate system but was careful to just try to nail the warming response to increased greenhouse forcing without aerosol masking and major physical feedbacks from melting ice and altered oceanic and atmospheric circulation systems. Hansen notes that we have been "Geoengineering" our own destruction by increasing greenhouse gases, I extend the concept back to the start of agriculture when our colonial civilisation began to exacerbate and create deserts 12,000 odd years ago - what I include in what I used to call climate change, but like Dougald, I have decided to stop using the term as it is worse than useless as currently abused.

Instead I am starting to use "Earth System Destruction" (ESD) to reflect the reality of our situation, a larger framework that encompasses our whole Earth System. Professor Clive McAlpine is Australia's foremost Earth System scientist in my opinion, check out the range of his publications. "Land's Complex role in climate change" is an excellent introduction to the wider reality that many PV farming hydrogen gold rushing opportunist rent seeking subsidised monopolists are screwing to death. "To mitigate climate change at local, regional, and global scales, we must begin to think beyond greenhouse gases." The 2005 report cited in lands complex role in climate change is worth reading National Research Council's, "Radiative Forcing of Climate Change: Expanding the Concept and Addressing Uncertainties". Pages 34 to 44 cover important and generally ignored effects of aerosols.

More background reading essential for understanding the big picture would include: Fritjof Capra's book "The web of life: A new synthesis of mind and matter" (1996), Lovelock's book "Gaia: The Practical Science of Planetary Medicine" (2000), Faulkenmark and Rockstrom's book "Balancing Water for Humans and Nature the New Approach in Ecohydrology" (2004). I have written an introduction to our Earth System which contains those and more useful references. It is helpful to describe the instrument attempting to convey important information and the true nature of the "patient" we are part of which we must save to save our viable Earth System and our own species.

Here is an interesting extract from page 176 of Dougald's book:

"The industrial chain uses more than 75 percent of the world's agricultural resources but feeds only 30 percent of the world's people; 70 percent of the food humanity eats comes from the peasant food web and 7 out of 10 of the world's people depend on this food web for most or all of their food."

The book is excellent, Dougald explores other general limitations of science and human dynamics that he understands better than I and bursts many dangerous bubbles more gently than I can, an excellent book.

We must cooperate and work with our Earth or perish in an anthropogenic hell.