Omega Digest Vol. 11

Articles: The Big Picture


MIT Predicted in 1972 That Society Will Collapse This Century. New Research Shows We’re on Schedule.

by Nafeez Ahmend

A remarkable new study by a director at one of the largest accounting firms in the world has found that a famous, decades-old warning from MIT about the risk of industrial civilization collapsing appears to be accurate based on new empirical data.

As the world looks forward to a rebound in economic growth following the devastation wrought by the pandemic, the research raises urgent questions about the risks of attempting to simply return to the pre-pandemic ‘normal.’ In 1972, a team of MIT scientists got together to study the risks of civilizational collapse.

Their system dynamics model published by the Club of Rome identified impending ‘limits to growth’ (LtG) that meant industrial civilization was on track to collapse sometime within the 21st century, due to overexploitation of planetary resources. MIT Predicted in 1972 That Society Will Collapse This Century.

Read the full article ‘New Research Shows We’re on Schedule’ by Nafeez Ahmed, Vice News.

How to Live in a Climate ‘Permanent Emergency

by David Wallace-Wells

The phrase Washington State Governor Jay Inslee used was “permanent emergency.” This was before Lytton — the town that had, days earlier, set Canada’s all-time heat record, drawing waves of “heat tourists” as witnesses to “desert heat” north of 120 degrees in a place where typical June highs were in the mid-70s — burned to the ground just 15 minutes after the arrival of smoke. It was before wildfires raging in British Columbia produced their own pyrocumulus thunderstorms, which produced their own lightning strikes that lit up the landscape again with fire — 3,800 lightning strikes, according to one count, each striking the dry tinder that those in the West now know to call “fuel” and the rest of the world, watching an agonizing drought and heat event unfold, is learning to call just “the West.” A tinderbox half a continent-wide.

Read the full article ‘How to Live in a Climate ‘Permanent Emergency’, by David Wallace-Wells, New York Intelligencer.

Scientists’ warning on affluence

by Thomas Wiedmann, Manfred Lenzen, Lorenz T. Keyßer & Julia K. Steinberger

For over half a century, worldwide growth in affluence has continuously increased resource use and pollutant emissions far more rapidly than these have been reduced through better technology. The affluent citizens of the world are responsible for most environmental impacts and are central to any future prospect of retreating to safer environmental conditions. We summarise the evidence and present possible solution approaches. Any transition towards sustainability can only be effective if far-reaching lifestyle changes complement technological advancements. However, existing societies, economies and cultures incite consumption expansion and the structural imperative for growth in competitive market economies inhibits necessary societal change,

Read the full paper Scientists’ warning on affluence by Thomas Wiedmann, Manfred Lenzen, Lorenz T. Keyßer & Julia K. Steinberger, Resilience.org.

It Seems Odd That We Would Just Let the World Burn

by Ezra Klein

It’s true that there is a discordance between the pitch of the rhetoric on climate and the normalcy of the lives many of us live. I don’t see that as a revelation of political misdirection so much as a constant failure of human nature. We are inconsistent creatures who routinely court the catastrophes we most fear. We do so because we don’t feel the pain of others as our own because there are social constraints on our actions and imaginations because the future is an abstraction and the pleasures of this instant are a siren. That is true with our health and our finances and our loves and so, of course, it is true with our world. All of this has been on my mind for reasons that should be extraordinary, but have become, instead, grimly banal.

Read the full article: It Seems Odd That We Would Just Let the World Burn, by Ezra Klein, The New York Times.


Articles: Deep Dive

South Africa will miss UN’s clean water targets

by Sheree Bega

Southern Africa’s “water tower” — the majestic Maloti-Drakensberg mountain range — is slipping towards a state of ecosystem collapse, with grave implications for water security. According to Dr Ralph Clark, the director of the Afromontane research unit at the University of the Free State, the Maloti-Drakensberg range is the largest provider of freshwater in the region, and its alpine system is crucial to this function. The Maloti-Drakensberg is a critical water source area, supporting nearly half of South Africa’s GDP, supplying Gauteng with 34% of its water and Bloemfontein with 70%. The problems facing the mountain ecosystem are neither simple nor driven by a single cause, Clark says. “You’ve got immediate local-scale impacts and global impacts such as climate change. “Southern Africa’s ‘water tower’ slipping towards ecosystem collapse,”

Read full article by Sheree Bega, Mail & Guardian.

The climate crisis will create two classes: those who can flee, and those who cannot,

by Peter Gleick

In April, the UN High Commissioner for refugees released a report showing that climate- and weather-related disasters already displace more than 20 million people a year, and a report from the Australian Institute for Economics and Peace suggests that more than a billion people could be displaced by climate and weather disasters by 2050. How bad will it get? I don’t know because there are natural factors that could slightly slow or, more likely, massively speed up, the rate of change, causing cascading and accelerating disasters faster than we can adapt.

Read the full article The climate crisis will create two classes: those who can flee, and those who cannot, by Peter Gleick, The Guardian.

We must burn the West to save it

by Umair Irfan

These records, plus what we know about how fires were suppressed since the 1800s, point toward how much American Indians in the western US engineered the landscape with their burning practices for thousands of years. European settlers arrived and saw a landscape that had been methodically cultivated, like forests with trees spaced far apart and with little leaf litter on the ground. But they often failed to recognize it as such…. These Indigenous burns serve cultural purposes, like maintaining trails, helping food plants grow, and providing materials for building and crafts. Such fires don’t just hinge on “when” and “how,” but on “why,” which in turn demands sophisticated local insight. For practitioners, it’s not just a tactic, but a way of thinking about how they interact with the natural world.

Read full article We must burn the West to save it, by Umair Irfan, Vox.