Click amount to donate direct to CounterPunch
  • $25
  • $50
  • $100
  • $500
  • $other
  • use PayPal
Spring Fund Drive: Keep CounterPunch Afloat
CounterPunch is a lifeboat of sanity in today’s turbulent political seas. Please make a tax-deductible donation and help us continue to fight Trump and his enablers on both sides of the aisle. Every dollar counts!
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

The Great Acceleration and Obliteration

Homo Sapiens live in an epoch unlike anything throughout history, figuratively speaking, as far back as Adam and Eve, especially since 1950 “the times they are a changin’” with headlong speed. In fact, ever since 1950, The Great Acceleration has taken off like a spaceship destined to hit warp speed, accelerating faster and faster. As this evolves, humanity risks becoming “a bug looking for a windshield.”

Here’s the issue with The Great Acceleration: “Only after 1945 did human actions become genuine driving forces behind crucial Earth systems” (J.R.McNeill/Peter Engelke, The Great Acceleration, The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, Cambridge, London, 2014, pg. 208).

Still, Earth spins within the solar system at the same rate as it has for eons, whereas in stark contrast to that steady timeless global spin, humanity’s anthropogenic spin turbocharges the entire planetary ecosystem. This has never happened before, and thus, people need to brace themselves for a major jarring to the ecosystem. In fact, it’s already started!

Silently unreported by mass media, The Great Acceleration inadvertently destroys life systems. It happens right before our eyes. Not only that but regrettably, Trumpeters will assuredly accelerate that destructive capacity. That’s guaranteed, a “done deal” for sure. The “bug looking for a windshield” has never looked more certain than when world leaders (ahem), like Trump, look away from and ignore and downplay and denigrate everything about the ecosystem, which is referred to as “home” by pretty much everybody.

Curiously, overcrowding the planet has turned the planet small, as electronics and air travel shrink the world: “In the span of one human lifetime, 1945 to 2015, global population tripled from about 2.3 billion to 7.2 billion. This bizarre interlude, with sustained population growth of more than 1 percent per annum, is of course what almost everyone on Earth now regards as normal. It is anything but normal,” Ibid, pg. 41.

The tripling of population “within only one lifetime” is remarkable, sobering, breathtaking. Woefully, that is only the beginning of a process that may run out of control because unpredictably the repercussions of The Great Acceleration are like a drunken driver on the Italian Amalfi Coastline dangerously close to going over cliff’s edge at each and every turn.

In fact, death traps already exist, as for example, from 1950 to 2015 one of the principal byproducts of The Great Acceleration, air pollution, killed 30-to-40 million people, mostly Chinese as of late, which is roughly equal to the death toll from all wars throughout the world since 1950 (source: Ibid, pg. 24).

Furthermore, industrialization is on a tear, goosing up The Great Acceleration. Since WWII, motor vehicles increased from 40 million to 850 million and plastics production increased from one million tons to 300 million tons. Those numbers are not only signals of acceleration but off the charts! Still, everybody assumes it’s normal, except for climate scientists.

Normality is belied by the conditions of the biosphere itself as human activity shifts carbon stored over millennia from the lithosphere (Earth’s upper mantle and crust) into the upper atmosphere at unsustainable rates running from 1,200 million tons per annum in 1945 to 9,500 million tons in 2015, 8xs faster within only 70 years. Eight times anything is a big number, e.g., if everyone’s wages multiplied 8xs, everyone would be rich.

Even at the unsustainable rate of 8xs, carbon emissions continue accelerating, pre-Trump, post-Trump, forever-Trump, getting a huge boost ever faster during Trump days. For example, CO2 emissions during the 2000s have been running at a 3.3% annual rate of increase versus a rate of 1.3% during the 1990s. That’s a 150% increase within only one decade. Meanwhile, the atmosphere is already filling up with CO2, the primary cause of global warming. It can only take so much before the thermostat gets stuck wide-open… relentless heat scorching agriculture.

As such, humanity has become a vast experiment; nobody’s been here before, nobody. Meanwhile, the United States, under the direction of Trumpeters, cut public links to information about the crucial carbon cycle by cutting NOAA’s budget “to the bone.” Either that’s an honest mistake or it’s a mean-spirited mistake; chose your poison. Regardless, scientists are out of favor: According to a USA Today headline: “Trump’s Proposed NOAA Budget Cuts Rattle Scientists” d/d March 6, 2017.

Meanwhile, at the core of The Great Acceleration, capitalism works… at the top! Proof: Everything is accelerating as if there are no limits to growth and more growth. That’s capitalism par excellence. But cautionary flags are ubiquitous, e.g., according to certain academic circles, there is another side to the story: “The Great Acceleration in its present form cannot last for long,” Ibid, pg. 5. Expanding balloons eventually pop.

One major risk within the context of The Great Acceleration is human behavior itself because people have a tendency to dither away precious time when it comes to life-threatening issues that appear too big to tackle and too difficult to wrap arms around, like the planet: “Whilst the US and China fiddled for 20 years from 1995-2015, arguing about terms and conditions of the Kyoto agreement, the total tonnage of global carbon emissions from the energy sector nearly equaled that of all human history prior to 1995,” Ibid, pg. 78. That’s big league acceleration!

How does it end? Regrettably, not very well with Trumpeters at the helm. They’ve publicly denounced any and all concerns about the health of the planet and/or its inhabitants, as for example, the American Health Care Act, an oxymoronic title after reading its contents, makes deep cuts to Medicare and Medicaid, by $800 billion. “Donald Trump is attacking low- and middle-income families, children, seniors and people with disabilities in order to hand a $6 trillion tax break to his wealthy friends―the largest tax break in U.S. history” (Source: socialsecurityworks.org).

Never before in US history has the welfare of the upper crust of society taken so much precedence over the health of everything, including the 99% middle/poor class as well as the only inhabitable planet in the solar system. It’s the only one!

Still, as it happens, within the context of The Great Acceleration, Trump’s 1% have opted to go out in flaming glory, as they are the primary beneficiaries of all that floats to the top, but then again, some of the 1% are attempting to “get out of Dodge” by escaping to planets far, far away, leaving the hordes behind to fight over tillable land.

Evidence of The Great Acceleration is far and wide. After all, it was only one generation ago in 1986 when the eminent biologist E. O. Wilson (Harvard) presciently sounded the alarm in a book titled Biodiversity (The National Academies Press): “It carries the urgent warning that we are rapidly altering and destroying the environments that have fostered the diversity of life forms for more than a billion years,” Ibid, pg. 84.

Alas, there’s no way E. O. Wilson could have foreseen Trump would come along to “seal the deal” for his prognostications and in the process actually speed up the negative aspects of The Great Acceleration, as America becomes great again, maybe/probably not, but if so, for very, very short duration.

Withal, don’t stand underneath national monuments. Those are subject to severe budget cuts, poor maintenance, and unexpectedly crashing down forevermore as the nation loses its soul.

Postscript: Disastrous breaking news out of Alaska: The following is a synopsis (quotation) of a horrifying scientific release d/d May 11, 2017 that is extraordinarily relevant to The Great Acceleration:

“The study, based on aircraft measurements of carbon dioxide and methane and tower measurements from Barrow, Alaska, found that from 2012 through 2014, the state emitted the equivalent of 220 million tons of carbon dioxide gas into the atmosphere from biological sources (the figure excludes fossil fuel burning and wildfires). That’s an amount comparable to all the emissions from the US commercial sector in a single year.”

“The chief reason for the greater CO2 release was that as Alaska has warmed up, emissions from once frozen tundra in winter are increasing – presumably because the ground is not refreezing as quickly. Now what? Sit in a circle and hold hands, or get to work to find what (if any) options we’ve got?”

That’s Global Warming!

That is horrific news, almost as bad as it gets especially this early in the repercussions cycle of The Great Acceleration. It now appears that nature is competing head-to-head with humans, overflowing the atmosphere with heat-trapping greenhouse gases. That’s a perfect script for an apocalypse film project.

Looking ahead, one option scientists cannot rely upon is help from the anti-science Trump administration. Ipso facto, The Great Acceleration fallout is about to leap forward like never before. Batten down the hatches!
And, Trump thinks health care is tough…

More articles by:

Robert Hunziker lives in Los Angeles and can be reached at rlhunziker@gmail.com.

May 21, 2018
Ron Jacobs
Gina Haspell: She’s Certainly Qualified for the Job
Uri Avnery
The Day of Shame
Amitai Ben-Abba
Israel’s New Ideology of Genocide
Patrick Cockburn
Israel is at the Height of Its Power, But the Palestinians are Still There
Frank Stricker
Can We Finally Stop Worrying About Unemployment?
Binoy Kampmark
Royal Wedding Madness
Roy Morrison
Middle East War Clouds Gather
Edward Curtin
Gina Haspel and Pinocchio From Rome
Juana Carrasco Martin
The United States is a Country Addicted to Violence
Dean Baker
Wealth Inequality: It’s Not Clear What It Means
Robert Dodge
At the Brink of Nuclear War, Who Will Lead?
Vern Loomis
If I’m Lying, I’m Dying
Valerie Reynoso
How LBJ initiated the Military Coup in the Dominican Republic
Weekend Edition
May 18, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Andrew Levine
The Donald, Vlad, and Bibi
Robert Fisk
How Long Will We Pretend Palestinians Aren’t People?
Jeffrey St. Clair
Wild at Heart: Keeping Up With Margie Kidder
Roger Harris
Venezuela on the Eve of Presidential Elections: The US Empire Isn’t Sitting by Idly
Michael Slager
Criminalizing Victims: the Fate of Honduran Refugees 
John Laforge
Don’t Call It an Explosion: Gaseous Ignition Events with Radioactive Waste
Carlo Filice
The First “Fake News” Story (or, What the Serpent Would Have Said)
Dave Lindorff
Israel Crosses a Line as IDF Snipers Murder Unarmed Protesters in the Ghetto of Gaza
Gary Leupp
The McCain Cult
Robert Fantina
What’s Wrong With the United States?
Jill Richardson
The Lesson I Learned Growing Up Jewish
David Orenstein
A Call to Secular Humanist Resistance
W. T. Whitney
The U.S. Role in Removing a Revolutionary and in Restoring War to Colombia
Rev. William Alberts
The Danger of Praying Truth to Power
Alan Macleod
A Primer on the Venezuelan Elections
John W. Whitehead
The Age of Petty Tyrannies
Franklin Lamb
Have Recent Events Sounded the Death Knell for Iran’s Regional Project?
Brian Saady
How the “Cocaine Mitch” Saga Deflected the Spotlight on Corruption
David Swanson
Tim Kaine’s War Scam Hits a Speed Bump
Norah Vawter
Pipeline Outrage is a Human Issue, Not a Political Issue
Mel Gurtov
Who’s to Blame If the US-North Korea Summit Isn’t Held?
Patrick Bobilin
When Outrage is Capital
Jessicah Pierre
The Moral Revolution America Needs
Binoy Kampmark
Big Dead Place: Remembering Antarctica
John Carroll Md
What Does It Mean to be a Physician Advocate in Haiti?
George Ochenski
Saving Sage Grouse: Another Collaborative Failure
Sam Husseini
To the US Government, Israel is, Again, Totally Off The Hook
Brian Wakamo
Sick of Shady Banks? Get a Loan from the Post Office!
Colin Todhunter
Dangerous Liaison: Industrial Agriculture and the Reductionist Mindset
Ralph Nader
Trump: Making America Dread Again
George Capaccio
Bloody Monday, Every Day of the Week
Barbara Nimri Aziz
Swing Status, Be Gone
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail