Saturday, June 30, 2018

Global Ambassador for Cli-Fi

With all the input I am getting from over a dozen countries worldwide re the growing interesting in the cli-fi genre, a friend suggested on Twitter that I am now the ''Global Ambassador for Cli-Fi.'' Well, that's a tall order. I am just one among many people doing what they can to raise the alarm about runaway global warming and what might happen if we fail to stop it in the next 500 years. Maybe sooner.

On a daily basis now, 24/7, emails and Tweets and Facebook messages come in to my wireless office in Taiwan -- actually, I have no office, I just use a local email cafe, internet cafe, to do my work for a few hours every day -- and the messages and suggestions and ideas come in from writers and literary critics and novelists and poets and news reporters and editors in India, Japan, Italy, Germany, Australia, the UK, the USA and Canada, Chile, Argentina, Spain, Norway, Sweden, all over the English-speaking world and on many other languages as well. So cli-fi is on its way. It's doesn't need one ambassador. It already has many ambassadors.

But if I am the Global Ambassador for Cli-Fi, it's because I am part of a larger cli-fi community and just doing my work as it comes to me. If I can be a cheerleader for the writers and poets and novelists and literary critics around the world plowing this field of climate fiction, aka cli-fi. then I am happy to help.

The real major players are and will be the writers themselves  -- the novelists who have written, are writing and will write future cli-fi novels well into the 22nd and 23rd centuries. What we are doing now in the 21st century is just a warm up! More is coming down the road, and in ways we still cannot imagine.

I am glad to be part of the amazing community of ''woke'' people.

I was once a sleepwalker. Not anymore!

R.I.P. -- all those killed in the recent Baltimore newspaper shootings at the Capital Gazette


When I saw the news on CNN on my TV set overseas that day of the shootings, I saw one name on the news crawl as "Wendi Winters" and suddenly I recognized that name, because of the way Wendi spelled her name with an i rather than as Wendy and I knew her! OUCH! OMG. We were online pals and she always sent me a long Christmas letter that she sent to all her friends and family. I checked my emails with her going back to 2006. OMG.

I freaked out! In all mass shootings, we never know the people who are killed, not personally. In this case, I fell out of my chair in Taiwan in shock. OMG.

How sad. She was not even the intended victim. She had nothing to do with that shooter's insane vendetta. Life is tragic in many cases. Rest in peace, Wendi, and my condolences to all your family and relatives......

-- Dan Bloom


============================================================== [email files]

On Thu, Jan 12, 2006 at 6:54 PM, Wendi Winters <> wrote:
> Hi Dan, ... okay, I cried.
> ----- Original Message -----
> From: "Bubbie & Zadie" <>
> To: "Wendi Winters" <>
> Sent: Thursday, January 12, 2006 12:29 AM
> Subject: Hi,
> Hi,
> This letter came in the mail today. POWERFUL!
> ==================
> letter from Susan Anderson, [Virginia Beach, 18 years ago......].


Trump’s press attacks didn’t cause the Annapolis tragedy. But there is a connection. Says Margaret Sullivan, former NYT public editor, now writing for WAPO

Some people get it.
Some people never will.
One of those who gets it was the security guard in Denver who stopped Denver Post reporter Noelle Phillips on her way out of the building Thursday to say how upset he was about the massacre of journalists at the Capital Gazette newspaper in Annapolis.
“If you attack the press,” he told her, “you attack our democracy.”
One of those who never will is the president of the United States, who reacted to the journalistic disaster with a tepid “thoughts and prayers” tweet along with a thumbs-up sign and a dismissive wave to reporters asking for his comments.
He just kept walking away, and his body language announced, “I don’t give a damn.”

On Friday, Trump offered a statement on the killings: “This attack shocked the conscience of our nation and filled our hearts with grief. Journalists, like all Americans, should be free from the fear of being violently attacked while doing their job.” It was heartening to hear the president say this, even if it was hard to square it with his calling the press the “enemy of the people” as he did at a rally earlier this week.
I want to be very clear: There is no reason to think that Trump’s unceasing attacks on journalists had anything directly to do with Thursday’s terrible killing of five staffers at the Capital Gazette.
Those who suggested that — including a Reuters editor who later apologized for impulsively saying that “blood is on your hands, Mr. President” — were simply wrong. 
But while there is no causality, there is a connection in the attitudes of this insane paranoid mentally ill man and the president of the United States: a dangerous failure to understand the role of the media in our society. Or to acknowledge how it’s supposed to work.
Jarrod Ramos had been harassing the paper and its journalists at the Capital Gazette for years — so extremely that the paper’s former editor and publisher, Tom Marquardt, said Thursday that he had long feared that something like this could happen.
“I said during that time, ‘This guy is crazy enough to come in and blow us all away,’” Marquardt told the Los Angeles Times.
The judge who threw out Ramos’s groundless defamation case against the Annapolis paper recited to him the basics of news coverage.
“I think people who are the subject of newspaper articles, whoever they may be, feel that there is a requirement that they be placed in the best light, or they have an opportunity to have the story reported to their satisfaction,” the judge said. Good journalism has no such obligation.
The paper’s 2011 story about his conviction for criminally harassing a woman who had spurned him was accurate. There was no defamation, but an enraged Ramos kept up his abusive attacks on the woman — and the newspaper staff.
Trump seems to have pretty much the same attitude about news coverage that is true, though it may portray him in an unfavorable light.
If he does understand the role that journalists must play in a democracy — as public-spirited watchdogs, not sycophants like his friends at Fox News — he shows no indication of it.
And while the president frequently, and rightly, praises the “first responders” to a disaster, he fails to see that journalists, too, are first responders.
The small Capital Gazette staff bravely played that part on Thursday — tweeting the initial call for help, reporting immediately via social media from the scene, and managing to put out a print newspaper amid the trauma of a real-life nightmare.
The nation’s press was already under siege long before Thursday’s massacre. The number of ways seems almost infinite:
●Resources are shrinking. At Noelle Phillips’s paper in Denver, a once robust staff has been squeezed nearly to extinction by the hedge fund owners. And that is happening, to varying degrees, in nearly every community. It’s hard to be a watchdog when you’re starving to death.
●Legal threats are mounting. The Trump Justice Department, like Obama’s, has come after journalists as part of their crackdown on leaks. Just weeks ago, investigators seized the phone and email records of a New York Times reporter in a case that has alarmed First Amendment champions.
●Verbal abuse is rampant. At rally after rally, Trump has turned his amped-up crowds on journalists, encouraging insults or worse. Nastiness, and death threats, are the result.
●And Trump’s attitude has infected the entire culture, emboldening other public officials to trash press rights. It’s no wonder that America’s press-freedom ranking is sinking among the nations of the world in a recent Reporters Without Borders study.
Granted, journalists are far from perfect. We make mistakes, and often pay dearly for them in harm to our jobs or reputations. We can be unfair or show poor judgment. We certainly can be arrogant.
But we try to get it right, and usually do — as the Capital Gazette did with its accurate reporting on Ramos seven years ago, and as the national media does, day in and day out, in reporting on the Trump administration.
Trump can’t, and shouldn’t, be blamed for the Annapolis massacre.

Ms. Sullivan sees a “connection” between the appalling murders in Annapolis and President Trump’s blustering criticism of the press: “a dangerous failure to understand the role of the media in our society.” Neither Ms. Sullivan nor I is in a position to diagnose authoritatively the mental state of the killer, but doesn’t it seem more likely that he acted out of a twisted sense of personal aggrievement rather than a flawed understanding of the function of the press?

But that doesn’t make his contempt for the press any less dangerous.

Friday, June 29, 2018

The World Health Organization's continuing isolation of the nation of Taiwan from attending WHO events and conferences, due to Communist China brainwashing pressure, violates medical oaths.

Yes, The World Health Organization's continuing isolation of the nation of Taiwan from attending WHO events and conferences, due to Communist China brainwashing pressure, violates medical oaths.

When young men and women around the world studying to be doctors complete their medical training, they take what is called the Hippocratic Oath, promising to do their best to serve patients, male and female, young and old, with care and understanding.
Hippocrates was a physician who lived in Greece more than 2,000 years ago, and his oath, his words for doctors to live by, live on today.
Doctors across the globe live and work by the Hippocratic Oath, and every doctor who lives in a country that is a member of the World Health Organization (WHO) swears to uphold the declarations in this ancient text, regardless of political affiliation or ideology.
"I will respect the hard-won scientific gains of those physicians in whose steps I walk, and gladly share such knowledge as is mine with those who are to follow," states a modern version of the Hippocratic Oath, written in 1964 by a doctor at the prestigious School of Medicine at Tufts University in Boston. "I will not be ashamed to say `I know not,' nor will I fail to call in my colleagues when the skills of another are needed for a patient's recovery. In addition, I will try to prevent disease whenever I can, for prevention is preferable to cure. I will also remember that I remain a member of society, with special obligations to all my fellow human beings."
In addition to the time-honored Hippocratic Oath, the General Assembly of the World Medical Association at Geneva in 1948 published a global declaration of a doctor's dedication to the humanitarian goals of the medical profession. This Declaration of Geneva was intended to update the Oath of Hippocrates, and states in part, "As a member of the medical profession, I solemnly pledge myself to consecrate my life to the service of humanity."
In addition, the Declaration of Geneva notably proclaims: "I will not permit consideration of religion, nationality, race, party, politics or social standing to intervene between my duty and my patients."
Every professional doctor in China knows and understands what the Hippocratic Oath and the Declaration of Geneva are all about. For the leaders of their country to stand in opposition to Taiwan joining the WHO as "a health entity with observer status," as Taiwan's government has requested, is a slap in the face to both an honored, ancient oath and a modern, principled declaration.
As Dennis Hickey, a professor at Southwest Missouri State University, has noted, Taiwan's participation in the WHO may not be a panacea or a magic bullet for the WHO's efforts in future SARS or bird-flu epidemic prevention, but it will help considerably. For doctors in China to continue to support their government's practice of "health apartheid" against Taiwan is unconscionable.
Doctors are doctors, regardless of ideology or ethnic background. A doctor in Taiwan takes the same Hippocratic Oath and follows the same Declaration of Geneva as a doctor in Communist China does, and it is time for every doctor in China to stand up for the right of doctors and health professionals in Taiwan to become "observers" in the WHO.
To refuse to recognize the right of Taiwan to have observer status in the WHO is to reject the Hippocratic Oath and all that it stands for.
The next flu epidemic is inevitable, as Klaus Stohr, a WHO influenza expert, stated at an international press conference in Thailand. Stohr noted dramatically that a future flu pandemic could cause the deaths of an estimated 4 million people worldwide. Other medical experts, among them Shigeru Omi, the regional director of the WHO's Western Pacific Office, suggest that more than 10 million or 20 million deaths may result, and perhaps as many as 100 million.
For doctors in China to say nothing in favor of Taiwan's WHO observer status in the face of this global threat is a sad commentary on that country's narrow-minded, selfish and unethical state of mind. Before the next pandemic occurs, it is time for China to put geopolitics aside and allow Taiwan to enjoy WHO observer status. It would be a professional courtesy that is long overdue. Shame on China. Shame on the Chinese Communist Party!
Influential medical and health professionals around the world agree that Taiwan's exclusion from the WHO as an observer represents a serious threat both to the health of the Taiwanese people and to the global community in the 21st century.
And, as has been suggested many times by health professionals supportive of Taiwan's international status, the steering committee of the World Health Assembly should call an emergency meeting and accede to Taiwan's request to participate as an assembly observer. This must be done now, not next year, not in five years' time, not in 10 years' time.
The Hippocratic Oath and the Declaration of Geneva demand it.

''Climate Horror'' is the Most important Fiction of our Times, writes eco-horror novelist David Agranoff

Editor's note for this blog: Computer gremlins are messing up the lines here, sorry for this. Will try to fix but so far the fixes are not going in. So read as it. Thanks. -- DB

''Climate Horror is the Most important Fiction of our Times''

An essay by David Agranoff

There was a time in the United States when the threat of nuclear war was so great that school children
ran drills much like fire drills to prepare for an atomic attack. It is hard to express to the young just how
close the human race came to mutual destruction during historical events like the Cuba missile crisis. It
doesn’t seem rational that 2 powerful nations would stockpile so many weapons that they could wipe
out their species many times over but that happened.

During the 1950s and 1960s many works of science fiction and horror were devoted to exploring the “what
if” involved in atomic warfare. Many of these novels including On the Beach by Neil Shute, and Alas
Babylon by Pat Frank are considered classics beyond the genre and are even taught in schools decades
later. These novels serve as warnings and there are many beyond the most known classics, a wide
variety of authors tackled the subject. Poplar films like Dr. Strangelove and Planet of the Apes also
tackled these issues during that era.

It was one thing for scientists or military figures to explain the destructive power of these weapons; it
was a whole other thing to have authors and filmmaker’s explore life after global nuclear conflict. In
1983 this came to head when the most popular TV movie of the year, The Day After, became the water
cooler talk of the nation. It is said that then U.S. President Ronald Regan was so moved by the experience of
watching it and the conversation started that it pushed him to make more serious efforts at

In 2018 we face a similar crisis. Unlike nuclear weapons global climate change is already harming people
and threatens life on a global scale. Beyond the horror faced by two cities in Japan the effect of nuclear
warfare is mostly theory. The horror of global climate change has already begun and like a snowball
going downhill it is gathering strength. The avalanche is coming.

The horror writes itself, speaking as a person who has studied and written about environmental issues
since the mid-1990s I can tell you many writers were trying to warn about global climate change as far
back as the 1980s long before it became the cause of the former U.S. Vice President Al Gore.

The science is there, the temperatures continue to rise along with the global seal levels, species die out,
and the wildfire seasons are almost year round. Climate change denial is more than ideologically
unfortunate, it has become dangerous to future generations. It is something I think about every day, I
wish this crisis was as obvious to people now as it was for the children climbing under desks to drill for
nuclear attacks.

It is easy to convince someone that being shot is a bad thing, but convincing them not to eat cancer
causing food they find delicious is a hard thing. It is the difference from convincing someone that
nuclear war is a threat compared to the slow pace of global climate change. Both are destructive but
one is sneaky. I choose to write an ecological horror novel because there is no issue of greater
importance to our species than maintaining the sustainability of the one and only planet that sustains our lives. There are hundreds of important social issues but without a planet to live on what does it

In my recently released novel Ring of Fire I tried to imagine all the worst case environmental disasters I
could think of and brought them raining down on the city I call home, San Diego. In the novel a massive
wildfire breaks out at the same time that large numbers of people realize they are in a cancer cluster. As
the fire grows to surround the city the people trapped realize that the air they breathe and the water
they drink are not safe. Cut off from a functioning eco-system the people lose their grip on sanity.

Without spoiling the book it goes in a science fiction direction and the cli-fi connections become clear
later in the book. I am a horror writer, and this book is in fact one of my worst nightmares come to life. It is a case of exaggerating to clarify my positions and fears.

Ring of Fire took years of research, and it was one of the hardest novels for me to write, but I was on a
mission. It is a mission I am calling on all writers of speculative and horror fiction to take. We need all hands on deck, every creative mind that can should writing about global climate change. You don’t need to be a genre author, certainly any writer raising children in this world should be thinking about these issues.

Now more than ever genre authors NEED to embrace the sub-genres of CLI-FI and ecological horror.

More importantly, academics and critics need to embrace these works of speculative fiction as worthy
of study and importance. We need a ''Day After'' moment with climate-change fiction when readers
gather around the watercooler to discuss CLI-FI and shudder at the ideas we have brought to them. We
need the novels to become classics so the political leaders in this country feel compelled to read them,
or at least know enough about them that we push the needle.

As fans if we read a good environmental novel we have to spread the word. We don’t want a future
where people fondly look back at the role storytellers played in saving the future. If we don’t want the
ice poles this planet to disappear for the first time since 33 million B.C.E. We don’t want the ultra-violet
rays cooking our children. We don’t want a future where they never know the magic of books. If we let it
happen, then every written word of our civilization will have been for nothing.

If you are a writer, the CLI-FI movement needs you. If you are reader,  CLI-FI is a movement that needs you.

-- David Agranoff
Twitter: @Dagranoffauthor

AUTHOR BIO: David Agranoff is the author of 6 novels and 2 short story collections.

His animal rights and ecologically themed short story collection Screams from a Dying World was nominated for the 2009 Wonderland bizarro fiction award for best collection.

Screams was recently re-issued with 3 new stories by Grand Mal press.

Most his novels have been published by the cult horror publisher Deadite
Press and include The Vegan Revolution…with Zombies, Boot Boys of the Wolf Reich, Flesh Trade (co- written with Edward R. Morris) Punk Rock Ghost Story and the CLI-FI novel Ring of Fire.

Insta: Count.Agranoff



Ring of Fire is available now:

David Agranoff’s Favorite Post-Nuclear war novels:

Swan Song by Robert McCammon
Boy and His Dog by Harlan Ellison
The Long Tomorrow by Leigh Brackett
Alas Babylon by Pat Frank

David Agranoff’s favorite CLI-FI and eco-horror novels:

The Water Knife by Paolo Bacigalupi
The Sheep Look Up by John Brunner
The Bridge by John Skipp and Craig Spector
Demons by John Shirley
The Drowned World by JG Ballard
Southern Reach Trilogy by Jeff Vandermeer
Sea of Rust by C. Robert Cargil
Lost Girl by Adam Nevill
The Road by Cormac McCarthy
Immobility by Brian Evenson

What makes a good cli-fi movie successful and resonate with both critics and audiences? Here are 3 criterion to remember.

For a cli-fi movie to be useful and successful in reaching viewers and communicating climate issues either directly or indirectly, there are three criterion that need to be taken into account.

1. The first criterion for a good cli-fi movie: it addresses climate change clearly and directly.

2. The second criterion for a good cli-fi movie: it’s a solid piece of filmmaking. 

3.  And three:  the third criterion for a good cli-fi movie: Does it promote effective public engagement with climate change?

So let's apply these 3 criterion to all future cli-fi movies in reviews and in academic papers. There is still a long way to go with cli-fi movies as the 21st century moves into the 2020s and 2030s and 2040s. 

Thursday, June 28, 2018

PANIC ROOM a cli-fi thriller by Robert Goddard


''I recently read Robert Goddard’s current cli-fi thriller Panic Room* (Bantam Press, 2018). The purpose was enjoyment and relaxation (rather than work) and I have read and enjoyed most of Goddard’s novels. As usual the Panic Room was full of twists and centred on what was in this room hidden in a mansion in Cornwall. It turns out that the room is central to a diabolical plot to kill a large section of the earth’s population and thus give time to handle the impending disaster of climate change.
The plot is foiled but Goddard’s heroine is left wondering: “A thought keeps bobbing up in my head though, I can’t seem to stop it. Twenty percent of all species on Earth extinct by 2050…And floods and storms and droughts and famines like we’ve never seen before. If we don’t get our act together. Which, as I stand here and seriously ask myself the question, I don’t see us doing. Who’s really insane” she asks, the villains “Or the rest of us?”
I have come across references and mentions to climate change and global warming many times in ‘light’ fiction, but much of it was frivolous, ill-informed or wrong. A brief search online informed me that there was a group of climate change fiction books labelled ‘Cli-Fi’ and included serious and well researched work by such well known authors as Margaret Attwood. An article in the Conversation on this noted “If we define cli-fi as fictional treatments of climate change caused by human activity in terms of setting, theme or plot – and accept there will be grey areas in the extent of this treatment – a conservative estimate would put the all-time number of cli-fi novels at 150 and growing.”
This reminded me of book I read more than 20 years ago by Australian science fiction writer George Turner.  The Sea and the Summer (Cassell, 1987) is about sea level rise in a future Melbourne. Wikipedia noted: “Turner’s science fiction narratives contain…earnest approach to moral and social issues. In such novels as The Sea and the Summer…he displayed a gloomy vision of global warming’s future ramifications…The Sea and the Summer is… [a] work of science fiction realism, it concerned a future historian, writing a historical novel about a near future Melbourne, beset by the problems of climate change, unemployment caused by excessive automation, the collapse of the monetary system and the division of society into elite communities segregated from impoverished masses. Turner concluded the novel with a personal reflection on the urgency of giving serious consideration to social and environmental issues highlighted by the narrative.”
My own recollections of this work are mixed although I may be wrong in this regard. Set in a future Melbourne flooded by sea level rise (which made residential towers into islands) Turner concentrates on social aspects and barely mentions other complicating aspects of climate change such as heatwaves and extreme storms.
The question of climate change is increasingly being dealt with by novelistsThe purpose of ‘Cli-Fi’ must be to raise awareness about climate change and not be propaganda. Robert Goddard does this subtly in Panic Room. I apologise to any reader for whom I have spoiled the plot of this novel.
*Panic Room is available in the East Gippsland Shire Library. The Sea and the Summer should be available via Inter Library Loan

Anthrocene or Narcisscene? Mark Sagoff ponders everything

''Returning Humans to the Center of the Cosmos''

Echo and Narcissus (1903) by John William Waterhouse
Summer 2018 Mark Sagoff
t a conference in Amsterdam in 2001, the International Geosphere–Biosphere Programme (IGBP) and affiliated scientific groups issued what its authors called “the historic Amsterdam Declaration on Earth System Science.” According to this historic declaration, “A new system of global environmental science is required.”1 Although the IGBP eventually closed in response to changes in the funding landscape, its most historic act was to propose the concept of the Anthropocene, a new geologic epoch that would emphasize and draw public attention to the degree to which humanity has altered the “Earth system.” Paul Crutzen, who then served as IGBP vice chair and had earlier won a Nobel Prize in atmospheric science, is credited (along with Eugene Stoermer) with introducing the concept of the Anthropocene and advocating its adoption by the International Commission on Stratigraphy (ICS), which is responsible for naming and dating geologic periods, eras, and epochs.
In view of the glacial pace of geologic events and the time it takes for things to turn into rock or become encased in it, you might think there would be no hurry to name a new geologic epoch, especially because the current one, the Holocene, started only about 11,500 years ago. You would be wrong. In 2002, Crutzen published an article inNature magazine, “Geology of Mankind,” which called on geologists “to assign the term ‘Anthropocene’ to the present, in many ways human-dominated, geological epoch, supplementing the Holocene — the warm period of the past 10–12 millennia” and the beginning of which roughly coincided with the advent of human agriculture.2The idea of the Anthropocene, which Earth system scientists initiated and advocated, landed like a meteor, setting off a stampede among academics. Nature followed with an editorial that urged that the Anthropocene be added to the geologic timescale. “The first step is to recognize,” Nature editorialized, “that we are in the driver’s seat.”3
In response to the clamor, the ICS convened an eclectic Anthropocene Working Group (AWG), including Crutzen and many other Earth system scientists, to present a recommendation. The working group struggled to agree on a demarcation between the Anthropocene and the current Holocene: for example, the Columbian Exchange, the industrial revolution, or the detonation of the first atomic device. But the outcome of AWG deliberations — to declare a new epoch pour rendre hommage à l’Homme — was never in doubt. “We’re not so puny, after all,” one climate scientist remarked. “We are becoming players in geologic time.”4             
If the ICS declares the Anthropocene as a new epoch, it will reverse at one stroke three great humiliations science has inflicted on humanity. First, it will restore humanity to the self-importance it knew when people believed that the Earth and humanity were created at about the same time. The Anthropocene, as Erle Ellis and colleagues have written, “will divide Earth’s story into two parts: one in which humans are a geological superpower — an epoch called the Anthropocene — and the other encompassing all that came before our species had a major influence on Earth’s functioning.”5
Second, it will redress the humiliation imposed by Darwin, who saw humanity as a minor twig on the tree of life, by recognizing Homo sapiens as a colossus so powerful that it is relocating tens of thousands of species and causing as many extinctions as the world has ever known. Third, it will return the Earth to its Ptolemaic position. Ancient astronomers thought of the cosmos as an orderly system that revolved around the Earth, which they saw as tempestuous, turbulent, intemperate, violent, ferocious, and capricious. Earth system science turns the Earth into the cosmos — an orderly, self-regulating system that revolves around a capricious humanity. It accomplishes a counter-Copernican revolution.6
The Anthropocene makes humanity great again. 
In the 17th century, James Ussher published The Annals of the World (1658), which, on the basis of scriptural and other evidence, set the creation of the Earth at 4004 BC, or roughly six thousand years ago. Toward the end of the 18th century, Scottish natural philosopher James Hutton challenged the widely held “young Earth” theory. Later geologists (most importantly Charles Lyell, whose Principles of Geology (1830) became the standard text) argued on the basis of fossil and stratigraphic evidence that the Earth was much older than human beings could possibly imagine. 
Following Lyell, geologists offered estimates of the age of the Earth but accepted the idea that the planet was inconceivably and awesomely old. John Playfair, a geologist who in the early 1800s popularized Hutton’s views, wrote, “The mind seemed to grow giddy by looking so far into the abyss of time.” From Hutton “we became sensible how much farther reason may sometimes go than imagination can venture to follow.”7
The human imagination cannot in any way reckon or fathom the depth of geologic time; in relation to that scale, human beings are unable to comprehend how vanishingly insignificant and epiphenomenal their tenure on the planet has been. Instructors often use a teaching aid titled the “Geologic Drive” to illustrate geologic time. The Earth is about 4,560 million years old. If one thinks of each million-year interval as a kilometer, a road trip the length of 4,560 million years would traverse 4,560 kilometers, or approximately 2,800 miles, roughly the distance between Washington, DC, and the campus of the University of Washington in Seattle. You are halfway across Washington State when you see dinosaurs, and about 50 miles outside Seattle when they disappear. You are in Seattle when you begin to see lots of plants and animals. You are already on campus looking for parking when the first humans appear. You better have found it because the distance between the assassination of Julius Caesar and today would be about six feet, that is, less than the length of the car. The mid-20th century boundary that the AWG has proposed would give the Anthropocene about three inches in this 2,800-mile road trip, negligible in relation to the length of the car or even the driver’s seat.
Geologic epochs typically last around three million years. In establishing them, the ICS has historically proceeded by first identifying a stratum or “chronostratigraphic unit,” which is usually categorized in terms of the fossils it contains. By figuring out how long fossil layers took to accumulate, geologists date them and derive the geologic time scale, which is used to estimate the age of the Earth.
By contrast, in convening the AWG to determine the onset of the Anthropocene, the ICS apparently abandoned this practice, instead presuming that the new epoch had already begun and then casting about for a fossil record or other stratigraphic evidence of the existence of the Anthropocene and of when exactly it began.
The chairman of the AWG, Jan Zalasiewicz of the University of Leicester, writing with the majority of members of the committee, noted that “technofossils such as ball-point pens, CDs, or mobile phones” had “spread rapidly around the world from the time of their first use” and provided “stratigraphic criteria that can be used to identify deposits that post-date the mid-20th century, and this, on current evidence, we consider to be the optimal position for an Anthropocene boundary.”8 More recently, Zalasiewicz and more than 20 coauthors pointed out that “mobile phones, commercially available since 1983, and with ~6.8 billion unique mobile phone connections made by 2014,” have “good fossilization potential.”9 The phonal layer of the Anthropocene (not to be confused with the faunal layer of the Mesozoic) could provide ample stratigraphic evidence that the Earth has entered a new geologic epoch.
In 2016 the AWG returned its verdict as expected: “The majority opinion within the AWG holds the Anthropocene to be stratigraphically real, and recommends formalization at epoch/series rank based on a mid-20th century boundary.”10 In so doing, the ICS will render its decision (still to be finalized) on the basis of a kind of evidence that is entirely foreign to its epistemic conventions and in response to a kind of pressure and attention it has never known.
William Whewell, a 19th-century British philoso­pher and polymath, described geology, paleontology, and evolution as “palaetiological sciences” because they interpret the present to construct the past. The Anthropocene, instead, constructs the future to interpret the present: a future in which humanity either takes responsibility for the Earth system or is responsible for its collapse. It then interprets the present in terms of humanity’s role in causing this calamity or in averting it, which humanity can do if it responds to the warnings of Earth system science.
Because one cannot conceive of the length of geologic time, one cannot comprehend the brevity of the past 75 years in relation to it. The Anthropocene, if officially recognized, would be inconceivably ephemeral, momentary — indeed, instantaneous — existing only in real time. But it will endure until the Götterdämmerung, that is, until humans go extinct; it will run to the end of recorded history — turning the hourglass of geologic time upside down.
Against the belief that humans are a special creation of God, Charles Darwin held that human beings descended from apelike creatures. “The main conclusion arrived at in this work, namely, that man is descended from some lowly organised form, will, I regret to think, be highly distasteful to many,” he wrote in The Descent of Man(1871). “But there can hardly be a doubt that we are descended from barbarians.”11 It was the biblical view outlined in Psalm 8 that Darwin specifically contradicted, namely, that God elevated human beings above the rest of creation:
You made them rulers over the works of your hands;
you put everything under their feet:
all flocks and herds,
and the animals of the wild . . .
An official acknowledgment of the Anthropocene would, like the Psalmist, recognizeHomo sapiens as a force so powerful that it is causing as many extinctions as the world has ever known. The Anthropocene reclaims the power and dominance of human beings who, pace Darwin, far from acting like siblings of the apes, so rule over the plants and animals of the wild that they will soon kill off most of them.
That humanity is driving a “sixth mass extinction” on a par with five previous extinction events during the past half-billion years, each of which led to a loss of more than 75 percent of estimated species, has been known to science for many decades.12 In 1979, Norman Myers, a British biologist, predicted in The Sinking Arkthat by 2000, one million species would go extinct.13 In 1981, an article in Sciencemagazine began, “By the end of the century, up to a million species of plants and animals will disappear from the face of the earth.”14  In 1993, Harvard biologist E. O. Wilson estimated that Earth was losing an estimated 30,000 species a year.15 In 1995, Richard Leakey and Roger Lewin, in their influential book The Sixth Extinction, settled on an extinction rate between 17,000 and 100,000 species per year.16 Peter Raven, then director of the Missouri Botanical Garden, in a paper titled “The Politics of Preserving Biodiversity,” wrote in 1990, “I estimate the extinction of perhaps 65,000 species of plants, a quarter of the world total, within the next several decades.”17 In 1998, the American Museum of Natural History published a survey of 400 experts in the biological sciences which revealed “that seven out of ten biologists believe that we are in the midst of a mass extinction of living things.”
In the top scientific journals, hundreds of papers have confirmed the dire reality of the sixth mass extinction. A 2011 analysis published in Nature responding affirmatively to the question “Has the Earth’s Sixth Mass Extinction Already Arrived?” has been cited by more than 1,750 scientific publications.18 In 2017, three biologists, including Paul Ehrlich, described the situation as a “biological annihilation” in order “to highlight the current magnitude of Earth’s ongoing sixth major extinction event.”19
What better evidence than a mass extinction could there be of the power, dominance, and evolutionary supremacy of Homo sapiens over all living things? The problem is that the body count is missing.20 There is no evidence that extinctions have occurred at a magnitude that would even remotely bear out the predictions of the 1990s or the claim that we are in the midst of a mass extinction event.21
The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), a highly respected scientific organization, keeps tabs on the number of species that have gone extinct. The IUCN Red List database of 2017, which looks at around 24,230 plant species, listsabout 118 of them as disappearing since 1500, while another 35 are extinct in the wild but survive in cultivation. A mass extinction among the 24,230 plant species surveyed would require the loss of 18,000 of them. Given observed extinctions, at the current rate, the extinction of these 18,000 plants would take more than 70,000 years. 
Or take insects, by far the largest faunal group in nature. Entomologists have good information on butterflies, tiger beetles, dragonflies, and damselflies. Over 25,250 of these species have been evaluated; only three are known to have become extinct in the past 500 years.22 A mass extinction will therefore take three million years, although some data are hard to assess. 
If plants and insects don’t suffice, consider animals. IUCN manages data on 67,222 animals. It lists 748 as extinct since 1500 and an additional 34 as extinct in the wild. For a mass extinction to overtake 67,222 animals, 50,000 of them would need to disappear, which would take more than 25,000 years. All told, IUCN estimates that about 900 plant and animal species — 150 plants and 750 animals — have gone extinct since the year 1500. If one “ballparks” these numbers, 1,000 species went extinct at a rate of approximately two species per year during the past 500 years in a sample of roughly 100,000 species. A “mass extinction” at this rate will take 34,250 years.23
Nonetheless, a Google Scholar search of the phrase “sixth mass extinction” generates almost 6,000 hits, nearly all of which concur that such an extinction event is well under way. Within this vast scientific consensus, it is difficult to find even a single article that questions the extinction predictions of the 1990s. Contrarian papers are often denied publication, biologists Peter Kareiva and Michelle Marvier have found, because reviewers worry “as much about political fallout and potential misinterpretation by the public as they do about the validity and rigor of the science.”24
The belief that the world has embarked on a sixth mass extinction, it turns out, is based on theory, not data. The first model, which most ecologists defend, originates from the theory of island biogeography presented in 1967 by Robert MacArthur and E. O. Wilson.25 MacArthur and Wilson argued that the number of species that will come to an island (the “immigration rate”) will fall over time “because as more species become established, fewer immigrants will belong to new species.” Conversely, “the extinction curve must on the other hand rise,” they reasoned, since the more species colonize, “the more there are to become extinct” and the more likely each will succumb to “ecological and genetical accident.” The theory of island biogeography, although centered on islands, is often used to model fragments of natural biodiversity surrounded by human development on the mainland as well.
On the basis of this theory, it is not a stretch to derive predictions that half the world’s species have gone extinct in the past century or two. In the wake of global commerce, species introduced to oceanic islands have at least equaled the number of species established on those islands.26 The theory demonstrates mathematically that before these introductions occurred, the number of species the island could sustain was already in equilibrium and saturated.27 It follows conceptually that the number of extinctions, either of native or of introduced species, must therefore offset the number of introductions. As native species are often endemic and introduced species are cosmopolitan, virtually all island species but weedy ones will either have gone extinct or fall somewhere along the trajectory toward extinction.
A few ecologists have demurred, finding, for instance, that empirical evidence “overwhelm­ingly supports the openness of communities to new species, even at the small spatial scales where species interact and the influences of competition and resource supply should be strongest.”28 In a letter published in Nature in 2011, the distinguished ecologist Stephen Hubbell questioned the reliability of the equilibrium theory of island biogeography as the basis for estimating extinction rates and as the pillar of conservation science. “Extinction rates estimated from the SAR [species–area relationship] are all overestimates,” he and coauthor Fangliang He wrote.­­29
But any contrarian argument based on empirical evidence is quickly dismissed. “They’re either venal or stupid,” Stuart Pimm, a prominent extinction expert, said of those who dared question the higher estimates for species losses.30 A temporary increase in the number of species in an island-like environment, no matter how long it lasts, represents not an increase in species richness but instead a “lag time to extinction” or an “extinction debt.” Ecosystems, the theory’s many defenders aver, “may take a long time to equilibrate.”31 As a result, no evidence could ever disconfirm the theory of island biogeography, just as no evidence has ever confirmed it.
The second theory that purports to show that the world is caught in the midst of a sixth mass extinction argues that current extinction rates — say, since 1500 — are far greater than the “normal” rates that prevailed between previous mass extinctions. On this approach, what matters is not the current extinction rate (which may be negligible and dwarfed by speciation) but the difference between it and the “normal” or “background” rate of extinction, the measurement of which has received enormous attention in the literature. The current extinction rate is thought to exceed by 100 to 1,000 times the “background” rate of extinction.32
Suppose this were true. So what? At current rates (say, two per 100,000 species, or 20 per million species per year), a mass extinction will take roughly 37,500 years, assuming no new species evolve to take their places. Scientists say that we are in the midst of that catastrophic event. Why? That a massive extinction event would take even longer than 37,500 years at “normal” or “background” rates is irrelevant.
Despite the great reverence paid to the sixth mass extinction, humanity may be inferior to other species, or at least helpless against them, as is well illustrated by the tens of thousands of plants and animals that cruise around the world on the human dime, catch rides on boats and planes, and establish populations wherever they like, regardless of whether the local human population wants them there or not. Because so many species tag along with human commerce, the number of species, or “species richness,” in ecological communities has remained steady or even increased over the past century or two, as studies have consistently shown. Michael Rosenzweig, an eminent biologist at the University of Arizona, has found that “local diversities are headed for much higher steady states.”33
Consider, for example, Great Britain, the center of Earth system science. In that country, the number of alien plants in the wild equals or exceeds the number of native ones; these groups cannot be distinguished biologically (i.e., in terms of their “functioning”) but only historically. The New Atlas of the British and Irish Florafound 1,407 native plant species and 1,155 “neophytes” or nonnative ones.34  Harvard biologists Richard Lewontin and Richard Levins have found that “no species of vertebrate or flowering plant has become extinct in Britain in the last hundred years.”35 Chris Thomas, a biologist at the University of York, has observed that “more new plant species have come into existence in Europe over the past three centuries than have been documented as becoming extinct over the same period.”36
A similar story is true of oceanic islands generally. Biologist Dov Sax and coauthors have observed a “highly consistent, approximately twofold, increase in the species richness of plants on oceanic islands” owing to plant introductions and invasions.37 Mainland environments show the same trend toward increasing plant biodiversity. According to one study, “In total, 13,168 plant species . . . have become naturalized somewhere on the globe as a result of human activity.”38 Known naturalized plant introductions outnumber known plant extinctions by approximately 100 to one. There is no evidence to show that plant invasions are the sole cause of any plant extinction.39
As Peter Kareiva has suggested, it may be that “nature is more resilient than is generally assumed.”40 But another view is that human beings are less omnipotent than is generally assumed. We place agency in the wrong quarter — with humans and not with the rest of creation — when we observe the spread of nonnative species around the globe. They are in the driver’s seat. If you want to conceive of humanity’s place in nature, think not of the plants and animals placed under our foot but of the fungus found on it.
The emergence of Earth system science and the declaration of the Anthropocene that goes with it salve and soothe the human ego from the distress of deep time and Darwinian descent. Earth system science also restores humanity to its rightful place at the center of the cosmos. Advances in Earth system analysis, writes one prominent scientist in Nature, will “soon culminate in a second ‘Copernican’ revolution”:
This new revolution will be in a way a reversal of the first: it will enable us to look back on our planet to perceive one single, complex, dissipative, dynamic entity, far from thermodynamic equilibrium — the “Earth system.” It may well be nature’s sole successful attempt at building a robust geosphere–biosphere complex (the ecosphere) in our Galaxy, topped by a life-form that is appropriately tailored for explaining the existence of that complex, and of itself.41
It is the first rule of rationality that reason recognize its limits. That is why Adam Smith warned against “the man of system” who thinks he can know enough about the functioning of an economy to direct or manage it. How much crazier Smith would have thought the pretention of those who believe they can know enough about the functioning of the Earth system, whatever that could mean, to define “planetary boundaries” and a “safe operating space”! 
Earth system science regards the Earth system as a black box that is disturbed or ruptured by human activity. Earth system scientists argue that their discipline is essential if humanity is to understand this box well enough to avoid tipping it over. Earth system scientists empower themselves by citing how much they (and therefore we) do not know about the geosphere and biosphere as these have coevolved as a single, interacting, integrated system. They have yet to find out what these concepts mean; we disregard their ignorance at our peril. 
Over the decades, theoretical ecologists have tried to apply concepts such as “co-evolution,” “complex adaptive systems,” “basins of attraction,” and so forth to local environments, but their efforts were not crowned with empirical results. The genius of these terms lies in their inscrutability. According to ecologist Mark Vellend, “Ecology is widely perceived as being a theoretical and conceptual basket case” with “no known underlying regularities in its basic processes.”42
By understanding “the structure, functioning, and evolution of the Earth’s biosphere as a whole,” Earth system science proposes to scale up the same array of concepts to the Earth system that ecologists had been unable to make operational or even intelligible in relation to ecological communities or systems.
Environmentalists, by contrast, have seen results when they apply cause-and-effect thinking to find technical fixes to environmental problems. Because certain aerosols deplete the protective ozone layer, for example, substitutes for them were found. Because the combustion of fossil fuel creates a “greenhouse effect” that raises global temperatures and, with them, sea levels, scientists worked to improve non-fossil fuels — for example, nuclear energy, as well as energy storage technology that can make intermittent sources of energy, such as wind and solar power, more relevant. Because nitrogen runoff from farms causes eutrophication, scientists have found ways for farmers to use less fertilizer and create buffers. This kind of cause-and-effect, case-by-case, often linear and mechanistic thinking has resulted in impressive gains in air and water quality in the United States and elsewhere. 
Advocates of the advent of the Anthropocene sometimes disparage this kind of problem-solving. It is not holistic enough. “The Anthropocene concerns human impacts on the Earth System, not on the environment,” writes one prominent theorist of the Anthropocene.43 But what the Anthropocene offers is simply a theoretical fix — the Earth system — to energy, nitrification, acidification, and other problems that could yield to technological fixes instead.
Environmental historian Donald Worster has written that “every generation . . . writes its own description of the natural order, which generally reveals as much about human society and its changing concerns as it does about nature.”44 For the neo-Malthusian pessimists of the second part of the 20th century, the natural order was a lifeboat. What mattered was its carrying capacity, which ecological economist Herman Daly analogized to its Plimsoll line, or how much weight it could displace without sinking.45 Scientists warned that consumption already vastly exceeded what nature could supply and would only increase further as populations grew and standards of living improved. Thus, The Population Bomb, a best seller Paul Ehrlich published in 1968, began, “The battle to feed all of humanity is over. In the 1970s the world will undergo famines — hundreds of millions of people are going to starve to death in spite of any crash programs embarked upon now. At this late date nothing can prevent a substantial increase in the world death rate.” 
The collapse of civilization in the 1970s was not only imminent and inevitable, but also necessary and essential.46 It followed as a logical consequence of the scientific description of the natural order. If one assumes that the natural resources of the world and its capacity to absorb wastes are fixed and finite, it follows that if people consume those stocks and fill those sinks at an increasing rate, civilization must eventually hit a ceiling and rapidly collapse to a low level. Several computer models demonstrated this at the time because it is a conceptual truth.
The predictions of the neo-Malthusians of the 20th century proved spectacularly wrong, which may explain why they are rarely repeated by today’s Earth system scientists. These scientists bring to the world the good news that nature “contains within it the possibility of mutually harmonious human–Earth enhancement.”47 According to Earth system scientist Clive Hamilton, the power to choose is ours. He argues that “on the side of responsibility are gathered the armies of scientific insight into Earth’s physical limits.” Against these are “mobilized the armies of avarice intrinsic to an economic structure driven by the profit motive.”48
The good news is that there is a safe operating space for humanity. There is a harbor toward which science can steer Lifeboat Earth. According to four prominent Earth scientists, their teaching is “explicitly based on returning the Earth system to the Holocene domain, the environmental envelope within which contemporary civilization has developed and thrived.”49
The environmental science of the late 20th century was Old Testament science; the environmental science of the early 21st century is New Testament science. The Old and New Testaments concur in their creation myth and account of the Fall of Man. Old Testament and New Testament science agree that creation was completed with the Holocene, the warm period that began about 11 millennia ago. To his credit, James Ussher got it almost right. 
This halcyon Holocene provided practically a Garden of Eden for humanity until it tasted of the fruit of technology, which it ate at the beginning of the Industrial Revolution and gorged on after the Second World War. This led to the Great Acceleration that cursed the Earth and produced the Sixth Mass Extinction and other global catastrophes, including famine, drought, plagues, floods, and the war of each against all. Everyone who was not a science denialist agreed about this.
Old Testament and New Testament environmental science part ways on what happens next. They differ fundamentally in their eschatology. According to Old Testament science, after the Great Tribulation of the 1970s, the Earth entered its final days; humanity was destroyed, and the world went on without us.50 According to New Testament science, the Man of System arose from sullen earth to bring humanity within planetary limits. Buckminster Fuller wrote that the Earth did not come with an instruction book. Earth system scientists discovered that the power was theirs to write one.
When the ICS recognizes the Anthropocene as a chronostratigraphic/geochronological epoch (preferably during Advent or perhaps Easter), it should also sort the geologic time scale into three eras: creation, fall, and redemption. This kind of revision is the logical or conceptual consequence of the annunciation of the Anthropocene. Earth system science shall redeem future generations from the sins of their ancestors. 
Since the time of Hutton, geology has struggled to study the Earth as a scientific object separate from the religious, ideological, and political persuasions of the day. With the Anthropocene, that struggle, such as it was, is over. By enshrining the Anthropocene, geologists are asked to name an epoch ad hoc and ex ante, in prospect rather than in retrospect, in view of the future not of the past, in order to take sides in what Hamilton calls “this titanic struggle over how to use our agency.” The point of the naming act originates in the Manichean conflict between “the armies of insight” and “the forces of avarice.” In the Anthropocene, the agenda and the science are, once more, the same thing.