Tuesday, June 4, 2013

A Word From The Mound Of Sound

The Mound of Sound (a.k.a. The Disaffected Lib) is back from his hiatus, and he left a comment on my earlier post suggesting how newspapers should deal with weather-related disasters. Because of the length of his response, and because I want to bring that response to a wider audience than those who normally read comments, I am taking the liberty, with thanks, of reproducing Mound's response below:

It is fascinating, in a depressing sort of way, how the subject of "tipping points" drifts in and (mainly) out of the public consciousness. It is, after all, these tipping points that ultimately matter - the point at which man-made warming is overtaken by much more powerful natural feedback mechanisms utterly beyond our control.

Researchers bore holes in Alaskan lake ice and set alight the escaping methane. Russians video streams of methane bubbles reaching the ocean surface from seabed clathrates that are thawing. In our own north, tundra thaws and dries leading to fires that expose the permafrost beneath, the massive greenhouse gas sponge that underlies the global Arctic. The loss of Arctic sea ice and the absorption of ever more solar energy further warming that region is a feedback mechanism. It transmits heat energy into the Arctic atmosphere creating this new, powerful Polar Jet Stream and meandering Rossby Waves that whipsaw the northern hemisphere with sustained droughts and devastating floods.

A tipping point in a canoe is where water begins spilling in over the gunwale. It usually ends poorly and very quickly. Rarely, however, is it fatal.

The sort of environmental tipping points that loom large today are unprecedented in human experience. There may be several of varying consequence. Some may be stand alone, others linked so that a worsening in one may be a catalyst for another.

It's entirely conceivable we have crossed or at the cusp of one or more tipping points that represent the point of critical mass of runaway climate change. Yet as Chomsky points out today in a piece from TomGram, the developed world, the U.S. and Canada in particular, are merely ramping up the effort to extract and burn hydrocarbons as never before.


  1. .. re 'the tipping point' .. Its gratifying to see it utilized in reports & journalism. Seeing it illuminated here with effective & real examples via Disaffected Lib, reminds me of a book called The Upside of Down. To a great extent, the book defines via examples.. as does Mound, a variety of catastrophic events on earth. Environmental, social, climate related, financial, geographic, political etc.. http://www.theupsideofdown.com/

    The author often utilizes the term 'cascade of events' .. and some of these events may be very small, seemingly insignificant. But, as the Disaffected Lib points out, one may be a catalyst for another.. until the combination is unstoppable or dire.

    Ironically, Stephen Harper, The Harper Government and the Harper Party are experiencing 'the tipping point'. What will happen as more of their toxic events, actions and absurdities flutter from a gaping Pandora's Box?

    How will Canada and Canadians try to regain control of the country from the political buffoons we elected as public servants? How will we deal with the corporatist elite who helped 'groom' the electorate to surrender to what is obviously a hostile takeover, open season.. a country for sale ?

    1. Those are excellent and pertinent questions you pose, here Salamander; I have wondered along similar lines, and the answer is anything but clear, given that viable electoral alternatives seem few and far between. But I do know one thing - until and unless Canadians collectively demand something better, we can expect more of the same sad practices and policies in the place of a progressive and coherent vision.