Home | About | Donate

From Ophelia to the Amazon: the Unthinkable Becomes Thinkable


From Ophelia to the Amazon: the Unthinkable Becomes Thinkable

Andy Rowell

It may be a horror that no one imagined, but it is a horror that the scientists predicted.  

What was once unthinkable in the Amazon is becoming thinkable too. The Amazon has gone from a carbon sink to one where it is now a net emitter of carbon.


Will conservatives find opportunity in this chaos they’ve created?


There will be many who will call it a sign that the end is nigh and that the sixth extinction will signal humanity’s extinction as well!

But it won’t. The end may feel like it is a bit closer and to be sure it is somewhat more in the realm of possiblity but in no way is there any certainty of this unless mankind does absolutely nothing to avert climate change. We have that much going for us though, that despite the Trumps and other denialists in high places, humanity is switching to alternatives to fossil fuels.

But we move so slow and there lies the rub. Because we delay and encounter the expected economic inertia that comes with changing our technological civilization from fossil fuels to solar and wind etc. we will unfortunately see the end of the good times.

It won’t be the end of the world and yet we will all start to wonder if it might be since things look to get so bad real soon. This year of devastating hurricanes is but a forerunner of all the big storms to come in the years ahead. They won’t be fun and sadly may be horrendously worse than this year’s destruction and ithat may very well happen every year! How often can people rebuild a house that is destroyed again each year?

It is that ‘denialists delaying’ which we will rue the most when each year our coastal cities are slammed by these powerful and incredibly destructive storms! Inland our world dries with endless droughts and catches fire and now these fires rage through cities and towns which may be another new normal.

In short it won’t be the end of the world and it won’t be the extinction of humanity but it will be the end of normal and without any doubt whatsoever…

…it will be the end of the good times.


If the Amazon has changed from a carbon sink to a carbon source, that’s a very big deal. Rowell helpfully links to his source - where that assertion is nuanced (my emphasis):

forest degradation is turning the Amazon from carbon sink to carbon source in some dry years

The whole global ecosystem looks like it’s changing from a carbon sink to a source. Warming oceans, burning forests, and thawing permafrost are at a point where the increase in atmospheric CO2 keeps accelerating though human emissions have plateaued over the past 4 or 5 years. This doesn’t mean we’ve passed the point where CO2 would keep going up even if emissions declined, but we’re getting there.

Our (singular) tipping point concept might be misleading. Earth’s climate and biosphere are massively multifarious systems, in a disequilibrium which will unfold more like dominoes than a sudden, single collapse. People who project certainty about how it will turn out express the same hubris which caused this mess. This is a new experiment - we really don’t know.


Trump and Mithc McConnel and other predatory fraudulent leaders need to rot in Hell as long as future generations continue to suffer from their default on global warming action. And for generations ahead they need to suffer comparable to the suffering their default is imposing on their victims. Justice requires no less.
For right now, we should at least treat them like shit.


The concerns run much deeper and the scope much broader. Odd that the scope of this is kept so narrow considering the interests of transnational construction, hydropower, mining, agribusiness and related predatory corporations.

  • Since 2007 biologist Philip Fearnside has documented that the massive reservoirs - in the Amazon alone totalling thousands of square miles! for the hydroelectric dams are aggregate producers of methane FOR YEARS

  • The indigenous peoples and impoverished communities in the Brazilian Amazon are being subjected to abuses by the above powers on a regular basis and in aggregate by the coup government of Michel Temer (the picture says it all) by buying off the Brazilian senate and HR including with pushing for/funding PEC 215, an unconstitutional proposed amendment to the Brazilian federal Constitution that yanks the indigenous right to land - AND GET THIS!! - unless they were living on or fighting for traditional lands… YOU READY???.. on October 5 of 1988 - the date of the promulgation of the Highest Law of the Land … WAIT THERES MORE!!!.. This is the Constitution in which Article 231 &232 set forth those rights! So - get this - the indigenous rights still stand - its just that the government wants to say they do not apply unless they were home on that date. You cannot make this s#!% up! Can you believe there is more? … local communities, themselves strapped by the system save for the installed ‘latifundia’ and their ilk, are turned against those also victimized by the system and the violence, killings and other abuses, the oligarch gets practically for free because so many of the representatives incite the same.

Actual life, if not in the halls of power, is regarded as component of “resources” to be harvested by corporate predation. The ‘normalization’ of these patterns is the hallmark, the trademark, the beastie mark wherein there is no interpretation, no recounting of process, no accountability because all of the abuses have been institutionalized. That is to say: the distortion is a methodology for making the ’ content’ of problem into part of a ‘process’, which is under constant unrelenting revision. Sound familiar?

welcome to late stage predatory capitalism based on slavery that has never been fully eliminated and back in damn near full swing. Its just - thanks to such a lush economic shower for the military industrial complex - kept out of sight and out of mind - showing just enough to goose societies into terrified compliance.


Because of climate inertia, the temperatures we are now experiencing are the result of carbon put in the atmosphere 30 or 40 years ago. The last time there was this much carbon in the atmosphere (410ppm), ocean levels were tens of meters higher and temperatures were maybe 5 degrees C warmer. Even if we stop putting any carbon into the atmosphere tomorrow, we are in desperate straights. Since industrial agriculture is a carbon emitter and about 30% of carbon emissions, unless there are massive changes today, we can’t feed 7 billion people without significant carbon inputs to the atmosphere. Forget about even thinking about the positive feedback loops…


The vast majority of grain is fed to livestock - so a simple change in consumption would feed everyone and even cut back on cultivated land. James Hansen has been advocating carbon-negative (“no-till”) agricultural practices for years. It would be possible if humans were capable of compassion - at least a standard of concern for the next generation which is the prime evolutionary imperative for all species. It’s not the geophysics which doom us so much as our collective insanity.


As long as this system is in place you can pencil in the apocalypse before the end of the century. There’s no sense pretending like there is a chance, there is no chance with capitalism in place. Unless there is a very real revolution in how we go about business as usual it’s only going to get much worse from here until collapse.