Category Archives: Dark Mountain

Societal Simulacra’s Rest Frame

Does the universe have a rest frame?

This little article got me thinking. Classically, we don’t have a non-inertial reference frame – the Big Bang happened, everything is moving, and we have no way to discern its point of origin, or more correctly there isn’t any location that isn’t accelerating relative to another. Keep in mind physical space is expanding. This image is one of the least confusing ways to envision it.

Our Expanding Universe

Our Expanding Universe

The inception, expansion, and prognosis for our civilization is something we ought to consider in a similar fashion.

 

Our species arose early in the Quarternary; a period of alternating stadials of continent spanning glaciers and warmer interglacial periods. We are children of ice and chaos. I am again at one of those points where Baudrillard’s Simulacra & Simulation is sitting in the center of my desktop, taunting me over the time quanta I dedicated to proper reading. I wonder if we face a similar problem as a species – a lack of a universal rest frame from which we can relate all the societal simulacra we inhabit. If you’ve never read Baudrillard, spend ten minutes here and you’ll get the gist of his work.

 

Accepting Baudrillard, perhaps lacking the time to delve deeper in the area, simulacra began when we began communicating other than face to face. Gutenberg’s printing press nearly six hundred years ago marks the beginning of the commoditization of communication, but we evolved one to many communication much earlier than that.

Lascaux Cave

Lascaux Cave

My first direct encounter with ancient art were the petroglyphs of Rinconada Canyon, literally the day before Lyme changed my life forever.

Rinconada Canyon Petroglyph

Rinconada Canyon Petroglyph

As I reflect while writing this, I think I had subconsciously already started up the Dark Mountain trail just a little while prior to that. I snapped this unremarkable sunrise photo at a truly remarkable place – somewhere off in the distance lies Blackwater Draw, a nearly 12,000 year old Clovis culture site in eastern New Mexico.

Encamped Near Blackwater Draw

Encamped Near Blackwater Draw

The zero point for modern humans is 200,000 years in the past, the two thirds of our time before the Toba bottleneck. Male hunters, female gatherers, children tagging along, in and out of camp, with regular moves when the urge to go became too strong to ignore. I know this feeling, not because I sought it out, but because our society simply discarded me when I became ill.

For all its material advantages, the sedentary life has left us edgy, unfulfilled.

Even after four hundred generations in villages and cities, we haven’t forgotten.

The open road still softly calls, like a nearly forgotten song of childhood.

 

Things are changing again, changing as dramatically as the Quarternary cycles that drove our evolution. Discarded just as I was, this quarter of U.K. youth who’ve faced homelessness  are arguably the descendants of our roaming ancestors in a much deeper way that just genetics. We should look to them, alone and in small groups, for stories academics won’t explore, because they are simply unequipped with the experiences needed to interpret them.

But is that the resting frame for our species? Buddhists might say this is avyakata, a question for which there is no answer, or that which is meaningless in context for us.

One Quarter Of U.K. Youth Have Been ‘Dangerously Homeless’

New research shows that 26% of aged 16-24 have had to sleep in an “unsafe place” due to homelessness, such as in a car, a car park, a tent in a public space, or on the streets—amounting to an estimated 1.4 million young people (one in six) who have slept rough or unsafely in the just last year, with just under 300,000 doing so on any one night.

Astonishing: A quarter of young people in the UK have experienced ‘unsafe’ homelessness

I have long wrestled with a chronic health problem, as do 85% of all homeless adults. I have been blessed with good friends during this last decade, all but a month of my camping has been elective, and that month was during a glorious, dry California fall. I’ve long since found housing, but I still periodically reivist the site, enjoying the solitude it provides.

My own (mis)adventures are profoundly weird, I have long since stopped questioning why I am always at the nexus of such strange happenings, but I don’t imagine these young adults sleeping rough are quite so philosophical. This is a country losing a generation of youth, they’re headed up the Dark Mountain, perhaps into the same territory inhabited by the Irish Travellers.

United Kingdom

United Kingdom

The Brexit was a foolish move, as bad for the U.K. as electing Trump is for the United States. The West is spinning out of control, the echoes of the downfall of Italy or the Weimar Republic are clear. We can only hope when those disaffected, discarded youth head out, they choose the Road To Utopia.

Last Of The Laurentide

The last of the six ice ages Earth experienced is the Quarternary, lasting the prior 2.58 million years. Understand what an ice age is – a period in which the poles have ice caps, not a period when we see glaciers in temperate latitudes. Those are stadials, and the last time we had those glaciers was during the Younger Dryas, which ended about 12,000 years ago. One of the periodic ice sheets in North America was the Laurentide.

And researchers have found the last of the Laurentide, that solid white spot in the middle of Baffin Island is the Barnes Ice Cap.

Baffin Island

Baffin Island

This five hundred meter thick sheet has just three centuries left at our current 400 ppm of CO2.

I wonder if that last little patch of ice will be a redoubt for reindeer or polar bear/grizzly hybrids, the way Wrangel Island was for the mammoths. That’s ten generations in our future, but it’s the blink of an eye in geological terms.

I don’t know that a Barnes Ice Cap core will be joining the others in the ice core vault at Antarctica’s Concordia Station, but it seems quite likely.

There are a variety of markers that are cited as the start of the Anthropocene, often the radionuclides from the Trinity test in 1945 being the first solid entry in the geological record. The lost of this last bit of the Laurentide will surely be an important milestone in the early centuries of this fearsome new age.

 

 

First A Seed Vault, Now Ice Cores

The Svalbard Global Seed Vault is a sort of Noah’s ark for plants, seeds from 300 species are preserved there in the event that we have some sort of global issue that threatens our food supply.

I just learned there is a similar storage facility for ice cores at the French-Italian base at Concordia.

Concordia Station

Concordia Station

Concordia Station Map

Concordia Station Map

The program started in 2015 at Grenoble and it aims to provide durable storage for ice cores even if a worst case 10C of warming hits.

There will be cores from the ice sheets, massive records spanning up to 900,000 years. The mountain glacier cores are shorter, just 100m to 150m, and they should be more numerous than the more demanding to obtain ice sheet cores. Each provides local climate history insight, including both gas bubbles and particulates.

Preserving the seed stock is a simple, easily understandable move. The motivation for keeping the ice cores in the face of unstoppable warming requires a little more thought. Maybe one day soon Mother Nature will utterly crush climate change denialism and we’ll suddenly have need of what those cores can reveal.

I remember another time when humans collected ice for snowballs, laughing and playing, each of them not understanding that they had reached a point of no return.

Titanic Sinking

Titanic Sinking

 

Exploring @darkmtn & Associates

Whenever I take an interest in a new group, like The Dark Mountain Project,  I examine their social network. Starting with the team page I found eight core members on Twitter.

Dark Mountain Core Members

Dark Mountain Core Members

And 811 of the people they follow.

Dark Mountain Core's 819 Follows

Dark Mountain Core’s 819 Follows

Who is mentioned is often more interesting than who is followed; this data represents activity, and it’s timestamped if we want to focus on a particular temporal window.

2933 Mentions By Dark Mountain Core

2933 Mentions By Dark Mountain Core

Dark Mountain Core & 128 Mentions

Dark Mountain Core & 128 Mentions

Dialing back to just accounts mentioned by three or more of the eight led to a quite manageable set of 128 mentions, which I then manually trimmed, removing media figures and news sources. We’ll hunting for interesting humans here, not entities they criticize. After a little manual work there are 112 accounts mentioned by the core members that seem worthy of manual examination.

112 Top Mentions

112 Top Mentions

And then one last click, viewing only accounts mentioned by at least four of the eight core members leaves us with this:

38 Top Mentions

38 Top Mentions

I already recognize @aeonmag as a source of insightful, provocative writing, but the rest of these are wholly new to me.

And I’m a bit worried to start reading … because this feels like the beginning of my foray into peak oil and energy policy a decade ago. There were months of despondence and depression, even when I saw a potential path out of it. This … this is a full on acceptance of a worst case estimate of what the Anthropocene means … and I think we’ve made our own slow motion Toba.