by Robert Wilkinson
Mission Control, we have a serious problem on planet Earth! Don't want to alarm anyone, but methane is 20 times more potent than CO2 and being released from Arctic permafrost faster than previously known. It is already warming up more permafrost releasing even more in a feedback loop that will definitely have major environmental effects. This is truly "an intersection of fate and free will." But there are things to be done that can help all this shift direction.
I've been following this for a while, since the melting of Arctic sea ice speeds the warming of the region due to decreased reflectivity of solar rays. Now it's mainstream news and a confirmed major league problem due to increased emissions of methane trapped beneath the ice. I don't really have a solution, since we've definitely set forces in motion that require the entire Earth to figure out that we're all here together. But solutions will definitely be found out of sheer necessity. Some immediate possibilities are discussed a few paragraphs down.
From the Independent UK story The Methane Time Bomb by Steve Conner via TruthOut, a brief piece of what's up:
Underground stores of methane are important because scientists believe their sudden release has in the past been responsible for rapid increases in global temperatures, dramatic changes to the climate, and even the mass extinction of species. Scientists aboard a research ship that has sailed the entire length of Russia's northern coast have discovered intense concentrations of methane - sometimes at up to 100 times background levels - over several areas covering thousands of square miles of the Siberian continental shelf.
In the past few days, the researchers have seen areas of sea foaming with gas bubbling up through "methane chimneys" rising from the sea floor. They believe that the sub-sea layer of permafrost, which has acted like a "lid" to prevent the gas from escaping, has melted away to allow methane to rise from underground deposits formed before the last ice age.
They have warned that this is likely to be linked with the rapid warming that the region has experienced in recent years.
Methane is about 20 times more powerful as a greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide and many scientists fear that its release could accelerate global warming in a giant positive feedback where more atmospheric methane causes higher temperatures, leading to further permafrost melting and the release of yet more methane.
The amount of methane stored beneath the Arctic is calculated to be greater than the total amount of carbon locked up in global coal reserves so there is intense interest in the stability of these deposits as the region warms at a faster rate than other places on earth.
This is only one of the many related problems we have due to believing we're separate from Nature. While up to now humanity thought it could act however it wanted to, now we're faced with an accelerating reality that our world is out of balance. When you're done with this article, please go to the one above and read the whole thing, since there's more there than I could reprint here.
At this juncture anyone who wants a sense of a bigger picture and some of the players who are actually trying to make a difference both globally and locally, please check out or buy a copy of "The 11th Hour." This is an amazing documentary narrated and produced by Leo DiCaprio and features quite a few sane and useful suggestions from globally respected voices for how we can turn this mess around fairly quickly.
The only thing is that the first half is very grim. I was getting quite bummed out until the second half, when a more positive focus is achieved. While the first half shows us the enormity of the interrelated problems, the second half is actually a really good sketch of more than a few possibilities to make all kinds of differences.
One thing - it seems there are several movies called "11th Hour," so be sure to persevere in finding the right one. This is a documentary that has to be viewed several times, especially with regard to the solutions and possible ways to shift directions to slow down this runaway train.
I'll leave you with one thought - we can make a difference, both in big ways and small. And we have been told by ancient sources that human life WILL go on, though much changed from anything we've ever known up to now. The Age of Waste, Greed, and Destruction is passing, and the heresy of separateness is being shattered by what we're learning of our interconnectedness with All-That-Is, the basis of Life Itself.
Copyright © 2008 Robert Wilkinson