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Underestimating the Rate of Collapse

The purpose of writing on the topic of the Principle of Imminent Collapse is not to depress the reader or to sensationalize a political position. The purpose is to make intelligent educated people aware of the dangers that lay in wait for us if we do not make a plan and implement the plan for what we will do when the nudge happens.

Scientists employed by the government either directly as staff or indirectly as grant recipients are subject to "editing" that makes their reports more concise and acceptable. In fact, a lot of the editing is censorship and repression of information that the governing Administration does not want to have circulated with its name on it. Therefore, lawyers rewrite essential environmental reports to make sure that the interests of the government and business community are preserved and not threatened by "irresponsible" claims of overzealous scientists.

The danger that arises from not taking seriously those "irresponsible" claims is that nature has a way of making every dire prognostication pale by comparison to actual events. The December 26, 2004 tsunami in the Indian Ocean was far greater than anyone imagined would happen. The Pacific Ocean has a network of tsunami wave detectors that can raise the alarm if the tsunami conditions are present. The Indian Ocean had no such equipment even though it was at least as likely a target of tectonic faulting that can create tsunamis. The risk of disaster was underestimated. We discovered on that fateful day that even the isolated provinces and islands of Indonesia were capable of being destroyed causing the world to spend billions of dollars to rescue people and rebuild in the wake of the flooding.

Other systems are capable of sudden and imminent collapse and we continue to underestimate that too. Most graphs that chart growth and decline use several recent points of reference and a line is drawn to extrapolate into the future. The researchers typically give an optimistic, a pessimistic and a neutral projection line on order to show a wide range of possible outcomes. Rarely does the chart show a sudden plunge to zero along the curve.

Case in point: The salmon population along the Pacific coast of the US. Everything was moving along in an expected fashion. Fish swam up the rivers and spawned. The little fishes swam to the ocean to grow large and be caught and eaten be predators and Man. In a couple of years the survivors swam back up their spawning river and did the whole thing over again. The reduction of their numbers by fishing never seemed to diminish the population very much so little was done to alter the practices of fishing and of changing the river and ocean conditions. The doom-sayers were always warning us of over-fishing and of habitat destruction, but the fish kept returning.

Then something happened. Two or more factors combined and the population plummeted. A sudden collapse of the salmon population occurred and the industry has been decimated. Sport fishing enterprises have been curtailed. All the support businesses that keep the fishermen supplied have likewise been impacted. Maybe it is our fault that the conditions caused the population collapse. Or maybe it was something that the Earth did that we were powerless to stop. Either way, we underestimated the magnitude of what would happen.

So Artic ice is melting. Is it our fault? Probably, in part. Can we stop it? Probably not. Can we slow it down? Possibly. Can we minimize the impacts on millions of people in the world? Yes. We can slow down the development of coastal land that will be inundated. We can make sure our essential systems are on high ground.

Many climate experts predict slow steady rise of sea level over the next century as land bound polar ice and glacial ice melts. But there is the possibility of a sudden collapse that is already in the making that we are not seeing. THAT is the Imminent Collapse that we surely need to be concerned about. The Principle of Imminent Collapse predicts its occurrence. There is only the nudge yet to be manifest. You can walk away from gradual sea level increases. You can sell and move inland. But if a rapid collapse of land bound ice pushed up the tides, no one will be willing to buy that property. Millions of people will be displaced and hundreds of billions of dollars of real estate will become worthless.

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