Thursday, 24 April 2014

I Am Sam Carana

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My  introduction to climate change came from Al Gore, in his 2006 award winning An Inconvenient Truth. I became aware of the issue, but never gave it much more thought. It wasn’t until I heard former head of NASA's Institute for Space Studies, James Hansen, on CBC in 2009 that I became really interested in the issue, and started researching it online and reading avidly about it on The Economist. Over the next 3 years I would read over 100 books on climate, energy and related, and countless websites. Obsession with a topic is a symptom of bipolar, although some could argue that everyone should be a little obsessed with climate change, in order to stop it. For my favorite books and documentaries see my blog bio.

The books that hit us hardest were James Hansen’s Storms of My Grandchildren, James Lovelock's The Vanishing Face of Gaia, and Tim Flannery's The Weather Makers, while the websites that affected us most were Peak Oil forums, Sam Carana’s Arctic News blog and Cory Morningstar's The Art of Annihilation . Of countless documentaries, the best were The Age of Stupid, 6 Degrees Could Change The World, and Collapse by Jared Diamond. We were flabbergasted. The injustice! We were screwed. There was little to no hope. Serious scientists were predicting famine and war caused by climate change in the near term. In his books, James Lovelock presented evidence that the IPCC is highly conservative, and what they're predicting for 2040 might well come by 2025. This spells disaster for Africa. All our family lives there. I was depressed and suicidal. I barely slept. I stopped eating. I read day and night, non-stop - books, energy forums, climate forums - I read it all. Then the Occupy movement erupted in 2011. We were ecstatic. Change! We met tons of great fellow activists there and made life long friends. We finally had a place to express our activism. I’d do activism with the Occupy group but sometimes I’d also go alone to the university and show off my climate artwork. These were full size 1 metre tall paintings.


Some students stopped to look, others didn't. It didn't matter, activism was the only thing giving me hope and in mind felt like the only thing that mattered. One day Professor Andrew Weaver walked by and stopped to look at our artwork. He was impressed and chatted with me. I was ecstatic – I got to talk to Andrew Weaver! Suddenly it was all worth it. But the stress of climate change didn't end, it only got worse. To do more climate activism, and get a sense of accomplishment, I intended to cycle across Canada in 2011, and made it from Victoria to Calgary with flyers and a trailer that advertised climate change, but I fell incredibly hard and injured myself when I raced downhill without holding the handlebars. my dogs in the trailer flew overhead and we crashed hard into the rocky roadside. There were tons of cars on the highway so I'm glad we didn't topple into traffic. Lesson learned - hold the handlebars! I didn't hand out any flyers because I didn't like what we had to say, and also i'm quite shy to approach people.

We saw our puppies fly.

In 2012 a combination of extreme stress from climate change and bipolar disorder put me into a psychosis. The trigger may have been a report that came out from some Russian Arctic scientists that said the oceanic East Siberian Arctic Shelf may be venting up to 3.5 billion tons of methane a year from plumes "over a km in diameter". How much is 3.5 billion tonnes? A lot, and its very bad news for the climate. It turns out that this was simply a proration and not an actual measure of total emissions. But the discovery of thousands of methane plumes, some over a km in diameter, is real, and can be seen here. We genuinely believed we were at the start of runaway climate change, and if you asked us today, we'd still say there is strong evidence that we may have passed tipping points. In any case, I thought I was being sent signals to go out and start a massive university student movement across Canada to “save the world”, and started seeing signs and signals that we were supposed to be Sam Carana. I printed out perhaps 500-1000 (or was it 2500) flyers and intended to cycle across Canada hitting all the universities. As it happens there also happened to be an Occupy group WALKING across Canada from Victoria. I initially started my trip with these guys but ditched them when i claimed a guy who looked like the No Country For Old Men bad guy, had a grenade and was going to blow the group up. When I left on our bike ride I was at the peak of our psychosis, and I thought the Arctic Methane Emergency Group was sending us signals to be Sam Carana. Sam Carana is the anonymous author of many blogs including Arctic News blog, Geoengineering blog, Feebate blog and many more. We don't know who Sam Carana really is, but we suspect he's a whistleblower who would lose his position if he said such things publicly. But anyway, in my psychosis I thought I was being sent signals by AMEG to be Sam! It was a simple mistake on my part. If you break down Sam Carana’s name its Am SC, Ar SC, An SC, A SC. I was SC! I was Shaheer Cassm. We were supposed to be Sam Carana. The signals were arriving  through Facebook and music (The Dreaming Moon-The Magnetic Fields), but also ambumlances (Sambulances), licence plates, signs, art and a quite a few other things. But anyways I'M NOT Sam Carana.

My first stop on our bike ride was Camosun college. I tried to enter a class of exchange students to hand out flyers. But I wasn't allowed in - I had to sign in first. I tried signing in as myself but they wouldn't let me in, I wasn't on the list, then I tried signing in as Sam Carana but still I wasn't allowed in. I didn't get it! What was I doing wrong? I was just following the AMEG peoples instructions and going to hand out flyers to exchange students. An administrator for the exchange students sent out a counseller to talk to me and I broke down crying. What a sight I must have been - shaved completely bald and without eyebrows, bawling our eyes out. I left Camosun and continued on my bike ride.  Unfortunately, my electric bicycle broke down early in the trip and so I proceeded on foot.  While walking the highway, I thought I was being sent signals to strip naked, so we did, on the Malahat highway. I found a rainbow colored duster thing and paraded in the middle of the highway, completely nude. The police picked us up and took us to jail. Who was I? I wasn't sure and and claimed to the police to be both Shaheer Cassm and Sam Carana. They gave us paper clothing and a bun and cup of juice. I spent the night in jail. The next day I went to an Occupy meeting with my paper jail clothes on, and my friends realized something was wrong. They called my parents, who flew out and admitted me to hospital. Somehow the police got to talking to our parents, and told them we were doing a good thing and more people should be doing climate activism.

Us, at the start of our trip. Victoria, BC, Mile 0.
In the psyche ward, we looked at the DVD's and found a movie called I am Sam. There it was. Proof. We were supposed to be Sam! Even the nurses called us Sam. I became more suicidal and during my 3 hr breaks the hospital would give me daily with my parents, my parents had to stand between me and the road because they never knew if I were going to jump in front of a car. We were convinced we had failed these mysterious AMEG or whoever people and were going to be assassinated. There was a guy in the psyche ward who looked like Clint Eastwood and I was convinced he was sent there to kill me. I were petrified. One day while on break I escaped our parents and ran to the top of my apartment building and prepared to jump. But I chickened out, thankfully. In the psyche ward I found Jesus (they were sending me signals to be Christian), read nearly the entire bible, and became vegetarian (signals, again); after my electro-convulsive therapy I lost Jesus again and became a meat-eater once more. All in all I spent 10 weeks in hospital on a variety of anti-psychotic and anti-anxiety pills, and we had to be given 9 treatments of electro-convulsive therapy. Even after the ECT I was in residual psychosis for a few more months. I don't know if there's a point being vegetarian if the majority doesn't do it as well.

According to Malcolm Light a 80-90% emission reduction by 2020-2030 and a variety of geo-engineering techniques can dramatically slow down the extinction process. Even if we believe the highly conservative IPCC's targets of 85% reduction by 2050 to have a 50% chance of limiting warming above 2 degrees,  it's still a tall order. And once you pass 2 degrees, positive feedbacks that cause a runaway climate are sure to occur in full force. They are occurring right now at 0.8 C. Recently the IPCC chair Rajendra Pachauri said parts of Africa will lose 50% of their crop production by 2020. Seriously? This is a disaster. But is it really too late? Is doing something better than doing nothing? Is activism still worth it? We believe the near term climate collapse argument but we also believe we will geo-engineer in desperation, and it will somewhat work, buying us precious years. The proof is in global dimming. Sure there will be losers, but maybe the world will come together, people will eat vegetarian, and there will be enough food to spare to the starving countries. Maybe we're just dreaming. Is Jeremy Rifkin right that we are an Empathic Civilization? Or are we crude, selfish, short-sighted, and greedy? If we're 99% sure that we’re going to experience an extinction event in the coming decades, can we live off 1% hopium? Don’t take our hopium away. James Lovelock, you took our hopium. You left us bare and naked. And then you have the gall to retract your two books, saying you, Tim Flannery, and whoever else were alarmist? Did you retract because you genuinely believe things will progress slower than you predicted in your alarming books, or because you feel bad about making people like us hopeless and suicidal? Are the recent death plunges in Arctic sea ice, and methane erupting from the East Siberian Arctic Shelf not evidence that things are progressing much faster than expected?

Summertime Arctic sea ice is in rapid decline and could be gone by 2017. When the Arctic sea ice is gone this is known as a blue ocean event. It takes the same amount of energy to raise water 0 to 81 degrees C, as it did to melt that ice at 0 degrees C. This is because of ice's latent heat of fusion. This means things get very hot very fast once that ice is gone, and this can lead to methane hydrate destabilization. The result of this according to Peter Wadhams (eminent world expert on sea ice) is an abrupt climate change that civilization could not withstand. The blue ocean event will only last a few weeks at first, and within a decade or two might be year-round. Under such circumstances, it is inconceivable how methane hydrates will stay locked up on the Arctic ocean floor. According to Paul Beckwith, (Professor at the UofOttawa doing his PhD in abrupt climate change) this process could raise temperatures to 5-6 C by 2025-2035, unless geoengineering is applied. Temperature rise might not stop at 6 C, and might continue to rise to 8 C and beyond by 2200, according to Hans Schellnhuber (directer at the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research)  which might mean hydrogen sulfidication of the atmosphere and oceans, and complete extinction of land mammals. According to Malcolm Light, sea ice loss and methane hydrates could push temperatures to 4C by 2030 and 8C by 2050. There are such massive methane reserves below the Arctic Ocean floor (more than 5000 billion tons of methane carbon) that they represent around 100 times the amount that is required to cause a Permian style major extinction event, should about one percent of the sub-sea Arctic methane be released into the atmosphere. Paul Beckwith, Malcolm Light, and Peter Wadhams are staunch geoengineering supporters.


A 1 km wide methane plume, an example of what's occurring in the Siberian sea.

Global dimming, caused by sulfur released during coal burning, reflects sunlight and so temporarily combats global warming. Over the past 15 years, China has so massively increased their coal burning sulfur pollution that global dimming is masking the full effect of global warming by up to 50%.

After leaving hospital it took me a while to learn that everything that I thought transpired was just in my head. I really thought the purple econobox car in my parkade was a sign that I was doing my Sam Carana bit right. I really believed my parents controlled my dogs with hand movements. I really believed the signs in the elevator and on my hospital roomate's whiteboard were messages for me. I really believed the power line towers zapped my electric bike and broke it. I really believed I was going to be killed.  I was in psychosis for at least 4 months. When I got out of the hospital I was so pissed off at climate change that I threw out my artwork. I gave up climate change completely, including activism (we still join crowds). I took up our childhood hobby of gaming StarCraft and marathon watching movies and TV shows, with a big thumbs up to The Walking Dead telling the world we run on fossil fuels and its dumb. I would sometimes go out alone with a chloroplast sign advertising something climate change. Doing activism alone sucks and is anxiety inducing. Some people are nice and give you props, others think you're crazy for being a solo activist. The longest I ever spent on a street corner alone downtown was 6 hours. During that time, a guy stopped and asked me what the hell I was doing, that we looked like a bum, that we should just accept climate change as a fact of life, and that he would beat us up if he saw us out there again. Then he offered to smoke a joint with us. In any case we quit doing solo activism after that.

I quit my career as a commercial pilot due to a general boredom with flying (and cause pilots shouldn't be bipolar), and am returning to school to become a health care assistant. Canada will be one of the most favorable places in the world to experience climate change, and Africa one of the least favorable. As James Lovelock would say, "move north young man" (or woman). Of Canada, Vancouver Island is one of the best locations. Of Africa, South Africa is most favorably positioned. However this means when famine hits North Africa there will be a stream of refugees into  South Africa. Nonetheless, if society collapses because of a 3-4 degree C rise in temperatures, or does not massively engage in geoengineering, everyone will most likely die. We are only buying time. World carrying capacity is predicted to be under 1 billion at 4 degrees C and a few thousand at 6 C. By the time Africa collapses we might engage in heavy geoengineering, and extend Canada's lifespan. If the globe warms by 2 C, Africa will warm by 3.5 C. We encourage all people in Africa to migrate, all 1.1 billion of you.

 Packing up and migrating, leaving old friends behind, is hard work. Those people who are heavily invested in the land will probably stay behind and suffer first from climate change. Those with nothing to lose and are willing to travel, will survive the longest. The world isn't going to fall apart overnight. It might take half a lifetime or longer if we make the right decisions. But the time to move is now. Abrupt climate change is now. Natalia Shakhova, Igor Semiletov, Peter Wadhams, Sam Carana, Paul Beckwith, Malcolm Light, James Lovelock, David Wasdell, Hans Schellnhuber and AMEG can't all be full of shit. It would be really easy to simply paint their work as shit. The prediction of a 50 billion ton pulse of methane (enough methane to bring extremely dangerous climate change forward two decades) releasing from the East Siberian Arctic Shelf any time after 2015 was posited from decades of research. It's not simply shit. Anyway the top priority should be food. We'll need to produce much of our own food locally. We'll need to build resilient communities that can endure disasters.

For quotes from climate books, see climate books blog.
Or see Supplementary Information.



Addendum One Year Later: I guess this story missed a vital element, my struggle with addiction. I am addicted to weed, and now have chronic asthma and black lung. It contributed to psychosis.