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Steven Newbury
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Oliver, thanks for the reply. I certainly didn't intend to invoke the fallacy of the "Noble Savage", but I can see how what I wrote could be interpreted that way though. Please don't worry about contradicting me, I'm quite used to it, and it's quite likely any contradiction arises through deficiencies in my argument! :) Let me try to clarify a few points: Without having an shared definition of poverty it is virtually impossible to reach any sort of agreement on whether it's something that's been (largely) escaped by the surplus enabled through (industrial?) civilisation, or created by the distribution of wealth within it. If poverty is living at the bottom of the pecking order within a large group under a hierarchical patriarchal authority, then it is necessarily a creation of "civilization" or at least organised society, yet I never intended to limit the scope in that way. For the sake of argument, I would like to posit that human "poverty" is best described though the limits in availability of scarce resources, without the recourse of migration to areas of surplus; that's to say at its extreme, it's trap on the margin of subsistence. By this definition, there have certainly been many periods through both recorded history and pre-history where conditions of large proportions of a population could be described as being impoverished, yet migration was an near universally available release valve. Perhaps history is best described through this dynamic of impoverishment; resource availability is depleted and the migration in search of resource surplus results, along with intra-society "class-struggle" and and inter-society conflicts as groups vie for supremacy over the "spoils". By this definition large scale poverty isn't a stable or sustainable state. When living on the margin of subsistence, it's only a matter of time until either "Liebig's Law of the Minimum" downsizes the population, the local resource conditions return to surplus, or there is sufficient migration to bring the population back within the local carrying capacity. Where things get more complex, we humans have attempted to take control of, and manipulate this this process. Creating artificial scarcity to re-enforce class divisions, and maintain privilege of the "elite" and abstracting the distribution and allocation of resources though Economics. We appear to have run out of surplus available resources, particularly available energy, we no longer have any virgin or marginally unexploited land of surplus to migrate to, and further we've reached the limits of our ability to impose control to maintain our societal structure.
Oliver, while I find myself sharing your general view, I disagree with your assertion: "In most locations worldwide, most of the inhabitants have since time immemorial lived in the absolute poverty that is now rather rapidly returning to the majority of Americans." This simply isn't the case for the vast majority of human existence. Generally people have subsisted quite comfortably, while interspersed with periods of famine, this has been true whether the culture was predominantly agricultural or hunter gatherer. The modern poverty experienced in the slums of the mega-cities of the last few centuries is an anomaly (and an interesting topic in itself); which while it won't be sustained, offers a small foretaste of what is likely coming to us all. Our overall situation is far worse than that of our ancestors, our world no longer has the ability to provide the abundant surplus that once enabled us to declare our supremacy over nature; our cultural memory and experiences of the past, along with modern analogues leads us to believe in a world that can no longer be. There is no longer the carrying capacity for even a fraction of our current population to live as our ancestors once did, there really is no going back.
From what I can see on MODIS, (where it's not obscured by cloud) large polynyas are opening up in the central region of the CA in the last couple of days, along with continuing disintegration in the west as the Beaufort hole expands. Also looking at the 250m resolution clearly shows some areas, particularly near the polynyas are no longer solidly packed ice, certainly less that 100% concentration. That said, surface melt where the fast ice is still continuous is certainly adding quite considerably to the concentration number, but at the current rate and conditions I don't think it's going to matter too much.
I'm not convinced the MODIS imagery of the Canadian Archipelago can really discount the accuracy of the drop in concentration. As far as I can see the Alaskan side is showing quite a lot of deterioration. As to the rest, even if there is a large amount of melt-ponding, the ice is now very thin and will likely be breaking up in the next few days.
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Jun 18, 2012