Eviction Notice from Earth: How Will We Respond?
Wall of Fame honors and a very big tip of the hat to 15,000 scientists around the world who elected to issue a wake-up call this year about the folly that will bring human civilization down if we don’t change our ways.
Here are a few excerpts from this brief report (so, yes, you can and should read the whole thing) published in the professional journal, BioScience, on November 13. These scientists actually say it better than I can.
“Twenty-five years ago, the Union of Concerned Scientists and more than 1700 independent scientists, including the majority of living Nobel laureates in the sciences, penned the 1992 ‘World Scientists’ Warning to Humanity.’ These concerned professionals called on humankind to curtail environmental destruction and cautioned that ‘a great change in our stewardship of the Earth and the life on it is required, if vast human misery is to be avoided.’ In their manifesto, they showed that humans were on a collision course with the natural world. They expressed concern about current, impending, or potential damage on planet Earth involving ozone depletion, freshwater availability, marine life depletion, ocean dead zones, forest loss, biodiversity destruction, climate change, and continued human population growth. They proclaimed that fundamental changes were urgently needed to avoid the consequences our present course would bring.”
“The authors of the 1992 declaration feared that humanity was pushing Earth’s ecosystems beyond their capacities to support the web of life. They described how we are fast approaching many of the limits of what the biosphere can tolerate without substantial and irreversible harm. The scientists pleaded that we stabilize the human population, describing how our large numbers—swelled by another 2 billion people since 1992, a 35 percent increase—exert stresses on Earth that can overwhelm other efforts to realize a sustainable future. They implored that we cut greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and phase out fossil fuels, reduce deforestation, and reverse the trend of collapsing biodiversity.”
“On the twenty-fifth anniversary of their call, we look back at their warning and evaluate the human response by exploring available time-series data. Since 1992, with the exception of stabilizing the stratospheric ozone layer, humanity has failed to make sufficient progress in generally solving these foreseen environmental challenges, and alarmingly, most of them are getting far worse.”
This is what happens when you ignore limits to growth and go into overshoot. This should be headline news. It should trigger Amber Alerts and notifications from the Emergency Alert System. Did you see this story on the front page of your hometown paper? Was it the lead on the evening news?
I looked for a story in the New York Times. Surely this story was covered, buried somewhere below the fold on page 45? Please let me know if you found it. What I did find was useful, however. In Sunday’s opinion section of the New York Times, Anthony Doerr shared, in We Were Warned, how he responded to the first World Scientists’ warning 25 years ago:
“So did I act immediately and decisively? Um, I did not. In the ensuing years I wrote checks to some conservation organizations, replaced some incandescent bulbs and rode my bike to work. I hammered together a composting bin that promptly fell apart. I gave a self-important lecture to a neighbor on the importance of using his recycling can.
I also hurtled through the troposphere on hundreds of airplanes (each round trip from New York to London costs the Arctic another three square meters of ice), bought and sold multiple automobiles and helped my wife put two more Americans onto the planet. Our air-conditioning compressor is at least a decade old, my truck averages 15 miles to the gallon and I routinely walk up to a podium, open a brand new plastic bottle of water, take a sip and promptly forget that it exists.”
That, I’m afraid, pretty well sums up what most of us have done. We simply must stop business-as-usual. Every one of us needs to start living life differently, starting today. We must “skinny” up our lives – consuming less, wasting less, and procreating less. Every lawmaker must switch goals now. No longer can we pursue economic growth. We need to develop a HEALTHY, long-lasting (sustainable) economy, not one that will burn hot for a brief while and then die. No longer can we make only timid adjustments to our system to nibble at its impact on the planet. We must make sweeping changes. Some will be inconvenient. Some will take money out of our pockets (or keep it from ever going in). But it beats having this be the final chapter of our existence here on Earth. Are you in?
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