That would be me.
The first week of October brought with it the continuing stream of bad news. The World Wildlife Fund in “The Living Planet Report 2014” headlined the news: More than 52% of wildlife lost in 40 years. Hunting, fishing, and habitat loss were the primary reasons. So far climate disruption is, according to the study, a much smaller factor in this catastrophic picture. Just in time, however, to illustrate the effect of planetary heating, Arctic walruses are being forced to congregate on land rather than their favored ice because there is no ice for them to haul out on. The optimistic staff at the World Wildlife Fund claims that there is still time to turn this around and that we as a species could yet decide to live upon this planet in a different way.
The regenerative capacity of 1.5 earths is needed to meet current human resource demand. We are currently .5 earths short of having what we need at a time when human population and per capita claims on environmental resources are skyrocketing, e.g. more individual passenger cars being created for India and China, more electronic gadgets being consumed in the U.S. and elsewhere. The higher the per capita income, the more resources are taken from the environment.
The human ecological footprint is measured in many ways, including water use and consumption of food products from land and water. The one that stands out is carbon use. That obviously is on an upward trend. U.S. television, particularly public affairs and news programming on Fox, CNN, and MSNBC is filled with pro-carbon propaganda. There are no laws against lying in television ads, so the onslaught of bullshit continues.
Together, China and the U.S. account for a third of the total human carbon footprint.
Page after page of the report documents biocapacity and the overall water footprint. Overall land and water resources support all human and non-human life. We are taking more than our share. More for us. Less for all others. We can perhaps grow more food, but that entails the destruction of more natural habitats. More stuff for us to eat, fewer places for the wild ones to live.
Page 67: “Humans have profited hugely from the extraordinarily
predictable and stable environmental conditions of the last 10,000
years – the geological period known as the Holocene. The favourable
state of the planet during the Holocene made it possible for settled
human communities to evolve and eventually develop into the
modern societies of today, by profiting from the natural capital
offered by a stable biosphere. However, advancements in Earth
system science suggest that the world has entered a new period
– the “Anthropocene” – in which human activities are the largest
drivers of change at the planetary scale (Zalasiewicz et al., 2008).
Given the pace and scale of change, we can no longer exclude the
possibility of reaching critical tipping points that could abruptly
and irreversibly change living conditions on Earth.”
And so on it goes through scores of pages of local and global data. Anyone who cares about the future should read this document. Maybe especially so those who have children or grandchildren. The total number of Americans likely to read this report: too small to be significant.
Rational Decisions on the Environment
There are many pages showing things that we should do to avert catastrophe for ourselves and our fellow creatures. This is where the report goes fails to perform its needed task. The report assumes that humanity en masse will make rational decisions in regard to the environment. Unlike the rest of the report, this assumption is not supported by a shred of evidence. Worse, even if the less than 1% of the population who make the decisions for the rest of us were to agree with all aspects of the report, the report provides no solutions mechanism or enforcement practices for any of the recommendations.
So while the report authors may be entitled to say, “I told you so” when the collapse occurs, they will have little else to show for their efforts. Tellingly, the report does not call for drastic population control measures nor does it call for the near-term elimination of carbon fuels. The first can be construed to suggest racism and genocide (biological and cultural) while the second calls for a devastating restructuring of the world economy; the two together call for civilizational transformation too awful to contemplate. Taking no meaningful action leads to the fall of civilization (as in The Prairie Suite novel) or at least to the fall of wild nature. (There is a third morally correct and highly effective method: the empowerment of women and girls through education and economic and political parity, but resistance to this is probably the harshest of all.)
No wonder the report fails to take the critical step of proscribing actions needed to head off the predicted disaster. It is just too scary even to contemplate. A Gordian knot.
Here is the theme song for our carbon, expanding civilization: “Suspicious Minds” performed by Elvis: “We’re caught in a trap. I can’t walk out because I love you too much baby.”