‘More’ is wrecking the planet

COLUMN

Readers may have seen the rude, personal comment to the environmental issues I raised in my last column.

I take no offence — scientists and environmentalists regularly receive much worse and from high places.

For example, US Congressman George Perkins Mash wasn’t taken seriously way back in 1864 when he pointed out human activities were influencing the climate and could destroy life on Earth.

Numerous other climate science warnings, from the 1800s to mid-1940s, received similar treatment.

So too mid-20th century alerts of temperature peaks, global warming, rising sea levels, habitat loss, and shifting agricultural zones.

In 1957 the Keeling Hawaii Manua Loa atmospheric CO2 monitoring station began operating when readings were 314.8 parts per million. They have risen 100 points since then: on Feb 9 they were 414.27ppm, a three million-year high.

In 1968 Dr Paul Ehrlich produced his book The Population Bomb, questioning the capacity of planet Earth to continue supporting our rapidly increasing human population. His study was initially ignored, although The New York Times gave it a single paragraph.

In 1972 The Limits to Growth was published by a concerned group of specialists (The Club of Rome). It focused on five basic misconceptions of the limits to growth and consequences. The NY Times branded it “an empty and misleading work” . . . “garbage in, garbage out”. Later President Ronald Reagan said “There are no great limits to growth.”

Half a century on, spurred on by a focus on economic growth, those crucial messages are still ignored.

It is over three years since the Paris COP21 warnings and world leaders’ promises to reduce their GHG emissions. Yet last year overall human-caused CO2 emissions actually increased — and at the fastest rate for seven years.

Tipping points, feedback loops and global dimming are seldom mentioned, yet all could trigger a Hothouse Earth in double-quick time.

Our materialistic, addictive, destructive lifestyles have indeed taken a heavy toll.

Two centuries of unheeded warnings, massive diminution of world wildlife, and the human population at plague proportions.

In 2015 the World Health Organisation said: “Every day we depend on biodiversity (the sheer variety of life found on Earth) to keep us alive and healthy . . . our world, and the diversity of life it supports, is under threat . . . wiping out species and damaging ecosystems at unprecedented rates.”

Most people it seems would prefer to die screaming rather than yield to less privileged lifestyles.

I applaud the recent worldwide demonstrations of concerned children calling for action, to stir us towards less selfish attitudes.

At this extremely late stage, we need to make a concerted effort to leave Mother Earth in the best condition possible for future generations.

I see it as our duty.

Readers may have seen the rude, personal comment to the environmental issues I raised in my last column.

I take no offence — scientists and environmentalists regularly receive much worse and from high places.

For example, US Congressman George Perkins Mash wasn’t taken seriously way back in 1864 when he pointed out human activities were influencing the climate and could destroy life on Earth.

Numerous other climate science warnings, from the 1800s to mid-1940s, received similar treatment.

So too mid-20th century alerts of temperature peaks, global warming, rising sea levels, habitat loss, and shifting agricultural zones.

In 1957 the Keeling Hawaii Manua Loa atmospheric CO2 monitoring station began operating when readings were 314.8 parts per million. They have risen 100 points since then: on Feb 9 they were 414.27ppm, a three million-year high.

In 1968 Dr Paul Ehrlich produced his book The Population Bomb, questioning the capacity of planet Earth to continue supporting our rapidly increasing human population. His study was initially ignored, although The New York Times gave it a single paragraph.

In 1972 The Limits to Growth was published by a concerned group of specialists (The Club of Rome). It focused on five basic misconceptions of the limits to growth and consequences. The NY Times branded it “an empty and misleading work” . . . “garbage in, garbage out”. Later President Ronald Reagan said “There are no great limits to growth.”

Half a century on, spurred on by a focus on economic growth, those crucial messages are still ignored.

It is over three years since the Paris COP21 warnings and world leaders’ promises to reduce their GHG emissions. Yet last year overall human-caused CO2 emissions actually increased — and at the fastest rate for seven years.

Tipping points, feedback loops and global dimming are seldom mentioned, yet all could trigger a Hothouse Earth in double-quick time.

Our materialistic, addictive, destructive lifestyles have indeed taken a heavy toll.

Two centuries of unheeded warnings, massive diminution of world wildlife, and the human population at plague proportions.

In 2015 the World Health Organisation said: “Every day we depend on biodiversity (the sheer variety of life found on Earth) to keep us alive and healthy . . . our world, and the diversity of life it supports, is under threat . . . wiping out species and damaging ecosystems at unprecedented rates.”

Most people it seems would prefer to die screaming rather than yield to less privileged lifestyles.

I applaud the recent worldwide demonstrations of concerned children calling for action, to stir us towards less selfish attitudes.

At this extremely late stage, we need to make a concerted effort to leave Mother Earth in the best condition possible for future generations.

I see it as our duty.

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Martin Hanson, Nelson - 6 days ago
Absolutely right, Bob. It's sad and pathetic that today's youngsters have to lecture so-called adults about the peril to which we are heading, but in today's teenage activism I see our only hope. If there are any future historians to record our descent into planetary chaos, they will describe today's politicians, corporate CEOs and merchant bankers - in other words, all those 'adults' who sacrifice their children on the altar of economic growth, as moral degenerates at the least, and in many cases, psychopaths.
They are aided and abetted by the majority of the remainder, who prefer a comfortable fantasy to an uncomfortable reality, who suffer from a condition to which medical science has no treatment - stupidity.
To those people I would say this: If you think your wealth is more important than your environment, try holding your breath while counting your money.

Wanda J. Harding, NY - 5 days ago
This is excellent . . . thank you Bob, for doing what you are doing. This lays it out perfectly, for all eyes to see, for all minds to understand . . . unless, they are blinded by the shine and glitter of "gold".

G R Webb - 4 days ago
Perhaps you are correct and even if you are, trust in human ingenuity, that fabulous engine of change, to ensure survival of the planet - not as we know it, but even better than our forebears knew. We will not revert to sleeping with our food animals on dirt floors with skins as walls, which is what humans have done for most of their time here.