The earth is like a living being. It’s forests and oceans are its lungs and it encompasses all living species, including human beings.
From 1981 to 2005 the global economy more than doubled, but 60 percent of the world’s ecosystems were either degraded or over-used.
- United Nations Environment Programme October 20081
The Earth is home; it is where we ALL live.
It’s where all our food, energy and oxygen comes from
and where our waste goes to
It is not an inert and disconnected entity,
but our other half
Sometimes, the most important things are the things which appear so plentiful that we take it for granted. We all take the environment which envelops us for granted: water, air, trees, oceans, plants and animals. Yet, we CANNOT exist for even a few minutes without it – to prove that we are completely interdependent on our environment, try this simple experiment – just try holding your breath and see how long you can survive without the oxygen produced by our oceans and forests.
If we don’t take care of Mother Earth, then she cannot take care of us.
Signs of the
We are in the age of the, where human activity is transforming the planet on a planetary scale.
Figure 1: Urban sprawl in cities around the planet (Source: CNN)
How are we Doing So Far?…
Planet Earth is expected to shoot past the 400(parts per million) mark of CO2 in May 2013….on the way towards global catastrophe.
- We are losing forestland at a rate of 375 km2 each day or 10.4 million km2 each year
- The world has already lost 80% of its original forests from 14.8 to 8.6 billion acres
- 1.1 billion acres of tropical forest were cleared in just thirty years, between 1960 and 1990
- Brazil lost 91.4 million acres of its tropical forest between 1980 and 1990. This is almost the total area of North and South Dakota combined
- A single square mile is host to 50,000 insect species
- 170,000 of the world’s 250,000 plant species reside in rain forests
- At the world’s current rates, 5-10% of tropical forest species will become extinct every decade
- more here on Forest Loss and agricultural expansion
- 75% of all the fish stocks in the world are already either: exploited, over-exploited or recovering. 27% of coral reefs have already been and 70% of Earth’s coral reefs will cease to exist within the next forty years. The world has lost half of its coastal wetlands, including mangrove swamps and salt marshes.
- In the next 30 years, as many as one-fifth of all species alive today will become extinct. 23% of all mammals and 12% of all birds’ species were considered “threatened” in 2003.
- The planet’s biological productive capacity ( ) is approximately 1.9 hectares (4.7 acres) per person
- Globally, we use up to 2.2 hectares per person
- Thus, we are living beyond the planet’s to sustain us by 15%, a deficit of 0.3 hectares (1 acre) per person
- This deficit is apparent, as natural ecosystems around us fail one by one – forest systems, oceans, fisheries, coral reefs, rivers, soil, water, global warming etc
- The planet’s is dependent on the global population and rate of consumption
- High consumption depletes the planet’s carrying capacity
- And estimates indicate that, if global population trends continue, the available to each person would be reduced to 1.5 hectares per person, by 2050
- If consumption rates as high as the western countries are adopted by the majority of humanity, then we would need 4 to 5 more planets to sustain ourselves
- The USA has the largest per capita footprint in the world – a footprint of 9.57 hectares
- If everyone on the planet was to live like the average American, we would need 5 planets to sustain everyone
- At a footprint of 9.57 hectares per person, our planet’s would only be able support about 1.2 billion people – far less than the 6 billion we have on Earth
- On the other end of the spectrum, if everyone lived like those residing in Bangladesh, where the average footprint is only 0.5 hectares, then the earth could support roughly 22 billion people
In Memory of Slain Environmentalists, Protectors of Mother Earth…
Global Witness released a report in June 19, 2012 entitled A hidden crisis? Increase in killings as tensions rise over land and forests documenting the 711 deaths of people who spoke up against environmental injustice. These individuals were:
killed in targeted attacks and violent clashes as a result of protests, investigating or taking grievances against mining operations, logging operations, intensive agriculture including ranching, tree plantations, hydropower dams, urban development and poaching. Because information on such killings is fragmented and scarce, the number of deaths is very likely to be higher than we have been able to identify. This report also does not include the hundreds of thousands of victims of intimidation and violence linked to disputes over access to land and forest or killings from land and forest claims associated with oil and gas extraction In memory of the brave souls who have given their lives to protect Mother Earth, defending their human rights or the human rights of others related to the environment, specifically land and forests.
- Global Citizen, June 19, 2012
In memory of…
Figure 2: Global Deforestation 2012
Agriculture is the biggest contributor to deforestration. For more on the impacts of Agriculture go here
Figure 3: UNEP GEO-5 Global Environmental Outlook Summary for 2012. Click picture or here for the Executive Summary
Figure 4: Safe Planetary Boundaries
Systemic risk in the financial system can be remedied by the taxpayer, but no one will come to the rescue if the environment is destroyed. That it must be destroyed is close to an institutional imperative. Business leaders who are conducting propaganda campaigns to convince the population thatglobal warming is a liberal hoax understand full well how grave is the threat, but they must maximize short-term profit and market share. If they don’t, someone else will.
This vicious cycle could well turn out to be lethal. To see how grave the danger is, simply have a look at the new Congress in the US, propelled into power by business funding and propaganda. Almost all are climate deniers. They have already begun to cut funding for measures that might mitigate environmental catastrophe. Worse, some are true believers; for example, the new head of a subcommittee on the environment who explained that global warming cannot be a problem because God promised Noah that there will not be another flood.
- Noam Chomsky
The paradigm shift to sustainability will need to be supported by a shift from globalization to re-localization. With the end of the era of cheap supply of fossil fuels, global trade will be scaled back dramatically. Many products will need to be produced and consumed locally. Governments will need to shift their policies so that the majority of trade is local, within the country or with neighouring countries. Exports and Imports will be limited only to critical products.
As William McDonough argues, in his Cradle-to-Cradle design methodology, stewardship must be designed into our entire industrial society. After any manufactured item has outlived its life, it must be completely biodegradable or reusuable so there is no negative impact on the environment. His company, MBDC is leading the way by providing a standardized Cradle to Cradle CertifiedCM program, a multi-attribute eco-label that assesses a product’s safety to humans and the environment and design for future life cycles. The program provides guidelines to help businesses implement the Cradle to Cradle framework, which focuses on using safe materials that can be disassembled and recycled as technical nutrients or composted as biological nutrients. Unlike single-attribute eco-labels, MBDC’s certification program takes a comprehensive approach to evaluating the design of a product and the practices employed in manufacturing the product. The materials and manufacturing practices of each product are assessed in five categories: Material Health, Material Reutilization, Renewable Energy Use, Water Stewardship, and Social Responsibility.