I wish for you to rediscover the feeling of anguish in the face of the dying sun. I ardently wish that for the West. When the sun dies, no scientific certainty should keep us from weeping for it, no rational evidence should keep us from asking that it be reborn.

You are slowly dying under the weight of evidence.
I wish you that anguish—like a resurrection.

Cheikh Hamidou Kane, author of L'Aventure ambiguë (Ambiguous Adventure)


The reports keep arriving. With clearer warnings each.

Among the most recent, the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) Global Assessment (advance version). There are many reasons why humans with enough information have not changed their personal behavior and/or their business activity in response.

Basic survival fear is associated with social survival as much as financial survival. The pressures to do whatever it takes to survive are extreme no matter one’s financial status.

Either we leap together and reconcile toward revival or collapse together.

Transformation is inevitable. Following are some knowns and some prospects for turning transformation toward a preferred course.


KNOWNS

 

In 1896, Swedish scientist Svante Arrhenius first hypothesized that the combustion of fossil fuels may result in increased global temperature.

“Human activities are estimated to have caused approximately 1.0⁰C of global warming above pre-industrial levels, with a likely range of 0.8⁰C and 1.2⁰C. Global warming is likely to reach 1.5⁰C between 2030 and 2052 if it continues to rise at the current rate. … Limiting global warming to 1.5⁰C compared to 2⁰C is projected to reduce increases in ocean temperature as well as associated increases in ocean acidity and decreases in ocean oxygen levels.” (IPCC - Understanding Global Warming of 1.5°C)

The extent of intact community (aka habitat) creation and maintenance and plant pollination have seen a 50-year trend of decrease globally. “The negative trends in biodiversity and ecosystem functions are projected to continue or worsen in many future scenarios in response to indirect drivers such as rapid human population growth, unsustainable production and consumption, and associated technological development …Climate change is projected to become increasingly important as a direct driver of changes. …Even for warming of 1.5⁰C to 2⁰C, the majority of terrestrial species ranges are projected to shrink profoundly.” (IPBES 2019)

“Since the start of the Industrial Revolution, one-third of all carbon dioxide emissions to the atmosphere from human activities have come from deforestation.” (Phys.org)

Global heating is uneven. “Since the 1970’s, springtime in Alaska has heated up by around 2.2C (4F), double the global temperature rise of the past century.”

“The poorest 1/2 of the world’s population (3.5 billion people) is responsible for just 10% of carbon emissions, despite being most threatened by catastrophic storms, droughts, and other severe weather shocks linked to climate change.” (OXFAM International, 2015)

“The internet’s energy and carbon footprints are estimated to exceed those of air travel.” (ClimateCare.org)

Harambe, patron saint of small children by    Denise Monaghan

Harambe, patron saint of small children by Denise Monaghan

“The pace at which extinction happens is in our [human] hands.

..We can slow it down dramatically

if we choose to.”

Sandra Diaz, Co-Chair, Argentina, IPBES

17 of the 18 hottest years in 136 years recorded have occurred since 2001. 2016, the hottest of all. (NASA, Earth’s vital signs)

“Although global trends are mixed, air, water and soil pollution have continued to increase in some areas. Marine plastic pollution in particular has increased tenfold since 1980, affecting at least 267 species, including 86 percent of marine turtles, 44 percent of seabirds, and 43 percent of marine mammals.

In the past 50 years, the human population has doubled, the global economy has grown nearly 4-fold and global trade has grown 10-fold, together driving up the demands for energy and materials.” (IPBES 2019)

Earth Overshoot Day - the day when human consumption of common means in a given year exceeds what can regenerate in that year happened August 1 in 2018, two months earlier than in 2006. Overshoot Day varies by country according to what land area would be required for the entire human population to live the lifestyle of the average human in that country. (OvershootDay.org)

“Acting immediately and simultaneously on multiple indirect and direct drivers has the potential to slow, halt, and even reveres some aspects of biodiversity and ecosystem loss.”

(IPBES 2019)


PREFERRED TRANSFORMATION

We’ll also need to accept some good news, which is that the pace of change is not even. Predictions of doom usually assume a steady pace, but in fact there is often acceleration when masses go into motion.

George Lakey, Beyond Paris and the temptation to despair at Waging NonViolence

While stopping extinction is naturally futile because “death is in the heart of life” (Thich Nhat Hanh), the situation really isn’t hopeless when it comes to slowing the accelerated rate of species extinction that we witness today.

The 2019 IPBES report on biodiversity suggests that nothing less than a total transformation of a destructive socioeconomic system is necessary to reverse the trend. It’s important to keep in mind that this transformation is happening, we’re all a part of the transformation, and “the pace of change isn’t even”

“People are not inherently destructive and economic activity

need not remain dependent on exploitation.”

James Greyson, BlindSpot Think Tank,  First Policy Switch: From reducing to reversing problems

Let’s unshrink thinking and reverse reverse-progress…

 

“We must unshrink our thinking to become a civilization with a positive future. Within a planet-sized imaginative space we can find ‘planet levers’ [policy switches] designed to shift global complexity as a whole so the same systems that now cause all the big problems can instead solve them.” - James Greyson (BlindSpot Think Tank) via TEDx

SEVEN POLICY SWITCHES: REVERSING PROBLEMS, CURIOSITY-LED LEARNING, CIRCULAR ECONOMICS, END ECONOMIC INCENTIVE FOR VIOLENT CONFLICT RESOLUTION, OWNERSHIP AS GUARDIANSHIP, PUTTING MONEY TO WORK FOR EVERYONE, LOCAL AND CENTRAL MONEY CREATION

The easy out is to point at the top 1 % and stop there; but if you are part of the professional class, you too are likely among the culprits and beneficiaries of an unjust economy.

D. Hamilton & C. Famighetti, The Elite..Might Be You, YES! Magazine Winter 2018