Mostly Screwed (part 1: the environment)

Posted on 20 August 2018

“We stand at a critical moment in Earth’s history, a time when humanity must choose its future. As the world becomes increasingly interdependent and fragile, the future at once holds great peril and great promise.”
~Earth Charter 2003

How screwed are we?

Very.

But not entirely.

Understand that we have always had to face hardships and in the midst of those hardships found hope, strength, and love.

As I mentioned before, people are in agreement that we are facing problems to do with weather, jobs, and power. I would simplify this to environment and power. The human quest to have absolute power over our fates has put us at odds with our environment and one another. So, I will lay out the problems we have created in these two spheres.

Environment

Humans have been remarkably successful in finding ways to preserve and enhance our lives. So much so that our numbers have been growing at a rate unsustainable for this planet.

However, we have been fiddling the odds, so that we have managed to keep things sustainable for ourselves at great biological losses. This is what is known as postponing the inevitable. Over population of any species is a problem. Our over population is a disaster.

rabbits

(Rabbit plagues have devastated Australian indigenous flora and fauna)

Land

In order to feed, clothe, and house ourselves we have been deforesting the world’s land masses at an alarming rate. According to the UN Food and Agricultural Organisation, Globally, around 13 million hectares of forests were converted to other uses or lost through natural causes each year between 2000 and 2010.

A common scenario that brings about deforestation starts with droughts. Climate change is causing a worsening of droughts. When farmers’s lands dry up they may seek to take over forest lands in order to grow their crops. The soil in forests is rich due to the decaying leaf litter, trees, grasses, etc that they are now removing, and the poop of animals they kill in order to protect their season’s yield. The trees also create a microclimate in the forest whereby more moisture is available in the air and ground. With the removal of all these living things, the crops soon use up the soil’s moisture and nutrients, creating a desert.

Under these circumstances the farmers take over more forest land or they leave for the city, hoping for steadier work. Eventually, faring no better in an urban environment, they become disaffected. This foments unrest and often civil war. To escape violence and starvation, many people become refugees, roaming the Earth hoping to find a peaceful haven. This has happened in both Syria and Burundi.

Another scenario is where big companies sterilise the land by stripping it of mineral wealth. They may not even have a use for these resources immediately, but wish to stock pile them in order to ensure they control their availability. In the meantime they are pouring carbon emissions into the atmosphere through digging and refining, while destroying the forests that provide the world’s greatest carbon sinks. Carbon emissions are our number one enemy when it comes to the health of our planet. We cannot afford to pour so much poison into our atmosphere, and worse, then destroy the very things that help to remove those poisons such as trees and oceans.

Water

According to the United Nations water pollution is on the rise globally. They report that one out of four urban dwellers does not have access to improved sanitation facilities and that 90% of all waste water in developing countries is discharged untreated, polluting rivers, lakes, and seas.
http://www.un.org/waterforlifedecade/swm_cities_zaragoza_2010/pdf/01_water_quality_and_sanitation.pdf

When you buy grains and vegetables that food is likely to have had fertilisers and pesticides used for its growth. Some of those chemicals will go into your food and some will be washed out to rivers, contaminating the water. Currently, you are not paying for the full cleanup of these pollutants in the cost of your food. Your tax dollars are being used so that the government can do the cleanup–and not the big agricultural companies. In some countries these companies have a cap on how much they can put into our streams. If they do not reach that cap, they can sell what remaining polluting they are allowed to companies that have passed their own cap.
https://troubledwater.news21.com/

Human induced global warming has been causing more water from the sub-tropical zones to evaporate. This moisture then is moved by the atmosphere to the poles, or carried by trade winds across Central America to the Pacific, where it provides more rain. This increases the amount of salt that is left in the North Atlantic. Salt water moves differently than freshwater. Its higher density speeds the movement of ocean currents from the tropics to the poles and the heat carried in those currents. In this way our climate is disrupted. https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/04/090430115909.htm

Extinctions

“Although extinction is a natural phenomenon, it occurs at a natural “background” rate of about one to five species per year. Scientists estimate we’re now losing species at 1,000 to 10,000 times the background rate, with literally dozens going extinct every day.”
https://www.biologicaldiversity.org/programs/biodiversity/elements_of_biodiversity/extinction_crisis/

Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences recently published an article about biological annhilation. In this article they put forward evidence that half of all land mammals have lost 80% of their range in the last century. They also report billions of populations of mammals, birds, reptiles and amphibians have been lost all over the planet, leading them to say a sixth mass extinction has already progressed further than was thought.
http://www.pnas.org/content/114/30/E6089

Some creatures are absolutely critical to the well-being of the entire planet such as bees and plankton. These animals aren’t particularly charismatic, but they are foundational to the health of our biosphere.

Of the 100 crop species that provide 90 per cent of the world’s food, over 70 are pollinated by bees. We rely on these creatures and yet we have allowed bee colonies around the world to collapse. Our use of insecticides, fungicides, and air pollution is to blame. Sadly, we have been narrowing our focus to how can we grow the most crops the fastest next year, rather than thinking about how what we are doing will create crop failures in the following years.

UN Environment Programme (UNEP) Executive Director Achim Steinerhas said, “”Human beings have fabricated the illusion that in the 21st century they have the technological prowess to be independent of nature. Bees underline the reality that we are more, not less, dependent on nature’s services in a world of close to 7 billion people.”
https://news.un.org/en/story/2011/03/368622-humans-must-change-behaviour-save-bees-vital-food-production-un-report#.WBrx-ndh3Vo

Solastalgia

In 1973 psychoanalyst Erich Fromm coined the term “biophilia”. He described biophilia as “the passionate love of life and of all that is alive.” We experience that in a small way when we are fond of our cats and dogs. We experience this in a bigger way when we go into nature and experience a natural high from a sunlight induced increase of serotonin, and a burst of oxytocin (the cuddle hormone) from human/animal interactions.

The loss of life on our planet has been causing a wave of ecological grief among many people who work in nature. Sometimes this includes the people who are in nature destroying it through mining and the like. This has given rise to the concept of “solastalgia”.

Nostalgia is when we feel sadness for times and places we can no longer revisit. Solastalgia is like this, only it’s the grief we feel when the environment we have come to know is disappearing in some manner and we feel powerless over the process. Some sense of self-identity is experienced as dying from the loss.
https://theconversation.com/hope-and-mourning-in-the-anthropocene-understanding-ecological-grief-88630

I admit I feel a tremendous sense of loneliness from our losses. All the plants and animals I have spent time with feel in some way like family. The fullness of goodwill I experience simply from association make me feel like a greater being. No longer having access to them feels like I am becoming a lesser being.

Quite honestly, I have only touched on all the ecological challenges we are facing. I feel this is probably enough for you to get the picture that we are in trouble on this front. Please understand the fact that so many people are feeling this is at least a sign that you are likely to find support, if you join with others and take a stand.

Right now numbers of young people have been filing suits against their governments for not abiding by their duty of care toward future generations of citizens. Some of them have been winning. The one to look out for right now is JULIANA v. U.S. – CLIMATE LAWSUIT. Of this case U.S. District Judge Ann Aiken has said, “Exercising my ‘reasoned judgment,’ I have no doubt that the right to a climate system capable of sustaining human life is fundamental to a free and ordered society.”
https://news.nationalgeographic.com/2017/03/kids-sue-us-government-climate-change/
https://www.ourchildrenstrust.org/us/federal-lawsuit/

This is from a book I am writing on Wattpad.


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