In debates about global warming two related but independent processes are often mixed. They work together to amplify each other, and jointly they threaten the sustainability of life on Gaia. But they each follow their own logic and it is sometimes a good idea to keep them separate because possible actions are different. Le’s take a look:
Global warming is a threat to the human and biological habitat on Earth because the melting ice from the Polar Regions and glaciers threaten to increase ocean levels and to inundate large inhabited islands and large cities, the homes of millions of people. Another example, increasing desertification destroys farmlands and reduces the amount of available food crops and food for millions and forces former farmers to leave their land and often end up as refugees elsewhere. There are many other examples but the issue is that Gaia, as a habitat for biological life, is changing drastically and the emerging environment will be different, perhaps totally different from the one we like.
Population growth is another and independent issue. Few people realize the world population has tripled since 1950! Yes, you read correctly: the global population is now three times larger that is was in 1950!! This is an absolutely amazing increase and it has happened during my lifetime…..! The trouble in this case is that more people need more resources – not only more food, but oil, zinc, copper, land to build a house, a place to work and make money, find a partner, … The issue here is that Earth is finite. Growth cannot continue forever because there simply are not enough of natural resources available for everyone. That a finite Earth is incompatible with continued growth has been known and studies already for a long time. But it is the population growth after the Second World War that has put this on its head as a threat to all mankind.
The actions needed to counteract these ominous processes are therefore different but they have to take place at the same time because both threaten the sustainability of mankind. In short, climate change needs actions that limit processes that build up heath in oceans, land and air, for example reducing emissions of greenhouse gasses. Population growth must be stopped and consumption of natural resources must be reduced dramatically.
Of course, this agenda seems almost impossible to achieve. Am I naïve enough to think that mankind will agree to such reductions? To this question I can only answer YES, because the alternative is global conflict.
The ultimate action is therefore an agreement on better management of the planet and its resources. We all know how UN, G7, Kyoto etc. have failed time after time. But yet, there is no alternative. The reason I am optimistic is that even if politicians are too encapsulated into their own social networks to decide anything that is not in their own interest, Gaia has evolved and created its own immune system against excessive exploitation and concentration of wealth and resources. Before 1950 Gaia did not have a global nervous system. Now it has. It is called Internet. Using this nervous system Gaia can transmit the feeling of pain to all parts of the globe and mobilise its muscles.
The nervous system of Gaia is just a metaphor – but take it seriously! Awareness of the global situation is not what it should be, but consensus that we need a “Wiser Earth” is increasing and spreading faster through social media and global communication than anyone envisaged a few decades ago. Now we can do something fundamental together!
If you read this, you are one of those that will be part of the change!