If the present growth trends in world population, industrialisation, pollution, food production, and resource depletion continue unchanged, the limits to growth on this planet will be reached sometime within the next one hundred years. The most probable result will be a rather sudden and uncontrollable decline in both population and industrial capacity. – Limits to Growth, DH Meadows, 1972
Elizabeth Kolbert painted a bleak picture on the future the biodiversity in the face of climate change and development at the Festival of Dangerous Ideas. In We Are the Asteroid, Kolbert talks about how we are heading into the Sixth Extinction by the end of the century with biodiversity increasingly being reduced through the impact of carbon emissions on the natural environment, the acidification of oceans and its impact on coral reefs and how the transportation of non-native species through ballast water has impacted on natives in their natural environment.
Supporting Kolbert’s theory, Dr Graham Turner’s recent publication looks at the remodelled data on scenarios such as population growth, food security, resource usage and peak oil constraints identified in the Limits to Growth (a study which is as old as I am). Both Kolbert and Turner coincidentally point to how climate change is accelerating, its impact on the environment and how population growth is rapidly depleting our resources. Turner adds it appear[s] that the global economy and population is on the cusp of collapse.
I’m still sleepless from the raw nerve that Kolbert had struck on the global issues that mirror the issues that are dividing Australia at the moment. Whether its mining to coal seam gas extraction and its impact on native species to the warming and [inevitable] destruction of the Great Barrier Reef through the acidification of the oceans.
There are many debates in Australia that have no win/win solutions: creating jobs in ‘dirty’ industries to support the economy, preserving the natural environment against the expansion of extractive industries to the political dilution that could wind down Australia’s renewables industry.
A lot of emotion goes into these debates around our rights and the environment. In any attempt to ‘rationalise’ things, we need to remember that the environment does not belong to us and when we take away from it, we need to put a price on this so we have the means to leave it for the future generations.
EDIT – A must watch mashup of a video on the Rise and Fall of Humans that is a collective narrative of authoritative voices over the years made by Munir Kotadia.