I think most people now accept that we are damaging our natural environment – poisoning the rivers, culling the forests, polluting the seas.
Meanwhile, although scientists squabble about actual numbers, they almost all agree that whole species of animals and plants are disappearing at a rate many times faster than at any moment in the earth’s history since the Chicxulub asteroid crashed into the Gulf of Mexico 66 million years ago … that we are witnessing an Extinction Level Event almost certainly caused by our ecocide.
And this is before we even start to take into account the climate crisis starkly highlighted by the recent COP26 Conference in Glasgow.
JUST BLAH, BLAH, BLAH?
It is not true to assert that *nothing* good came out of the Conference. But it is hard to avoid the overall impression that the Conference’s main achievement was (begrudgingly) to agree promises which almost keep the promises already made a decade ago in Paris … and that, whilst it has been suggested that the Conference managed to place the 1.5°C target “on life support”, what we can actually expect are continuing increases in emissions to 2030, and levels of global warming somewhere between alarming and catastrophic by 2050.
It all seemed to be about fair words for the future, with no guarantees and nothing about action now. Indeed, the most memorable idea coming out of COP26 has been the argument that, to create the wealth needed to transition to a green economy, we have to continue using fossil fuels – an argument which future historians will consider ironic, if there are any historians left alive to consider it.
Perhaps the greatest disillusionment has been the realisation that our politicians are impotent to influence the free market economy – it has simply grown beyond their control. The biggest delegation at COP26 was the fossil fuel lobby. There are now 2,755 billionaires in the world (up 660 from 2020) whose collective wealth has grown 86% in the last year … but we dare not tax either them or the mega-corporations – which in turn helps explain why one of the claimed ‘successes’ of the Conference was an announcement by the banks that they saw a green transition as an investment opportunity.
A DEADLY FAILURE?
To be fair, no national politicians could be expected to return home having agreed to job losses and energy crises consequent upon a not-yet-planned transition. What is unforgiveable, however, is that our Parliament is not, *NOW*:
• putting solar panels and battery storage into every building to reduce energy consumption (and cost);
• extending (and providing free) public transport to reduce traffic pollution; and
• extensively greening our cities and rewilding our countryside.
These are things for which we already possess the technology and means of funding … all that lacks is the political will to act meaningfully.
Will humanity escape the Sixth Mass Extinction? I am increasingly despondent – our whole way of life is predicated on an economic model which is inexorably destroying the very narrow band of Nature which enables human existence. It will not come as a fiery apocalypse or a diluvian deluge. What I fear is social and political disintegration under the pressures of the cost of repairing infrastructure damaged by extreme weather events, of crop failures and goods shortages, of the consequent health & care issues, and of the accompanying international migrations and diplomatic tensions. Looking at the way things are going in the world at the moment, the worry is that these things may be upon us sooner than we would wish.
John D Clare
The Earth is Dying, and Humans are Killing it