You know life on earth is precarious, but I bet you have no idea how serious it is.
Earlier this week, I heard a talk by Dr Elizabeth Hadly, Stanford professor, White House Advisor, a regular speaker at COP summits and advisor to Governor Jerry Brown. Based on her research on history of human behavior, she predicts that human life on earth as we know it, could end by 2050. If anyone makes it past that, they will have the unsought privilege of witnessing 85% of all mammal life on earth disappear by 2100. This is not new information, she says, her research has spanned over 30 years. But it is only in recent years that governments, organizations and individuals are noticing her team "shout from the rooftop" of the dangerous signs. In the Oscar-winning An Inconvenient Truth 10 years ago, Al Gore gave us a wake up call to the gravity of the situation. This talk was an update on the State-of-the-World.
We have hit several milestones, she claims in her book, Tipping Point for Planet Earth: How close are we to the edge? While scientists and the press have been telling lately that climate has crossed the point of no return, Dr Hadly's research touches on several other perilous man made conditions.
Explosive Growth of Human Population over the past 100 years has put a tremendous load on the Earth for resources. We have changed landscapes and polluted natural habitat. An eminent danger, over half of the population is threatened with water shortage. Already over half billion people do not access to safe drinking water today. More people requires more farm land, which means more deforestation of the already dwindled forests.
Animal bio waste linked to humans has grown exponentially. 69% of all biomass generated today on earth is from livestock, which was mass produced by the meat industry. That’s 200 times more than biomass generated from wild animals. This waste poisons our land, air and water.
Man's insatiable desire to colonize the earth has gone too far. Today 83% of all of land on earth has been influenced by humans of which 51% has been totally transformed, causing destruction of natural habitat, green zones and the "lungs" of this planet. Every minute an extraordinarily large piece of virgin rainforest, roughly the footprint of thirty-six football fields, is destroyed.
Energy wasted on transporting goods over vast distances. Read this as stuff in your homes that has come from China and food in your refrigerator that was grown in South America. If you haven't watched The Story of Stuff, you must (below) to understand how our everyday choices affect our planet.
Humans are responsible for half of large mammals on earth going extinct. We have an extinction debt. You might argue that man has been hunting for food for a very long time. Today, the greed for financial gain coupled with mechanization has allowed him to drive extinction faster than species can evolve.
The top refugee source in 2015 was Syria. Some countries have been flooded by millions of transplants within a year creating a massive strain on those societies. With the current trend of global conditions, we can expect to see many such mass migrations in the near future. Borders and fences are not going to stop the desperate people.
So, what is my response to these crisis? My top take-away was, we need to simplify our living and elevate our thinking. We need to break out of the deeply engrained habit of seeking pleasure from acquisition and consumption. Not an easy task to accomplish when every message around you has been crafted to make you feel incomplete. One needs to learn to fill that void that creates the urge to take, take and take with something sustainable. Meditation is the only way that I know of to cultivate contentment, compassion and cooperation, which addresses most of the issues discussed. And, in the case it is too late, as some scientists are claiming, the practice of letting go will be the only useful skill at the end.
Some suggestions from Dr Hadly:
- Population control with 0.5 children per family, or one child for every two couples.
- Go vegetarian and buy from local farmers.
- Get out of suburbs and live in urban communities (shared spaces) that sprawl vertically rather than horizontally.
- Buy all goods from local manufacturers
- Comprehensive waste management (compost, recycle and trash) like it is done in the city of San Francisco.
- Increase cooperation locally and globally. Acknowledge the problem, embrace solutions that save all of us, work to implement them NOW.
Now, you know. Don't wait for a Hollywood superhero to appear and magically fix the world. The response to these circumstances is your choice. And, it has to start right now to have any significance.