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SUZUKI – We must heed warnings about humanity’s collision course

THE LONGER we delay addressing environmental problems, the more difficult it will be to resolve them. Although we’ve known about climate change and its potential impacts for a long time, and we’re seeing those impacts worsen daily, our political representatives are still approving and promoting fossil fuel infrastructure as if we had all the time in the world to slow global warming.

suzukicolhed-sep2016We can’t say we weren’t warned. In 1992, a majority of living Nobel prize-winners and more than 1,700 leading scientists worldwide signed a remarkable document called “World Scientists’ Warning to Humanity.”

It begins, “Human beings and the natural world are on a collision course. Human activities inflict harsh and often irreversible damage on the environment and on critical resources. If not checked, many of our current practices put at serious risk the future that we wish for human society and the plant and animal kingdoms, and may so alter the living world that we will be unable to sustain life in the manner that we know. Fundamental changes are urgent if we are to avoid the collision our present course will bring about.”

It then outlines critical areas where the collision was and is still occurring: the atmosphere, water resources, oceans, soil, forests, species extinction and overpopulation. In the 25 years since it was published, the problems have worsened.

The document grows bleak: “No more than one or a few decades remain before the chance to avert the threats we now confront will be lost and the prospects for humanity immeasurably diminished. We the undersigned, senior members of the world’s scientific community, hereby warn all humanity of what lies ahead. A great change in our stewardship of the earth and life on it is required, if vast human misery is to be avoided and our global home on this planet is not to be irretrievably mutilated.”

Now, as monthly and annual records for rising global average temperatures continue to break, as extreme weather events become more frequent and severe, as refugees overwhelm the capacity of nations, and as tipping points for climatic feedback loops and other phenomena are breached, the need to act is more urgent than ever.

The warning suggests five steps needed immediately. That was a generation ago. They can still help prevent the worst impacts:

1) “We must bring environmentally damaging activities under control to restore and protect the integrity of the earth’s systems we depend on.” It specifically mentions reducing greenhouse gas emissions and air and water pollution. It also highlights the need to address deforestation, degradation and loss of agricultural soils and extinction of plant and animal species.

2) “We must manage resources crucial to human welfare more effectively.” This one is obvious. Finite resources must be exploited much more efficiently or we’ll run out.

3) “We must stabilize population. This will be possible only if all nations recognize that it requires improved social and economic conditions, and the adoption of effective, voluntary family planning.”

4) “We must reduce and eventually eliminate poverty.”

5) “We must ensure sexual equality, and guarantee women control over their own reproductive decisions.”

The warning recognizes that we in the developed world are responsible for most global pollution and therefore must greatly reduce overconsumption while providing technical and financial aid to developing countries. This is not altruism but self-interest, because all of us share the same biosphere.

Developing nations must realize environmental degradation is the greatest threat to their future, while rich nations must help them follow a different development path. The most urgent suggestion is to develop a new ethic that encompasses our responsibility to ourselves and nature and that recognizes our dependence on Earth and its natural systems for all we need.

The document ends with a call for support from scientists, business and industrial leaders, religious heads and all the world’s peoples. Like Pope Francis’s groundbreaking 2015 encyclical, “Laudato Si”, the “World Scientists’ Warning to Humanity” was an attempt to galvanize the world to recognize the dangerous implications of humanity’s path and the urgent need for change.

Forewarned is forearmed. We can’t let the lure of the almighty buck blind us. We must come together, speak up and act for the good of all humanity.

David Suzuki is a scientist, broadcaster, author and co-founder of the David Suzuki Foundation. Learn more at http://www.davidsuzuki.org.

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About Mel Rothenburger (5132 Articles)
ArmchairMayor.ca is a forum about Kamloops and the world. It has more than one million views. Mel Rothenburger is the former Editor of The Daily News in Kamloops, B.C. (retiring in 2012), and past mayor of Kamloops (1999-2005). At ArmchairMayor.ca he is the publisher, editor, news editor, city editor, reporter, webmaster, and just about anything else you can think of. He is grateful for the contributions of several local columnists. This blog doesn't require a subscription but gratefully accepts donations to help defray costs.

3 Comments on SUZUKI – We must heed warnings about humanity’s collision course

  1. (The) Truth is a funny thing… We spend our entire lives living in it and yet -for the majority, I’d say- one’s time is spent running in the opposite direction or simply finding methods to mask or obscure its very existence we find ourselves in…. Strange really: humans.

    (Most would say: It is because I don’t know everything, I can’t be sure of anything, therefore I will ignore ‘it’ and just -seemingly- live and then all will be ok afterwards. [Really? !] – I heard one lady some years back say, that it all comes out in the wash…. Sounded…’momentarily true.’)

    -What makes it right to ignore the value of the very underpinnings of how and why we are here? Is it simply a temporal sphere of existence/understanding and hoping into the ‘blackness’ for the rest…That is, based on maybe?

    Because the Truth is a funny thing, some people will quite literally run from it…as ‘running’ makes them feel as if they are really doing something…like chance in a bag of Scrabble pieces…”Of course I’ll get the right one exactly when I need it, because I did all this running around and made my ‘karma’ that much finer.” !
    [Ok, then….] !

  2. ‘We have met the enemy and he is us ” Walt Kelly , 1971 . Wilfull blindness is us, 2016

  3. So, let’s consider this idea.

    What if there was the expulsion of human beings from a “paradise” (‘Garden of Eden’), human beings were then given dominion over nature but because of the self centred nature of human beings, nature itself has been exploited to the point of near destruction?

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