I was taken aback by a story told by a fellow at a course yesterday. He'd taken a brochure from our local Council or the Human Future (CHF) and distributed it to acquaintances, perhaps friends, here in worldly, internationally-aware, educated Canberra and he'd struck "overwhelming resistance". He reported only 2 in 10 gave support. Now, I thought anyone with some awareness and intellect and recognition of science had accepted the essence of climate change and the raft of related existential risks, but no. The science says one thing, but our comfort or social media or MSM or political misinformation or industrially-promoted confusion has had its effect. This happened at a U3A class on Mega Threats run by CHF member Bob Douglas in the context of a talk by fellow CHF member Julian Cribb. CHF is our local incarnation of a body to study and warn of the risks of civilisational and perhaps human species collapse, and is one of several, as in Oxford, Cambridge and elsewhere. The leading members are John Hewson, Bob Douglas, Robyn Alders and Julian Cribb with the body much influenced by the many influential writings of Julian Cribb.
The CHF identifies ten risks in three groups:
- Existential risks: Global overheating; Global Poisoning; Weapons of mass destruction
- Resource Crisis: Resource scarcity; Food insecurity; Ecological breakdown and extinction
- Human Impacts: Pandemic disease; Overpopulation; Uncontrollable technologies; Mass delusion
Visit the CHF site to understand better each of these concepts. The ideas are big and broad and the encapsulating titles can be baffling. I remember Limits to growth from the 1970s and how they were ridiculed when they argued for collapse after 50years: it's looking increasingly prescient.
But my interest here is Julian's talk and his list of corresponding actions to respond to these risks. Not sure I caught them all or summarised them precisely here, but this was my take. And it intrigued me that this is much bigger than just CO2 measurements and dates. This is all-encompassing change. He had them as a neat 10 actions. Again, not sure that my list is so organised. He'll have a book out soon with the neat list.
- Outlaw all nuclear weapons
- Ban all fossil fuels by 2030 including by-products (plastics, insecticides, etc)
- Return forests to 50% of Earth's land area (incl. Amazon, Congo, Australia) "Let's let the trees do the work"
- Convert entire global economy to a circular economy (to deal with the resource crisis in water, soils, minerals, etc)
- Rethink the food system (regenerative, urban farming, etc)
- Reduce population
- Reform the economic system of the Earth. [Economics is only a human construct, after all]
And some suggested mechanisms:
- "Clean up the Earth Alliance"
- "Earth Standard Currency" that responds to real limits of the Earth system
- "Global Waste Platform" (not sure I caught this one...)
So how much time have we got? Not much! 10 years? Again I'll quote Gramsci: "Optimism of the will; pessimism of the intellect". The alternative is despair.
Some factoids of note mentioned by Julian:
- 4b people already live with acute water crisis
- Delhi, a city of 26m people, will be out of water in 2 years
- Droughts are now double in frequency compared to 30 (?) years ago
- It's estimated that the Earth can sustain 2b people; we are now 8b and will reach ~10b before growth turns down
- Average IQ is dropping! [References I found suggest -7 IQ points per generation for post-1975 birth cohort in wealthy countries]
Interestingly, the CHF is developing an Index of Survivability around these existential risks. It will be illuminating.
Julian Cribb spoke on actions required to respond to existential threats.
The pic is Four Horsemen of Apocalypse / Viktor Mikhailovich Vasnetsov (1887) from WikiCommons