On my birthday in 1940 the earth had 2.3 billion humans. It took the whole of human history ( a couple of million years?) to reach that figure. On my 71st birthday (29.10.2011) four years ago the UN calculated that the 7 billion mark was reached. Yesterday on reaching my three quarter century, the on-line population clock showed that there were over another 0.376 billion additional humans consuming the earth’s resources. That means an extra 94.2 million per year or around 230000 per day! This rate will raise human population from 7 to 8 billion in only 12 years (growing at 1.13% per annum) and in the unlikely event that this growth could be sustained, would cause it to double in the next 61 years. Nature cannot provide enough to sustain geometrically accelerating human pressure on the earth (needed resources of land, food, water, waste disposal, etc.). In addition to the sheer weight of numbers the global economic system is growing on average three time faster to satisfy not only by basic human ‘needs’, but also human ‘wants’ and ‘greed’. This demand is well beyond what is sufficient for human well-being and the sustainable bio-capacity of the natural world.
Each year before the ‘official’ COP meeting of world leaders an alternative gathering of less powerful social activists from around the world gathers at the World People’s Summit. Ban Ki Moon attended last week’s event in Bolivia and this is the first report that I have seen about it’s radical demands. Common Dreams is a progressive self-funding source of journalism not beholden to advertisers or the corporate world. I doubt that the People’s Summit that targets capitalism as a root cause of global crises (not only climate change) will get much coverage in the mainstream press.
The Guardian today has an article on a new report on the spread of obesity in humans across the planet as a consequence of what is known as ‘Big Food’ – the mass production of junk food that are cheap, readily available and promoted vigorously by advertising, especially to children and young people. The USA no longer has the highest proportion of obese people – it has been surpassed by several other poorer countries. The World Obesity report has several graphs and a map outlining the epidemic’s impact in various countries. It calls for government intervention to tax and discourage the massively profitable junk food industry that preys on human addiction to the consumption of sugar-based meals , drinks and snacks.
The possibility of reaching the new Sustainable Development Goal of reducing obesity and diabetes by 2025 seems unlikely to be achieved given the entrenched power of the globalised corporate food and drinks industry.
This week Jeremy Williams reviewed the new report from the US-based Breakthrough Institute called “Nature Unbound: Decoupling for Conservation”. The Breakthrough Institute founded in 2003 has been influential in leading “a positive, optimistic paradigm called ecomodernism, which embraces modernity to leave more room for nature and expand human prosperity. Breakthrough advances the ecomodernist paradigm in three main ways: research, communications, and network-building. Its research is designed to illuminate pathways to “decouple” the link between human development and environmental destruction”.
Their previous An Ecomodernist Manifesto published in April 2015 outlined a path forward to use humanity’s powers to create a good Anthropocene. It continues to stir dialogue and debate. Here is an extract from the Manifesto:
A good Anthropocene demands that humans use their growing social, economic, and technological powers to make life better for people, stabilize the climate, and protect the natural world. These two ideals can no longer be reconciled. Natural systems will not, as a general rule, be protected or enhanced by the expansion of humankind’s dependence upon them for sustenance and well-being.
Intensifying many human activities — particularly farming, energy extraction, forestry, and settlement — so that they use less land and interfere less with the natural world is the key to decoupling human development from environmental impacts. These socioeconomic and technological processes are central to economic modernization and environmental protection. Together they allow people to mitigate climate change, to spare nature, and to alleviate global poverty.