This evening I attended a lecture by Thomas E. Lovejoy, Tropical Biologist and Conservationist, United Nations Foundation & George Mason University. He is also founder of PBS series Nature and former director of World Wildlife Fund.
He presented at the High Desert Museum in Bend, Oregon. Here is an earlier YouTube lecture presented as Climate Change: Prospects for Nature. IPCC estimates 20% to 30% species extinction on Earth with a doubling of industrial production greenhouse gases from pre-industrial levels; for terrestrial organisms the two most important factors in the land organism’s environment are temperature and moisture, for aquatic organisms it’s temperature and acidity or pH. In both of these environments the habitat is degrading and species are being lost.
My takeaway thoughts are that it appears clear that human population and human wants for more goods that our industry is supplying are far more powerful motivations than the abstract problem of climate change making the planet more difficult to live upon five years into the future. Isn’t it only war, famine, disease and death that will limit human predation on the planet? Clearly placing information before the public hasn’t had any effective effect. Here in Bend our residents are enjoying a temperate water world, with skiing, rafting, and hiking through lush forests. Most people will ask why should we stop doing what we enjoy to help the exploding population of seven billion people we will never know grow bigger? 7,000,000,000 earth people divided by Bend’s population of 70,000 equals 100,000 people for every one of us. Getting each group of a hundred thousand people of the world to have one less child would do more good than our whole city consuming zero resources forever. The population of the world is going up by approximately the population of Bend every day, and if all of us became perfect ecological non-consumers it would only equal one day of exponentially growing world population, and even worse when compared to world consumption. The problem is too many consumers. If the world population was back at two billion, as when I was born, instead of the present seven billion, three and a half times more people in eighty years, we wouldn’t be having the ongoing extinction problem. The big question is, “Why don’t the population ecologists bring up this subject at the world conferences?” Infinite economic growth is impossible, whereas infinite sustainability is possible if we live within what is provided. If we continue with our current exponential growth it just brings the inevitable collapse sooner. When asked about the population explosion Lovejoy, said he didn’t think it was the root problem; too much CO2 is the problem.
I was going to ask – “You sometimes speak of ‘The mosaic of the willing,’ but it appears the there aren’t enough members of the mosaic of the willing; there are only the various forms of well-off people living well, who don’t want to give up their lifestyle, and an abundance of poor people who live on very little, but it’s enough for them to have more children.” I didn’t get a chance to ask that question.
To be effective the policies of the mosaic of the willing must be obeyed by at least 90% of the entire population. That’s clearly impossible, so what I have been pursuing is called The Earth Ark. That is simply collecting biological samples from every square mile of Earth, and deep freezing them at minus 40°F in permanent sites at very high altitudes in Antarctica. These samples could be used to recreate much of the current Earth’s bio-systems in the distant future, when humanity has become more amenable to the idea of living sustainably rather than exploitatively.
Projections are usually made on trends derived from a business-as-usual assumption, but the increase in human population and the increased usage of resources by the average person will accelerate the effects of these projections. Also, as a resource become less available there is greater usage, percentage wise, of what is still remaining. Thus, the actual outcomes will probably be worse than the projections. At 1.5°C increase most coral reefs will be bleached and dead, at 2.5°C there will be Amazon forest die back, and that will be very disruptive. The problem is that more accurate scientific data isn’t convincing enough people to lower their CO2 impact, so people aren’t going to be able to continue consuming as we are because something will break down. When that happens there will be massive disruption, but the ecologists always like to talk in positive terms of what we can do to alleviate the current problems, even though there is ample record that pursuing that strategy changes nothing.
After the lecture I spoke privately with Dr. Lovejoy. I mentioned the Earth Ark, and gave him my only button. Who better to give it to? Also, I asked him, “What could he say to a general group of people about how they could make money by taking CO2 out of the environment?” His answer were the usual ways for doing so, like planting trees, and getting solar panels, but when I countered that this is a good thing to do, but until we can find a way for ordinary people to make money taking CO2 out of the air or water, instead of making money putting it into the environment, that the problem would only get worse.
To save humanity create ways for people to make money taking CO2 out of the environment.