It’s all we have – our blue marble whirling against the black of space. Earth is clearly one country. But we are degrading that country’s – our country’s – ecosystems. This is not new.
In 1992, Brazil hosted “Earth Summit,” a United Nations conference on Environment and Development to address sustainability issues that were “too big for member states to handle.” This was in response to “Our Common Future,” a 1987 report of the World Commission on Environment and Development.
That report called for a change in the way we think about issues like poverty, economic growth, environmental degradation, and industrialization.
Three decades later in Brazil, human-set conflagrations destroy rainforest ecosystems. The 72,000 outbreaks this year, set “illegally to clear and prepare land for crops, cattle and property speculation,” represent an increase of 84 percent above the same period last year. Fires rage at a record rate.
Ebola, a global health issue, was spotlighted in a recent New York Times editorial: “Ebola Could Be Eradicated – But Only if the World Works Together.” New drug therapies announced by the World Health Organization appear to cure Ebola. Similarly, a cure for tuberculosis, “the world’s deadliest infectious disease,” has been developed.
But the problem of getting these cures to those most in need is exacerbated by “xenophobia around the globe,” the Times wrote. These new cures could pay off “only if the United States and its partners around the world increase their global health efforts.”
Working together – across artificial boundaries erected by national, religious and racial intolerances and similar disunities – is the only thing that will solve problems that transcend those boundaries.
Problematic as Ebola and rainforest fires are, they pale in comparison to global warming. Forests provide natural mitigation. Burning them increases carbon dioxide and accelerates warming by removing that mitigation. Climate continues to change.
“If carried to excess,” Baha’u’llah, the founder of the Baha’i Faith, warned during the 19th century industrial revolution, “civilization will prove as prolific a source of evil as it had been of goodness when kept within the restraints of moderation.”
Technologies now exist to mitigate climate change. In many countries, market forces are developing more technology, assisted by government funding. But we lack collective will to work together in addressing the greatest challenge humankind has faced.
Even individuals and small groups can make a difference. The Palouse abounds in environmentally conscious organizations peopled by those seeking to contribute. It’s also home to two universities with distinguished histories of environmental research.
Might there be hope among these efforts? Yep. And there’s more:
“The most comprehensive plan ever proposed to reverse global warming” was published two years ago. It’s called “Drawdown.” It’s accessible at drawdown.org, and its ideas are catching on.
“This may be the single biggest business opportunity in human history,” Forbes wrote in an interview featuring Jonathan Foley, Project Drawdown’s executive director. “We literally have to reinvent our energy systems, our food systems, our manufacturing, our cities … ” Foley said. Success hinges on this key premise.
“We can improve lives,” he said. “We can reduce inequity. We could solve some of our other social ills if we do it wisely. And we could build a better world for future generations and for ourselves.”
Seeds sown at Earth Summit are sprouting. Last weekend a lot of young sprouts demonstrated worldwide, urging responsible governments and institutions to address environmental problems.
Hope sprouts eternal!
Pete Haug’s eclectic interests and several careers drew him across the U.S. and into China with his wife, and sometimes draconian editor, Jolie. They retired south of Colfax. You can reach him at email@example.com.