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There is a debate going on about how severe the coming environmental, energy, and population crunch is. How intense and rapid will be problems that arise from global warming, climate change, oil and natural gas availability declines, and depletion of resources such as clean fresh (drinking / farming) water, food, and arable land?
Let me give two contrasting views that are pretty typical of the two groups, although I have not seen these predictions codified in a simple manner such as I use here for argument's sake: are things going to get worse only gradually in the next 100 years, or rather rapidly, in the next 10 or 15 years.
The criteria used for measurement could be a count of the number of countries whose governments are toppled by food riots, or the total amount of previously-dry land surface covered by rising oceans, or the number of people who must travel over a certain distance to get clean water . But I want to add one more point to this discussion in order to bridge that divide, something that has been discussed here and there but that is not consistently integrated into the environmental discussions.
If there was, say, a 10% risk that your car would explode (for reasons we could talk about elsewhere) the next time you got into it, would you say "Aw heck, that is not THAT risky" or would you look for a different car, or maybe even walk if practical? Well, in our case, the best scientific minds have already announced in the IPCC more than 90% chance that we are in deep trouble. And we do have another "car" available - that is, use of renewable energy, improved conservation, and reduced consumption. These and other measures are all available now, and would improve life anyway after passing through some transitional awkwardness.
It seems to me that transitional awkwardness is preferable to being blown up by a car bomb. And let it be clear: I make these points not to scare people but because the people of the world need to get our respective local, provincial, and national governments to move as quickly as possible on these matters, as well as forming local community action groups that organize for local food supplies, short-distance work, trade of goods and services, and so on. Awareness by a sizable portion of the world's public is needed before action on a wide scale will result. And that awareness needs to include some understanding of the risks vs the benefits of the various kinds of action or inaction that can be chosen.
The questions remaining in my mind focus down to this: will we do enough about it quickly enough, and if not, why not. And, what can I do about it?
Comment by: PT (David Alexander) (May-6-2008) Web site
You are right - this environmental problem we all face is particularly thorny because of the time-delayed visibility of many of the problems, and due to their strong challenge from long-ingrained human culture and instincts of survival and expansion. Right now, we just have to do what we can, and when we partially fail, fix it and keep going forward anyway.
Comment by: City Worker (May-5-2008)
The video was beautiful. And water, after air, is our most precious resource. The cradle of our civilization was able to be born where it did because there was water there. Without water, life is unsustainable, and local farming/sustainability in areas without water would not be a possibility. And regarding the car bomb scenario: I think a big problem is that people with the ability to act feel the global energy/ sustainability problem will, for the time being happen to someone else, not to them. It is, I guess, sort of like the problem of what was going on during World War II. Another problem, I think, is many people, like myself, are procrastinators. Often, I need real clear evidence that I have to act NOW, to convince me to do something. And I, like others, somtimes miss my last opportunity to act. So, unfortunately, unless the time-line for the crises caused by global warming, etc. is quantified better, many will choose not to act.
My lifelong pursuit, since age 18, has been to live more fully and find wisdom. This has involved studies with Zen masters, Tai Chi masters, and great psychotherapists while achieving my license as a gestalt therapist and psychoanalyst.
Along the way, I became aware of how the planet is under great stress due to the driven nature of human activity on this planet.
I believe that the advancement of human well-being will reduce societies addictive behaviors, and will thus also help preserve the environment and perhaps slow down the effects of global warming and other major threats to the health of human societies.