In all the hyperbole about the COP15 meeting in Denmark, you might be forgiven to think that this event is the last chance of humanity to save Planet Earth.
Well here is the good news: I am convinced that the planet does not need saving. Gaia can take care of itself, thank you, even with all the plagues we are trying to throw at it. What is at stake is not the planet but the future of our societies. You see, I am not even saying “humanity”, because – fortunately or maybe unfortunately -, we are a resistant breed and I am sure before we reach Venus-like runaway temperatures, our current economic system will have collapsed and new (probably agricultural) societies will re-emerge. It will be a difficult process with some serious die-offs but on the whole the planet will survive and lots of species will survive – including species man.
Now for the bad news: the problem with Copenhagen is that the most important questions facing our human future are not even on the table. Or, at least, not all of them. Climate change is just one of the heads of the “unsustainability” hydra (remember the Greek mythology beast that grew two new heads when you chopped off one?).
So what is not being discussed at Copenhagen?
- the energy descent and the declining Energy Return on Energy Invested of new, so-called energy solutions. No there is no silver bullet, there is not even a bullet with which to kill the fossil-fuel devil. All “energy solutions” (even renewables) will be unable to replace the greatest gift of Mother Nature ever: oil. The energy density of oil is what made our Western lifestyle possible.
- the constant and dramatic decline of biodiversity and eco-system services, the physical basis of all our life on this planet;
- the regional shortages of fresh water;
- the soil, fisheries, food challenges;
- the growing population taboo
- and so on, and so on.
Get it? As long as we cannot as one humanity of this Spaceship Earth formulate what is really the problem, how we would be able to come up with effective solutions?
Is there a way out? Yes there is, it is called lifestyle revolution, just redistribution and new global governance. It is called “prosperity without growth”.
Are we ready for it? Unfortunately not. Copenhagen will confirm that 😦
You’re right about the earth surviving, but that we are the ones in peril. Although it is tempting to agree with your pessimism, I (and many others around the globe) haven’t given up yet on the chance for “prosperity without growth”. The most horrible consequences of climate change can still be avoided – and we the example of a global agreement on the environment before, when our ozone layer was thinning. This can be done, but it requires that the people demand that change and here in the developed world we hold our leaders’ collective feet to the fire. If we’re going down (which isn’t a foregone conclusion at this point) I’m going to choose to go down fighting…
Gudrun Freese said:
Those interested in ‘prosperity without growth’ can find Tim Jackson’s book: Prosperity Without Growth: Economics for a Finite Planet here: http://www.earthscan.co.uk/pwg – it has just been published by Earthscan (November 2009) Thanks, Gudrun
Willy De Backer said:
Thanks Gudrun, I read the report and Tim’s book. Great stuff indeed, that’s why I am constantly refering to it here in Brussels 🙂