Magazine article Tikkun

Humanity at the Crossroads: A Time for Commitment and Action

Magazine article Tikkun

Humanity at the Crossroads: A Time for Commitment and Action

Article excerpt

HUMANITY NOW FACES A GLOBAL EMERGENCY: IF WE continue with business as usual, rising global temperatures, growing resource shortages, and increasing environmental degradation will cause the catastrophic collapse of major ecosystems and the global economy.

Average global temperatures are now less than one degree Celsius above pre-industrial levels, but even this small increase is devastating. Twenty percent of the world's coral reefs have already died, glaciers and polar ice are melting, storms are strengthening, deserts are spreading, and droughts and floods are more frequent and intense.

The diagram on the following page (Figure 1) shows the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change's 2007 forecasts for how quickly sea ice in the Arctic is melting. The blue line is the mean estimate for the minimum summer sea ice remaining.

The diagram shows the existence of three critical problems: our planet's ability to regulate global temperatures is failing; this problem is worse and more urgent than was forecast; and the scientific models used to make the forecasts were badly flawed. This means that most experts and policymakers have been basing their judgements on inaccurate scientific data. As a result, they do not understand that we are only a few decades away from a catastrophic collapse of the global environment and economy.

If present trends continue, by 2016 atmospheric greenhouse gas concentrations will reach levels that will cause average global temperatures to increase four degrees Fahrenheit by mid-century. Rising temperatures will not only destroy most coral reefs and tropical rainforests, but also trigger runaway global warming by melting Arctic permafrost and releasing hundreds of billions of tons of methane gas. This will create an irreversible cycle in which the weatherwill get hotteryear afteryear, crops will fail, and the oceans will become too acidic to support life. The result will be the mass extinction of most terrestrial and marine species and the end of our advanced civilizations.

Because the global emergency is a common threat, it provides us with a unique opportunity to unite humanity around the need to create a sustainable global system. Preserving life on earth and protecting our children's futures is not just one task among many- it is the most important ethical and practical issue facing humanity. If we do not take immediate action to reverse climate change, our children and grandchildren will inherit a dying world.

Preventing disaster and ensuring a safe future requires a completely new strategy: instead of making international agreements that increase pollution and raise global temperatures, we need to immediately negotiate agreements to reverse global warming, refreeze the Arctic, and restore a safe climate.

However, even if we manage to restore a safe climate, another environmental disaster is looming. In the coming decades, a combination of failing ecosystems and resource shortages will likely destabilize and eventually collapse the global economy. This will happen because the continuous expansion ofthe global economy is impossible on a planet with finite resources.

Our global footprint now exceeds the world's capacity to regenerate by about 30 percent. If our consumption of resources and our production of waste continue to increase at current rates, by the mid-2030s we will be using the equivalent of two planets of resources. Computer modeling indicates that this trend will cause environmental and economic collapse by 2050.

Although there is a growing awareness of environmental issues, most ofthe world's policymakers still talk and act as if sustainability is a negotiable political option, rather than a non-negotiable ecological requirement. The real bottom line is not financial profit but survival.

The Growing Economic Crisis

THE BIGGEST OBSTACLE TO THE CREATION OF A sustainable societal system is the myth that the global economy is in a cyclical recessionary phase from which it will soon recover and then continue to expand. …

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