Environmental Concerns

This site is about a problem that overshadows all others-the survival and quality of all life on this wonderful planet which we love. If we do not survive as a viable civilization, nothing else matters for us. Here you will learn something about concerns, books, articles, and projects that have to do with that. They do not describe or deal with specific problems, such as climate change, but rather with the root causes behind them and our failure to deal with them in a meaningful way.

Every Day

there are 228,000 more people to feed on our planet than the day before; 67,000 acres of arable land have been seriously degraded or abandoned; and most of what is left is eroding 20-40 times faster than it can regenerate; 33,000 acres of forest are destroyed; In China alone, desertification claims nearly 3.9 square miles of land; 132,000 cars, not to mention light trucks, are manufactured; 5.3 million metric tons of carbon are released into the atmosphere by burning fossil fuels. and 18,000 children die from hunger and related causes. Terrestrial species are becoming extinct 1,000 to 10,000 times faster than normal; water tables are dropping, world-wide. Atmospheric temperature is creeping up, and the oceans are rising. Meanwhile, the 1950 world population of 2.5 billion has crept up to 6.8 billion in 2009. While every day seems much like the one before it, it’s not.

We Need To Overcome Lazy, Fuzzy Thinking
Unfortunately sloppy thinking that blinds us to reality is commonplace. It can divert our efforts to resolve serious problems confronting us. Here are a few examples:

  • Demanding Ever More Growth, which is impossible in a finite space with limited resources. Yet, we keep calling for it. Growth is often promoted as the solution for economic and numerous other problems.
  • Seeing the World as Unconnected Pieces. Ignoring connections can be disastrous. Projecting agricultural production based on past records, for instance, ignores the effect of climate change, growing water scarcity, cropland loss, and the depletion of petroleum needed for machinery, fertilizer, pesticides, and herbicides. Thinking like this leaves us unprepared for what lies ahead.
  • Trying to Resolve Problems Without Addressing Their Basic Causes. Regarding climate change, we only look at the most superficial causes rather than getting down to the bottom of the problem. Environmental Damage (in this case climate change) = Population x Per Capita Consumption modified by Technology. Double population, and damage doubles. The same is true of doubling consumption. But we don’t consider this. Discussing population is largely taboo, and who wants to constrain their lifestyle? We focus on dealing with the third factor, technology. Solar energy, windmills, building insulation, hybrid automobiles, etc., are in the news and even some politicians talk about them. We can only go so far with these, however, and then we must face up to dealing with population and our lifestyle if we want to make meaningful progress. How can we save the great apes in the Congo when population there will have increased by 111% by 2050 and people will be starving and need fire-wood and bush meat?
  • Disregarding the Future. Isn’t it really astounding that hardly anyone, including governments, looks further into the future than five or ten years . My novel 2045: A Story of Our Future, describes the kind of world we could have if present trends continue. My article, “Is It Inevitable that Evolution Self-Destruct?” noted under writing, describes a possibility farther in the future.
  • Misdirected Interests. Ever since living creatures had brains, they knew what was needed to stay alive and procreate. Most knew little else. With us today, it is very different. We know a lot of things that have nothing to do with survival, and are ignorant of many things that are essential for it. People’s interests run off in other directions-collecting antiques, preparing gourmet dinners, gossip, automobiles, sports, the history of the Civil War, flower growing, guns, and literature for example. We avoid knowledge about things that threatened us, like climate change and uncontrolled population growth. Politicians need an informed public that demands responsible behavior that can counter the narrow, selfish agendas of special-interest groups.

We Have to Understand How our Planet Works
We must all recognize the simple fact that we depend totally on nature, which maintains the remarkably narrow range of temperature and pressure that is safe for us, provides us with necessities, and protects us from dangerous chemicals and radiation. Nature itself has limits to its ability to safely support the demands we place on it. We should have some idea of what these limits are. A man sitting on the branch of a tree realizes it is important to him, and will not cut it off. People who understand their dependence on nature and realize its fragility should be less likely to harm it.

Without going into details we need a grasp of the most rudimentary principles of exponential growth, thermodynamics, general systems theory, the scientific method, biology, evolution, ecology, the food chain, and the carbon cycle. We should know where the food on our table comes from, where wastes go, what pesticides do, and what harm can result from species extinction and climate change. [/expand]

We Have to Understand How our Minds Work
In order to interact intelligently with nature, we have to understand how our minds and society work. If we all knew certain things about how we think as individuals and as a group, we would have reason to behave differently and would demand more responsible behavior from our leaders.

We need a rudimentary knowledge of how our brain works so that we can overcome its deficiencies and use it to its best advantage in order to better cope with problems that are rapidly growing in number, complexity, and gravity. An important starting point is to recognize that our brain evolved to meet the needs of hunting-gathering societies. It was not designed from scratch to meet the needs of modern society. Instead it developed from earlier forms of life (fish and amphibians) by adding and adapting parts as needs changed.

Simplistic thinking tells us that when people come together there is a larger body of knowledge and talents, and things should work better. However, as we all know they usually don’t. New problems develop that make sensible action difficult.

These problems are the subject of my book, Invisible Walls: Why We Ignore the Damage We Inflict on the Planet … and Ourselves. [/expand]

We Must Work Together Rather Than Fight
Looking over our history and observing the present, it is clear that we have, and still are, creating widespread chaos and misery for ourselves. Today our species and many other forms of life on this planet are threatened like never before. If we can take this fact as seriously as it needs to be taken, and then by cooperating and working together in peace, we can reverse these threats and produce a better world to live in than humans have ever known before.

Feel free to email me at pseidel@fuse.net