Emergency to act!
Recently, more than 11’000 scientists from 153 countries signed a paper in which they warn humanity that the planet earth is facing a climate emergency unless major transformations are made in global society (1). The scientists point out that the climate crisis is strongly linked to the excessive consumption of a wealthy lifestyle. Thereby, the majority of greenhouse gas emissions responsible for the climate warming come from the most affluent countries. The scientists clearly call to urgent action based on scientific facts! In the paper they propose a list of important and essential steps that need to be taken in order to ensure a sustainable future for the planet. Among the actions proposed are the implementations of a transition to energy efficiency, use of clean energy resources and the replacement of fossil fuels with low-carbon renewable energies. Moreover, the scientists underline the duty of wealthier countries to support poorer countries in these transformations. To increase sequestration of atmospheric CO2 our ecosystems need protection and restoration. But actions proposed are not only supposed to happen on a policy level but also on an individual lifestyle level. Changes towards a mostly plant-based food and reductions of the huge amount of food waste are necessary (1).
Why ecosystems are important and why rethinking is needed
Earth’s ecosystems such as phytoplankton, coral reefs, forests, mangroves and many more, contribute to the sequestration of tons of atmospheric CO2 (1). To achieve the Paris agreement, which aims a temperature increase of less than 2°C by 2030, ecosystems have to be restored and protected.
But the value of ecosystem and nature is not only given by their functionality or economic value. The value dimensions given also reflect an anthropogenic perspective.
The primary values are the ecological values such as biodiversity, stability and functionality of ecosystems (2). Second, instrumental values are related to ecosystem services. These are defined as the direct benefits that people obtain from the ecosystems and if these ecosystems are lost, they pose direct loss to people. Third, non-instrumental, intrinsic values do reflect people’s relationship to nature, such as cultural but also non-anthropogenic values (2).
Loss of nature and ecosystems therefore will affect all these levels of values. Their irreplaceability should rise strict protection legislation (2) and not a discussion about compromises we potentially find with nature. If we not manage to protect these ecosystems, we will lose this fundamental base.
But, is all this new? Not really! Already 40 years ago, in 1979 at the First World Climate Conference in Geneva, scientists from 50 nations agreed on the alarming trends for biodiversity loss and climate change and discussed the importance to action (1). In the following years similar conclusions and alarms have been released through the Rio Summit 1992, the Kyoto Protocol 1997, the Paris Agreement 2015 and last in the UN Climate Change Conference COP25 the past month in Madrid (1). What did effectively happen after these conferences and why has this repeated important facts and urgency not moved politicians and decision makers to act together? The outcome of the COP25 conference showed that that solutions raise complex conflicts of interests between policy makers of the participating countries.
Perspectives and transitions
We can easily lose hope with all the pessimistic news we are fed every day. The world is full of dystopic visions that likely inhibit our ability to move towards an Earth sustainable for life (3). But despite and amidst this negative news we can find some hope.
First, focusing on nature as a valuable resource, the worlds protected areas are increasing and reflect the progress of the Aichi Target 11. From the prospected protection of 17 % of terrestrial and 10 % costal and marine areas by 2020, 15% and 7 % has been reached by today (4). And not only protection but also abandoned and rewilded areas have increased (5). In Europe, as an example, more than 50 Mha has been rewilded within the last 40 years. Even if rewilding also has it’s downside, such as biodiversity loss for some species, this has led to a comeback of already displaced animal species such as wolves, lynx and bears (5).
On a socio-political level, the recent famous movement as Greta Thunberg’s “Fridays for Future”, rise a bit of hope and let us feel that change in peoples mind is happening. It opened people’s eyes on a broad scale. People started to recognize how their own lifestyle and choices impact the environment. Suddenly, the consumption behavior and lifestyle are questioned by a broad mass of people. With her restrained and concerned way, Great amazingly brings together people to strike, give pressure to policy makers and raise awareness of individual contribution to the climate crisis. People suddenly have to justify their non- climate friendly behavior. Politicians and companies cannot hide any more so easily. They are observed. And they can be blamed. What started in a small protest of a single teenager in Sweden, motivated, inspired and mobilized todays’ youth around the world.
But Friday’s for Future was not only the big movement that bring us closer to the goal of sustainability. Other transitions are happening: Activities on a small scale all around the world, a thousand individual idealists, innovative projects and local initiatives show us how a transition is possible. It begins with small steps and cultural changes. Rising awareness in the society: reuse, recycle and fix things instead of replace it, against the capitalistic and exploitative propaganda of economic growth. More and more, people start going to the local markets instead of buying food in supermarkets that serve us with products that traveled a whole continent. More and more, people buy seasonal, eat more vegetarian, even vegan food. All of this is creating change. Our meat consumption poses a major threat to biodiversity globally. With a reduction in meat consumption, the land used for agriculture and devoted for pasture could be reduced and therefore the pressure on biodiversity, pollution and over-fertilization (5).
Not losing hopeful perspectives and counterbalance the dystopic view, this is what the project “Seeds of a good Anthropocene” intends to do (3). On their website they collect ideas, innovative projects, technologies and initiatives of people that are changing the planet. Among these initiatives we can find permaculture projects and innovative ways of farming such as a project called “Green wave”, a way of ocean farming, where the whole marine column is used to produce sustainable seafood. Other projects show solutions for ethical traveling or engagement for trans-boundary water management in political instable regions. The collection of the “seeds” convinces by solacing, exploring and developing an alternative plausible “Good Anthropocene”, communicating the stories and show the results to generate hope (3).
There is no doubt the way to a sustainable future is long. And there is no doubt that we have to act now! It is our future and this is about finding solutions facing the climate crisis, about finding sources for alternative energy and about step by step impact on the policy makers on a small scale. With an impact on the large scale.
- William Ripple, Christopher Wolf, Thomas Newsome, Phoebe Barnard, William Moomaw. 2019. World Scientists’ Warning of a Climate Emergency. BioScience.
- David Moreno-Mateos, Virginie Maris, Arnaud Béchet, Michel Curran. 2015. The true loss caused by biodiversity offsets. Biological Conservation. 192 (12): 522-559.
- Seeds of a good Anthropocene: https://goodanthropocenes.net/map-of-seeds/
- Protected planet: www.protectedplanet.org
- We’re conservation scientists- here is why we haven’t lost hope for the future: https://theconversation.com/were-conservation-scientists-heres-why-we-havent-lost-hope-for-the-future-110155