Just What Will it Take?

Bear with the bad first half, the answers are coming.

How can we change our course away from climate crisis and biodiversity collapse? The facts so far:

Humans have significantly changed 75% of land, and 66% of the sea environment. Despite the natural history docs, there’s little wild land left, and the seas are emptying.

The seas are emptying: we’ve taken 90% of the large fish, most in the last 50 years, and global north fishing fleets continue and expand their mass catches.

Where 10,000 years ago 1% of the animals on Earth were humans and what we ate, now 96% of biomass is human, cows, sheep, chicken or pigs. We’ve turned Earth into an industrial farmhouse.

Since 1700, 85% of wetlands have been lost. So much of the Amazon rain forest is gone that it will soon lose its ability to produce moisture, and become a carbon emitting, dry savannah.

Stay with me.

Species loss is 10-100 times than the historical average. Cute animal fact: In the UK we’ve lost 95% of hedgehogs in 50 years.

Since 1970 human use of bio-resources has out-stripped Earth’s ability to regenerate.

The damage started over previous centuries, accelerated in the 20th century, but most of the damage has been done in the last 40-50 years: In the 46 years to 2016 animal species populations dropped 68%.

The first European explorers of Africa and the Americas experienced what indigenous peoples there had seen for tens of thousands of years: mass migrations of land animals and birds passing for days, a balanced and interconnected web of flora and fauna that is largely gone.

We have managed the unthinkable: we are close to killing our planet. Not in 2100 or 2200, but are facing biodiversity collapse, heat death, flooding, extremes of weather, wildfires this decade, mass migrations and societal breakdown in the next. Every child you know, will live to experience it.

OK, now the better bit.

With all this going on, putting the onus and blame on to individuals to change, whilst marketing and profiting the same broken consumer model, just won’t cut it. Watch out for anything designed to cut your guilt, play down your anger, non-solutions, or distract you.

Funny thing is, we’re all guilty. You, me, all of us, but especially those making profit from resource theft and consumerism. Every time we climb in a car – petrol, diesel, hybrid or EV; every time we eat anything but especially meat and fish; when we heat and light our houses and workplaces, tar our roads, use the train, when we fly of course. It’s like little nails in our ecosystem coffin because our society is a connected web of fossil-fuelled products and energy.

Energy is also the least of our worries, we can deliver clean energy tomorrow given the will. But we rely on thousands of products made from fossil fuels, interwoven into the fabric of our lives. And we are yet to design these new systems and products.

This is not just about valuing nature again within our broken system, we must recognise our dependence on, and interconnectedness to it. To survive we must rapidly change our economies to support nature, and transition our financial and economic system to new models. It can be done.

Preservation and restoration: global forests and wetlands must all be protected and restored. We need to start at home and restore Scottish moorland now used for hunting grouse to its natural habitat. We need to stop planting trees for timber and plant native species. Globally, forests and wetlands must be seen as global assets and protected by law and people incentivised to protect them.

To help this preservation and restoration, businesses that have knowingly profited from deforestation for growing palm oil must pay restitution to reinstate those forests, and we need to immediately ban palm oil use World-wide.

Global fish stocks have been robbed by European, Asian and Russian large boat fishing fleets using unsustainable fishing methods. Long-term we need to move to lab-grown fish. In the immediate time we need to ban all fishing boats over 15 metres long, unsustainable fishing practices like dredging and bottom trawling, with the aim to support smaller local fishermen and restore deep-sea fish levels.

Most soy, which is grown on ex-rain forest, is fed to beef cattle and ends up in our fast food burgers. We must immediately ban soy feed for animals, and move all animals onto grass and home-grown feed alternatives. This will reduce animal production, and be eventually replaced with lab-grown meat.

We use thousands of products made from oil, gas and fracked gas, and fossil fuel companies have invested over $200Bn in cracking plants since 2010 to process fracked gas into plastics. We must ban fracked gas World-wide immediately, and reduce oil and gas use to single figure percentages of present use within five years. The main impact of this action will be not a loss of energy generation which we can replace, but in replacing the products and chemicals our global north society depends upon. We must quickly assess each one, and discontinue or design a replacement. Fossil fuel companies will be bought-out and reconfigured into clean energy, locally owned businesses within five years.

Elsewhere on this blog we look at other solutions: replacing buses, taxis and privately-owned cars with autonomous electric taxis providing private journeys in non-privately owned vehicles, drastically cutting numbers of vehicles needed by 90%+, whilst closing down air travel and putting in place effective cycling and walking infrastructure, and modernising existing long-distance rail lines.

Cities must be greened and made car-free, countryside moved from fossil-fuel based pesticides and fertilisers and vehicles to permaculture-driven smaller farms.

Making clothes in global south sweatshops for the global north is continuing colonial exploitation. We can decolonialise our manufacturing, and move it back to the UK, to locally made and recycled shops in our high streets, themselves redesigned to be attractive places to live, shop, grow food, and work.

These measures and others must tackle not only environmental and economic problems, but the fundamental inequality and social injustice at the heart of our fossil fuelled consumer society.

This then is the scale we must think at. Beyond Green New Deal, We must address global inequality, a failed consumer system, a corrupt financial system and the colonialization of resources and people exploited for profit.

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