The future looks bleak. We have to admit this, if we’re going to do anything about it.
Any one of the crises before us would be massive on its own, but all of them together as they domino onto each other, will be overwhelming. And we are approaching these crises at an exponential rate.
- Population: The earth can sustain only 2 Billion people living like we do in the West. 12 Billion living like most Indians do. (David Attenborough How many people can live on planet earth.) We have no choice but to lower our Western standard of living. We are already consuming the boat that keeps us afloat. (Is it just me, or is there something cannibalistic about this?)
- Depletion: The environment’s capacity is reducing all the time, as we kill ocean flora and fauna, use all the available arable land, mine ever-decreasing grades of ore, and burn it, bury it, or poison it. So our capacity to sustain is actually reducing as we speak.
- Peak Oil & fossil fuels: Oil IS a finite resource, as is uranium and coal, and the other commodities we mine from the earth. But so much depends on oil. So when it becomes scarcer, this will grind to a halt all the machines that depend on it – and all their functions. Transport, transport of goods, production of goods, and food. (Land will not be as productive without the machines we currently use to maximize production per metre.)
- Global warming: atmospheric temperature changes effect ocean currents and weather patterns. Those changes are measurable and concerning. We know that the emissions we produce now take up to 30 years to have their effect. Even if we stop increasing now and plateau off our emissions, another 30 years of temperature rise is locked in.
- Global Dimming: some say the global warming truth is worse than we have measured because of global dimming – the effect of all the pollutants in the atmosphere providing shade to keep the temperature down. When 911 grounded all the aircraft in America for a few days, the atmospheric average temperature rose by 2 degrees. The planet’s average atmospheric temperature is rising despite the shade. What happens when we simply can’t burn fossil fuels anymore?
- Economic megabubble: The 2008 Global Financial Crisis was just an early tremor of the Big One to come. Watch the Crash Course, and see how America writes empty cheques to itself (bonds) which have no capital behind them, and the stock market relies on that. It’s a matter of time before someone wants to cash in and can’t be paid, and then the system collapses. Next time we will have no funds left for stimulus packages, no room to lower interest rates.
- Business blindness: Those addicted to this economic system of promises can’t see that a change is needed. Dick Smith is sounding this alarm, asking, “the economy can’t just keep rising – the earth can’t sustain always biggering. So when will we need a new system?” And he is answered with, “we have to keep growing at 4%, or we’ll go into recession.” This refusal to face the obvious, means our power-brokers are not likely to act soon, with wisdom to downsize before its too late.
- Famine and Wars: History tells us that civilizations rise and fall because they can’t handle downsizing. Whichever of the previous seven goes first, the others will tumble soon after. What will people do when they’re desperate to feed their families, but there’s not only no food, but no money, no transport, and very little environment to live off?
Sorry to spoil your lunch, but have already consumed our savings, and are now creating a global resource debt, which future generations are going to have to repay with their lives.
Can we do anything about it? Yes. It won’t avert all the crises, but it might give us a chance.
- Downsize: Downsize our lifestyles. Downsize our businesses. Downsize the economy, by figuring out how the system can cope by not depending on growth. Downsize our travel needs. Become more local and survive in walking distance.
- Sustainable Energy: stop depending on oil and save it for producing plastics. Wind and solar power are far more sustainable than fossil fuels. Let’s pour effort into creating those technologies, for transport, communications, and power generation. Develop a Green Economy.
- Replenish: By protecting fish-stocking sanctuaries, we can restock oceans. By protecting and replanting we can revitalise land capacities.
- Legislate: legislation can create initiatives, where market forces cannot – the movie “Who killed the electric car” is a good example. China’s one-child policy seems draconian, but will make more sense to us as we go along.
But some things may be too far gone. The fuels we have burned, ore we have used, animals we have lost, cannot return. The history of civilizations shows that almost always, even at the precipice, we don’t change. Only this time, it’s not just a nation or island that dies. It’s global.
C’mon – let’s face the music, bite the bullet, lobby, do what we have to do, and prepare to live in the crisis that’s coming.
Even if it doesn’t work, at least we tried.
So how does God fit into all of this?
A lot actually. After all, God made it all, God gave us the responsibility to look after it, God is integrally at work in it, God’s the one we have to tune in to, and answer to… see here.
For a more scholarly and theological analysis, Dr Ian Barnes comments here.