Planet in trouble; is it too late?

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Pontiac Perspective  Peter J. Gauthier

Researchers at the Stockholm Resilience Centre have identified nine worldwide processes that challenge life on this planet. These are: climate change, change in biosphere integrity, stratospheric ozone depletion, ocean acidification, biochemical flows, land-

Pontiac Perspective  Peter J. Gauthier

Researchers at the Stockholm Resilience Centre have identified nine worldwide processes that challenge life on this planet. These are: climate change, change in biosphere integrity, stratospheric ozone depletion, ocean acidification, biochemical flows, land-
system change, fresh water use, atmospheric aerosol loading and introduction of novel entities (organic pollutants, radioactive materials, micro-plastics, etc.). Of these, four have exceeded safe levels; their continued operation has significant negative impacts on the life systems of our planet.  The four culprits are: climate change, loss of biosphere integrity, land system change (deforestation being a major component) and biochemical flows (high levels of phosphorous and nitrogen flowing into the oceans due to
fertilizer use).  All of these degradations to planetary systems are caused by human activity.
This certainly spells trouble at the global level. In theory it should be
possible for political leaders to reverse the adverse effects of human action on the planet, but this is not a new issue for world leaders. As far back as 1987, the United Nations published the Brundtland report (Our Common Future) that contained a warning about environmental problems and called for sustainable development. Indicators of environmental problems have been shooting up since 1950 and the rate of environmental deterioration is expected to continue to increase.
Yet our political, economic and social leaders refuse
to take appropriate corrective action.
What can individuals and local communities do? First we are reminded
of Marshall McLuhan’s observation that we live in a global village; global events have local effects and local actions have global consequences. At the local level, we must become aware of the
global consequences of our actions. Do we know how much environmental damage is done in mining the rare metals that are in our cell phones and mp3 players? Do we know how much excess fertilizer is used to keep fresh produce from California and Mexico in our stores? Are we aware of how much rainforest is being lost
each day to economic development? These are global issues that result from local decisions made about purchases.
While the Brundtland report called for sustainable development, the
continuing deteriorating situation requires something more – what is now needed is resilience. A resilient approach will
recognize that change has happened and must be recognized as part of the solution.  Flexibility and adaptability are essential components of policies and actions that aim at positive adjustments to human interaction with the environment. Our consumption and purchases must be directed to products that are environmentally sensitive. We must demand responsible, meaningful action from our political leaders that address the global environmental issues at every level of governance.  We must reject products that have negative impacts on our planet.