This is the introduction to “The Little Earth Book“, first Edition, written by James Bruges in 2000.
The content in these 167 tiny – only 145 x 135 mm – pages is clear concise. Recommended reading to understand WHAT CAN BE DONE beyond the disturbing and circular discussion on what has happening.
Juts before this book went to the printers, at the end of August 2000, the editorial of the New Scientist commenced: “Levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere are well on the way to those found in the Eocene period when the world was ice-free and England a steaming mangrove forest”
Such news makes some of us deeply anxious. Others will ask what they can do. This Little Earth Book will, by shedding light on complex issues, help us to respond both constructively and creatively – rather than throw up our hands and leave responsibilities to ‘the experts’.
The book is about new attitudes and a change of direction, not doom and gloom. And if we say some apparently dramatic things, remember that scientists – in many cases the majority of them – are saying dramatic things too. They are beseeching us to look at the evidence and DO something.
This year, 2000, the Royal commission on Environmental Pollution advised the [UK] Government that: “The world is now faced with a radical challenge of a totally new kind, which requires an urgent response. The concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is already higher than at any time for millions of years. There is no precedent to help us understand precisely what consequences will follow. The environmental consequences are potentially catastrophic.”
This follows consistent warnings from the scientific community. Even back in 1992 1,670 scientists, including 110 of the 138 living winners of Nobel prizes in the sciences, issued the famous “World Scientists” Warning to Humanity”. It included these comments:
“We are fast approaching many of the Earth’s limits. Current economic practices which damage the environment cannot continue. Our massive tampering could trigger unpredictable collapse of critical biological systems which are only partly understood. A great change in our stewardship of the Earth and the life on it is required if vast human misery is to be avoided and our global home on this planet is not to be irretrievably mutilated.”
In 1999 the chief meteorologists of Britain and the US issued a joint letter to national newspapers in both countries, including: “Ignoring climate change will surely be the most costly of all possible choices, for us and our children.”
But politicians, vulnerable as they are to lobby groups, are – crucially – still dragging their heels. Lawrence Summers, Secretary to the US Treasury and hugely influential in the World Bank, has said: “There are no limits to the carrying capacity of the Earth that could bind any time in the foreseeable future. The idea that we should put limits on growth because of some natural limit is a profound error.”
[Another organisation of scientists, the U.S.-based Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS), prepared a lengthy report in 2006 showing that ExxonMobil has funnelled nearly $16 million between 1998 and 2005 to a network of 43 advocacy organisations that seek to confuse the public on global warming science”.
“ExxonMobil has manufactured uncertainty about the human causes of global warming just as tobacco companies denied their products caused lung cancer,” said Alden Meyer, UCS director of strategy and policy. “A modest but effective investment has allowed the oil giant to fuel doubt about global warming to delay government action just as big tobacco did for over forty years.”
Two United States senators, Republican Olympis Snowe from Maine and Democrat Jay Rockefeller from West Virginia, also joined in the growing effort to persuade ExxonMobil to behave ethically. The two senators said that ExxonMobil’s brazen and outrageous effort to spread ignorance and confusion about the climate crisis “has damaged the United States’ reputation.” saying that ExxonMobil’s ongoing misrepresentation of the science is not honest, they protected “ExxonMobil’s extensive funding of an ‘echo chamber’ of non-peer-reviewed pseudoscience.”
ExxonMobil’s motive for engaging in this extraordinary and ongoing effort at mass deception is certainly not mysterious. In early 2007, the company announced the largest annual profit for the preceding year, 206, of any corporation in U.S. history.
Excerpt from The Assault on Reason, by Al Gore, pages 201 and 202
The report can be read here: ExxonMobil Report 2007 by UCS]
Throughout this book you will find reference to the World Bank, for it is a giant player on the world stage. In November 1999 its Chief Economist stunned the world by resigning. He had been consistently overrules. “It is not just the creation of a market economy that matters“, he said, “but the establishment of the foundations of sustainable, equitable and democratic institutions.”
So, the scientific community is saying that we are exceeding the earth’s carrying capacity, and is being heeded by the United Nations. Th World Bank, the IMF and the World Trade Organisation, on the other hand, are still acting as if the world’s health will improve if we all consume more.
WHO IS RIGHT? Surely we should take scientists seriously when they are almost one voice. We also have, all of us, the evidence of our own senses. We smell the increase in pollution, see the countryside being overwhelmed by concrete, listen in vain for the song of once-familiar birds, are aware through our travels of growing inequalities, and know the futility of wealth creation for it’s own sake.
If the scientists are right, we face human misery on an unprecedented scale, much of it caused by the policies of the World Bank and the I.M.F. and the frenzied, headlong rush towards a globalised economy which seeks to make us all into consumers, customers and competitors. Future generations will see us as guilty of the ultimate crime against humanity: allowing our Earth’s support systems to die while we enjoyed the temporary benefits of an unsustainable lifestyle.
We are NOT just consumers, customers, competitors. We are, first and last, human beings. And each one of us has enormous potential to change things. This book has stirring examples of individuals thinking, acting and dreaming up new ideas. Some may sound unrealistic but, if the scale of remedial action fails to match the scale of the crises, the crises will overwhelm us. This book is a clarion call to each of us. It shows us that there is hope.