Failing on environmental issues

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    Big, well written op-ed on mongabay,com includes:

    The biodiversity crisis, the climate crisis, the deforestation crisis: we are living in an age when environmental issues have moved from regional problems to global ones. A generation or two before ours and one might speak of saving the beauty of Northern California; conserving a single species—say the white rhino—from extinction; or preserving an ecological region like the Amazon. That was a different age.

    we—the human species—are failing on every major environmental problem, including those I highlight below: biodiversity, oceans, deforestation, food and water, population and consumption, and climate change. Our inability thus far to even being solving these problems is bankrupting our Earth and will leave our children a very different—I venture to say lonelier and more chaotic—world.

    despite our long and close relationship with other species, we are wiping out the Earth's biological riches—many of which took millions of years to evolve—with the ferocity of a global calamity. Extinction rates are currently estimated at 100 to 1000 times higher than the background extinction rate, i.e. the average rate of extinctions as determined by fossil-studies.

    Very few politicians, corporations, or media outlets are brave enough to broach the subject of overconsumption. Yet overconsumption—perhaps even more than overpopulation—is pushing the limits of the Earth's resources far beyond a point that is sustainable. While sustainability may have lost some of its meaning by becoming a catch-phrase for everything from big business advertisements to government rhetoric, 'sustainability' simply means the capacity for an enclosed system, in this case the Earth, to continue producing for the needs of its myriad inhabitants.

    But if overconsumption is taboo, overpopulation is more so. Even most environmental groups avoid it altogether, yet there is no question that the nearly 7 billion people on the planet are overstraining the limits of every ecosystem.

    We can no longer simply complain about governments with their heads stuck in the sand and corporations who are perfectly willing to sell-out rainforests for a higher profit margin, all in the names of 'development'. We cannot wallow in despair, but need to get moving, get busy, and begin making changes, whether local, regional, or global. We need to begin talking about these issues more candidly and openly, support media and leaders who actually explore the complexity of environmental issues, and press our governments through democratic actions.

    But we also need more than debate. We need to start walking the walk: no matter how much people may decry the destruction of the world's rainforests they still buy paper, wood, food stuffs, and meat grown on them, and they still support the large corporations doing the cutting and the governments turning a blind eye.

    Although the cause may at times appear insurmountable, this isn't the time to lash out in anger or complain numbly about the state of the world. Those who waste their time in despair and hate have not heard of Gandhi, Martin Luther King Junior, or Nelson Mandella, nor have they understood that behind every great leader, millions stood hopeful for a cause. Revolutions of this kind are not easy, they are not quick, they are by their very nature fraught with difficulty and setback, but sometimes they are necessary. This is one of those times. While today we are still failing planet Earth's species, ecosystems, and people, we don't have to fail them tomorrow.

     World failing on every environmental issue: an op-ed for Earth Day


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