I certainly meet and read of a number of eco-fatalists who believe it is already too late to take action to save humanity. Essentially either we’ve already passed key tipping points or we’ll fail to take the necessary action to stop us passing them over the coming years: scary, depressing and most of all, disempowering. In the Spring edition of Earthmatters, the Friends of the Earth magazine, Jonathon Porritt poses the question ‘Who says we’re f***ed?’ He cites Stephen Emmott and his new book ‘Ten Billion’, who basically puts the eco-fatalist position. As both per capita human impact on the planet and population continue to grow the result is catastrophe. Either population or per capita impact need to fall, or both, for humanity to have a chance.
Jonathon Porritt’s book ‘The World We Made’ is set in 2050, and is one of the few optimistic books on long term sustainability. It’s a good read and I’d heartily recommend it. I guess basically I’m with Porritt on this one. It is still possible for humanity to save itself: for per capita impact to rapidly diminish and for population to peak considerably before we get to ten billion. I even believe that per capita impact could fall so rapidly that even ten billion would not be an undue strain on the Earth systems. As I said last week, and keep saying, technologically, philosophically and theoretically there is much we could do: it is the political will that is lacking.
Even if the chances of success are slim, the struggle for a better future is well worth the effort. It brings us into contact with other people who are passionately working for change, and our numbers are growing, possibly exponentially. Therein lies the key: in democracies numbers matter. Avaaz’s membership has gone from nothing to over 35 million in the last seven years. The Green Party here in the West Midlands seems at long last to be making headway. I was out on the ground canvassing with them in a key ward last week. It’s slow difficult work. We need all hands on deck if we are to prove the eco-fatalists wrong!