Monday, April 30, 2012

Climate Matters. Z is for Zero

This post is for Z in the A-Z Blogging Challenge 2012. Link in the sidebar.

Zero population growth
Zero economic growth
Zero waste
Zero carbon emissions.

How difficult it is to choose only one of the above to dip in to for the last letter of the alphabet. There's so much left to blog about, so much left unsaid.  I began back at the beginning on the month looking at the power vested interests, the media and the advertising industry have over our perceptions and understanding of climate change. I've dipped into different aspects of this immensely complex and challenging subject with each subsequent letter of the alphabet.

Here we are at the end of the month, and not much has changed; forests are being felled. Creatures are being made extinct. Lands are being eroded. Arable land is being mined at an alarming pace. People are dying from climate related issues; lack of clean drinking water, malnutrition, flooding and drought. Australia is as tardy as ever in tackling the issue proactively, creatively and with courage, commitment and vision. Our politicians seem to prefer the "business as usual" scenario; "Let's not rock the boat, people might get a bit agitated when they understand the mess we've created and allowed to continue".

But there's one thing that could happen, relatively easily and economically that would make what is a potentially disastrous situation just a little better.

Zero population growth.

It took around 200,000 years for the population on Earth to get to 1 billion, but only just over another 200 years for it to reach 7 billion. An astounding 6 billion people were born in 200 years. That’s incredible! It’s the greatest population the world has ever known, and it brings with it challenges never before imagined or experienced.

China tackled the issue of overpopulation with determination
 and an awareness that to ignore the problem would be disastrous.
How to adequately sustain, shelter and feed the sheer volume of people is mind boggling to consider. Added to this is the goal of maintaining the Earth’s habitability so that future generations can breathe the air, till the earth, drink fresh water and enjoy a reasonable standard of living. We have a challenge of such magnitude and complexity that many people choose to ignore it.

Our changing climate with new patterns of drought, flood and storms is going to take some getting used to. Our habit of relying on easily accessible, cheap fossil fuels for energy will need to be addressed. Ideally this will be done creatively, proactively and without malice or obstruction from those with a vested interest in maintaining the status quo of an addiction past its use-by date. 

Companies are made up of individuals. Individuals have choices. Companies have choices. My dream is that every employee in every company around the world looks at the impact of their current policies with seeing eyes. That they raise their voices if there is coercion, bullying, unethical, cruel, inhumane or immoral behaviour. My nightmare is that they don’t have the ability to do this, and that our children, grand children and great grandchildren will suffer horribly as a result. The worst case scenario is that current policies and actions could lead to the final zero for humankind.

To honestly and courageously face these challenges will take vision, wisdom and the creativity and collaboration of peoples from all walks of life from all countries in the world. This is not a time for bullying, coercive tactics, manipulation and lying.

Both genders should be involved. At present, women are too often silenced by groups intent of maintaining their own power and the subservience of women. One way this is achieved is to deny women access to adequate, modern methods of birth control. “Barefoot, pregnant and in the kitchen” is the reality for billions of women worldwide. Or perhaps more accurate is “barefoot, underaged, uneducated, pregnant and malnourished”. It's an insidious way to keep much of the world's population silent and compliant.

Few of us would choose to be born into poverty, into lands where food and water supplies are intermittent, where death in childbirth is common, where girls are taken as brides when they’re still children themselves and where education is a dimly heard of luxury.

However, unless we address the issue of our Earth’s rapidly increasing population and assist it to drop to near zero, poverty, disease and malnourishment will be commonplace. More mouths to feed means more crops to be grown on less arable land, (see D - Desertification here). There will be more carbon emissions, if our energy and food (see E  -Eat here) sources remain unchanged - and more garbage in general. (P - Pollution here).

Conversely, it’s been shown that population stabilisation has enormous benefits to all aspects of health in the communities where it is adopted. Women and girls, their family members their lands and food systems are healthier and more productive. There’s more food and water to go around, less stress on health services and infrastructure and equally importantly, arable land and fishing grounds are able to recover and become more productive.

Reducing birth rates eases the pressure we place on natural resources, food systems, water sources, biodiversity, forests and the atmosphere.

Contraception and sound family planning are vital components of the complex issues we face in the years ahead as we try to balance the population with what can be maintained by our Earth’s resources.

In a recent discussion, Naomi Oreskes said something along the lines of: Resistance to accepting there are challenges ahead is related to not liking the implications on political, social and economic levels. Climate change is rejected because it has consequences for how we live our lives and what it means for us. These changes will be very significant and require a complete transformation of the energy system. (Link here.)

If we aren’t proactive, and consider the repercussions of inaction in a calm, measured thoughtful way, we will be reacting as events unfold which is neither wise nor desirable.

Have we got the courage, wisdom and humility to face the future with eyes wide open or not?

Last year I wrote - A-Z "An incomplete journey of workplace bullying" for Z, here, and Zero here.


Manzanita said...

Dear Sue, The end. It's been a hard one for me because I pulled something in my neck/back a week ago and have been feeling poorly. I'll recover.

I'm moving back to the ranch where there is the best tasting water.... without fluoride and all the added chemicals. I'm having a greenhouse put up next week and no GMO's ... Yay. I must have tossed 400 books this morning because I have to lighten my load. It feels good. I should have moved back here years ago. The quality of life is so much better.
You did a meaningful series. I'm with you on all the careless waste that is placed upon our environment.
Take care. Manzanita

The Writing Goddess said...

This is a very important post. AS human beings we can't "destroy" the earth - we can simply make it unfit to live on for our (and many other) species. I'm reminded of biology experiments in high school, where a fungus would flourish in a small culture dish - until it has consumed all available food sources and/or was dying of its own toxic waste products.

Humans are supposed to be intelligent, but we are behaving like that fungus in a culture dish.

Catherine Stine said...

I share all of your concerns. At least we are developing electric and alternative fuel cars, and wind and wave energy. My YA futuristic thriller deals with lots of these issues, particularly the task of feeding the world's people despite global warming and toxic seas. I'm over from A to Z so pop on by if you like! I can't believe this is the last day of it.

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

In some areas people do try, like recycling, and in other areas people just don't.
And I did contribute to zero population growth. We don't have kids.

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Sue .. great series here - if we, especially in the first world nations, can't join together philanthropically .. life is not going to be easy in the future.

Sadly it goes beyond just us - us is our neighbours, our local settlement, us is everything .. and people are sadly just selfish .. and we need to remember the third world and their way of life ...

I do hope the world comes around - but kids to some people are their life future .. however poorly they come into this world.

Cheers for now - Hilary

a.eye said...

You mentioned the biggest problem with trying to accomplish this goal. It will take "collaboration of peoples from all walks of life from all countries in the world." There is no way that I see that happening especially as the "major" nations can't even really control their own population or don't want people telling people what to do or don't want to adequately provide birth control to its citizens.

I think that Japan (along with some European nations) may be a place to watch. They are said to have a declining population at the moment. It is yet to be seen if this has an impact on the health of the people, though they do have one of the world's Blue Zones.