by Charles Fredricks
It’s said that the journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step; but then, to get where you’re going, it’s helpful to know where you are to begin with.
For those paying attention, two alarming studies were published recently calling attention to the lack of attention paid to our global ecology. For most these reports flew by under the radar, as conflict between races and different political groupings of humanity apparently continues to take all the oxygen in the room, the news, and the planet.
The first, published in the scientific journals Science and Anthropocene Review, outlines the areas in which our current civilization is approaching or perhaps has surpassed planetary boundaries necessary for human life, in each of nine inter-related categories under consideration: https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2015/jan/15/rate-of-environmental-degradation-puts-life-on-earth-at-risk-say-scientists
A more detailed account can be found here:
The planetary boundaries framework defines a safe operating space for humanity based on the intrinsic biophysical processes that regulate the stability of the Earth System. Two core boundaries climate change and biosphere integrity have been identified, each of which has the potential on its own to drive the Earth System into a new state should they be substantially and persistently transgressed.
Two categories nearest to or perhaps over the edge: bio-sphere integrity (genetic diversity, bio-sphere degradation), and bio-chemical flows (excess phosphorus and nitrogen flows due largely to modern petrochemical agriculture).
We expected to see a growing imprint of the human enterprise on the Earth System from the start of the industrial revolution onwards. We didn’t, however, expect to see the dramatic change in magnitude and rate of the human imprint from about 1950 onwards, states Will Steffen of Stockholm University in the report. The last 50 years have without doubt seen the most rapid transformation of the human relationship with the natural world in the history of humankind,î he said. He was speaking anthropocentrically, as the mass extinction event we are headed for actually hasn’t been duplicated since the Cretaceous-Paleogene Event some sixty-six million years ago, predating humanity by at least sixty-four million years.
Another article published in the scientific journal Nature relates new understanding on what conditions are necessary to allow coral reefs to survive after a bleaching event, and what will lead to ëregime shift, i.e., when they won’t bounce back from a heat and acidity induced bleaching event. The good news: corals that are more complex and deeper than twenty feet have a chance.
The bad news is that Australia’s Great Barrier Reef (the largest in the world) is half dead from pesticide runoff, muddy sediment, starfish and bleaching events. Worse, dumping from the development of Australia’s largest coal mine just approved if not halted, will likely kill off the rest. See: https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2014/aug/01/-sp-great-barrier-reef-and-coal-mine-could-kill-it