13 Steps to Save the World

In 1992, more than 1,700 scientists warned the planet about impending ecological disaster. Now, 25 years later, more than 15,000 researchers from 184 countries are sounding the alarm again. While some progress has been made, Earth is in significantly worse shape. And it's our fault.

We've Got Good News...

First, the good news: 25 years ago, the ozone layer was in bad shape. In 2017, it's stabilized.

That's it. That's the good news.

...and Bad News

In today's "Second Notice," the scientists warn "humanity is not taking the urgent steps needed to safeguard our imperiled biosphere." The overwhelming majority of the threats outlined in 1992 remain and "alarmingly, most of them are getting far worse."

Panicked yet? The authors continue: "Soon it will be too late to shift course away from our failing trajectory, and time is running out." And if you think that's spooky, enjoy this little thought: "We have unleashed a mass extinction event, the sixth in roughly 540 million years, wherein many current life forms could be annihilated or at least committed to extinction by the end of this century."

Buckle up, humans. It's going to be a bumpy ride.

What's the Problem?

One of the primary threats facing the planet is climate change. The scientists say the evidence is clear. Humanity has contributed to the damage by burning fossil fuels, deforestation, and agricultural production— particularly from farming animals for meat.

Another big problem is our unchecked population growth. In the last 25 years, the planet has added another 2 billion humans. That's a 35 percent increase in mouths to feed. More humans need more resources, but it's not like we're making any more Earth.

And ultimately, our fate lies in the hands of our political leaders. Without change on a global scale, both red states and blue will bear the brunt of our misfortune. Just something to keep in mind when you head to the ballot box.

The 13 Steps

So how do we fix this? Is it too late? Should we grab our cowboy hats and saddle up for the long ride to oblivion?

There is hope. The scientists outline 13 steps that can get the Mother Earth back on her feet.

  1. Set space aside. The authors say we need to create and connect well-funded and well-managed habitat reserves. They recommend setting aside "a significant portion" of the world's air, water, and land to keep safe.
  2. Maintain the ecosystem. That means we've got to stop converting forests, grasslands, and other native habitats to make room for condos, mattress stores, and Long John Silver's-es.
  3. Restore native plants. Forest landscapes are a special focus. Those trees and their various residents serve an important role in keeping the environment healthy.
  4. Make Earth Wild Again. The scientists say bringing back native species (and especially apex predators) will restore ecological processes and dynamics.
  5. Legislate against the bad guys. Creating and enforcing laws will help knock out poachers and people who exploit and trade threatened species. You don't need a decorative rhino horn for your living room. It's the same material as your hair and fingernails. Why not put those on display instead?
  6. Reduce food waste. Education and better infrastructure should help us feed more people with less food. Nobody needs an entire Bloomin' Onion.
  7. Promote a plant-based diet. As much as we enjoy a good burger, we acknowledge that you can't have meat without a ton of resources. Even your dog food contributes to the problem. Might be time to sit with Fido and have a long talk about riding the kale coaster together. Or better yet, enjoy an entire Bloomin' Onion.
  8. Have fewer kids. Yeah, this is also a tough one. But every bouncing baby we welcome to the world generates 60 metric tons of CO2 per year. The scientists say we can make major strides by making sure everyone has access to voluntary family-planning services.
  9. Plant the seeds for the next generation. You and I won't be alive to watch the world incinerate, so it's critical we pass on our knowledge to the leaders of tomorrow. If we can add more outdoor nature education for children and create a greater appreciation for nature in the general population, we'll be better off.
  10. Put your money where your movement is. Invested in an oil company? Pick up some solar stocks instead. Considering a giant SUV? Maybe go with something more fuel efficient or try to ditch the car altogether. As soon as companies realize there's green to be found in green products, we'll see more of them.
  11. Turn to tech. It's important for us to invent and promote new green technologies. We also need to wean ourselves off fossil fuel. That means slashing subsidies. Should your tax dollars be going to support oil companies?
  12. Overhaul the economy. Welp, good luck with that. The scientists say we've got to tackle wealth inequality. That sounds reasonable. The next step may prove trickier. They argue we should make sure that prices, taxation, and financial incentives reflect the real cost that every purchase has on our environment. Are you ready for a carbon tax when you buy a bag of charcoal for your backyard barbecue?
  13. Get a final head count. The paper says we need to come up with a "scientifically defensible, sustainable human population size for the long term." How we enforce that is anybody's guess, but it's probably better to know our planet's breaking point before encouraging the Duggars to go at it again.

Is Climate Change Inevitable?

Written by Ben Bowman November 13, 2017

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