There is just one biosphere

Lots of talk happening.  Some action as well.  But not enough.

Don’t we realize that the problems of the biosphere affect us all?

We can learn a lot – good and bad – from the global response to Covid19.  Two quotes from an article on that subject, specifically on resistance to vaccinations, in the New York Times struck me:

  • “Science’s ability to understand our cells and airways cannot save us if we don’t also understand our society and how we can be led astray.”…..
  • “The assumption that some scientific breakthrough will swoop in to save the day is built too deeply into our national mythology — but as we’ve seen, again and again, it’s not true.”

If we substitute “the biosphere” for “our cells and airways” those quotes apply perfectly to the environmental, biospheric, crisis we are in.

So what is happening in our society, and how can we be led astray? 

The Countdown Summit –  TED’s first climate conference – is in session! On day one we were exposed to some big ideas; 

“ …We’re in the middle of a crisis, the alarm bells have been ringing, and we can’t keep hitting the snooze button. “We’re not sleepwalking towards a cliff,” …. “We’re walking in a minefield.” 

… [others]….”delivered some good news: We know what it takes to get to net-zero by 2050. All we need is the will and investment — from both the public and private sector — to put them into action. So what can ordinary people do to convince them? “Be political,” …. “Demand change from your leaders.

But isn’t that exactly the problem? “All we need is the will…” 

There is little sign we really have that will.  Even when we demand change from our leaders they refuse.  For instance the Australian government approved three more coal projects after being told they had a duty of care to the children of the world. 

As a distraction we have big power politics, with the US, UK, Australia nuclear submarine announcement as just one example.  How much could be achieved with regard to the biosphere if the intellect and money devoted to these submarines were used elsewhere? 

Why was this deal even contemplated?  Here’s part of the answer:

“For more than a decade, Washington has struggled to prioritize what it calls great power competition with China — a contest for military and political dominance.” – so starts an opinion piece in the New York Times.  It is clearly this competition along national, economic and racial lines that dominates the strategic thinking of our leaders.  Do we want to continue pretending that there isn’t a much greater power – the biosphere – at play here.  That is what we need to worry about, not political dominance. The biosphere does not care about nations, economies or races. Or any humans for that matter. But we better care about the biosphere.

[On a more irreverent note here is another explanation.  BTW the biosphere also does not care about satire – I think]

Even within the environmental “industry” we miss the big picture.  The upcoming Glasgow climate change event overshadows other such concerns as biodiversity and species extinction.  This headline says it well; “The most important global meeting you’ve probably never heard of is now. Countries are gathering in an effort to stop a biodiversity collapse that scientists say could equal climate change as an existential crisis.”

[Why the UN’s Biodiversity Conference Is So Important]

Even within the scientific circles the major report linking biodiversity and climate change was only released in June of 2021.

[Launch of IPBES-IPCC Co-Sponsored Workshop Report on Biodiversity and Climate Change | IPBES secretariat]

The issues need to be dealt with on the ground, in detail, of course.  But we need to keep the big picture in mind; the biosphere – the only one we have, in the whole universe – is becoming less “friendly” toward us.  We can do something about it.  It will take incredible will.  

In the meantime other living things go extinct.  Yes, extinction is part of the history of the biosphere.  [Note Well – we are not exempt from extinction].  But each extinction means something is lost forever.  Surely we can be bothered to minimize our impact. 

US to declare ivory-billed woodpecker and 22 more species extinct.

“Factors behind disappearances include too much development, water pollution, logging and competition from invasive species”

The official release listing the 23 species is in this poetically named document;

Bill McKibben writes: “It’s easy to feel pessimistic about climate. But we’ve got two big things on our side. One is the astonishing fall in the cost of renewable energy. The other is the huge growth in the citizens’ movements demanding action”

He ends his article with a statement of faith; that we will win.  “But we don’t know if that win will come in time to matter. Glasgow, in other words, is about pace: will it accelerate change, or will things stay on their same too-slow trajectory? Time will tell – it’s the most important variable by far.”

And time, in the US, is going by awfully fast. Last I looked at the side bar (here, on the right) it was 388 days until the next major election.  The odds are that the Republicans will win the house and the senate. In effect that means a halt, or at least a significant slowdown, in US efforts to mitigate the damage done to the biosphere.  Unless of course we vote in a different direction.

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