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Earth Day 2019 - 2 Steps Forward, 3 Back?

Monday, April 22nd is Earth Day. On this day, we show our support for the environmental movement. We've come so far... yet, we have so far left to go.

Have things gotten better since the first Earth Day in 1970? All things considered, I'm not sure they have. From carbon emissions to deforestation, progress has been made in fits and starts - at best. When it comes to various types of pollution, such as waste finding its way into our oceans, we behave like there's a "Planet B" in waiting.

The elephant in the room is, of course, population growth. In 1970, the world population was around 3.7 billion; today, most estimates mark us at around 7.7 billion. That's more than double. And, by 2050 we may surpass 10 billion. This is truly frightening. We demonstrate explosive growth, aptly described using the "C" word in the context of health and medicine.

The cynic in me says it may matter little if we achieve a higher penetration of electric cars and reduce our carbon footprint somewhat by consuming less meat and recycling. Earth cannot bear this number of people in any way recognisable to how we currently organise our civilisation.

At the turn of the 20th century, the world population was estimated at approximately 1.6 billion. Perhaps, with a stable population at this level, we could all aspire to and maintain a standard of living akin to that in the United States, Western Europe, Australia and so on. This may have been sustainable. As things stand, modelling shows we need several earths to meet our collective needs; we are exceeding and undermining the regenerative capacity of the earth. We are in the midst of the antroposcene, where we are the greatest factor influencing the earth's systems.

And never in a good way.

Beyond symbolism, this Earth Day truly needs to go beyond protests and symbolism to being an unmistakable line in the sand. How do we bring non-environmentalists along? That is the 1 million species question. Could it be some want to watch the world burn?


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