This has been a hot discussion topic recently, so this article definitely caught my attention.
Humans are damaging the Earth at such an unprecedented rate that the strain on the planet may destroy about two-thirds of its ecosystem services, according to a landmark international study.
The consequences of humans’ activities are severe and include: new diseases, sudden changes in water quality, creation of “dead zones” along the coasts, the collapse of fisheries, and shifts in regional climate, according to the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment Synthesis Report.
“At the heart of this assessment is a stark warning,” said the 45-member board.
“Human activity is putting such strain on the natural functions of Earth that the ability of the planet’s ecosystems to sustain future generations can no longer be taken for granted,” it said.
The four-year, 2,500-page assessment was drawn up by 1,300 researchers from 95 nations in an effort to inform global policy initiatives.
Scientists warn that about 60 per cent of the ecosystem services that support life on Earth, such as fresh water, air and water regulation and natural hazards, are being destroyed.
The report warns that the consequences of this degradation of the environment will significantly worsen over the next 50 years.
“Any progress achieved in addressing the goals of poverty and hunger eradication, improved health, and environmental protection is unlikely to be sustained if most of the ecosystem services on which humanity relies continue to be degraded,” said the study.
There is much more, so “read the whole thing.” I realize we’ve seen alarmist reports about a lot of subjects in the past, but these guys are well credentialed and respected (including, for example) the chief scientist for the World Bank) and it’s not inconsistent with other reports on the sustainability of the earth’s resources.
Optimism is a great quality, and I can respect the viewpoint that everything will work out fine. I just think it’s going to take a lot of work and a lot of time, and since addressing the crisis costs a lot of money we’ll most likey wait until the very last minute.
Update: The topic of nuclear power has come up in the comments, and here’s a good article that backs up the general consensus.
Richard Burger is the author of Behind the Red Door: Sex in China, an exploration of China's sexual revolution and its clash with traditional Chinese values.