They gathered in Stockholm this week for the 3rd Nobel Laureate Symposium on Global Sustainability. Their report, the Stockholm Memorandum, is an urgent call to action that will almost certainly be ignored by world leaders, including our own.
Unsustainable patterns of production, consumption, and population growth are challenging the resilience of the planet to support human activity. At the same time, inequalities between and within societies remain high, leaving behind billions with unmet basic human needs and disproportionate vulnerability to global environmental change.
Humans are now the most significant driver of global change, propelling the planet into a new geological epoch, the Anthropocene. We can no longer exclude the possibility that our collective actions will trigger tipping points, risking abrupt and irreversible consequences for human communities and ecological systems.
We cannot continue on our current path. The time for procrastination is over. We cannot afford the luxury of denial. We must respond rationally, equipped with scientific evidence.
The Symposium published an urgent "to do" list that is, frankly, disheartening. Yes, we must do the things they suggest but, No, we won't. Stopping the growth of carbon emissions by 2015? That would mean a Herculean, inter-governmental initiative unlike any ever seen to abandon fossil fuels and shift to alternative energy beginning immediately. That wouldn't mean just mothballing coal plants and building windmills or solar panels. It would require a fundamental restructuring of our societies and our economies. It would mean abandoning the "growth and jobs" paradigm that has driven Western economies and politics for centuries. It would mean embracing core principles from which some, particularly the most advantaged, would recoil.