At this point with this government and its Tory rivals it would be enough for me if they just came clean and said, "Ah, screw the planet, let's make some money. The grandkids will just have to figure out something - or not."
We've had the warnings. Two years to staunch the loss of biodiversity or we're toast. 12 years to cut our greenhouse gas emissions by nearly half or we're toast. And that's just two of the existential threats we're facing.
It pays no heed to the rapid and severe degradation of the planet's arable land, the dirt in which we grow humankind's food. As the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) reported four years ago, we have less than sixty years of food production left before those essential farmlands are exhausted. No mention of that other kicker from greenhouse gas buildups, ocean acidification, that's well underway and which is believed to have triggered four of the past five mass extinction events. It's said we're in the early stages of the sixth extinction - and we're debating a massive expansion of one of the very worst fossil fuels. Even for a Liberal mind that's amazing.
I've got a buddy from Toronto, a highly successful financial sector type who even has his own charitable institute. He does plenty of good works but, like so many I've met from central Canada, he's oblivious to these environmental threats. His attitude is "they'll think of something." Yes, buddy, they already have. That's why we're in this mess. He's not some outlier either. There's a lot of that same thinking inside the ranks of both major political parties.
What about the good news on the horizon. What good news? In September, OPEC forecast a massive increase in demand for fossil fuels, including coal, to 2040 at least. The International Energy Agency sees much the same future for fossil energy.
Here's another little gem, overpopulation. We're expecting to reach 9.8 billion by 2050. We're just over 7.5 billion now. To get to 7.5 we've had to destroy so much wilderness habitat that, since 1970, total numbers of other animal species have plummeted by half. To top it off, we've been tearing the guts out of our farmland as this chart from four years ago shows.
So here's the latest. New research finds that, if we keep this party going, by 2050 humans will be larger, heavier and eat a lot more.
Professor Daniel B. Müller and colleagues Felipe Vásquez and Vita analysed changes in the populations of 186 countries between 1975 and 2014. "We studied the effects of two phenomena. One is that people on average have become taller and heavier. The second is that the average population is getting older," said Vita.
An average adult in 2014 was 14 percent heavier, about 1.3 percent taller, 6.2 percent older, and needed 6.1 percent more energy than in 1975. Researchers expect this trend to continue for most countries.
"An average global adult consumed 2465 kilocalories per day in 1975. In 2014, the average adult consumed 2615 kilocalories," says Vita.
Globally, human consumption increased by 129 percent during this time span. Population growth was responsible for 116 percent, while increased weight and height accounted for 15 percent. Older people need a little less food, but an ageing population results in only two percent less consumption.So it's not just that we'll have to squeeze more asses into the lifeboat, those asses are also getting bigger. Yippee.
Look, folks, this is all just part of the Great Acceleration. If you dare, click on that link and glance at the charts. There are dozens of them and they're all pretty much the same. They all show where we were in 1950 and how we changed everything by 2010. As I wrote at the time:
For all the challenges that will face the world, including Canada, over the balance of this century, the pursuit of perpetual, exponential growth is akin to a lung cancer patient choosing to go from a two pack a day habit to three packs a day. You would think that person crazy. Why do you think better of your political leadership?It is not hard to make the case that government policy, including our pursuit of endless growth propelled by bitumen exports, is ultimately nihilistic. This is not how you build a nation. This is not how you build a future. This is, however, an effective way to destroy a nation and its people's future. They won't admit it but that's exactly what they'll be debating in the Liberal caucus.
...Despite all this data, all the science, we have a "business as usual" government that pays it not the slightest heed. Our planet is already grossly overstressed yet our government believes a rosy future awaits us in the pursuit of perpetual exponential growth. Does that strike you as sane? Do you think they're crazy, out of their minds? Or do you think there's something far worse in play?
One of the most elusive statistics to hunt down is per capita GDP growth. It is a measure of output but it also reflects energy and resources consumed, production of goods, services and waste. Record keeping in Britain has allowed per capita GDP to be charted from today back to 1270. The results are impressive. Per capita GDP first reached 2,000 pounds (adjusted to 2013 sterling) in 1832. By 1900 the Industrial Revolution had swelled that to 4,800 pounds per capita. The 12,000 pound mark fell in 1970. That doubled again to 24,000 pounds per capita GDP in the year 2000, increasing to 28,000 just before the crash of 2008. To make sense of this, the average Briton's production increased from 4,800 pounds in 1900 to close out that century at 24,000 pounds per capital GDP. In the course of one century, the 20th, that's a five fold increase in per capita GDP. In 1900 the global population stood at 1.6 billion. We closed out that century at just over 6 billion and now stand at 7.5 billion. Taking total per capita GDP in 1900 and total population in 1900 we have now grown humanity's ecological footprint by something in the order of 30 to 40 times. And we're still trapped in perpetual, exponential growth. It's still going on. We can't stop it. We won't stop it.