Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Is Humanity Unsustainable?

The co-inventor of "the ecological footprint" now calls for a planned contraction of the economy, to save the biosphere and promote world fairness. How our primeval brains work against us.

Powerful speech on Radio EcoShock [mp3, transcript by Alex Smith] by Canadian biologist Dr. Bill Rees, April 15, 2010.

At a meeting of the World Federalists, guest speaker Dr. William Rees gave this speech standing, without notes. It shines with clarity, developed form decades of lecturing, in the field of his passion, which he himself developed – the “ecological footprint.” Rees is a professor at the University of British Columbia, Canada – and a Fellow of the Post Carbon Institute.

Rees begins with an early warning, following the 1992 United Nations Conference on the Environment. It is a statement by the Union of Concerned Scientists issuing a warning to humanity.

"Many of the Nobel Laureates in science signed on to this particular document but the bottom line is pretty clear: 'A great change in our stewardship of the Earth and our life on it, is required if vast misery is to be avoided, and our global home is not to be irretrievably mutilated.'"

Dr. Rees says this warning had no effect whatsoever. He moves to a more recent statement, from the Millennium Ecosystem Summary Report, in which Rees participated, along with 10,000 other scientists. It was the largest study ever taken of the world's ecosystems. It warned that:

‘human activity is putting such a strain on that the natural functions of the Earth that 'the ability of the planet's ecosystems to sustain human endeavor can no longer be taken for granted.'

It is no exaggeration to say that Bill Rees has taught and inspired at least two generations of students, ecologists, and environmentalists around the world. Here he outlines the condition of humanity on a small planet, with thoughts on how both can survive.

[via Energy Bulletin]

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