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Thread: [EcoDharma] Are we Destroying the Earth

  1. #1

    [EcoDharma] Are we Destroying the Earth

    Are we destroying the Earth?

    No we are not. Worldwide volcanic eruptions and meteors have not been able to do that. So I feel fairly confident our species won’t achieve that either. However we are degrading the planets ability to support the diversity of life we are so enriched with and making the challenges for our species grave. Someday our sun and this planet will be gone but maybe, just maybe we will have colonized different galaxies (if we can change our ways and can avoid extinction) and unlike all species that came before in our 4.5 billion year history we may not go extinct in near geologic time .

    In this thread I plan to review a recently published book. ‘Not the End of the World’ by Hannah Ritchie (2024). Hannah Ritchie is a data driven scientist that looks at the State of the World from a different perspective and suggests we are making positive strides and with changes we can continue to work towards a sustainable future.

    In the Living Earth Thread I asked the question “Can we meet this moment of an environmental crisis with enough resolve to minimize or reverse the changes that this planet faces?” And Sangha member Heiso referenced Hannah Ritchie and I saw she just published a book on the subject.

    My plan is to post after I have read each Chapter. Please add your thoughts. If anyone else reads this book I would enjoy your company along this path.

    Doshin
    Stlah
    Last edited by Doshin; 04-04-2024 at 11:57 AM.

  2. #2
    The author, Dr. Hannah Ritchie is a senior researcher in the Programme on Global Development at the University of Oxford as well as deputy editor of the online publication Our World in Data. A few years ago, she was named Scotland’s Youth Climate Champion. Her work focuses on analysis data and interpreting trends.

    In the Forward she provides an overview of a global summary that asked 100,000 16–25-year-olds about their attitudes toward climate change. The data from 11 diverse countries provided a snapshot of what our youth are thinking. More than 75% thought the future was frightening, 54% felt humanity was doomed, and 37% were hesitant to bring children into a troubled future (where a significant listed climate change as a minor or major reason for this decision). Some of my grandchildren are in that age group and so I found it bothering that they may be less optimistic about the future than I was at their age. So of course, her perspective has engaged me to seek some light at the end of a dark tunnel that I have looked down during my half century in the environmental field. I continue to keep hope alive and am looking for a perspective that will help me evaluate my view. I like that her book is extensively footnoted with references.

    Dr. Ritchie makes a case in the Forward that there is hope but that the environmental challenges are great and important. She believes the more existential threat to humanity is nuclear war, global pandemic, or artificial intelligence.

    So, over the next 8 Chapters I will look to her data to hopefully brighten my outlook for those who come after.

    Doshin

    Stlah
    Last edited by Doshin; 03-31-2024 at 01:03 AM.

  3. #3
    Chapter 1 Sustainability


    This Chapter quotes the 1987 UN definition for sustainability as ‘meeting the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs’. The author also states the world has never been sustainable. I personally mostly agree and somewhat disagree. I agree with her that since our species incorporated agriculture into our survival, we have been tough on the environment (e.g. soil, water, lack of tolerance of competing species, deforestation) and even more so in the last Century with our modernization of agriculture compounded by an exponential growth of the human population in (i.e. more people the more resources needed, interdependent). My perspective is that for the 300,000 years before we slowly adopted growing crops to support and eventually replacing hunting and gathering, our existence was more sustainable. But we cannot go back to those origins with our species so dominant on the planet. But she optimistically sees a new path that will allow us to achieve sustainability. I am listening.

    The Chapter then makes the case that there was no better time to live than now. Science has greatly benefited us. Mothers surviving childbirth has greatly been enhanced and the odds of children living past puberty has been doubled. Life expectancy has increased. Food insecurity has been greatly reduced, access to clean water, energy and sanitation greatly enhanced, and education is no longer just the privilege of a few. Extreme poverty has declined. But all this has come at a massive environmental cost.

    These environmental costs and how to address them are addressed in the next 7 Chapters. Those Chapters are Air Pollution, Climate Change, Deforestation, Food, Biodiversity Loss, Ocean Plastics, and Overfishing.

    Doshin
    stlah
    Last edited by Doshin; 04-02-2024 at 11:32 AM.

  4. #4
    Thank you, Doshin.

    Naiko
    stlah

  5. #5
    Member Myojin's Avatar
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    Thanks Doshin, for summarizing this.

    Agriculture, as essential as it is, is a prime culprit however you do it.

    I recall, 20 years ago now, sitting on a dry flood plain in the Fertile Crescent, what was once ancient Sumer, and realising that what I was sat on was not sand at all, but desiccated soil. Continuous removal of foliage had prevented the soil from retaining moisture, eventually leading to the ecosystem collapsing, and with it the cradle of civilization.
    Interdependence indeed. We look after the environment, because if it goes we follow.

    Gassho
    Sattlah

    Myojin

  6. #6
    Thank you Doshin


    Tairin
    Sat today and lah
    泰林 - Tai Rin - Peaceful Woods

  7. #7
    I've always found that talking about "saving the planet" is very misleading. It really means saving humanity, and perhaps it would be better for the many species on Earth if we were gone. The planet will survive without us. Asteroids will destroy most species on Earth at some point, as they have several times in the past, but Earth will live on.

    I recently interviewed the author of this novel for a podcast, and her thought experiment was about what would happen if humans were gone, but there is still intelligence, along with the many other species that live on earth.

    https://debbieurbanski.com/after-world/

    Food for thought. We're special, but not that special.

    Gassho,

    Ryūmon (Kirk)

    Sat Lah
    流文

    I know nothing.

  8. #8
    Thank you Doshin for starting this thread.

    She believes the more existential threat to humanity is nuclear war, global pandemic, or artificial intelligence.
    I agree with that, and what I am most afraid of is the confluence of climate change and it's consequences, and how that may push societies to more extreme choices to protect themselves from... each other? Mass migration, intolerance and cultural clashes seem to me a bigger threat that anything else, the Earth will be OK, the biodiversity will come back eventually, but "the world as we know it" is what is changing and maybe not for the better. Sorry for the doom and gloom.

    Gassho,

    Alina
    st+lah

  9. #9
    I've always found that talking about "saving the planet" is very misleading. It really means saving humanity, and perhaps it would be better for the many species on Earth if we were gone. The planet will survive without us. Asteroids will destroy most species on Earth at some point, as they have several times in the past, but Earth will live on...

    Food for thought. We're special, but not that special.
    Totally. 99% of life that has ever existed on earth is now extinct. What makes us special (aside from opposable thumbs and the ability to write sitcoms)?

    Deep Ecology came out of the idea that environmentalism should be more than saving human beings from themselves, but of the sacredness and interconnectedness of life itself, regardless of its practical use to humankind.

    The world will be fine, but we are currently negatively impacting many of the other species we share it with and that is not okay.

    Thank you for the link to Debbie's book, Kirk.

    Gassho
    Kokuu
    -sattoday/lah-

  10. #10
    Ryumon, I added her book to my list. Where may I find your Podcast?

    Alina, that is a good point about the Climate Crisis pushing us toward war.

    I agree with the both of you that the World will Carry On. It will mostly be negative for us and all other life forms. There have been five major extinctions, and if I remember correctly it took about 10 million years for the biodiversity to return to similar levels. I guess we should be happy with the last great extinction because the decline of dinosaurs allowed mammals to flourish from which we came.

    Thank you for sharing your thoughts, they help me in my understanding.

    Doshin
    Stlah

  11. #11
    Here's a link to the episode:

    https://podcast.scrivenerapp.com/37

    Gassho,

    Ryūmon (Kirk)

    Sat Lah
    流文

    I know nothing.

  12. #12
    Thanks Doshin, I'll be following along with interest. I suspect I won't agree with everything but I'm interested to hear about where there is hope for us.

    Gassho,

    Heiso
    StLah

  13. #13
    Review of Book I am summarizing in this thread.

    https://www.theguardian.com/books/20...climate-crisis

    Doshin
    Stlah

  14. #14
    Chapter 6: Biodiversity Loss

    Okay, I skipped ahead. My bad but this Chapter attracts my interest. Not saying the other challenges are not important, just that I am biased as many of you know from my postings the last 9 years, so I was just anxious to read this topic.

    Let me offer a definition of Biodiversity as … the summation of all life on our planet (from plants to Blue Whales and everything else). In addition to species, it includes the combination of species and environmental factors that compose ecosystems such as a rainforest (and there are diverse types of rainforest ecosystems).

    This Chapter discusses human impact on biodiversity, going back thousands of years when it is believed our ancestors hunted many species to extinction (specifically large mammals such as mammoths, ground sloths, etc). This is referred to as the Quaternary Megafauna Extinction where 178 largest mammal species went extinct. There are competing hypotheses to this assertion about over hunting as a major driver, such as climate change caused by extraterrestrial causes. However recent species extinctions/declines can be attributed primarily to human over utilization, habitat loss, invasive species, pollution and climate change. The author states that now humans and our livestock make up 62% of the world’s mammal biomass and wild animals only 4%, a big difference from just a few thousand years ago.

    Is the extinction rate now greater than in the past before humans? The author states mass extinction rates are defined as losing 75% of the species over 2 million years. With the earth around 4.5 billion years old, 2 million years is a short time frame. Five mass extinctions have been documented in the past. The rate of species going extinct now will reach 75% in 37,500 years.

    We have success stories that show we can reverse trends. Both the European and North American Bison were drastically reduced in numbers but now have growing populations. There are many other species that our efforts have restored. In North America, after European colonization and excessive hunting for the market, species such as elk, pronghorn antelope and turkey were greatly reduced but through laws restricting hunting and habitat protection have increased their numbers. Also, wolves were all but eliminated in the US by early in the-last century. However, restoration efforts have successfully restored wolves in many states and their numbers continue to increase.

    A significant tool used in conservation is the protection of areas of high biodiversity. As of 2021, 16% of the world’s lands were included in protected areas (a large variation in the types of protection). In December 2022 many countries signed a deal to protect 30% of the land surface by 2030. Some conservation groups want to achieve 50% by 2050. So, there is some good news but what percent of the land’s surface will be protected depends on many factors, but mostly the will of our species. I consider it a positive step forward that more people, groups, and governments have recognized the loss of biodiversity and are doing something to address it. Will it be enough?

    The things that the author believes are necessary to conserve biodiversity;

    • Increase crop yields to reduce farming land
    • Bring deforestation to an end
    • Eat less meat, and reduce livestock
    • Improve our efficiency of, but don’t eliminate chemical inputs such as fertilizers and pesticides
    • Stop global climate change
    • Stop plastic leaking into our oceans.

    We recognize the problem; we have had successes that we can build on and there are efforts underway to protect more lands supporting biodiversity. However, the above list of things to address is not an easy task but they also address other environmental issues such as pollution and water quality.

    I take some solace in the enthusiasm and passion of the many working to protect and restore biodiversity throughout the world. No one thinks it is an easy path, but their efforts give me hope.

    To save all sentient beings,
    Doshin
    stlah

    Note: The author goes into much greater detail but in the interest of time I have summarized my take a way and added some of my thoughts from my experience working in this area.
    Last edited by Doshin; 04-10-2024 at 07:01 PM.

  15. #15
    Quote Originally Posted by Doshin View Post
    Review of Book I am summarizing in this thread.

    https://www.theguardian.com/books/20...climate-crisis

    Doshin
    Stlah
    Thank you Doshin for sharing this article.

    "Yes, vast numbers of us do want to work towards the beautiful sustainable society that Ritchie has in mind. But there are other groups, fuelled by anger or fear or greed, that really do not, and Ritchie does not suggest any tools we can use to get round that colossal obstacle. I understand that it is beyond the scope of her book, beyond the power of most of us, even. But it seems bonkers not to even mention it."

    This is what I was referring to in my comment above. No one seems to have an answer for the human-profit-driven-behavior problem in the whole climate change discussion, since very few are willing to yield.

    Anyway, I think it's good that a book with an optimistic point of view has been published, because pessimism usually doesn't solve anything. Hopefully many will follow her ideas.

    Gassho

    Alina
    stlah

    Sent from my SM-G970U using Tapatalk

  16. #16
    Alina,

    I understand your point. In the EcoDharma threads over the last few years I have also lamented the three poisons (anger, greed and ignorance) and how to get past those major obstacles to a biologically diverse and sustainable world. However we have the technology and knowledge to achieve what is needed but the human problem lies in front of that vision. My career dealt with both the positive and negative each day. I have been told by friends I was wasting my time trying to fix the unfixable as they chose not to bring children into the world. I knew if all hope was lost the fears of what would come would come. My state of mind was contingent on a small ember of hope inside.

    My sense of the book is that the author is hopeful for maybe the same reasons I was for the past half century. The things she identifies that need to be fixed are the things that are the hardest to fix for the reasons you list. She is young and the future is hers so I understand.

    Doshin
    Stlah

  17. #17
    Quote Originally Posted by Alina View Post

    This is what I was referring to in my comment above. No one seems to have an answer for the human-profit-driven-behavior problem in the whole climate change discussion, since very few are willing to yield.
    Well, I propose a possible treatment for this illness which may soon become available, ways to moderate our endless compulsions to consume and consume, and to significantly increase human empathy so that we would no more wish strangers to live and play in a trash dump of a world than we would our own children to live in such a world ... by rewiring human nature to see strangers as our brothers and children.

    In my view, until human nature is adjusted in such ways, leaving behind the hunger, violence and selfishness of the jungle, all conversations about "what to do" are of limited worth.

    Here is my presentation on such issues ...

    My Interview: Imperfect Buddha Podcast
    https://www.treeleaf.org/forums/show...Buddha-Podcast

    Gassho, Jundo

    stlah
    Last edited by Jundo; 04-11-2024 at 02:50 AM.
    ALL OF LIFE IS OUR TEMPLE

  18. #18
    If we wait until the mind is re-engineered and our nature is changed by technologies there will be less left to be concerned about. And what is left will still need the same efforts that millions of good people around the earth are undertaking each day to restore and protect. And I agree that the battle is not being won

    But if it is perceived here that “what to do” is but a cerebral exercise of limited worth then it is not worthy to carry the conversation on

    Doshin
    Stlah

  19. #19
    Quote Originally Posted by Doshin View Post
    If we wait until the mind is re-engineered and our nature is changed by technologies there will be less left to be concerned about. And what is left will still need the same efforts that millions of good people around the earth are undertaking each day to restore and protect. And I agree that the battle is not being won

    But if it is perceived here that “what to do” is but a cerebral exercise of limited worth then it is not worthy to carry the conversation on

    Doshin
    Stlah
    It is a race against time, for sure.

    In the meantime, we must continue to try to bail out the sinking boat with our teaspoons, yelling for the deaf captains to take action.

    I thought about this just this very morning, as I sorted my plastics for recycling ... a drop in the bucket, putting the burden on the consumer as if that will save the world ... when the real issue is that industry and regulators must make radical changes in manufacturing and packaging away from our dependency on plastics.

    But until we truly change human nature, there will not be the radical changes we need (unless, of course, the earth is then in such crisis that even the industrialists and politicians will finally be forced to act.) Hopefully, we will be able to change human nature in time.

    In the meantime, let us keep bailing and sorting and yelling at the captains ...

    ... For many of us, it seems as though the wealthiest people in the world are constructing a different universe, with their own taxes and banks and legal systems, and they will not be handing their private jets over either, thank you very much. Yes, vast numbers of us do want to work towards the beautiful sustainable society that Ritchie has in mind. But there are other groups, fuelled by anger or fear or greed, that really do not, and Ritchie does not suggest any tools we can use to get round that colossal obstacle ...

    https://www.theguardian.com/books/20...climate-crisis
    Gassho, Jundo

    stlah
    Last edited by Jundo; 04-11-2024 at 02:57 AM.
    ALL OF LIFE IS OUR TEMPLE

  20. #20
    Quote Originally Posted by Doshin View Post
    If we wait until the mind is re-engineered and our nature is changed by technologies there will be less left to be concerned about. And what is left will still need the same efforts that millions of good people around the earth are undertaking each day to restore and protect. And I agree that the battle is not being won

    But if it is perceived here that “what to do” is but a cerebral exercise of limited worth then it is not worthy to carry the conversation on

    Doshin
    Stlah
    I don't think we need to wait to re-engineer humanity for things to change, just get to work and focus that work on changes that are not welcomed by all, but by many for sure. Young people want a future, they may not see it now, but I'm pretty sure that they'd work for the necessary changes if they had the chance. Big social changes have happened in the past when enough people wanted them, and were ready for them, and had had enough of what had always been. That's why I like this thread, about a book about climate change that is hopeful. We need to believe that we can bring about good to make it happen.
    Sorry to run long.

    Gassho
    Alina
    stlah

    Sent from my SM-G970U using Tapatalk

  21. #21
    Well, perhaps it will need to be a fast race ...

    U.N. climate chief says two years to save the planet

    LONDON/BRUSSELS, April 10 (Reuters) - Governments, business leaders and development banks have two years to take action to avert far worse climate change, the U.N.'s climate chief said on Wednesday, in a speech that warned global warming is slipping down politicians' agendas.
    Scientists say halving climate-damaging greenhouse gas emissions by 2030 is crucial to stop a rise in temperatures of more than 1.5 Celsius that would unleash more extreme weather and heat.

    Yet last year, the world's energy-related CO2 emissions increased to a record high. Current commitments to fight climate change would barely cut global emissions at all by 2030.

    Simon Stiell, Executive Secretary of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change said the next two years are "essential in saving our planet".

    "We still have a chance to make greenhouse gas emissions tumble, with a new generation of national climate plans. But we need these stronger plans, now," he said. https://www.reuters.com/world/un-cli...et-2024-04-10/
    I guess he did not read Hannah Ritchie's book.

    Gassho, J

    stlah
    ALL OF LIFE IS OUR TEMPLE

  22. #22
    Connecting with this discussion, I just posted this ...

    [FutureBuddha] TV Recommendation: A Brief History of the Future (PBS)
    https://www.treeleaf.org/forums/show...ture-%28PBS%29


    I would like to recommend a new 6-part documentary series from American public television, PBS ...

    It is an optimistic (but no "rose colored glasses" either ) introduction to work and insights by various researchers, architects, urban planners, agriculturalists, psychologists, biologists, conservationists and the like around the world, hosted by a noted 'futurist' (the son of a WW2 Holocaust survivor) hoping for a better world.

    Each episode does offer a message of hope ... if we make the right choices ... if great hurdles can be overcome.

    I recommend it to all who believe that our world situation, although dire, has rays of light.


    The series is available here, although there may be geographic limits.

    https://www.pbs.org/video/beyond-the-now-ft4j2u/

    Gassho, Jundo

    stlah
    Last edited by Jundo; 04-12-2024 at 01:20 AM.
    ALL OF LIFE IS OUR TEMPLE

  23. #23
    Began the series this evening.

    “Action is the antidote to despair.” ~ Edward Abbey


    Doshin
    Stlah

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