Support the science
"Let us not talk falsely now. The hour is getting late." Bob Dylan
I am an activist in attempting to change the world to ensure we lessen the impact of the ecological crisis's we face. I have one local project I am working on as well as assisting in one internationally-based project, Treasure Earth on which my work will soon be finished. I support the work of people like H.H. Dalai Lama and H.H. Pope Francis in their stands on climate change and social justice, Greta Thunberg's stand that climate change is a planetary emergency, Her Majesty The Queen's Canopy Project and Prince William's Earthshot Prize, the “most prestigious environmental prize in history”, which will be awarded to five winners a year over the next decade with the aim of producing at least 50 solutions to the world's most pressing challenges.
I have an increasing number of people coming to me with conditions impacted on by climate change as well as anxiety and angst created by concerns in these areas.
There are nine broad planetary boundaries which, if seriously traversed, create difficulties and dangers for humanity. The nine, as summarized by the Stockholm Resilience Centre, are included, with some additional updates by this author, are:
- Stratospheric ozone depletion
The stratospheric ozone layer in the atmosphere filters out ultraviolet (UV) radiation from the sun. This seriously affects both climate and humanity. The hole over the Antarctic is now the smallest since 1980 which is excellent, but it does allow less heat to escape into space.
- Loss of biosphere integrity (biodiversity loss and extinctions)
The Millennium Ecosystem Assessment of 2005 concluded that changes to ecosystems due to human activities were more rapid in the past 50 years than at any time in human history, increasing the risks of abrupt and irreversible changes. Today in 2019 it is recognized that 70% of species on the planet have been seriously affected or killed, and that serious decline across species, including extinction, of 40% of the total species has occurred in the last 10 years.
- Chemical pollution and the release of novel entities
Emissions of toxic and long-lived substances such as synthetic organic pollutants, heavy metal compounds and radioactive materials represent some of the key human-driven changes to the planetary environment. For example, persistent organic compounds have caused dramatic reductions in bird populations and impaired reproduction and development in marine mammals.
- Climate Change
At the last time of writing by the Stockholm Resilience Center, the Earth was passing 390 parts per million by volume (pppm) CO2 in the atmosphere and reported it had already transgressed the planetary boundary and is approaching several Earth system thresholds. Today it has passed 408 ppmv CO2. It is now recognized that the International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has not calculated in its work the degradation of previously frozen biomass, known as permafrost, nor the large amounts of methane that will be released. The tundra ‘s across the northern hemisphere are now melting. They also did nto beleive the Antarctic would melt at the rates it now is.
- Ocean acidification
Around a quarter of the CO2 that humanity emits into the atmosphere is ultimately dissolved in the oceans. Here it forms carbonic acid, altering ocean chemistry and decreasing the pH of the surface water. This increased acidity reduces the amount of available carbonate ions, an essential 'building block' used by many marine species for shell and skeleton formation. Beyond a threshold concentration, this rising acidity makes it hard for organisms such as corals and some shellfish and plankton species to grow and survive.
- Freshwater consumption and the global hydrological cycle
The freshwater cycle is strongly affected by climate change and its boundary is closely linked to the climate boundary, yet human pressure is now the dominant driving force determining the functioning and distribution of global freshwater systems.
- Land system change
Land is converted to human use all over the planet. Forests, grasslands, wetlands and other vegetation types have primarily been converted to agricultural land. This land-use change is one driving force behind the serious reductions in biodiversity, and it has impacts on water flows and on the biogeochemical cycling of carbon, nitrogen and phosphorus and other important elements.
- Nitrogen and phosphorus flows to the biosphere and oceans
The biogeochemical cycles of nitrogen and phosphorus have been radically changed by humans as a result of many industrial and agricultural processes. Nitrogen and phosphorus are both essential elements for plant growth, so fertilizer production and application is the main concern. Human activities now convert more atmospheric nitrogen into reactive forms than all of the Earth's terrestrial processes combined.
- Atmospheric aerosol loading
An atmospheric aerosol planetary boundary was proposed primarily because of the influence of aerosols on Earth's climate system. We do not know what is happening at this level.
Boundaries crossed and creating a multi-pronged ecological crisis
Another planetary boundary that has been seriously traversed is the Nitrogen and Phosphorus flows to the biosphere and oceans.
Two others that are rarely discussed are:
Overpopulation: This is particularly over-population of people who make up “Western Civilisation” and consume enormous resources. If all people on the planet had the same lifestyle and consumer patterns as the roughly 2 billion people who currently make up "Western civilization" we would need the equivalent resources of five Earths to support them. We only have one Earth and if we keep squeezing it then we will all suffer. Another aspect of overpopulation is that illness and disease can spread far more rapidly, and this can cause great harm.
Heat: Look at the background picture to this page. Cities and urbanization have heat as an output. Heat is an output from industrialization and modern society. Heat is a by-product and is needs to go somewhere. The oceans have acted as a heat sink, especially as a little bit of atmospheric carbon helps keep heat in. The oceans have absorbed the heat equivalent to one Hiroshima sized A-bomb going off every second since 1870. This is hastening regardless of the power sources used by humanity, and is largely due to increasing electrification, urbanization and extension of the industrial consumerist society to Asia, Africa and South America.
Outside of the science, it is my view that human sanity requires people to haveconnections to nature in addition to the necessities of food, water, energy and air. Science now shows the health benefits of silence, as one example, and the Japanese and Koreans scientists have shown the importance of forest and the volatile phytoncides put out by trees which are available in greater density in forests. Many studies now show that there are decreases in cortisol levels, the sympathetic nervous system activity, systolic blood pressure, and decreases in heart rate similarly to what occurs in mindfulness programs.
I am currently working on the development of compassionatenature-based programs as well as the existing work I do on therapies involving compassion and mindfulness.
Copyright Thinking Healthy - John Julian