Dr. Jane Goodall, DBE, founder of the Jane Goodall Institute, UN Messenger of Peace and world-renowned ethologist and conservationist, whose groundbreaking discoveries changed humanity’s understanding of its role in the natural world, was announced today as the winner of the 2021 Templeton Prize. The Templeton Prize, valued at over $1.5 million, is one of the world’s largest annual individual awards. Established by the late global investor and philanthropist Sir John Templeton, it is given to honor those who harness the power of the sciences to explore the deepest questions of the universe and humankind’s place and purpose within it. Unlike Goodall’s past accolades, the Templeton Prize specifically celebrates her scientific and spiritual curiosity. The Prize rewards her unrelenting effort to connect humanity to a greater purpose and is the largest single award that Dr. Goodall has ever received.
“We are delighted and honored to award Dr. Jane Goodall this year, as her achievements go beyond the traditional parameters of scientific research to define our perception of what it means to be human,” said Heather Templeton Dill, president of the John Templeton Foundation. “Her discoveries have profoundly altered the world’s view of animal intelligence and enriched our understanding of humanity in a way that is both humbling and exalting. Ultimately, her work exemplifies the kind of humility, spiritual curiosity, and discovery that my grandfather, John Templeton, wrote and spoke about during his life.”
China’s greenhouse gas emissions in 2019 exceeded those of the U.S. and the developed world combined, according to a report published Thursday by research and consulting firm Rhodium Group.
The country’s emissions more than tripled during the past three decades, the report added.
China is now responsible for more than 27% of total global emissions. The U.S., which is the world’s second-highest emitter, accounts for 11% of the global total. India is responsible for 6.6% of global emissions, edging out the 27 nations in the EU, which account for 6.4%, the report said.
The findings come after a climate summit President Joe Biden hosted last month, during which Chinese President Xi Jinping reiterated his pledge to make sure the nation’s emissions peak by 2030. He also repeated China’s commitment to reach net-zero emissions by midcentury and urged countries to work together to combat the climate crisis.
As many as one in five wells worldwide is at risk of running dry if groundwater levels drop by even a few meters, according to a new study appearing Thursday in the journal Science.
Wells supply water for half the world’s irrigated agriculture, as well as drinking water to billions of people. But the aquifers that wells draw from have been imperiled in recent years as intense demand and lack of government management have allowed them to be drained. The scale of the threat has been difficult to calibrate, however, especially at a global level.
Researchers at the University of California, Santa Barbara produced their analysis by compiling construction records for almost 39 million groundwater wells in 40 countries, including their locations, depths, purposes, and construction dates. They found that between 6% and 20% are no more than 5 meters deeper than their local water tables, “suggesting that millions of wells are at risk of drying up if groundwater levels decline by only a few meters,” the authors wrote.
One solution when wells run dry is to dig deeper, but that often leads to poor water quality, according to the researchers. Well construction is also expensive, meaning that digging deeper isn’t always an option.
Global warming and sea level rise due to climate change are also contributing to the problem.
We thank you, creator God,
for the goodly heritage you offer us,
from green downland
to the deep salt seas,
and for the abundant world
we share with your creation.
Keep us so mindful of its needs
and those of all with whom we share,
that open to your Spirit
we may discern and practice
all that makes for its wellbeing,
through Jesus Christ our Lord.
–The Rev. Peter Lippiett courtesy of Xavier Univeristy
“If at some point Earth becomes uninhabitable there’s no way to escape. We are linked to this planet.”
About six weeks ago, millions of homeowners across Texas suddenly found their water to be possibly contaminated—or lost access to it entirely—when freezing temperatures and the state’s decrepit infrastructure led to widespread blackouts.
Last week, on the other side of the planet, Taiwan cut water supplies to areas including a key hub of semiconductor manufacturing, thanks to the worst drought in decades.
These back-to-back crises are emblematic of a global catastrophe that is only now getting the attention it deserves. And unlike other calamities that may recede over time, this one is only going to get worse. The World Health Organization estimates that in less than four years, half of the world’s population will be living in water-stressed areas.
“These risks are only expected to grow as climate change effects intensify,” said Thomas Schumann, the founder of Thomas Schumann Capital, a firm that’s created investable water indexes for the U.S. and Europe. “Not only that, but the business costs associated with these risks are projected to be $300 billion…or five times greater if left unaddressed.”
The world is in a water crisis, & children’s lives and futures are at risk. Today, over 1.42 billion people – including 450 million children – live in areas of high or extremely high water vulnerability.
More and more cities are embracing a doughnut-shaped economic model to help recover from the coronavirus crisis and reduce exposure to future shocks.
British economist and author of “Doughnut Economics” Kate Raworth believes it is simply a matter of time before the concept is adopted at a national level.
The Dutch capital of Amsterdam became the first city worldwide to formally implement doughnut economics in early April last year, choosing to launch the initiative at a time when the country had one of the world’s highest mortality rates from the coronavirus pandemic.
Amsterdam’s city government said at the time that it hoped to recover from the crisis and avoid future crises by embracing a city portrait of the doughnut theory.
As outlined in Raworth’s 2017 book, doughnut economics aims to “act as a compass for human progress,” turning last century’s degenerative economy into this century’s regenerative one.
“The compass is a doughnut, the kind with a hole in the middle. Ridiculous though that sounds, it is the only doughnut that actually turns out to be good for us,” Raworth told CNBC via telephone.
1. I start with a poison of hatred.
Human life, itself, is in danger today. The humanity of life is threatened. Life is not in danger because it is menaced by death, for it always has been. It is in danger because it is no longer respected and affirmed. It is no longer loved. After the Second World War, Albert Camus stated, “The secret of Europe is that it no longer loves life.” Anyone who took part in World War II knows what he meant.
After seventy years of peace in Europe, we are facing a new ideology of enmity today. In the 20th century, we experienced a state-operating “terror from above” in forms of fascism and Stalinism. Today, we are experiencing private “terror from below”.
“Your young people love life”, Mullah Omar, of the Taliban, told Western journalists, “our young people love death.” Suicide assassins love death of their enemies and their own deaths. That is the terror of the Islamic State in Iraq, and of Boko Haram in Africa towards the “godless” Western world that they feel threatened by. The victim mentality always leads to anger and to hate.
These days, this terror has been joined ranks by “white terror”, as Norway, New Zealand, and Texas, and Germany have witnessed the terror of “white supremacy”, of white racism. In many Western nations, a climate of hate has been fostered, promoting such hate against those perceived as outsiders, against migrants, Jews, and disliked politicians. Our public atmosphere has been poisoned ever since we have had anonymous Twitter on the internet: Hate via the world wide web.
Question is, how can human civilization prevail against these odds?
The political problem we are facing is neo-nationalism. The big nations of the world are at war in the middle of peace. It is a hybrid war of economic sanctions and cyber wars with fake news. In the struggle for power, the neo-nationalists seem to believe in the survival of the fittest, because they deem their own nation to be the fittest.
Neo-nationalism began at the end of the East-West conflict in 1990. Up until then, the world had been divided into two blocks: the socialist world in the East, and the “free world” in the West. Then the Soviet Union dissolved itself, Gorbachev lost, and Yeltsin won in 1993. The Soviet Union disintegrated into larger and smaller nations. The socialist dream of equality of all people died.
21 asset owners, with $1.2 trillion in assets, have used publication of the Framework to commit to achieve net zero alignment by 2050 or sooner. The funds, including the Church of England Pensions Board, are drawing on the Framework to deliver these commitments, alongside a number of asset managers who are already working with clients on net zero alignment.
The Framework enables investors to decarbonise investment portfolios and increase investment in climate solutions, in a way that is consistent with and contributes to a 1.5°C net zero emissions future. Investors do this by developing a ‘net zero investment strategy’ built around five core components of the Framework. These key components are: objectives and targets, strategic asset allocation and asset class alignment, alongside policy advocacy and, investor engagement activity and governance.
There’s auto news out of Sweden: Volvo Cars says that it will be fully electric by 2030. No more internal combustion, no more hybrids. It’s batteries or bust.
In making this commitment, Volvo is betting on a trend: that as EVs are becoming cheaper and new conventional cars are being priced higher, consumers’ math on electric-versus-internal combustion will soon come out in electrics’ favor.
But there’s more to Volvo’s position on EVs than just changing the powertrain. The carmaker says its pure electric models will only be available for sale online, and that its first fully electric car is now receiving over-the-air software updates. (Tesla has been doing this for years.) That first plan has implications for the built environment; the second, for emissions and the global climate.
Because here’s the thing. When I run into people who are very adamant about rejecting climate change — they’re not that many; only 7 percent of people are dismissive, but they’re very loud about it. I look at those people, whether it’s on social media or if they wrote me a letter — rarely do I run into them in person; most prefer to be behind the safety of a keyboard before they attack you — but I look at who they are because I’m curious. And easily 90 percent of the time — probably more than that — climate change is just one of a package of issues: extreme nationalism, anti-immigration, right-wing politics. You know, whatever the current issue of the day is — covid, school shooting — you can guarantee that whoever rejects climate change will also be adamantly defending the right of people to bear weapons and supporting covid myths and disinformation. It all goes together.
So only 7 percent are what we would call climate-change deniers?
Yeah. Seven percent are really hardcore, but then what happens is that a lot of people are not outright dismissive — they just are what social scientists call “cognitive misers.” We all are. [Laughs.] Because who has time to read all of these things and develop a thoughtful opinion on the myriad issues that we’re expected to have in order to vote or to advocate or even [address] when it comes up in conversation? So we look to the opinions of people we respect, whose values we believe that we share, who we assume have spent a bit more time thinking about it than we have. And we adopt their opinions. Unfortunately, today a lot of that has become very politically polarized. And you have a lot of people who are just really confused because they hear people whose values they share, who call themselves Christians, who have called themselves Republicans or conservatives, telling people, “Oh, this isn’t real.” “Those scientists are just making it up.” “It’s just a liberal hoax.”
“I don’t want to change who people are or what they believe. It’s a case of showing them that they already care about this — and already believe what they need to in order to make a difference.” –@KHayhoehttps://t.co/Nza9WSicGd
The Atlantic Ocean circulation that underpins the Gulf Stream, the weather system that brings warm and mild weather to Europe, is at its weakest in more than a millennium, and climate breakdown is the probable cause, according to new data.
Further weakening of the Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation (AMOC) could result in more storms battering the UK, more intense winters and an increase in damaging heatwaves and droughts across Europe.
Scientists predict that the AMOC will weaken further if global heating continues, and could reduce by about 34% to 45% by the end of this century, which could bring us close to a “tipping point” at which the system could become irrevocably unstable. A weakened Gulf Stream would also raise sea levels on the Atlantic coast of the US, with potentially disastrous consequences.
Stefan Rahmstorf, of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research, who co-authored the study published on Thursday in Nature Geoscience, told the Guardian that a weakening AMOC would increase the number and severity of storms hitting Britain, and bring more heatwaves to Europe.
The Bishop of Norwich, Graham Usher, has accepted the invitation of the Archbishop of Canterbury to lead the Church of England’s Environment Programme with a charge to lead bold, deliberate, collaborative action across the Church to tackle the grave existential crises of climate change and biodiversity loss.
Bishop Graham will work with the Mission and Public Affairs department of the Church of England to lead the Church of England’s Environment Programme, including the commitment to net-zero carbon impacts across the Church of England by 2030 set by General Synod in February 2020.
He will succeed the Bishop of Salisbury, Nicholas Holtam, who retires later in the year.
Delighted that @bishopnorwich will be leading @churchofengland's Environment Programme. We can already see the devastating effects of climate change around the world – my prayers are with Bishop Graham as he embarks on this vital role at a crucial time. https://t.co/En7JjdIbcK
The carbon footprint of Church of England buildings has been calculated for the first time. The estimate is that parish churches use about 185,000 tonnes of greenhouse gases each year.
The data has been gathered by the Energy Footprint Tool (EFT), an online calculator built by the statistics team at Church House, Westminster, which allows parishes to input their energy usage and discover how much carbon-dioxide equivalent they are using (News, 4 September 2020).
Once churches have entered their data, the tool offers advice for how they could cut their energy usage, and a simple comparison on how they are doing compared with churches of similar size.
It is hoped that wider usage of the EFT will help to push the Church towards meeting its target, set by the General Synod, of reaching net-zero emissions by 2030 (News, 14 February 2020)
The Bishop of Salisbury, the Rt Revd Nicholas Holtam, the C of E’s lead bishop on the environment, said that the 2030 target had inspired Anglicans everywhere to “pick up the pace”.
A natural ocean soundscape is fundamental to healthy marine life but is being drowned out by an increasingly loud cacophony of noise from human activities, according to the first comprehensive assessment of the issue.
The damage caused by noise is as harmful as overfishing, pollution and the climate crisis, the scientists said, but is being dangerously overlooked. The good news, they said, is that noise can be stopped instantly and does not have lingering effects, as the other problems do.
Marine animals can hear over much greater distances than they can see or smell, making sound crucial to many aspects of life. From whales to shellfish, sealife uses sound to catch prey, navigate, defend territory and attract mates, as well as find homes and warn of attack. Noise pollution increases the risk of death and in extreme cases, such as explosions, kills directly.
Carbon dioxide emissions from fossil fuel burning are also making the oceans more acidic, meaning the water carries sound further, leading to an even noisier ocean, the researchers said. But the movement of marine mammals and sharks into previously noisy areas when the Covid-19 pandemic slashed ocean traffic showed that marine life could recover rapidly from noise pollution, they said.
Australia itself has long been a climate laggard and a major coal exporter, but as China and other big customers plan to cut their emissions, taking their business with them, that may be changing. Dozens of the world’s biggest economies have adopted targets for net-zero emissions of greenhouse gases by 2050. And 189 countries have joined the 2015 Paris climate accord, which aims to limit global warming to well below 2C. In a race to curb climate change, countries are rushing to cut fossil fuels, boost clean energy — and transform their economies in the process.
But as the energy system changes, so will energy politics. For most of the past century, geopolitical power was intimately connected to fossil fuels. The fear of an oil embargo or a gas shortage was enough to forge alliances or start wars, and access to oil deposits conferred great wealth. In the world of clean energy, a new set of winners and losers will emerge. Some see it as a clean energy “space race”. Countries or regions that master clean technology, export green energy or import less fossil fuel stand to gain from the new system, while those that rely on exporting fossil fuels — such as the Middle East or Russia — could see their power decline.
Olafur Ragnar Grimsson, the former president of Iceland and chair of the Global Commission on the Geopolitics of Energy Transformation, says that the clean energy transition will birth a new type of politics. The shift is happening “faster, and in a more comprehensive way, than anyone expected”, he says. “As fossil fuels gradually go out of the energy system . . . the old geopolitical model of power centres that dominate relations between states also goes out the window. Gradually the power of those states that were big players in the world of the fossil-fuel economies, or big corporates like the oil companies, will fritter away.”
In particular, the Prime Minister is being urged to ensure that long-term and interim targets for cutting plastic pollution are included in the government’s flagship Environment Bill, which is currently passing through Parliament.
Bishop Mark said: “We know that global warming, rising sea levels, and plastic pollution are all issues affecting our world; we hear about these things through the news all of the time. By putting targets in place, written in law, together we can really begin to achieve something and change the way we’re treating our planet. As Christians, we understand that life is a gift from God and to see his creation under threat should be a cause for sadness.”
AS California’s economy skyrocketed during the 20th century, its land headed in the opposite direction. A booming agricultural industry in the state’s San Joaquin Valley, combined with punishing droughts, led to the over-extraction of water from aquifers. Like huge, empty water bottles, the aquifers crumpled, a phenomenon geologists call subsidence. By 1970, the land had sunk as much as 28 feet in the valley, with less-than-ideal consequences for the humans and infrastructure above the aquifers.
The San Joaquin Valley was geologically primed for collapse, but its plight is not unique. All over the world—from the Netherlands to Indonesia to Mexico City—geology is conspiring with climate change to sink the ground under humanity’s feet. More punishing droughts mean the increased draining of aquifers, and rising seas make sinking land all the more vulnerable to flooding. According to a recent study published in the journal Science, in the next two decades, 1.6 billion people could be affected by subsidence, with potential loses in the trillions of dollars.
“Subsidence has been neglected in a lot of ways because it is slow moving. You don’t recognize it until you start seeing damage,” says Michelle Sneed, a land subsidence specialist at the U.S. Geological Survey and coauthor on the paper. “The land sinking itself is not a problem. But if you’re on the coast, it’s a big problem. If you have infrastructure that crosses long areas, it’s a big problem. If you have deep wells, they’re collapsing because of subsidence. That’s a problem.”
The over exploitation of groundwater is not only very obviously unsustainable, it’s causing the land under some of the worlds biggest to sink lower and lower as the empty aquifers collapse. This is becoming a very big problem. https://t.co/wX23as1IQ7 via @wired
2020 also brought the highest ever amount of “major” tidal floods, when water levels rise to 8 feet, causing significant disruption in the region. That happened seven times last year, which is an even more remarkable milestone considering the region was not directly affected by a hurricane.
While 2020′s records are just one data point, it’s another sign that tidal flooding in the city driven by man-made climate change is worsening. The pace of flooding is speeding up, according to institutions such as the Virginia Institute of Marine Science, which has plotted an exponential trend of higher seas for Charleston.
At Friday’s event Glencore pledged to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions, including “scope 3” created when customers burn raw materials, to net zero by 2050.
It plans to do this mainly by placing its coal business into managed decline in which reserves are not replaced as they run down.
By setting out a credible pathway to net zero, Mr Glasenberg believes Glencore will be able to hang on to a business it can milk for cash and not be penalised by investors.
Coal accounts for about 10 per cent of earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation, and 5 per cent of revenue, so it is not a huge part of its business.
The move has met a positive response. While Glencore’s commitments require careful consideration, they are “significant”, according to Adam Matthews, director of ethics and engagement at the Church of England Pensions Board and co-chair of the Transition Pathway Initiative.
Glencore needs to decide what it wants to be in the post-Ivan, ESG world,” said Paul Gait, a mining expert at Azvalor Asset Management. “My gut feeling is that coal will be separated eventually.” via @FT https://t.co/xP7ieO4CJ9
Ask climate scientists how fast the world’s oceans are creeping upward, and many will say 3.2 millimeters per year—a figure enshrined in the last Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report, from 2014. But the number, based on satellite measurements taken since the early 1990s, is a long-term average. In fact, the global rate varied so much over that period that it was hard to say whether it was holding steady or accelerating.
It was accelerating, big time. Faster melting of Greenland’s ice has pushed the rate to 4.8 millimeters per year, according to a 10-year average compiled for Science by Benjamin Hamlington, an ocean scientist at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) and head of the agency’s sea level change team. “The [Greenland] mass loss has clearly kicked into higher gear,” agrees Felix Landerer, a JPL sea level scientist. With the help of new data, new models of vertical land motion, and—this month—a new radar satellite, oceanographers are sharpening their picture of how fast, and where, the seas are gobbling up the land.
Hamlington and colleagues first reported signs of the speedup in 2018 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Since then, they and others have become more confident about the trends. In a 2019 study in Nature Climate Change, a group led by Sönke Dangendorf, a physical oceanographer at Old Dominion University, used tide gauge readings that predate satellite records to show seas have risen 20 centimeters since 1900. The team’s data show that, after a period of global dam building in the 1950s that held back surface water and slowed sea level rise, it began to accelerate in the late 1960s—not the late 1980s, as many climate scientists assumed, Dangendorf says. “That was surprising,” because the main drivers of sea level rise—the thermal expansion of ocean water from global warming, together with melting glaciers and ice sheets—were thought to have kicked in later.
Seas are rising even faster than scientists previously believed. With the help of new data, new models, and—this month—a new radar satellite, oceanographers are sharpening their picture of just how fast. https://t.co/YYPI2kLMKb
Marking the end of the first half of London Climate Action Week, representatives from UK faith groups have signed an open letter to the UK Government urging it to ensure that its economic recovery strategy is centred on the urgent need to reduce the impact of climate change.
In the letter, the signatories, some of whom are members of the ‘Faith for the Climate’ network, also commit to the goals of the Laudato Si encyclical – an initiative of Pope Francis – to advocate for and model positive initiatives to continue to tackle the Climate Emergency.
The open letter [begins]:
COVID-19 has unexpectedly taught us a great deal. Amidst the fear and the grief for loved ones lost, many of us have found consolation in the dramatic reduction of pollution and the restoration of nature. Renewed delight in and contact with the natural world has the capacity to reduce our mental stress and nourish us spiritually.
We have rediscovered our sense of how interconnected the world is. The very health and future of humanity depends on our ability to act together not only with respect to pandemics but also in protecting our global eco-system.
At the same time, less travel and consumption and more kindness and neighbourliness have helped us appreciate what society can really mean.
We have also seen yet again that in times of crisis, injustice becomes more obvious, and that it is the poor and vulnerable who suffer most….
Marking the end of London Climate Action Week @london_climate on Friday UK faith leaders called on the Government to prioritise the environment, ensuring that the economic recovery is centred on the urgent need to reduce the impact of climate change.https://t.co/IH6AQyPha7
— Church of England Environment Programme (@CofEEnvironment) July 6, 2020
The Archbishop of Canterbury together with the Bishops of Salisbury, Oxford, Truro, Dover, Woolwich, Sherborne, Loughborough, Kingston, Reading and Ramsbury, and former Archbishop Rowan Williams have joined a list of eight archbishops and 38 bishops worldwide in signing an open letter stating that black lives are predominantly affected by the effects of climate change, as well as police brutality and the spread of COVID-19.
Published by the Anglican Communion’s Environmental Network, the letter reads (extract):
The world is slow to respond to climate change, hanging on to an increasingly precarious and unjust economic system. It is predominantly Black lives that are being impacted by drought, flooding, storms and sea level rise. The delayed global response to climate injustice gives the impression that #blacklivesdontmatter. Without urgent action Black lives will continue to be the most impacted, being dispossessed from their lands and becoming climate refugees.
We stand at a Kairos moment – in order to fight environmental injustice , we must also fight racial injustice.
Archbishop of Canterbury and fellow Anglican leaders link Black Lives Matter movement to fight against climate change, warning that black people bear the brunt of havoc wreaked by droughts, flooding and sea-level risehttps://t.co/WqlvE1P5aJ
As the COVID-19 pandemic has reminded us, we have to live in a world we will never fully understand, predict, or control. The huge cost — in terms both of lives and money — of the world’s collective failure to apply precautionary reasoning to the coronavirus will hopefully continue to wake people up. If we are to survive, let alone flourish, we need to change things up; we need to imagine big, along the lines that I’ve been suggesting. This pandemic is our chance, probably our last such chance, for a new beginning. From its horror, if we retrieve the drive to localise, we’ll be building the best possible memorial to those hundreds of thousands who have unnecessarily died.
The coronavirus crisis is like the climate crisis, only dramatically telescoped in terms of time. We have seen what happens when there is a short-term protective contraction of the economy. The lifestyle-change that was required by the pandemic is more extreme than what will be required of us in order adequately to address the climate crisis. Why not make the less extreme changes required to live safely within a stable climate?
The coronavirus pandemic is like an acute condition: both individuals and entire societies need to respond quickly to it, but probably not for an extended period of time — certainly not if prevention or elimination is successfully achieved. The climate crisis is a chronic condition: it will take decades upon decades of determination, commitment, and “sacrifice” not to be overwhelmed by it. But the changes we need to make in order to achieve that goal are more attractive than those made in order to fight the coronavirus. The life we live in a climate-safe world can be a better life: saner; more rooted and local; more secure, with stronger communities and less uncertainty about our common future; less hyper-materialistic; more caring; more nurturing, and with greater exposure to the natural world.
What is required is the building of care, ethical sensibilities, and precautiousness into the very warp and weft of our lives.
Speaking after the Angelus in Rome, the pope said the pandemic had made people reflect on the relationship between humankind and the environment.
“The lockdown has reduced pollution,” he said. It had enabled people to rediscover the beauty of many places free from traffic and noise.
“Now, with the resumption of activities, we should all be more responsible for the care of the common home,” he continued. Mentioning the many emerging grass-roots environmental movements, he called for citizens to be “increasingly aware of this essential common good”.
The early afternoon sun was pounding the parched soil, and Gus Whyte was pulling on his dust-caked cowboy boots to take me for a drive. We’d just finished lunch—cured ham, a loaf of bread I’d bought on the trip up, chutney pickled by Whyte’s wife, Kelly—at his house in Anabranch South, which isn’t a town but rather a fuzzy cartographic notion in the far west of New South Wales, a seven-hour drive from Melbourne and half as far again from Sydney. I’d been grateful, as I pulled off the blacktop of the Silver City Highway to cover the last 10 miles or so, that I’d rented the biggest 4×4 Hertz could give me. I was on a dirt road, technically, but the dirt was mostly sand, punctuated with rocks the size of small livestock and marked only by the faintest of tire tracks.
We climbed into Whyte’s pickup, and I reached instinctively over my shoulder. “Don’t worry about seat belts,” he said, amiably but firmly. “I know it’s a habit.” His Jack Russell terrier, Molly, balanced herself on his lap as he drove.
Whyte, who has reddish-brown hair, sheltered his ruddy, sun-weathered face beneath a battered bush hat. He raises livestock, mostly sheep and some cattle, on nearly 80,000 acres. Normally he’d run about 7,500 sheep, but he was down to 2,000. There wasn’t enough water for more. “I can’t remember it being this dry,” he said. “It’s disheartening to see a landscape like this. You hate it. This is where I was born and grew up, and it means the world to me.”
He kept driving, rattling off statistics about rainfall (down) and temperatures (up). Every so often he’d stop and get out to check on one of the storage tanks dotting the property, which held what little water he had. After a while we pulled onto the crest of a small hill, and Whyte pointed out Yelta Lake, a kidney-shaped landmark that’s colored, on maps, in a reassuringly cool blue. In real life it was the same dun color as everything else. “It hasn’t had any water in it since 2014,” he said.
Australia’s most important river system is on the verge of collapse, and other waterways around the world are next. My story for Bloomberg Green on a crisis that should be a warning to us all. https://t.co/ktbWHbEeNj
For this reason, degrowth offers no guarantee that environmental impacts will decline. This is all the more so as calls for degrowth are frequently coupled with demands for a return to simpler, less technological, and non-synthetic systems for the provision of food and energy and for production of material goods and services. Less affluent economies more dependent upon production systems that use less technology would substantially increase the resource demands associated with consumption, and would erode or even entirely offset the benefits of lower levels of consumption.
Indeed, all over the world, poor populations dependent on low-productivity technologies often require surprisingly large per capita resource footprints to sustain their meager consumption. One 2012 study in PNAS, for instance, found that the average West African requires the same amount of land as the average Northern European to support a diet that is much poorer calorically and offers much less dietary protein.
By contrast, over the last two centuries, a virtuous cycle of rising energy and resource productivity has allowed for unprecedented levels of human wellbeing. With that has come a growing population — not because people are having more children but because life expectancies are much higher. Greater prosperity has brought rising material consumption — not mainly because of conspicuous consumption in the wealthiest societies, but rather the agrarian, energy, and demographic transitions that have allowed much of the global population to escape rural poverty and achieve something approaching modern living standards.
Growing demand for material goods and services by a growing and increasingly affluent global population has increased the pressure on natural resources. But it has also led to innovation that has raised resource productivity. In this way, rising resource productivity has allowed for both continuing economic growth and the increasing environmental efficiency of the global economy.
Reversing those dynamics will not necessarily result in lower resource usage, or lower environmental impacts. Lowering demand for resources could as easily result in less-productive resource use as in reduced pressure on resources. The combination of large post-growth human populations, economic stagnation, and increasingly abundant natural resources might drive human societies toward less-productive technological systems. The end of growth, in this way, may do more harm to the planet than good.
Yeb Saño believes that the environmental crisis is rooted in three human characteristics, all of which are “closely connected with who we are”. All of these three words, he says, “start with the letter A”.
The first word is arrogance. Arrogance is the belief that you’re better than God or better than nature, that we’re smarter than nature – and that has caused a lot of havoc in the world.
The second word is apathy. Apathy is the dangerous belief that it’s somebody else’s job to care, it’s somebody else’s job to take care of others or take care of the environment.
And the third one is avarice, which is extreme greed. Greed has made this world a much, much worse place to live in. Greed is what drives, for example, corporations to only think about profits and not the people and the planet.
These are three words that “we as Catholics strive to stand up against”, three forms of a lack of love: “the love that Pope Francis reminds us to embrace as a commandment from God and as an example from the life of Jesus”, says Yeb Saño.
“Turtles keep you guessing,” she said. “What’s more shocking is since that nest we’re seen five more.”
The early nestings have bad and good implications for sea turtle nesting in South Carolina and across the Southeast. Loggerheads, which lay most of the eggs here, are also nesting earlier.
The phenomenon is likely one more sign that warmer seas and sands are becoming one more threat to the declining species.
But it might mean the ancient turtles themselves are adapting — again — to a changing climate.
Far more of the eggs that are laid in warmer sands emerge as females, disrupting the gender balance needed to reproduce. The trend has worried biologists for the turtles’ future. The turtles, metabolically if not instinctively, might just be looking for cooler sands. The shift in nesting season is occurring along with an apparent northward shift in range.