Friday, September 24, 2010

Hope for the planet

I've seen Tim Flannery talk a few times, and always noted how calm he is. If I knew what he knows, I'd be screaming at everyone all the time.

I consider Tim Flannery to be a great man.

He has written a new book Here on Earth: An Argument for Hope, which is being released next week. Some excerpts here:

Beckoning us towards destruction are our numbers, our dismantling of Earth's life-support system and especially our inability to unite in action to secure our common wealth. Yet we should take solace from the fact that, from the very beginning, we have loved one another and lived in company, thereby, through giving up much, forging the greatest power on Earth....

The immediate challenge is fundamental - to manage our atmospheric and oceanic global commons - and the unavoidable cost of success in this is that nations must cede real authority, as they do whenever they agree to act in common to secure the welfare of all. This does not mean the creation of a world government, simply the enforcement of common rules, for the common good.

By ordinary human measures, the climate crisis moves slowly, and so do the changes we're making to address it, so slowly, indeed, that we often fail to detect important thresholds except in retrospect. How will we know if we've turned the corner in our battle for a sustainable future? When profiteering at Gaia's expense is regarded and punished as the gravest of crimes - both because it represents a theft from the whole world, present and future, and because it may not remain mere theft but, as its consequences ramify, may become murder or genocide as well - then a sustainable future will be ours. Such a moment, if it ever comes, will close a chapter in human history - that of the frontier - which has characterised our species for 50,000 years. In early 2010 we edged a fraction closer with the commencement of a campaign to have the United Nation's International Criminal Court recognise ''ecocide'' (the heedless or deliberate destruction of the environment) as a fifth ''crime against peace''....

Perhaps Fermi's paradox tells us that we really are alone in the universe, simply because we are the first global superorganism ever to exist. After all, it's taken all of time - from the Big Bang to the present - to make the stardust that forms all life, and to forge that stardust, through evolution by natural selection, into us and our living planet. If we really are the first intelligent superorganism, then perhaps we are destined to populate all of existence, and in so doing to fulfil Alfred Russel Wallace's vision of perfecting the human spirit in the vastness of the universe. From our present vantage point we cannot know such things. But I am certain of one thing - if we do not strive to love one another, and to love our planet as much as we love ourselves, then no further human progress is possible here on Earth.

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