Systems: Natural and Manufactured
The last few years of extreme weather events (unprecedented floods in Pakistan, wildfires in Russia, droughts in Australia and China and the recent tornadoes and floods in the US) are just a taste of the world we are heading towards. The relentless build up of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, from the burning of fossil fuels and deforestation, is pushing the ecosystems that support us to the brink.
Despite the conceit that mankind is somehow separate (and above) the natural world, our existence is inextricably linked to a network of systems that is buckling under an onslaught of destruction caused by resource extraction and pollution. This destruction is being driven by man-made social systems that demand never-ending growth on a finite planet.
Unless we dismantle these social systems and replace them with ones that can work with natural systems, not against them, we cannot hope to change the course we are on. Dreams of fancy technofixes and new energy sources are simply self-justifications for continuing down this path of self-destruction. We are exploiting pretty much the whole world and there are no significant new frontiers left to exploit. Trapped inside this closed system we will be forced to confront the consequences of our actions one way or another.
Runaway Climate Change
Global temperatures are currently only 1 degree warmer than they were 100 years ago, which has already proved to be hugely destructive and has resulted in a huge increase in natural disasters over the past decade, and the last year in particular.
Within 20 or 30 years – well within most people’s lifetime – the atmosphere’s temperature is likely to raise by 2 degrees. Although this was generally considered a “safe” temperature, the events of the past year have shown that the destructive effects of temperature increases are much more serious than most scientists expected. If we carry on at the current rate of increasing emissions, then apocalyptic temperatures are likely to be reached, with much of the Earth becoming uninhabitable and billions of people displaced.
As the climate is pushed further out of equilibrium, and as the atmosphere reaches a certain temperature (the tipping point), a runaway effect becomes more likely. Burning all the fossil fuels we already know about would push us way past that point.
Fracking and Climate Change
At a time when we should be rejecting the use of fossil fuels (coal, gas and oil), a UK-wide ‘dash for gas’ makes no sense. Fracking is a method of natural gas extraction, it accesses new reserves of fossil fuel and results in vast amounts of greenhouse gas being released into the atmosphere, exacerbating the rise in global temperature. The energy that should be invested in exploring real alternatives, is instead being directed at finding tiny pockets of gas, and is destroying the Earth in the process. While the UK is only one small part of a bigger picture, given our historical responsibility for (quite literally) blazing the trail to the end-state of industrial civilisation, the UK would probably be more influential than most in encouraging humanity to pull back from the brink.