By John Scales Avery, New Age Islam
15 February 2019
Only immediate climate action can save the
future. If we don’t take action, the collapse of our civilizations and the
extinction of much of the natural world is on the horizon.
A New Book
I have written a 396-page book about the
steps that are urgently needed in order to save the future for our children and
grandchildren. The book makes use of articles and book chapters that I have
previously written on our current crisis, but much new material has been added.
I urge readers to download and circulate the pdf file of the book from the
Other freely-downloadable books and
articles on global problems can be found at the following address:
Immediate Action Is Needed To Save The
Here is a recent statement by Jakob von
Uexküll, founder of the World Future Council:
“Today we are heading for unprecedented
dangers and conflicts, up to and including the end of a habitable planet in the
foreseeable future, depriving all future generations of their right to life and
the lives of preceding generations of meaning and purpose.
“This apocalyptic reality is the elephant
in the room. Current policies threaten temperature increases triggering
permafrost melting and the release of ocean methane hydrates which would make
our earth unliveable, according to research presented by the British Government
Met office at the Paris Climate Conference.
“The myth that climate change is conspiracy
to reduce freedom is spread by a powerful and greedy elite which has largely
captured governments to preserve their privileges in an increasingly unequal
Similarly, 15-year-old Swedish climate
activist, Greta Thunberg, described our present situation in the following
“When I was about 8 years old, I first
heard about something called ‘climate change’ or ‘global warming’. Apparently,
that was something humans had created by our way of living. I was told to turn
off the lights to save energy and to recycle paper to save resources. I
remember thinking that it was very strange that humans, who are an animal
species among others, could be capable of changing the Earth’s climate. Because,
if we were, and if it was really happening, we wouldn’t be talking about
anything else. As soon as you turn on the TV, everything would be about that.
Headlines, radio, newspapers: You would never read or hear about anything else.
As if there was a world war going on, but no one ever talked about it. If
burning fossil fuels was so bad that it threatened our very existence, how
could we just continue like before? Why were there no restrictions? Why wasn’t
it made illegal?”
Why Do We Not Respond To The Crisis?
Today we are faced with multiple
interrelated crises, for example the threat of catastrophic climate change or
equally catastrophic thermonuclear war, and the threat of widespread famine.
These threats to human existence and to the biosphere demand a prompt and
rational response; but because of institutional and cultural inertia, we are
failing to take the steps that are necessary to avoid disaster.
Only Immediate Action Can Save the
Immediate action to halt the extraction of
fossil fuels and greatly reduce the emission of CO2 and other greenhouse gasses
is needed to save the long-term future of human civilization and the biosphere.
At the opening ceremony of United
Nations-sponsored climate talks in Katowice, Poland, (COP24), Sir David Attenborough
said “Right now, we are facing a man-made disaster of global scale. Our
greatest in thousands of years. Climate change. If we don’t take action, the
collapse of our civilizations and the extinction of much of the natural world
is on the horizon. The world’s people have spoken. Their message is clear. Time
is running out. They want you, the decision-makers, to act now.”
Antonio Guterres, UN Secretary-General,
said climate change was already “a matter of life and death” for many
countries. He added that the world is “nowhere near where it needs to be” on
the transition to a low-carbon economy.
Swedish student Greta Thunberg, is a
15-year-old who has launched a climate protest movement in her country. She
said, in a short but very clear speech after that of UN leader Antonio
Guterres: “Some people say that I should be in school instead. Some people say
that I should study to become a climate scientist so that I can ‘solve the
climate crisis’. But the climate crisis has already been solved. We already have
all the facts and solutions.”
She added: “Why should I be studying for a
future that soon may be no more, when no one is doing anything to save that
future? And what is the point of learning facts when the most important facts
clearly mean nothing to our society?”
Thunberg continued: “Today we use 100
million barrels of oil every single day. There are no politics to change that.
There are no rules to keep that oil in the ground. So we can’t save the world
by playing by the rules. Because the rules have to be changed.”
She concluded by saying that “since our
leaders are behaving like children, we will have to take the responsibility
they should have taken long ago.”
Our collective failure to respond
adequately to the current crisis is very largely due to institutional inertia.
Our financial system is deeply embedded and resistant to change. Our entire
industrial infrastructure is based on fossil fuels; but if the future is to be
saved, the use of fossil fuels must stop. International relations are still
based based on the concept of absolutely sovereign nation states, even though
this concept has become a dangerous anachronism in an era of instantaneous
global communication and economic interdependence. Within nations, systems of
law and education change very slowly, although present dangers demand rapid
revolutions in outlook and lifestyle.
The failure of the recent climate
conferences to produce strong final documents can be attributed to the fact
that the nations attending the conferences felt themselves to be in competition
with each other, when in fact they ought to have cooperated in response to a
common danger. The heavy hand of the fossil fuel industry also made itself felt
at the conferences.
Until the development of coal-driven steam
engines in the 19th century humans lived more or less in harmony with their
environment. Then, fossil fuels, representing many millions of years of stored
sunlight, were extracted and burned in two centuries, driving a frenzy of
growth of population and industry that has lasted until the present. But today,
the party is over. Coal, oil and gas are nearly exhausted, and what remains of
them must be left in the ground to avoid existential threats to humans and the
biosphere. Huge coal and oil corporations base the value of their stocks on
ownership of the remaining resources that are still buried, and they can be
counted on to use every trick, fair or unfair, to turn those resources into
In general corporations represent a strong
force resisting change. By law, the directors of corporations are obliged to
put the profits of stockholders above every other consideration. No room
whatever is left for an ecological or social conscience. Increasingly,
corporations have taken control of our mass media and our political system.
They intervene in such a way as to make themselves richer, and thus to increase
their control of the system.
Polite Conversation and Cultural Inertia
Each day, the conventions of polite
conversation contribute to our sense that everything is as it always was.
Politeness requires that we do not talk about issues that might be contrary to
another person’s beliefs. Thus polite conversation is dominated by trivia, entertainment,
sports, the weather, gossip, food, and so on, Worries about the the distant
future , the danger of nuclear war, the danger of uncontrollable climate
change, or the danger of widespread famine seldom appear in conversations at
the dinner table, over coffee or at the pub. In conversations between polite
people, we obtain the false impression that all is well with the world. But in
fact, all is not well. We have to act promptly and adequately to save the
The situation is exactly the same in the
mass media. The programs and articles are dominated by trivia and
entertainment. Serious discussions of the sudden crisis which civilization now
faces are almost entirely absent, because the focus is on popularity, ratings
and the sale of advertising. As Niel Postman remarked, we are entertaining
ourselves to death.
Further Growth Implies Future Collapse
We have to face the fact that endless
economic growth on a finite planet is a logical impossibility, and that we have
reached or passed the the sustainable limits to growth.
In today’s world, we are pressing against
the absolute limits of the earth’s carrying capacity, and further growth
carries with it the danger of future collapse. In the long run, neither the
growth of industry nor that of population is sustainable; and we have now
reached or exceeded the sustainable limits.
The size of the human economy is, of
course, the product of two factors: the total number of humans, and the
consumption per capita. Let us first consider the problem of reducing the
per-capita consumption in the industrialized countries. The whole structure of
western society seems designed to push its citizens in the opposite direction,
towards ever-increasing levels of consumption. The mass media hold before us
continually the ideal of a personal utopia, filled with material goods.
Every young man in a modern industrial
society feels that he is a failure unless he fights his way to the “top”; and
in recent years, women too have been drawn into the competition. Of course, not
everyone can reach the top; there would not be room for everyone; but society
urges us all to try, and we feel a sense of failure if we do not reach the
goal. Thus, modern life has become a competition of all against all for power
When possessions are used for the purpose
of social competition, demand has no natural upper limit; it is then limited
only by the size of the human ego, which, as we know, is boundless. This would
be all to the good if unlimited industrial growth were desirable; but today,
when further industrial growth implies future collapse, western society
urgently needs to find new values to replace our worship of power, our restless
chase after excitement, and our admiration of excessive consumption.
If you turn on your television set, the
vast majority of the programs that you will be offered give no hint at all of
the true state of the world or of the dangers which we will face in the future.
Part of the reason for this wilful blindness is that no one wants to damage
consumer confidence. No one wants to bring on a recession. No one wants to
shoot Santa Claus.
But sooner or later a severe recession will
come, despite our unwillingness to recognize this fact. Perhaps we should
prepare for it by reordering the world’s economy and infrastructure to achieve
long-term sustainability, i.e. steady-state economics, population
stabilization, and renewable energy.
Our Responsibility to Future Generations
and the Biosphere
All of the technology needed for the
replacement of fossil fuels by renewable energy is already in place. Although
renewable sources supplied only 9 percent of the world’s total energy
requirements in 2015 , they supplied 23 percent of electrical generation energy
in 2016, and they are growing rapidly. Because of the remarkable properties of
exponential growth, this will mean that renewables will soon become a major
supplier of the world’s energy requirements, despite bitter opposition from the
fossil fuel industry.
Both wind and solar energy can now compete
economically with fossil fuels, and this situation will become even more
pronounced if more countries put a tax on carbon emissions, as Finland, the
Netherlands, Norway, Costa Rica, the United Kingdom and Ireland already have
Much research and thought have also been devoted
to the concept of a steady-state economy. The only thing that is lacking is
political will. It is up to the people of the world to make their collective
History has given to our generation an
enormous responsibility towards future generations. We must achieve a new kind
of economy, a steady-state economy. We must stabilize global population. We
must replace fossil fuels by renewable energy. We must abolish nuclear weapons.
We must end the institution of war. We must reclaim democracy in our own
countries when it has been lost. We must replace nationalism by a just system
of international law. We must prevent degradation of the earth’s environment.
We must act with dedication and fearlessness to save the future of the earth
for human civilization and for the plants and animals with which we share the
gift of life.
Here is what Greta Thunberg says about
“And yes, we do need hope. Of course, we
do. But the one thing we need more than
hope is action. Once we start to act, hope is everywhere. So instead of looking
for hope, look for action. Then and only then, hope will come today.”
John Scales Avery is a theoretical
chemist at the University of Copenhagen. He is noted for his books and research
publications in quantum chemistry, thermodynamics, evolution, and history of
science. His 2003 book Information Theory and Evolution set forth the view that
the phenomenon of life, including its origin, evolution, as well as human
cultural evolution, has its background situated in the fields of
thermodynamics, statistical mechanics, and information theory. Since 1990 he
has been the Chairman of the Danish National Group of Pugwash Conferences on
Science and World Affairs. Between 2004 and 2015 he also served as Chairman of
the Danish Peace Academy. He founded the Journal of Bioenergetics and
Biomembranes, and was for many years its Managing Editor. He also served as
Technical Advisor to the World Health Organization, Regional Office for Europe
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