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Are we doomed?: warnings from a 90-year-old

Remember James Lovelock? He’s the scientist-inventor who published Gaia: A New Look at Life on Earth in 1969. Back then, he was a major voice in identifying Earth as a self-regulating organism. Well, now he’s 90 and this year, has published The Vanishing Face of Gaia: A Final Warning. In it, he predicts that 80 per cent of the human population and most life on Earth won’t last out the century. That’s dire stuff.


By 2020, Lovelock predicts extreme heat — he prefers the term “global heating” to “climate change” — and widespread drought. He envisions cities left uninhabitable due to floods and desertification. He thinks that hundreds of millions of climate refugees will make mass migrations to colder areas like Scandinavia, Siberia, Canada’s north — and even the North Pole. (I envision a few skinny polar bears and huddles of frost-bitten people battling for the last ice floes.) In Lovelock’s view, resulting tensions and armed conflict will result in survivalist-style communities.


Lovelock thinks that rather than put so much effort into trying to stop climate change, we should be preparing for our possibly ugly circumstances in the future. His suggestions:

  • Put huge sun shades into space to prevent some sun from reaching Earth;
  • Use aerosol droplets into the stratosphere to reflect sunlight back into space;
  • Convert carbon-containing agricultural waste into charcoal and bury it underground. This would reportedly drastically cut down carbon dioxide emissions.

Many scientists pooh-pooh Lovelock’s ideas and consider his solutions unrealistic. He recognizes that, but thinks such geo-engineering solutions might help delay impending disaster. Whether he’s wacky or wise, at least he’s taking the threat of “global heating” seriously. To find out more, see the November/December issue of Ode magazine, a publication I recommend.


No more gloom and doom

I certainly accept the grim realities of climate change and its projected impact on our planet. Yet, that doesn’t mean we have to mire ourselves in depression and numb hopelessness.  I like the perspective of Jason Robinson, the CEO and founder of Sustainability Television (STV), an environmental web portal based in Vancouver, BC. He likes to promote progressive, supportive individuals, organizations and communities that focus on positive thought and sustainable solutions. He thinks that too many of our environmental stories perpetuate fear, negativity, and criticism. Sure, he acknowledges the severity of global warming, but doesn’t think that it should immobilize us.


Through Sustainability Television, Robinson wants to make messages of sustainable thought and practice available to all. He has created an accessible and vibrant online network that allows people to upload their own sustainability-minded videos or download STV material. Forget about media monopolies and limited broadcasting access. Teams of grassroots filmmakers, including Robinson, go out and shoot their own material and post it on the site.


Today’s youth are one of Robinson’s favored audiences. After all, they’re the next generation that will inherit our environment mess. This year, he has offered a youth media contest to encourage young filmmakers and writers to share how their community has created sustainable solutions, from starting a ban on plastic bags to collective composting. What are you and your community doing?


Check out the site at the link above. Become a member and discover like-minded, sustainable thinkers in your community. In the interest of full disclosure: I’m an STV member and I write for them.

December 10, 2009 at 1:14 pm
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