In this continuing series, Marilyn Hempel, Executive Director of “Blue Planet United” www.populationpress.org , offers exceptional writers and videos to educate, activate and engage Americans from all walks of life. This latest offers everyone a chance to start out the new year with greater energy toward human population stabilization and the people bringing it toward fruition.
In her opening page of the Winter 2011 issue, Marilyn Hempel tells readers that the “THE NEXT 20 YEARS WON'T BE LIKE THE LAST 20 YEARS.”
Why is that Ms. Hempel?
“Most of us plan for the future,” said Hempel. “We rely upon past experience to make decisions. If we live within a modern society, we rely upon institutions to protect our wealth and security. What happens to us when these institutions (such as banks) begin to fail? Are we resilient—or do we crumble? In the 20th century, cheap and abundant energy and technology allowed an explosion in human population and consumption. This growth, which we now know came at an incredible cost, will end in the 21st century. This issue of the Population Press explores 21st century 'tipping points' and how we can respond to them in ways that will build resilience.
“NASA just announced that global surface temperatures in 2010 were the warmest on record, topping off the warmest decade since record-keeping begin in 1880.”
“If the warming trend continues, as is expected, if greenhouse gases continue to increase, the 2010 record will not stand for long,” said James Hansen, the director of NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies.
“What have we seen around the world in 2010-11?” asked Hempel. “Excessively cold winters, hotter than hot summers, droughts in some places, floods in others, and massive fires that destroyed precious food crops.”
Get used to climate change.
“Our civilization rose in an era of climate stability,” said Hempel. “We could count on the weather to be essentially predictable. That period has ended. Recently, I spoke with Lester Brown about what this means for the future of agriculture and food.
He said, “As the new year begins, the price of wheat is setting an all-time high in the United Kingdom. Food riots are spreading across Algeria. Russia is importing grain to sustain its cattle herds until spring grazing begins. India is wrestling with an 18% annual food inflation rate, sparking protests. China is looking abroad for potentially massive quantities of wheat and corn. The Mexican government is buying corn futures to avoid unmanageable tortilla price rises. And on January 5, the U.N. Food and Agricultural organization announced that its food price index for December hit an all-time high.”
“It’s not just climate disruption; it's also financial fragility,” said Hempel. “Entire countries are declaring bankruptcy (such as Ireland, Greece and Spain) and an increasing number of governments are failing to serve their people. A host of economic and social problems now challenge us as never before.
“When I become too depressed about the future of human civilization; when I think it is too late to save the land, the ocean, other creatures and ourselves; I remember the words of John Muir: 'the world, though made, is yet being made—this is still the morning of creation'.”
Michael Colebrook, in his essay The Life and Times of John Muir, observes, “In his writing John Muir was openly critical of the anthropocentric rationalism and narrow materialism of American civilization. He recognized, as did Thoreau, that a deep sense of alienation from the natural world coupled with a failure to recognize its spiritual dimension was the root cause of the problem. But, like a true prophet, he was not content with analysis and criticism, he was in a position to propose a solution:
“Climb the mountains and get their good tidings. Nature’s peace will flow into you as sunshine flows into trees. The winds will blow their own freshness into you and the storms their energy, while cares will drop off like autumn leaves.”
“Through his openness to nature he saw that we are at home in the natural world. As he wrote, with deceptive simplicity, in his journal in the year before he died, 'I only went out for a walk, and finally concluded to stay out till sundown, for going out, I found, was really going in.'” said Hempel.
Muir experienced nature as process, '...the world, though made, is yet being made; that this is still the morning of creation; that mountains long conceived are now being born, channels traced for coming rivers, basins hollowed for lakes; that moraine soil is being ground and outspread for coming plants,—coarse boulders and gravel for forests, finer soil for grasses and flowers,—while the finest part of the grist, seen hastening out to sea in the draining streams, is being stored away in darkness and builds particle on particle, cementing and crystallizing, to make the mountains and valleys and plains of other predestined landscapes, to be followed by still others in endless rhythm and beauty.'”
For more information about this project and about the Population Press, contact Marilyn Hempel, email: firstname.lastname@example.org or telephone: 909-307-6597.