Investing in the future of our children

For the first time in human history, the current critical global trends and events have strong influence on our common future. They even threaten our existence on this planet, and in particular, they threaten the future of our children and grandchildren. The time is quickly running out. For the first time in human history there is now an urgent need for a collective and determined collaboration of all of us to create a better future for our children.

Window of opportunity

According to the Scientific Expert Group on Climate Change and Sustainable Development, the window of opportunity for controlling climate change will close between 2015 and 2020. It does not mean that by that time we shall be dead but rather that to avoid the 'tipping point' we would need to 'level off CO2 emissions by 2015 or 2020 at not much above their current amount.' They suggest a two-pronged climate strategy: mitigation and adaptation (Science 6 April 2007, vol. 316, p. 17). The time for positive action to save the future of our children is quickly passing by.

Climate change and its possible solutions are related not only to the excessive emission of carbon dioxide but also to the population explosion, the diminishing land and water resources, the developing energy crisis, the ongoing wars and conflicts, and to the poverty and deprivation of billions of people. All these topics are discussed in The Little Green Handbook. Critical problems are strongly interconnected and we cannot expect to solve one without at least understanding all the rest of them.

Prevailing indifference

Even though we now witness an increasing interest in climate change, the response is still far too slow. People who hold responsible positions are more interested in scoring points and in appearing smart than in doing what is right.

Members of the public are too busy trying to cope with their personal problems or they look for an escape in easily available attractions and entertainments.

Those who see dangers and sound the alarm are still often ignored, brushed aside or criticised. Meanwhile critical global trends develop uninterrupted. The associated with them events increase in their number and intensity.

How many people know about the developing dangers and how many people care? The general attitude is that surely the state of the world cannot be that bad. Surely life will go on as before or it will be even better. So why to worry?

Can we create a better future on our planet?

This question opens a long and complex topic but let me try to deal with it as briefly as I can.

If we consider the natural potential of our planet then the answer is YES. However, if we introduce human factor, then the answer is less certain.

With our rich natural resources it is possible to create a paradise on Earth. It is possible to have an abundance of food, land, water, and clean energy for everyone. By using rich resources of nature we could have a world of beauty and comfort. The possibilities, which are already investigated include also nanotechnology, quantum computers, cures to most if not to all diseases, and longevity.

However, the relatively huge potential of our planet remains neglected and underdeveloped. We are also decreasing it by our continuing mismanagement.

Over the limit

Considering the way we manage our planet's resources, we have already reached the ecological limits long time ago. Under our current management and at the current consumption level of industrialised countries, our planet Earth can support a maximum of only around 2 billion people. This was the global population in 1920. How do we survive? By the overexploitation of planet's resources. Our existence is already unsustainable.

At present, (i.e. at the time of writing of these comments) we have around 6.6 billion people living on our planet (see the population counter ). Thus we have a surplus of about 4.6 billion people but they still desperately cling to life. Thus we would need at least two more planets of the size and the type to the Earth to accommodate the present population. Many of these 'superfluous' people live in countries where their children are so hungry that they behave like birds, picking up even single grain from a dirty ground or foraging in rubbish dumps.

Over 800 million people, the equivalent of the population living in affluent countries, live with hunger and many of them die of hunger each year. About 2.4 billion people, nearly twice the population of industrialised countries, suffer severe water stress. We do not appreciate the degree of their depravation because we live in countries where the standard of living is relatively high.

Uncomfortable as it might be for people living in rich countries, it is impossible to stop China, India, and the rest of the developing world from making their claims on planet's resources. They have the same rights to live.

Shall we survive?

Many businesses offer environmentally friendly products and services. Many organisations work on solving critical problems. Many scientist work on unraveling secrets of nature and on applying them to improve our lives. At the same time many military strategists work equally hard on how to use every possible new discovery to increase their destructive power.

How soon, if ever, can we expect Palestinians to live in peace with Israelis? How soon can we expect terrorists to become friendly and care for building a sustainable future for all inhabitants of our planet? How soon can we expect businesses to be guided not by greed but by what is good for our planet and for future generations? How soon can we expect politicians to work together and to care for our common future? How soon can we expect to see that all weapons of mass destruction and other lethal military inventions are made redundant?

The essential first step

The time of leaving it all in the hands of politicians and a handful of experts is over. Now we all have to be involved because without our active participation our children will have no future. We have to understand what has to be done and then put pressure on policy makers to do what is right.

Our planet will survive and will continue circling the Sun for millions of years, but maybe without us. Humans are not invincible.

Useful information is now available in many sources and you can find it if you have time and desire to look for it. The advantage of The Little Green Handbook is that it is a convenient shortcut and time-saver. It is a well documented publication, which can serve both as a source of reference and as a primer to further reading.

What is the most important for politicians? Votes, of course. No politician will be willing to commit a political suicide by doing what is good but unpopular.

So we have to options: sit and do nothing or learn and be active. If we sit and do nothing, we should hardly expect that our children, and our children's children will be grateful to us.

Only a strong public outcry and only public pressure will force the governments to change their existing policies and practices and create better future for our children. One way or the other, they will do what is most popular. So the ball is well and truly in our court.