Evolve! It’s our only choice

EARTHFUTURE by Guy Dauncey

Some say we’re like a cancer, 

devouring the Earth; 
some say we’re like a rose-bud, 
awaiting glorious birth;
some say we’re all so stupid, 
we don’t deserve to live;
some say we’re holding heaven’s hopes, and all we need is love.

As I write this column, the Copenhagen climate talks are a week from completion. When you read this, they will be yesterday’s news.

Whatever the outcome, the larger story will remain that we are a species eating itself out of house and home with very little concern for the pollution, destruction and pain we are creating. And if this were not troubling enough, there are lots of babies in the pipeline, each as adorable as the next, waiting to grow our population by another two billion within 40 years.

Our whole human journey has led to this moment. From our amazing evolution in the depths of time to our first tentative steps on the plains of Africa, to the glories and craziness of a thousand civilizations, all that is past and all that remains is us, now, confronting our destiny.

There is a solid evolutionary argument to be made that every species acts this way – extending its range, pushing the limits of survivability until it receives feedback that persuades it to step back. Birds do it; bees do it; even white Siberian tigers do it.

The feedback was never comfortable or easy, however. It happened by way of mass starvation and death. The species that survived were those forced, by the sheer volume of their dying numbers, to evolve better claws, fins or brains. Those that did not became as extinct as the dodo.

As humans, however, we possess an enormous advantage: we do not need to die to evolve, except in as much as old people die, taking their old ideas and prejudices with them. We can use our intelligence to adapt, change direction and step away from the death-inhabited edge.

Seen in perspective, the task is quite straightforward. We have to switch to renewable energy sources; establish planetary control over the way we manage the oceans; start harvesting our wastes as a useful resource; switch to organic, mostly vegetarian food; establish responsible, ecological governance over Earth’s forests and ecosystems; and practise widespread birth-control.

In summary, it’s just a matter of going green, realigning our activities so that we jive with Nature and dance along with her steps, instead of behaving like klutzy oafs, stepping on everyone’s toes and generally destroying the harmony of Earth’s dances. The good news is that in every one of the new dances, we’ve already made a good start. Now, we need to learn to dance with love.

At the family level, I’m brewing a new approach that would encourage every family to hold an annual “Going Green Family Meeting,” ideally in late December or early January. Working from two detailed lists – one to reduce your carbon footprint and the other your wider ecological footprint – you would create a “Going Green Family Action Plan” for the year ahead. Each item (“Stop buying bottled water,” “Turn down the thermostat on your hot water tank”) would offer a choice of “this week,” “this month,” “this year,” or “a future year.” To get started, you’ll find good tips on the website for my new book, www.bit.ly/67DPzT. There are plenty of carbon calculators to track progress on the first list and I’m sure someone could create an equivalent ecological footprint calculator, measuring the impact of each tiny lifestyle change as we steer away from the death-inhabited cliff-edge.

After families, it’s not too difficult to imagine the same being done by every business, school and community group. Along the way, we’ll have to deal with those who think we’re entitled to take what we want from the Earth and dump our wastes wherever we like. Every generation has to find its way to create a better world.

Guy Dauncey is author of The Climate Challenge: 101 Solutions to Global Warming (www.theclimatechallenge.ca) and president of the BC Sustainable Energy Association (www.bcsea.org)

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