“We can all change the world we live in, whether that change be big or small. This year as the lights switch off, Earth Hour encourages you to commit to go beyond the hour and inspire your friends, colleagues, organization and leaders to do the same,” said Andy Ridley, Co-Founder and Executive Director of Earth Hour.
The book "Eaarth: Making a Life on a Tough New Planet" by environmentalist Bill McKibben brings home the bad news: our planet is past the point of environmental rescue. Unprecedented changes in the global climate are already well under way, the consequences are grave and the situation is irreversible, no matter how many lights we switch off, or wind and solar energy sources we switch on. McKibben gives plenty of evidence for proclaiming the environment mortally wounded.
|Ignacio Dillon, 2009|
Electrical storm, La Plata, Argentina
- Scientists initially overestimated the amount of CO2 that would be tolerable for earth's atmosphere. The number 550 ppm (parts per million) turned out to be too high. According to a NASA study, the limit or crisis point would be reached at 350 ppm. The earth is already at 395 ppm and rising 2 ppm every year.
- The earth's average temperature has risen by 1 degree Celsius which causes 45% more thunderstorms, and an increase of 1.5% in global rainfall per year.
- Changes have occurred in the insect population, with infestation by destructive species such as the mountain pine beetle becoming more widespread.
- Between 1995 and 2008 there was a 75% increase in hurricanes in the tropical zone of the Atlantic.
- Ocean waters are more acidic than they have been in 800 years. In 2009 the oyster industry reported an 80% mortality rate for oyster larvae.
- Ice in the Arctic and Antarctic is melting faster than ever anticipated. In 2008 the Arctic ice cap was 1.1 million square miles smaller than ever before, reduced by an area twelve times the size of Great Britain.
- The tropical zone is increasing in size, pushing arid areas further to the north and south. Aridity and heat have reduced wheat, corn and barley yields by about 40 million tons per year. The number of people on earth with too little to eat is rising.
- The frequency of lightning is increasing by 6% with each degree C of warming, causing disastrous wildfires.
- The cycle of global warming is increasing due to natural causes as well as our own emissions. Methane gas is released into the atmosphere when ice or permafrost melts, adding more heat.
"We have travelled to a new planet, propelled on a burst of carbon dioxide. That new planet, as is often the case in science fiction, looks more or less like our own but clearly isn't," says McKibben. That's why he alters the spelling of the planet's name to Eaarth in the book's title.
Not one to give up easily, McKibben points out that the action we need to take is a rethinking and reordering of our daily lives in order to prepare ourselves for a radically changed future. He advocates less growth, more independently-run resources and a return to a small-scale, local approach to address the challenges of a changed environment. Reviving the sustainable family farm and developing supportive community networks are positive, practical steps. "De-centralized self-reliance" is key, as is the acceptance of a new human aim: to "manage our descent" through "a relatively graceful decline."
|Photo by David Fernandez, 2009|
Drought conditions in Argentina have reduced productive fields to desert.