The myriad of environmental crises is well known. Unless a comprehensive healing process is undertaken immediately to restore much of the damage done to the earth, future generations may not have much of a livable planet left. There is still time to arrest the dangerous trends, but it will require new thinking, innovative approaches and a concerted global effort.
A steady stream of reports on the deterioration of the environment is issued. There is a brief flurry of media coverage. The corporate-funded climate change deniers make counter claims. We wake briefly to the crisis then most of us lapse into a couch potato stupor. Neoliberal dogma and an almost mystical belief in capitalism makes almost certain that little will be done to avert coming calamities. Charades called climate summits offer nothing more than photo ops of smiling world leaders and vacuous press releases. We blithely turn our heads away from reality. As the ice caps melt it is not just penguins and polar bears that are in danger. The wider implications for the planet and humanity are profound. What level of catastrophe is it going to take for business as usual policies to change? Will we hear the distress signals from Earth?
Public interest in dystopia is prevalent everywhere. Look at the popularity of films such as The Day After Tomorrow, Children of Men, The Hunger Games. Rarely are utopian visions articulated in contemporary culture, much less pursued in earnest. Artists and policymakers alike risk being labeled unrealistic, impractical, delusional. But the conjuring of utopia serves a vital function. Have a vision, then act to realize it.
Restoring our ecology will mean a move toward sustainable agriculture. Tenets of the Industrial and Technological Revolutions will need to be countered. Our relationship to the Earth will need to change from viewing the environment as something outside of ourselves, to a more holistic one that views harming the Earth as self-harm.
David Brower was perhaps the most famous environmentalist of the 20th century United States. His numerous achievements, over many decades, in defense of the environment are virtually unmatched. He was founder and chair of Earth Island Institute. He served as the Sierra Club’s first executive director and later went on to establish Friends of the Earth and the League for Conservation Voters. He received the UN’s Lifetime Achievement Award and was twice nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize. He died in 2000.
Paul Ehrlich is Bing Professor of Population Studies in the Department of Biology and president of the Center for Conservation Biology at Stanford University. He is a MacArthur Fellow, a member of the National Academy of Sciences and has received numerous honors including the Crafoord Prize of the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences, given in areas where the Nobel Prize is not awarded, the Tyler Prize for Environmental Achievement, and the Blue Planet Prize. He is active in the Millennium Alliance for Humanity and the Biosphere. He is author of over 40 books.
Wes Jackson is a plant geneticist and a leading voice for agrarian reform away from domesticated agriculture. He is the author of New Roots for Agriculture and many books. He is founder of The Land Institute and a member of the World Future Council.