Tuesday, 4 May 2021

Thinking about death (and the environment)

 I think about death quite a lot. Not about killing myself. Just death.

This evening, I tuned into the ESSA monthly meeting where the guest speaker was talking about the impact of climate change of species diversity. Countries have signed declarations to take measures to limit the raping and pillaging of the environment. Some are progressing with their goals, a tiny percentage are achieving some and the rest are nowhere close.

Environmental scenario planners have five scenarios in place that, like economic and other scenarios, state that if this and that do not happen, then this is will be the outcome by that date. Or if the focus is this, then that will be the outcome.

Time frames are given. Plans look ahead to 2050, which is only 29 years away. Another - I think related to exponential population increase in Africa - looked ahead to 2080.

I turned to my mom and said, "Well, I'll be dead by then, thank goodness".

And then I think of David Attenborough. There's that show 'A Life on Our Planet' about his life in nature. The changes that have been documented in his lifetime. 

And what about that one 'Mission Blue' about Sylvia Earle and what she has observed in the oceans in her lifetime. 'Chasing Ice' about glaciers is also an impactful one.

This also applies to the changes that I've seen in my lifetime (half that of David's) - animals that have become endangered and critical, habitat destruction, urban development (even just where I've lived), poaching, population growth...

I went to India in October/November 2007 to run the Himalayan Stage Race. I was kindly hosted by India Tourism and after the event we (media group) toured a number of remarkable historic sites in Delhi and Agra. In Delhi there was a big electronic signboard with a population count for India - numbers that went up and down and up and up every few seconds. Being in Delhi and the drive to Agra gave me a wee taste of what it means for a country to have a population of 1.3 billion (at the time). I've also flown over Sao Paulo in Brazil... It was the first time that I realised that until the human population is zapped, there really is little hope for anything else to make it. 

Perhaps a fatalistic outlook. Nonetheless, I still pick up litter on the trails, do my recycling and composting, consciously reduce my consumer behaviours, strive to reduce my electricity and water usage, and overall I aim to reduce my footprint on the earth.

The changes required to save the planet are really just so massive. The thing is, we can't just give up and do nothing either. While the achievement of goals now by countries is not enough to turn the tide, some do get it right. Perhaps too, in another 30, 50, 80, 100 years, with different ways of doing things and more conscious material substitutes, it will be easier for individuals, companies and countries to reduce or eliminate impact and to rectify the wrongs?

I'm still of the simplistic opinion that people need to go. Bye bye. Gone. Exterminated. 

It will take a long time for nature to reclaim what we will leave behind. Our city ruins won't look anything like the Inca and Mayan temples covered by the jungle or the temples of Egypt covered by sand that were made by natural materials (think 'I am Legend' without the zombies). Fortunately, the planet has geological time to rid itself of us - and hopefully the creatures that will be still be impacted long after we're gone will make it.

In 1989, I read 'The Last Great Auk' a book by Alan W Eckert. It was from the school library. I remember finishing the book during at a night-time study session in the school hostel. I was 12/13, in standard 6 (grade 8). Tears were running down my face as a read the last pages of the book. This was 32 years ago and I still remember this clearly. 

Despite incredible conservation efforts, I have a feeling that we'll be witness, during the rest of our lifetimes, to something like this (strictly speaking we already are; species are already going bye-bye). There is too much inertia in the current direction and, like stopping a train, it takes a while to get it to slow and then to change direction.

Thinking about the environment makes me think about death. 

I can only say, "I'll be dead by then, thank goodness" if these evidence-based scenarios for the world in 2080 hold true.

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