Last week, I saw a 90-second XR video that inspired this SOS Memo. It featured ten people, each of whom makes one brief statement about their individual attempts to live more sustainably.
My takeaway was that, even if everyone in the developed world took every one of the ten actions cited - it would not be enough to enable us to live in harmony with nature. And it wouldn't even be close.
The XR folks agree. And that's the point they made very well in their video below. In case you can't watch it right now, here is their list of ten actions:
- I switch off the tap when I brush my teeth
- I recycle
- I give to charity
- I cycle to work
- I don't use plastic bottles
- I buy local
- I've switched to renewable energy
- I shop plastic free
- I've gone vegan
- I'm not flying anymore
Following that list, the video ended with these words:
If we all do a little, it adds up to a little. This is an emergency. This is now. Alone we are powerless, together we are powerful.
Choose between extinction ----- or rebellion.
For your convenience, here is that 90-second video. It ends with the words below from this young boy:
It's Time to Choose: Extinction or Rebellion!
Their video inspired me to come up with my own top-ten list as it relates to the kinds of changes we must begin making soon - if we expect to survive as a species.
Our entire "system" of living must change. That's a point that I have been making since 2017. And individual citizens are unable to make systemic changes in the way that we all live.
For that, we need globally-coordinated, urgently executed change that follows a master plan. The big unknown regarding systemic change is our ability to develop such a plan that will be acceptable to Mother Nature.
As we strive to develop that plan, our most formidable challenge will be getting 195 countries and thousands of religions to agree on a single course of action. That's why I keep thinking that if we could develop a sustainable solution in the USA first, maybe we could provide a model that the rest of the world could emulate and improve upon.
Build it and they will come. Other countries will learn from our mistakes, and then they will design and execute a plan that works for their region. And we will help them, because we're all in the same boat and everything is connected.
About my top-ten list
I believe that planning a totally new
system of sustainable living
begins with a series of questions about how Mother Nature feels about many human activities that we take for granted in the developed world. And for that exercise, I use Dr. James Lovelock's definition of what it means to live in harmony with nature and, in so doing, earn the privilege of surviving as a species indefinitely.
He describes the "big picture" ever so succinctly:
If the Earth improves because of our presence, we will flourish. If it does not, we will die off.
Using that definition, let's think of a few questions that we might ask ourselves - and then answer - before we can even begin to think about designing how our future civilization might look. No doubt there will be thousands of questions that must eventually be answered. For now, my ten questions are just food for thought.
Ten sobering questions.
Bear in mind that we must err on the side of being too kind to Mother Nature because we're only going to get one chance to get this right. All of my questions begin with this Lovelock-inspired phrase:
Is the Earth improving because of our...?
Warning. You may find some of these questions disturbing. That's the purpose of this exercise - to challenge many of the practices that we take for granted - practices that do not benefit the Earth and that we can learn to live without.
Question #10 will break many hearts, but the question must be asked. Remember, we only get one chance to get this right. Here we go:
- Is the Earth improving because of our billions of vehicles, even if they are electric powered?
Is the Earth improving because of our 34,000 golf courses?
(Deforestation, chemicals and 840 million golf balls per year in just the USA)
- Is the Earth improving because of our filthy habit of smoking cigarettes? (8.5 trillion/year, most-littered item on Earth)
- Is the Earth improving because of our packed self-storage units full of mostly worthless stuff?
(Over 2.3 billion square feet of space in just the USA)
- Is the Earth improving because of our desire to own large, inefficient homes, many of which are empty most of the time?
Is the Earth improving because of our closets filled with dozens of pairs of shoes and hundreds of garments?
- Is the Earth improving because of our sports stadiums and mega-churches with huge parking lots - most of which are empty 90% of the time?
- Is the Earth improving because of our ever increasing network of billions of miles of paved roads and parking lots around the world?
- Is the Earth improving because of a global economy that depends on the fairy tales of eternal economic growth on a finite planet.
- Is the Earth improving because of our billions of pets and all of the food, supplies and vet care that accompany them? ($69 billion on pet products in just the USA, where 11 million tons of dog waste go to landfills each year)
I want to ask one more question.
Is the Earth improving because of our 2,000 landfills in the USA?
(The average American puts over four pounds of trash in the garbage every day.)
The Bottom Line. We humans are in serious trouble and it's getting worse every day. As I keep saying, we must totally reinvent the way all of humanity lives on this planet - bearing in mind that even if we do everything we can possibly do, there is still no guarantee that we will survive.
Eliminating 90% of automobile and domestic air travel
For the sweeping changes that would be necessary to resolve just the items on my list, we would need to urgently begin leveraging the knowledge and skills of the world's best economists, architects, engineers, chemists, business leaders, agriculturalists, social scientists and psychologists - combined with the very best analysis and development that artificial intelligence can provide.
The scope of our challenge ahead is far greater than the mobilization for WW2. Maybe even 100 times greater. And because I believe this powerful quote by E.O. Wilson, I believe that it is possible that we can get this done.
We have enough
intelligence, goodwill, generosity and enterprise
to turn Earth into a paradise both for ourselves and for the biosphere that gave us birth
he problem is that we are an innately dysfunctional species.
Our single biggest problem is described in the last ten words of the above quote. The question remains: Can we replace our bad habits with ones that actually serve to improve the biosphere? And will that be enough to convince Mother Nature to allow us to continue living here?
In the weeks and months ahead, I will continue to focus on the urgent need for a totally reinvented greening of our civilization - beginning with a model in the USA that could be applied globally over the next twenty years.
My first blog on the crucial topic of totally reinventing our civilization was posted 9-21-18 and heads the list below. It was all about GRATOLA, an acronym that refers to the "green region" corridor running from Atlanta to Los Angeles.
Since then, I have posted more than forty additional pieces on that topic, including
this one on 9-4-19
in which I introduced the GBN (Great Big Northern) - one 25-mile wide corridor along the USA's northernmost border that would theoretically be capable of sustainably housing ALL 300+ million Americans in an area the size of Oregon.