Saturday, 21 March 2009

Voices Raised

In the wake of the Copenhagen conference the UK government's chief scientist, Professor John Beddington, predicts a 'perfect storm' of crises peaking in about 2030, just 21 years from now (http://www.guardian.co.uk/science/2009/mar/18/perfect-storm-john-beddington-energy-food-climate).

As food, water and energy shortages begin to bite it is the poor, and especially the urban poor, who will suffer most. Our current way of life is very resource-hungry, and if global population rises as predicted then conflict seems almost inevitable. Take into consideration diseases like the Stem Rust variant Ug99 which threatens our wheat supply and which has evolved resistance to controls, and the situation looks perilous. Development of new controls for such diseases takes time and resources which we may not have, and an already precarious situation regarding our food security may become critical.

Despite these warnings from the world’s senior climate scientists, Shell this week ended its funding of wind, solar and hydrogen projects, explaining in a press release that they are "not competitive in the current economic climate" (http://www.reuters.com/article/environmentNews/idUSTRE52G4SU20090317).

The same economic short-termism characterises our political scene: our politicians look towards the next election and often choose not to make essential decisions which may lead to voter discomfort or job losses. In reaction, NASA scientist James Hansen has called for more protest and non-violent direct action, saying that the political process is not working fast enough to reduce carbon emissions and has been corrupted by corporate lobbying (http://www.guardian.co.uk/science/2009/mar/18/nasa-climate-change-james-hansen).

A conflict, operating at personal, national and international levels, between the desire for profit and the need to act responsibly is at the core of the challenges facing us. Unless we address this, we will lurch from crisis to disaster.

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