Hurtling towards extinction?

by Martin van Nierop

Many years ago I read ‘Fingerprints of the Gods’ by Graham Hancock. I clearly remember one of the stories from the book.

The story tells of a sophisticated civilization in Central America that dramatically disappeared. One of the theories as to the causes of the ‘extinction’ of this civilization goes as follows: This ‘well off’ people consumed all the resources in their surrounds to the point where they could no longer sustain themselves, and the whole civilization dramatically and suddenly collapsed.

I could not understand this. Why would people continue consuming their resources at an unsustainable rate? Surely they could collectively see that an impending disaster was looming? After all, this was to all accounts, a sophisticated civilization.

The author claims that the civilization collapsed because the inhabitants were not prepared to rein in their rampant consumption. They carried on living the way they were accustomed to, until there was nothing left.

Are we facing a similar scenario today?

There is overwhelming evidence that the rate at which we are emitting climate forcing gases into the atmosphere is leading to significant climate change. We will never be 100% certain what the implications of this are. However, the warnings are dire: Global warming, rising sea levels, droughts and violent storms. These are all indicators pointing to the destruction of our current way of life, our civilization.

Are we as a society taking heed of the warnings?

The Paris Agreement of 2015 appears to indicate that we are. The Paris Agreement, under the auspices of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), was widely accepted by governments around the world with the aim to stopping the march towards uncontrolled climate change. It is a shining example of working together to find a solution to a global problem.

Fast forward to the present: President Donald Trump of the United States of America announced that he intended to withdraw the USA from the Paris Agreement.  Is this a catastrophe?

Not if we agree with the statement release by the UNFCCC on 01 June 2017: “The Paris Agreement is aimed at reducing risk to economies and lives everywhere, while building the foundation for a more prosperous, secure and sustainable world. It enjoys profound credibility, as it was forged by all nations and is supported by a growing wave of business, investors, cities, states, regions and citizens. We are committed to continue working with all governments and partners in their efforts to fast forward climate action at global and national levels.”

One government’s withdrawal will not cause the whole to collapse, especially if the people and organisations of that country continue to support and implement the Paris Agreement.

We as individuals can also do our share of  building a sustainable world. If you are asking yourself how, then join us for the ‘Care for our Common Home’ seminar. This seminar is jointly presented by Gondwana Environmental Solutions and the Jesuit Institute.

Dr Martin van Nierop
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