Soap Box – Rose Tinted Glasses

The Future – Through Rose Coloured Glasses.
“It can’t possibly be as bad as it looks”. My son, Scott, has heard me say those words for all of his 31 years and when the occasion demands it, is quick to remind me of the times when they were soon followed by me arriving battered, bruised, grazed, but not noticeably wiser at the top (or bottom!) of a rock climb.
Without trying, I do tend to have an optimistic approach to things. How optimistic? Well here’s my take on some key global issues.
In the last 40 years (I’ve looked back 40 years as my personal measure of time because that’s how long I’ve been a diver). Since my first dive in 1969;

  • Our population has doubled. In 1969 there were 3.5 billion, today it’s 6.8 billion and counting. We grow by about 200,000 each day, 80 million every year.
  • We have lost one-fifth of the world’s topsoil and one-fifth of our agricultural land.
  • We have lost, or converted to other uses, one-third of our forests. That’s 13 million hectares or 50,000 square miles we lose each year.
  • Destroyed 20% of our coral.
  • Our activities continue to change the atmosphere to the extent that we have thinned out the ozone layer and increased the CO2 levels to the highest they have been for 600,000 years.
  • Overfished so many areas that we have to trawl deeper water with the result that lose 6 million square miles of Continental Shelf habitat each year.

For the first time in history we have become a true force of nature and for too many of us, Nature, is something that is a remote provider of goods and services including being a bottomless dump for all of our wastes. “Ecosystem services?” They say. “Never heard of it”.
Things are bad alright and unless we get a grip on things fast the old saying, “We need nature, it doesn’t need us” will become prophetic as we reach any number of critical ecosystem tipping points.
But – as gloomy as the situation is right now, the solution is not as difficult as it looks. In the next 30 years (And I look ahead 30 years because I reckon I have at least that many left in me and I want to be there for the celebration). By my 87th birthday I’ll be celebrating;

  • Stabilisation of our out of control population growth.
  • Greatly reduced greenhouse gas emissions and sensible, sustainable adaptations to the changes already occurring.
  • Well-understood and protected ecosystems and biodiversity.

How can I be so optimistic? It’s my faith in the next generation. The great scientists, engineers, leaders, educators and policy makers of the near future are emerging now and they are tooled-up with fast thinking, faster technology and the realisation that it’s time for action.
And let’s remember that only one sixth of the world’s population has access to the internet so as the other 5 billion come online, and they are coming fast, they will start to make their own informed, meaningful opinions. I’ve seen a lot of them and they are impressive. As we know, there is no difference between the children that are breaking bricks or sorting rubbish on the street, or are the fourth generation living on a dump, and our fortunate selves – except for luck and education.
It won’t be many years before most of the world is instantly connected and has the all of our knowledge at its fingertips. Combine that with the fire, vitality and urgency of the young ones coming along and we are in with a great chance of success.
And the ultimate secret weapon? It’s us. You see, the next generation are so smart and demanding that at all costs we have to set the highest imaginable standards of earth stewardship. The future of our planet is all down to the examples we set.
Finally – I save my blind optimism to help me in the fight against gravity when I’m rock climbing. I am serious about the next 30 years; our future leaders have high expectations and demand the highest standards of example setting from us. So we’ll do it.
Paul Rose