How’s Planet Earth Doing, Part 2

My post last week, “How’s Planet Earth Doing?” concluded “not too good, and getting worse.”   A couple of items supporting that conclusion – e.g., an interactive map that illustrates the average temperatures and wetness changes we can expect in 60 years – suggested that people might want to consider relocating to cooler climates, e.g., Duluth, Minnesota, to avoid the impacts of global warming.

At the risk of sounding like “Debbie Downer”, I felt obligated to share a couple more data points relevant to this question.  I recognize that individuals like to absorb information in different forms so I’ll offer three message versions.  Some people like to read the book.  Others may want to watch a documentary and still others, prefer to watch the dramatized movie.  Something for everyone, regardless of your preference.  First “the book” format:

Last week, (May 6, 2019) the United Nations issued a report on biodiversity.  This report was covered in numerous publications, radio and TV.  The New York Times summarized:

“Humans are transforming Earth’s natural landscapes so dramatically that as many as one million plant and animal species are now at risk of extinction, posing a dire threat to ecosystems that people all over the world depend on for their survival, a sweeping new United Nations assessment has concluded.

The 1,500-page report, compiled by hundreds of international experts and based on thousands of scientific studies, is the most exhaustive look yet at the decline in biodiversity across the globe and the dangers that creates for human civilization. A summary of its findings, which was approved by representatives from the United States and 131 other countries, was released Monday in Paris. The full report is set to be published this year.”

Now if you want to bore into more details, there’s plenty of reading opportunity in the summary of findings.  Those finding are organized under four “key messages”:

  1. Nature and its vital contributions to people, which together embody biodiversity and ecosystem functions and services, are deteriorating worldwide.
  2. Direct and indirect drivers of change have accelerated during the past 50 years.
  3. Goals for conserving and sustainably using nature and achieving sustainability cannot be met by current trajectories, and goals for 2030 and beyond may only be achieved through transformative changes across economic, social, political and technological factors.
  4. Nature can be conserved, restored and used sustainably while simultaneously meeting other global societal goals through urgent and concerted efforts fostering transformative change.

This is a lot of information and may seem difficult to get your head around.  Simplistically I think of it like a food chain.  The little stuff at the bottom gets eaten by larger things, and so on until higher up the chain; you have a fish, or a chicken – something I can eat.  Eliminate the small stuff at the bottom (i.e., deteriorating ecosystems) will lead to us not having a fish or chicken.  I can understand this and it’s not good.

But if you prefer “the documentary format”, here’s a good option.

Netflix recently released a new series entitled Our Planet.  It consists of eight episodes and is narrated by Sir David Attenborough.  Each episode is about an hour and covers a particular aspect of our world such as jungles, coastal seas, deserts, forests, frozen worlds.  Each episode stands alone but they all share a common theme of describing how the animals and plant life are being impacted by global changes such as global warming.  The photography and filming in this series is magnificent.  Some of the best I’ve ever seen.  It’s simply breathtaking.  A couple of takeaways:  If you’re an animal, it’s tough out there, and getting tougher to survive. Same for lots of plants.  So next time you’re deciding what to watch on TV, instead of the evening news, check out one of these episodes and you’ll get a better understanding of how our planet is changing.

Future development at NASA’s Johnson Space Center

But let’s say instead of “the book” or the “documentary” you want more of a “thriller” or suspense movie.  I recently watched, and I can recommend a movie entitled Interstellar.  It was made a few years ago and has several big name stars (e.g., Matthew McConaughey, Anne Hathaway, Michael Caine).  It’s a story about future Earth.  A global crop blight and dust bowl are slowly making the planet uninhabitable and scientists are working on plans to save mankind by finding another planet where the population can be transported and survive.  Although the movie doesn’t describe what caused or triggered the devastating situation on earth, it doesn’t take a huge leap to imagine the scenes of devastated crops, dust storms, and fires could be the result of “global warming”.  Not a pretty picture but this may be where we’re headed if changes, pretty big ones, aren’t made soon.  Aside from this scary thought, the movie is very entertaining.

The U.N. report on biodiversity concludes that hope is possible and there is time but that time is not indefinite.  Nature can be restored but only if we as a society begin to make changes.  The first change is to become more aware of how the planet is doing.   Not too good, and getting worse.

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