What kind of footprint will we leave for our little ones?
Today is a very special "Earth Day" for me because I just heard this morning that someone very close to me is expecting a baby and I am over the moon with this news. I am already starting to make plans for the arrival of this exciting new life and I'm thinking about what the future holds for it. Inspired by the fact that it's Earth Day - I wrote the following for the 'new arrival' in my life but really - it's a letter for the next generation intended to shake up the current one!
To all new arrivals,
You will soon be here on this planet and I hope that you will get the same chances I have had to enjoy this beautiful place we call "Earth". However, I am very worried that you wont because every day it seems that parts of our planet are irreversibly destroyed.
Everyone is supposed to do something today that will make a difference to the future of the planet but I can't help feeling like it is a joke. How can we be happy setting aside only one day for the Earth when every day needs to be "Earth Day"? Sure one day is better than no day but for too many people the other 364 days seem to be "Consume and Destroy" days. And we just can't carry on like this. We only have one planet to live on and that's it. We wont be handed another after we have completely screwed up this one and even if there is a creator and they have a spare planet lying around, I'm sure they wouldn't let us get our filthy hands on it because they know exactly what would happen if we did.
When I was only 10 years old I remember reading that rainforest the size of a football field was cut down every minute or so. And I thought that surely by now we would have realised how insane this is and that we would have stopped but I am now in my thirties and the situation is even worse.
Deforestation and forest degradation is wiping out plants and animals, increasing soil erosion and flooding and contributing around 20% of global green house gas emissions each year. And now it's not only the rainforests that are under siege. The entire planet is threatened by runaway climate change.
Antarctic ice loss is accelerating faster than we previously thought possible, as is the loss of Arctic sea ice. Entire ice shelves have collapsed while others have broken away. Coral reefs are disappearing and islands are flooding.Several major food crops are already suffering and 150,000 people are dying now every year due to the effects of climate change in low income countries. The list goes on… It is now painfully clear that the predictions we made just a few years ago were far too conservative. But despite this realisation - there are plans to build hundreds of new coal plants in the next decade and massive deforestation continues. My worry about the impacts we are facing go beyond predicted extinctions of plants and animals, and beyond my serious concern of how the world's poorest will cope... I am now certain that not enough action now threatens the very existense of society.
I realise that this all sounds incredibly depressing and you're probably wondering why anyone even considered bringing you into such a mess! I know you will be upset when you see just what we have done to your planet but amid all of this chaos I still feel a great sense of hope. There is a green revolution happening. As I write this people all over the world are rising up to save our climate. We are taking action (some of us are getting arrested while some are sending emails - but every one of us is effective!) so that new arrivals like you wont have to face the worst case scenario. And by the time you get here I have every hope that our actions will have sucessfully encouraged a good agreement by world leaders to rescue our fragile planet. Because without a global agreement - all of our individual efforts will be meaningless and we will have very little chance of escaping the worst.
So today is Earth Day and although we're all trying to make a difference today for people like you, we will keep on doing it tomorrow and the next day and the next day and the next day in the lead up to this year's UN Climate Summit and beyond.
I hope you are now a little more prepared for your arrival on Earth. Try not to be too shocked and dismayed when you get here. We're working on making this world a better place for you and with any luck - we will be 3 million strong soon!