Nine billion people one planet

Climate change, in other words, is not so much a problem to be fixed but rather a steadily worsening condition with which we must contend for a long time to come.

Improved technology, at best, will only reduce the scale of the problem and buy us time to build the foundations for a more durable and decent civilization.  In the words of biologist Anthony Barnoski, “stabilizing [climate] in this sense means global temperature staying more or less constant for at least hundreds, probably thousands of years. In short, as far as generations of humans are concerned, we probably never will revert back to the ‘old’ climate” (2009, p. 29).

The few remaining climate skeptics aside, there are two general positions that bear on our own views. The first is the belief that there is a rising tide of groups, associations, and nongovernmental organizations forming around the world as a kind of planetary immune system that will transform our politics, heal the widening breach between humankind and the rest of nature, and lead on to sunnier uplands.

There is considerable evidence for what Paul Hawken calls “blessed unrest.” Clearly something is astir in the world, and perhaps it will eventually transform our manner of living and relating to the world and to each other. But it has not done so yet. In the meantime, carbon is accumulating in the atmosphere faster than ever before while inequality, violence, economic stress, and ecological degradation grow.

How blessed unrest amplified by the Internet will fare in an increasingly destabilized world is anyone’s guess, but to get through the bottleneck more or less intact we will need lots more of it, well organized, creatively applied, and allied with leadership in all sectors of society. But there is no adequate substitute for better leadership at all levels, including those who are engaged in the conduct of the public business, which is to say politics.

A second view holds that we ought to focus only on solutions, not problems and dilemmas. But the solutions most talked about are technological and so neither require nor result in any particular improvement in our behavior, politics, or economics that brought us to our present situation in the first place. And neither do they call us to rethink the rationality of our underlying motives and objectives or become aware of the political and social choices hidden in our technologies.

By 2050 or so, the world population is expected to reach nine billion people.

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