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Climate Change: A Whole Earth Solution

Let me start with an excerpt from a column by George Plumb that appeared in the Feb. 21, 2010, edition of the Burlington Free Press:

"By taking up an increasing amount of space, producing massive pollution, creating climate change and fostering invasive species, we are making it harder and harder for other species to exist. By any ecological measure, Homo sapiens has well exceeded its carrying-capacity size and is having an adverse impact on all other species."

The battle over climate change is not just about climate. It is about the impact of human activities on the planet, a leading example of which is climate, to be sure. But climate is hardly the only area feeling the weight of human activity.

We humans are polluting the air. We are despoiling the land and the oceans with our trash. We are taking over habitat and squeezing out other life forms that can’t adapt as quickly as we can. We do this because we have found a way to support many more times the number of people than could normally be supported within a given geographical area.

We eat food raised in Mexico on plates made in Vietnam. We wear clothes made in Sri Lanka and if we are lucky, shoes made in Italy. We build apartments with cement made in China. We pipe in water from hundreds of miles away.

That’s if you are living in a rich country even without much money. If you are living in a poor country without much money then you are living on what you can find in the local garbage dump. Your houses are salvaged pieces of cardboard and scrap metal. You cook on a single pot over an open fire. The street is your bathroom. Your food is what others leave behind or give you.

Rich man, poor man. Either way, we are overwhelming the carrying-capacity of Earth. Mankind has one thing going for it: An almost limitless capacity to fix whatever problems we encounter (or create). But the solutions that mankind develops will matter only if they do not place us at the center.

To the extent that we work to make our species a better neighbor, to the extent that we stop crowding out other species, to the extent that we preserve and extend life rather than trample over it on the way to our next big thing then, yes, we will be the answer. If not, then we will all go down together, make no mistake about that.

This essay first appeared in

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