MANKIND has just received another letter — actually the second after 25 years — from the world’s leading scientists, about 16,000 of them. And still counting.
In this letter to humanity, the scientists signed up its most dire warning over the health, and future, awaiting Planet Earth. In essence, the letter had a simple advice: we all need to change our wicked ways to help restore planetary health back to what it ought to be for all mankind, a caring habitat amid the rapidly changing climes we’ve been experiencing worldwide.
Globally renowned environmentalist William Ripple, a distinguished professor of ecology at Oregon State University, and his colleagues saw it fit to write the letter 25 years after their first letter to mankind hardly made much progressive strides in slowing down the severe pollution that has poisoned the earth’s atmosphere. In their second missive, the savants underscored anew the serious environmental challenges we all face.
“Unless a groundswell of public pressure — meaning you and I and all the rest of us — seriously mounts up to change human behavior, Mother Earth will sustain substantial and irreversible harm. If we don’t have a healthy biosphere, as it is called, if we continue to have major environmental problems and climate change problems, then this goes directly to the welfare of humans. People need to understand that we are trying to save ourselves from catastrophic huge misery.”
In this 2nd letter, the scientists are one in saying that many environmental problems have gotten alarmingly worse since 25 years ago. They cited the earlier findings of the Environmental Protective Agency which show that industrial processes and human activity have increased greenhouse gas emissions from 1970 to 2011, including the use of coal to heat our homes and driving cars that use gas. Consequently, these human activities have helped raise the global average temperature, listing up 2016 as the warmest year on record.
Scientific data have also indicated that temperature increases, if unchecked or allowed to go on unabated, will cause a shortage in the world’s food crops. Weather events will become more damaging — as attested by the super-hurricanes that have recently lashed at the Caribbean island communities one after the other. Ocean levels will continue to rise and threaten coastal cities worldwide, as experienced by Miami and New Orleans, and closer to home, our shoreline areas in Dear Philippines.
Right here and now, the Philippines has been experiencing nature’s temper tantrums in utterly extreme conditions. When the earth shakes up, it does so in mighty heaves, striking at will anywhere at all. When the weather turns hot, it’s very hot and deadly; on rainy days, floods occur in a matter of minutes, submerging everything on its lethal path. Archipelagic as our country is, coastal areas are shedding portions of shorelines. Elsewhere, erratic weather patterns have been taking place. Subtropical deserts are expanding; arctic glaciers are melting down.
How did all these climate extremes come about in recent years? Why has Mother Earth gone mis-behaving? And what can we do, right here and now to contend with the fast-changing climatic conditions?
This second letter from the world’s savants merely confirm what other scientists in earlier times have been warning us since 1750 : human activities have relentlessly produced a 40% increase in the concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, resulting from combustion of fossil fuel principally coal, oil, natural gas, along with deforestation, soil erosion and animal agriculture.
Man’s folly has turned deadlier throughout much of the recent centuries. We’ve been abusing our fragile environment, since way way back, wreaking havoc on our precious ecosystem that has been our lifeline into the future. By 2047, the earth’s surface temperature would have drastically altered, enough to ignite mankind’s own ill-fated annihilation and extinction. And that’s just 30 short years away!
Clearly, we need to take serious heed of our environment and act in global concert with each other. The challenge is for all of us, singly and collectively, to do something right this time, abandoning our wanton ways towards a more responsible stewardship of our planetary home. This means bringing down the level of massive pollution now afflicting the world. This means reducing strategically the greenhouse gas emissions into the earth’s atmosphere, discarding our own irresponsible behavior in favor what we can by ourselves do. This means adding up our own voice to the global pressure that can be put on the conscience of the world’s leading polluters that the United States and China have become. This means making these heavy hitters balance off what they have been recklessly doing without regard to the monumental mistakes committed in the name of economic might.
As individuals, this means accepting a shared effort in the global responsibility of ensuring that the next generation of inhabitants will have something of value to hand over to the next. After all, greenhouse gas emissions have been part of our common activities in life, from the motor engines we rev up to the machine industries we hum to the aging trees we topple down.
In the end, it is people — yes, you and I and the rest of all us — who must do its share, even at the cost of the most extreme of sacrifices to keep Planet Earth a worthy hand-over liberated from the clutches of fossil fuel, free enough to act locally as our global response beyond the borders of our self-serving attitudes, beyond the barriers that greed may impose.
After all, our scientists have shown us what ails Planet Earth. We need every positive act that singly and collectively we can do to save our only planetary home. Essentially, it is doing the right thing when told what has been wrong, and what can be righted.