There is little doubt that the most urgent issue of our time is Climate Change. Homo sapiens have become immensely efficient destroyers, at war with their own planet. The concerns to be confronted are numerous: cut down forests, rapidly melting ice caps, rising sea levels, extinct species, resource depletion, greenhouse gases, ocean acidification, chemical pollution, rapidly increasing catastrophic events around the globe.
Our future is at risk. Very serious changes are happening, many still poorly understood. I know, you’ve heard it all before; but, sorry! it has to be said again and again and again: we have pushed the planet too far. If we continue to do so we will have to face the inevitable consequences. Deniers will be made responsible. The natural environment we’ve known for 10,000 years – the one that’s supported mankind and encouraged its success – is changing; our future depends on our ability to respond.
Systems, ideologies, narratives, modes of behaviour – from political to ecological – are being defied. The world of 2016 is not a stable and predictable one; in the future, the only constant will be change. Surprise is the new normal. Human actions have their effects, there are no unrelated events; nature, politics, the economy, society – all interconnected, every link of the chain matters.
This all is getting more serious with every day passing. We are very close to the tipping point; lost control. What is at stake is protecting life on our planet, the atmosphere and mother earth itself. We can leave it or take it. Humanity needs to materialise the over and over talked, written and argued about “mind shift”: reconnecting the individual with his natural environment, societies with the biosphere, humanity with the planet. Success will require both personal commitments and the overcoming of serious political challenges.
On the political level there is but one solution: a “Green Stimulus Deal” to develop large-scale technological innovations, i.e. the targeting of public sector investments towards energy security and efficiency, low-carbon infrastructures and ecological protection – together with the provision of human resources for this urgently needed environmental reconstruction programme. The twin challenges of climate change and energy security have to be met: protecting and enhancing ecosystems is vital to economic productivity in the future; this includes substantial investments in clean technologies, sustainable agriculture and smart cities; a major investment challenge opening up vast opportunities for economic growth. Global investors have to be made to understand that sustainable solutions will not only save the planet and increase well-being globally, but create economic opportunities, paying massive dividends.
Depressingly, many people still don’t understand the risks climate change poses to global economic and social structures, and, sadly, many insist that implementing measures to mitigate the effects of climate change are too costly and inconvenient to their current way of life. Education and awareness-raising are crucial to furnish the still unenlightened with the knowledge needed to build a better future; broadening access to education would also lead to homegrown innovation and entrepreneurs spotting opportunities to address problems on the local level.
It cannot be left solely up to Silicon Valley, NASA, national and/or international institutions to develop the magic formula to all our climate and environmental problems; solutions may come from tech hubs, but they will also come from villages and cities, from farmers, manufactures and individuals with vastly different perspectives on the world around them – this will create a virtuous and energetic cycle; our environments are best protected by local initiatives that inspire and are inspired by a love of home.
All is lost! – we should not fall prey to this false belief. We need to address the fact that there’s a lot of fluff, greenwash and misleading advertising when people talk about a better, greener future, accompanied by an alarmist premise, tending to be large-scale panic, merely serving a defeatist agenda: “Everything is totally and irreversibly threatened; we must completely change our way of life”.
Although these claims need to be expressed and have a right to be heard, we more importantly need to embrace a spirit of optimism, energetic activism and hope. The human race is equipped with the tools necessary: the intelligence, creativity and technological know-how. Homo sapiens have an incredible ability to overcome even the most daunting of challenges. Even so, one thing is for certain: we have to confront NOW the risks of continuing along the current path and start creative, realistic, and profitable alternatives; business as usual is no longer an option. 9 billion people can be fed without destroying our lands and forests, our economies can be powered without burning fossil fuels.
Humankind – all of us, together in a common effort – can trigger a new wave of sustainable technological inventions, with an abundance of ideas and solutions for human prosperity and planetary stability. If we wait for another 10 more years, it will certainly be too late; a better future is possible, it is up to us to make it happen.