For the first time in history, the natural world we leave our children will
be frightfully worse than the one we inherited from our parents. This isn’t
just because we’re using the planet as if there were no tomorrow — that’s
been going on for centuries. It’s because the cumulative weight of
our past and present malfeasance has brought us to several tipping points.
Nature has her tolerance limits, and we’ve reached many of them. In
some cases, very possibly, we’ve passed them.
Consider, for example, our atmosphere. It’s not just today’s
pollution that hurts, it’s the accumulation of fumes we’ve been
pouring into the air for centuries. This has already caused ice caps to melt,
hurricanes to gain ferocity, and the Gulf Stream to weaken. Almost universally,
the world’s scientists warn that far worse lies ahead. The question
our generation faces is: will we change our economic system voluntarily,
or let the atmosphere change it for us?
Consider also what scientists call biodiversity. The earth is a tiny island
of life in a cold, dark universe. We humans share this magical island with
millions of other species, most of whom we haven’t met. Each of these
species fills a niche and contributes to the web of life. Yet little by little,
we’re pushing the others out of their living spaces. The result is
a wave of extinctions comparable to that which wiped out the dinosaurs sixty-five
million years ago. The difference is that, while the dinosaurs’ extinction
was triggered by a freak event, the current extinctions are being caused
by our everyday activities. ... read
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