In 1992, the Union of Concerned Scientists issued a warning to humanity about the human-inflicted ‘harsh and often irreversible damage on the environment and on critical resources.’ So when a group of 1,700 scientists told us to check ourselves before we wreck ourselves, do you think we listened? Do you think we took the words of the smartest members of our society to heart and changed our ways? Of course not.
The most intelligent minds of the time explicitly said: ‘A great change in our stewardship of the earth and the life on it is required, if vast human misery is to be avoided and our global home on this planet is not to be irretrievably mutilated.’
That was 25 years ago. This week, an even larger group of scientists is saying that we haven’t altered our ‘collision course’ at all in the past two and a half decades. ‘World Scientists’ Warning to Humanity: A Second Notice‘ is another warning, more dire than the first, that if we don’t drastically change our ways, we’re in for some big trouble.
‘Since 1992,’ the warning says, ‘with the exception of stabilizing the stratospheric ozone layer, humanity has failed to make sufficient progress in generally solving these foreseen environmental challenges, and alarmingly, most of them are getting far worse.’
The document outlines a few positive changes humans have made in the intervening years — lower extreme poverty rates, fewer ozone-depleting substances, growth of the renewable energy sector — but makes it clear that we’re not doing enough. It calls on industry, governments, advocacy groups and individuals to all work at decreasing our negative impacts on the planet. They also point out — as they did in the 1992 report — that the rapidly increasing population is also a factor in human impact on the planet. In 25 years, the human population grew by two billion (35 per cent). That’s a lot more mouths to feed and a lot more carbon dioxide produced.
At the time of publication, 15,364 scientists from 184 countries had signed the warning with hundreds more adding their names after it was made public.
Is 16,000 scientists telling us to change our ways or else face annihilation enough to get us to recycle and turn the lights off when we leave the room? Maybe. Hopefully we’re all willing to do a little more than that though and pressure people in power (i.e. governments and industries) to do the same.