January 29, 2020

Breaking News:

Happy transformation!

By Barend ter Haar.

Can we predict the future? The short answer is No. Look at the governments of the United States and the United Kingdom. Ten years ago, these governments were generally regarded as respectable and effective. Nobody could have foreseen that ten years later the world would be watching the soap opera’s caused by Trump and Brexit with a mixture of apprehension and amusement.

But the longer answer is: No, we cannot predict the future, but we can influence it. That is what people around the world have done over the past fifty years by investing in education, clean water, electricity etc. As a result literacy grew from 40% to 85% and the percentage of people living in extreme poverty dropped from more than 50% to less than 10%. Mankind has never been as healthy and wealthy as today.

The disadvantage of this wonderful development, however, is that we have polluted our rivers, seas and oceans, our air and our soil on an unprecedented scale. Experts knew more than thirty years ago that this could have catastrophic consequences. What was not clear at the time, was what exactly would happen, where it would happen and when.

But now the consequences of our own behaviour have become very visible. Almost every day we are informed about new heat records, more animals threatened with extinction, more forest fires, etc. etc..

What the world will look like in 2030, we still do not know, but one thing is certain: it will look different than today, due to the great transformation we have caused. Whether that world will look better or worse than today’s world depends on our own actions. 

One option is to continue to deny that human behaviour has a noticeable impact on our environment and to ignore the overwhelming evidence to the contrary. People and governments who defend this position may not believe what they say, but it gives them the opportunity to continue their unsustainable, but very lucrative exploitation of the earth. The current Australian government seems to follow this line, but its denial of reality will not stop climate change and forest fires. Like all other countries, Australia will be a different country in 2030.

Another option is to take climate change, pollution and loss of biodiversity seriously and to transform  wasteful and polluting economies into sustainable economies. This approach will probably be both cheaper and more effective than doing nothing and hoping for the best, but it requires vision and courage.  

As everybody can see with his or her own eyes, a major transformation of the earth is on its way and can no longer be prevented. The negative consequences of this transformation might remain limited if we concentrate on mitigation and adaptation, or can become catastrophic, if we sit back and wait.

I wish you a successful and happy transformation.

Comments are closed.