Amazon Fire
A fire burns trees next to grazing land in the Amazon basin in Ze Doca, Brazil. (Photo: Mario Tama/Getty Images)

We humans live on a planet which we have named Earth which, along with several other planets each of which we have named, revolves around a star which we have named Sun – all with different names in different cultures. More recently, we have recognized life on Earth ranging from micro-organisms to elephants and whales, and understand that in physical size, we are somewhere in between.

We are a species which has promoted itself to the top of the evolutionary ladder of life, among the myriad life-forms on Earth, and claim uniqueness and primacy of intelligence. In an amazing act of self-certification, we have named ourselves as Homo Sapiens (Latin for ”wise man”). In most cultures, Man is believed to be at the apex of creation in the universe. The question today is whether humans are too ‘smart’ for their own good.

In geologically very recent times, among all living beings, Man has learned to influence, modify and change his environment through agriculture and industry, and his capability to harness energy sources and materials, and create new materials. As a species, 7.9-billion humans are the most influential and dominant form of life on Earth.

The huge strides in science and technology over the last century, have caused galloping industrialization. The processes, products, services and facilities due to industrialization, which are available to human populations, have affected the lives and life-styles of almost all humans – although rather unequally – in both beneficial and harmful ways.

Rapid advancements in science and technology have increasingly intensified and magnified the effects of industrialization. Today, the large-scale negative effects of industrialization over many decades, are dwarfing the benefits.

Industrialization

The increasing scale and growth-rate of industrialization, are both linked with the global mindset of “economic growth”, which is a pernicious economic ideology spanning across different political ideologies. This is re-inforced by the corporate-led World Economic Forum at Davos, which provides the annual booster-dose of this ideology to the world’s political-economic leaders.

The principal characteristic of this concept of economic growth is that it is designed to be perpetual, unending, and consumptive. Such economic growth consumes its own environmental/ecological resource base, like a cancer.

Industrialization is organized large-scale manufacture/production of goods and services. Societies manufacture/produce or exchange goods within and between themselves. Societies also produce facilities/conveniences for themselves and other societies, in the form of services such as health-care, education, civic services, transportation, etc.

Industrialization is based upon developing, advancing and employing science and technology to promote the ideology of economic growth. It is driven by and also drives the complex system of the oil/energy industry, the banking-finance sector, the extractive mining/quarrying industry, the manufacturing/production industry, the agriculture industry, etc. These are the socio-economic systems of every national economy.

Use and consumption of the products of industrialization create further demand, which boosts the activity of these industrial subsystems, in cyclically increasing “loops” of consuming primary natural resources and generating waste.

The global scale and growth-rate of industrialized production of a vast variety and quantities of goods and services, have three major effects:

# The consumption of humongous quantities of fuel energy and natural resources in production and transportation processes, and consequent gaseous carbon (GW) emissions.

# The expansion of land use for industries and human habitation into forested areas, and consequent deforestation, with large-scale reduction in carbon capture.

# Using land areas and oceans for dumping solid and liquid industrial wastes, and used/unusable industrial products (every single industrial product from staple-pins to aeroplanes is finally waste-garbage-junk at some point in time), thus adversely affecting every form of life in oceans and on land, from microscopic to human. Even the processes of dumping or recycling wastes, demand and consume more energy and create yet more waste, using the ecosystem as the “sink”.

The world’s economies are all subsystems of Earth’s ecosystem, individually and collectively devastating Earth’s environment and ecology, and are the primary cause for global warming and climate change (GW-CC).

Earth’s climate and ecology may shift to a different level of dynamic stability, but that will take  millennia. The rate of change of this shift is small when viewed on a geophysical time-scale. However, if viewed from the time-scale of Life on Earth it is rapid, and viewed from a Homo Sapiens time-scale, it is disastrous. GW-CC is not in the future. It is already happening, and we are in the midst of the transition.

GW-CC

Gaseous wastes, especially CO2 – 36.4 billion tonnes in 2021 alone – and methane, have upset the millennia-old dynamic global balance between the incoming solar heat energy and the heat energy re-radiated into space, in the time-span of just one century. This has resulted in unprecedented increase in land surface and ocean temperatures, and raised the average global temperature.

Evidences of GW-CC occurring and gaining momentum are reported in the international and national media almost on a daily basis, but appear to leave global and national leadership unmoved. Most world leaders, insulated and self-imprisoned behind security screens in comfortable working and living spaces, are mainly focussed on pelf and gaining or retaining power, out of contact with harsh realities affecting people. Their individual or collective intellectual uptake does not appear to include people’s welfare or species survival. Public protests concerning GW-CC are ignored and neglected, or brutally suppressed in medieval monarch style.

IPCC Reports indicate that GW-CC continues to cause changes in the environment and ecosystems, at a rate to which biological systems may not be able to adapt, to survive. Thus, all life on the planet will be impacted, and especially human societies, because they are complex systems. IPCC recommends that nations and societies across the globe need to urgently plan to mitigate the harmful effects of GW-CC, and adapt to its inevitable effects.

The measures needed to be taken for adaptation to forthcoming GW-CC situations and conditions, and for mitigating GW-CC effects are well argued. Societies and nations ignore them at unacceptable cost to future generations.

Many countries including India, have prepared an action plan on climate change (APCC), for adaptation and mitigation measures. These are essentially reactive to on-going and forthcoming situations and conditions, and do not address the fundamental causes of GW-CC.  If fundamental causes are dealt with urgently and diligently, the rate at which GW-CC impacts societies and nations, can be reduced, and make biological and social adaptation and mitigation measures effective and meaningful.

Humans, being a part of and dependent upon Earth’s environment and ecology, are biologically and sociologically subject to changes caused by GW-CC. Geo-physical situations and conditions that GW-CC are reliably expected to cause, are:

# Polar ice melt and rise of sea level, forcing population migration;

# Extreme weather events causing heat-waves, wildfires and floods, leading to loss of life, livestock, food-stocks, water sources, livelihood, habitat, and property, causing social and economic crises;

# Regional desertification by flood-drought combination, causing food-water crises and human and wildlife migrations and deaths;

# Perennial rivers becoming seasonal, causing food-water crises and migrations;

# Permafrost thaw with revival of frozen disease vectors, and migration of existing disease vectors, causing epidemics, illnesses and deaths.

These situations and conditions will inevitably overlap and reinforce each other. As inevitably, this will trigger social-economic-political crises, and intensify conflicts centered upon human survival essentials, namely, food-water-habitat, within and between societies and nations. Today, humanity is in the midst of “climate emergency”, which transcends national borders. It is the defining crisis of our times.

However, UN Secretary-General António Guterres holds out hope, that “… the climate emergency is a race we are losing, but it is a race we can win”. Therefore, societies and nations across the globe, will need to organize and adapt for individual, social-civilizational and species survival.

If “the race” against GW-CC is to be “won”, industrialization needs to be urgently and drastically scaled down and stopped. It is not about doing away with industry, but stopping industrialization. The economic-growth global model must be scrapped and less consumptive, locally-relevant, socio-economic models adopted. Without doing this, it amounts to trying to save the sinking ship of industrialized civilization, by merely wearing life-jackets of adaptation and mitigation, without attending to the cause of sinking.

Undeniably, scaling down industrialization will cause economic distress to large numbers of people, due to denial of products and services, and job losses. But statistics show that even larger numbers of people – reportedly around 70% of 7.9-billions – have been doing without these same goods, products and services, and remain in endemic distress. While the distress issue is relevant and immediate, the species-survival issue is no less relevant, but it is arguably more important. Further, as the effects of GW-CC discussed above begin to impact entire nations and populations, social distress and conflicts will intensify and amplify across all social and economic classes, and drive societies to implosion and self-annihilation.

Unless world leaders remove their economic-growth WEF-Davos blinkers and awaken to reality, UN Secretary-General António Guterres’ hope concerning the climate emergency will amount to nothing. It will be curtains for human civilization, perhaps even for humanity.

References (hyperlinked in the text)

  1. S.G.Vombatkere, “Transforming the World – Engineering Humanity: A soft science view of hard science“; <https://countercurrents.org/2022/03/transforming-the-world-engineering-humanity-a-soft-science-view-of-hard-science/>; Countercurrents.org; March 12, 2022.
  2. “Natural history, not technology, will dictate our destiny: Humans, convinced of our own power and control, tend to ignore the laws of nature. But that is a mistake”; <https://www.wired.com/story/natural-history-will-dictate-destiny/>; “Wired”; January 6, 2022.
  3. Robert Hunziker; “When to build sea walls”; <https://countercurrents.org/2022/01/when-to-build-sea-walls/>; Countercurrents.org; January 7, 2022.
  4. Thom Hartmann; “The Corporate oligarchs have put humanity on a path toward self-annihilation”; <https://countercurrents.org/2022/07/the-corporate-oligarchs-have-put-humanity-on-a-path-toward-self-annihilation/>; Countercurrents.org; July 30, 2022.
  5. “The Climate Crisis – a race we can win”; <https://www.un.org/en/un75/climate-crisis-race-we-can-win>; United Nations UN75 – 2020 and beyond: Shaping our future.

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Dr.S.G. Vombatkere, retired in the military rank of Major General as Additional DG Discipline & Vigilance in Army HQ AG’s Branch. President of India awarded him Visishta Seva Medal (VSM) in 1993 for his distinguished military service. His area of interest is strategic and development-related issues. He holds a PhD in Civil Engineering (Structural Dynamics) from I.I.T Madras. He is a Fellow of The Institution of Engineers (India), and Fellow of The Indian Social Science Academy.

E-mail: <sg9kere@live.com>.

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