To the Editor:
In the 50 years since I began my doctorate in human ecology, studying the interaction between the human species and the environment, I have worried about the potential for civilizational collapse.
Scores of others, in the interim, with scholarly reputations exceeding mine, have expressed the same concern.
Most recently, Hans Schellnhuber, theoretical physicist and founder in 1991 of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research, has estimated the chance for civilization surviving the next few decades of climate change at more than 5 percent but less than 50 percent. The only rational thing to do, he emphasizes, is to act as if civilization still could be saved.
He emphasizes the urgency with which this must be done to limit the damage. Here is the irreducible list of what must be done as soon as possible:
• Federal lawmakers must be pressured through Citizens Climate Lobby to enact a rising tax on carbon. The proceeds should be split, with half going to the lower half of the income distribution to compensate for rising energy prices, and the other half going to farmers to help them switch to regenerative agriculture, so we can feed ourselves after oil becomes unaffordable.
• Earth’s climate and human-carrying capacity the second half of this century will depend on the number of acres switched to regenerative agriculture the first half of this century. The most effective catalyst is for people to buy locally produced organic and regenerative food at farmers markets, food co-ops and from local farms.
• Human population growth and human carbon emissions continue at record highs. The only guaranteed strategy for reducing future emissions and resource consumption is to reduce human birth rates. Family planning and the status of women must receive additional public funding and emphasis in public education.
When I attended my first conference on global warming in 1971, we had the luxury of time. We no longer do. Join Citizens Climate Lobby and contact your elected representatives at all levels of government to support carbon taxes, promote local regenerative food and farming networks, and support family planning and women’s education.
Donovan C. Wilkin
Associate professor emeritus in human ecology