Lives hang in the balance of what we do now

Thanks to Rolly Montpelier, a Canadian climate activist and fellow Climate Reality Leadership Corps member for posting this video. It is 24 minutes long and well worth the time. It is an interview with Graham Saul, a Metcalf Innovation Fellow and the Executive Director of Nature Canada.  But if you don’t take the time to watch it, here is the kernel of what Saul is saying from his recently published paper, Environmentalists, What Are We Fighting For?:

“Humanity is extracting resources and converting forests, grasslands, and wetlands into farms and urban areas at an alarming rate. We are undermining our rivers, lakes, and oceans by diverting freshwater for human use and dumping massive amounts of chemicals like nitrogen and phosphorus into our waterways. We are also releasing a cocktail of toxic contaminants into the environment on a daily basis without fully understanding the impact they have on the health of humans and ecosystems.

“To make matters worse, climate change is no longer a distant threat. It is happening today. As the Union of Concerned Scientists—a non-profit science advocacy organization based in the United States—points out, we are already witnessing rising seas, heavier precipitation, and increased flooding. Some areas are experiencing more severe droughts, increased pressure on groundwater supplies, and longer and more damaging wildfire seasons. Plant and animal ranges are shifting, coral reefs are dying, hurricanes are becoming more severe, oceans are acidifying, and heat waves and other extreme weather events are more frequent and intense.

“…we are presiding over what science writer Peter Brannen calls a ‘hollowing out of wildlife itself.’  Vertebrates, including mammals, birds, fish, amphibians, and reptiles have decreased in abundance by as much as 50 percent since 1970. … As Brannen points out, ‘until very recently, all vertebrate life on the planet was wildlife. Today, astoundingly, wildlife accounts for only 3 percent of earth’s land animals; human beings, our livestock, and our pets take up the remaining 97 percent of the biomass.’

“… Despite our rhetoric and a promising patchwork of inconsistently applied legislation, we still tend to treat most species as though they are essentially our property. We all too often behave as though we are free to brutalize and/or drive them to extinction at our own discretion.

“…We have made important progress over the past 200 years in working to overcome injustices like slavery, sexism, and racism that have plagued civilization since its inception, and we can learn a lot from the social movements that led the way on these issues. Environmentalists should not forget to look to the past for lessons on how best to lead the way into the future.”

In the interview, Saul concludes with remarks that I found very moving and right on the money:

Some people look at vast social movements and they wish they could have been part of those breakthrough moments in human history. I’m looking at the moment that we’re in now and I feel like I have the opportunity to be part of one of the most hopeful  and amazing things that has ever happened in the history of the human race, and that’s humanity coming to terms with the planet and becoming a healing and restorative force in the world.

It’s an opportunity that will not be available to any generation that has not already come into its own agency—like my 8- and 9-year-old grandchildren. We have 10 years and counting.

2 thoughts on “Lives hang in the balance of what we do now

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