We need to invest in finding sustainable and scalable alternatives to plastic. Even marine plastic is in large part a fishing issue: 46% of the Great Pacific garbage patch is composed of discarded nets,
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2018/03/26: the more we grow, the more we eat away at the web of life on which we all depend.
We have known about this problem for decades now, but we've been told not to worry: As technology improves and becomes more efficient, we'll be able to keep growing the economy while nonetheless reducing our impact on the natural world. The technical term for this is "green growth," which requires absolute decoupling of GDP from material use. According to the theory, we can speed this process along by incentivizing innovation; if we tax carbon emissions and material extraction, we can spur companies to invest in more efficient tech.
Here's the magic number: 50 billion tons. That's how much of the Earth's materials and life forms we can safely use each year. That includes everything from wood to plastic, fish to livestock, minerals to metals: all the physical stuff that we consume. Right now, we're using about 80 billion tons each year-way over the limit. So for growth to be green, we need to somehow get back down to 50 billion tons despite expanding the GDP.
When green growth theory was first proposed, there was no evidence on whether it would actually work-it was purely speculative. But over the past few years, three major studies have set out to examine this question. All have arrived at the same rather troubling conclusion: Even under best-case scenario conditions, absolute decoupling of GDP growth from material use is not possible on a global scale.
Why the bad news? The main reason is that tech innovation just doesn't work the way most of us assume. We know that Moore's law says that chip performance doubles about every two years-but this doesn't apply to material use. There are physical limits to material efficiency, and once we start to reach them then the scale effect of growth drives material use back up in the long run. For instance you might be able to produce a wooden table more efficiently, but you can't produce a table out of nothing. In the end you'll need a minimum amount of wood, and once you reach that limit, then any growth in table production is going to come along with a corresponding growth in wood use.
It would be hard to overstate the impact of these results. Right now, our only plan for dealing with the ecological emergency that's staring us in the face is to hope that tech innovation and green growth will mitigate the coming disaster. Yes, we're going to need all the wizardry we can get-but that alone is not going to be enough. The only real option is in fact much simpler and more obvious: We need to start consuming less.
The subtitle of Pope Francis' stunning new encyclical, "'Laudato Si', On Care for Our Common Home," belies the preference of some that a pontiff not venture into economic matters-Jeb Bush, for instance. Etymologically, after all, economics is the discipline of man
Pope Francis reminds us that our relationship to the natural world is about love, not just goods and services
New insights from the deep past should transform the way we work with forests. By George Monbiot, published in BBC Wildlife magazine, June 2015 Why is it possible to lay
By JACK JENKINS & EMILY ATKIN, reviewing a draft of the coming papal letter on climate change: "The likely encyclical draft - entitled "Laudato Si" or "Praised Be," from a prayer by St. Francis of Assisi - directly addressed the old biblical claim that because God gave humanity "dominion" over the earth in Genesis, humanity... Continue reading ...
In late 1995 Mike Simmons, then-SFI vice president, introduced me to Jim Brown. At that time I was overseeing the high energy physics program at Los Alamos National Laboratory while Brown, who had recently moved to the University of New Mexico's biology department, was developing an ecology program at SFI. Serendipitously we had both been
Despite many claiming they helped to draft Pope Francis' new encyclical, the final text cannot be attributed to any 'hidden' advisors, says a former Vatican official.
Homo sapiens' domination of Earth is coming to an end, not in some imagined science-fiction future but as the result of today's processes of resource extraction and waste generation.
Reversing defaunation: Restoring species in a changing world", this new article in the Science magazine reviews the full spectrum of conservation
Despite the significant benefits they have and will continue to provide, the traditional approaches of protected areas and in situ conservation management alone cannot shield vulnerable species from the
Was it ecocide? The collapse of the mini-civilization on Easter Island (Rapa Nui) has long been considered one of the great Green morality tales. Once the people there cut down the last tree, story goes, they were doomed. Their famous statues were an arms race that completed the exhaustion of their all-too-finite resources. Moral of the story: Easter Island equals Earth Island: we must not repeat its tragedy with the planet.
If you want to change society-or are interested in aiding or evaluating the efforts of others to do so-some understanding of exactly how environmental circumstances affect such efforts could be extremely helpful.
Report shows Alaska, Florida, Gulf of Mexico and north-eastern fisheries are responsible for more than half of discarded fish
The human species must acknowledge that any future that allows us to retain our humanity will jettison capitalism, patriarchy and white supremacy - and be based on an ecological worldview, says Jensen.
Despite what many commentators on The Conversation have said, conserving biodiversity in our national parks isn't the way to save them. Parks need visitors to get vital community and political support
A highly readable appreciation of the living world explains how nature underpins everything we do, writes Robin McKie
Pope Reflects on the Relationship Between Human Ecology and Environmental Ecology