Greetings, readers! Let’s talk about the term “sustainability.” I’ve touched upon it before as the phrase is ubiquitous in the field, but today, we deep-dive!
The U.N. defines sustainability as, “Meeting the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.” www.un.org/en/academic-impact/sustainability. These needs refer to our ability to feed, water, clothe, and shelter ourselves, all of which are contingent upon the resources and ecosystem services that are provided by our natural habitats.
Now, what precisely do I mean by “ecosystem services”? Well, think back to the Salmon and Grizzly glaciers. Those flowing rivers of ice gave us FREE water storage and allowed water to slowly melt throughout the summertime, feeding our creeks and rivers. Now we have no glaciers remaining in the Alps, and will likely not receive enough snow in the future to rebuild them in our lifetimes. Another example is wetlands, whose hydrophytic plants are able to filter and clean our water. Thanks, Nature! We couldn’t live here without you!
Simply put, we are consuming materials (i.e. clean water and fertile soil) faster than they can be regenerated by nature, and we are polluting and defiling our water, air, and soil with noxious chemicals (fossil fuels, pesticides, cleaners, microfibers, etc.) faster than nature can filter and dilute them. A new phrase has popped up with respect to this overconsumption and pollution: Earth Overshoot Day, which refers to when humanity has exhausted Earth’s budget of resources and services (www.footprintnetwork.org/our-work/earth-overshoot-day/). In 2021, Earth Overshoot Day fell on July 29, meaning that in just 7 months, we consumed all the water, soil, nutrients, and energy Earth was able to generate and then moved into the red, racking up a huge ecological deficit while pumping billions of tons of CO2 into the atmosphere.
It is worth mentioning, yet again, that nearly all of the lifeforms presently living on Earth are adapted to live within a very narrow range of temperatures, humans included. Hyperthermia (overheating, heat exhaustion, heat stroke) is a very real threat today and will become an increasingly common problem in the future. Remember the heat dome in June last year? A billion sea creatures died off the coast of Vancouver (www.scientificamerican.com/article/pacific-northwest-heat-wave-killed-more-than-1-billion-sea-creatures/). In my personal opinion, 106 degrees Fahrenheit is too hot for comfortable human habitation. South Asia has already had temperatures soar past 120 degrees Fahrenheit this year! (www.carbonbrief.org/media-reaction-south-asias-2022-heatwave-and-the-role-of-climate-change). It breaks my heart that we are roasting our planet and ourselves. Children and the elderly are especially vulnerable to heat.
I’ve not written this column for even a year yet, but the backlash has been persistent, dogged, devoid of facts and figures, instead replaced with personal insults, targeted public threats of violence, and attempts to get me fired at my job. Yep, three separate men tried to cancel me this past year! They were unsuccessful, but I was still shaken.
Sometimes I fear for my safety. Writing this column honestly might not be sustainable. Human civilization is tumultuous and chaotic. People have been shot for far less than challenging those who maintain the status quo, who hold power and choose to enable dangerous actions and actors. Verbally striking back at those who threaten and commit violence can get one killed.
I’ve been accused of hating America and nothing could be further from the truth. I believe we have many problems to solve, but generally my days are peaceful. I love America so much that I want us to heal, thrive and flourish forever. I want future generations to have enough clean water, air, and nourishing food to meet their needs. More than anything, I love the First Amendment freedom of speech, knowing that we will destroy ourselves if lies, threats, and abuse remain unchallenged.
If you’re reading this and you’re angrier at ME than at our collective lack of care for all we presently have, I implore you to readjust your moral compass and priorities.
Protect our children and grandchildren, our planet, and our future.
We should all be on the same team: Team Life on Earth.