A Second Warning to Humanity
In the original warning, scientists noted concern about damage on planet Earth such as ozone depletion, freshwater availability, marine life depletion, ocean dead zones, forest loss, biodiversity destruction, climate change, and human population growth. Scientists spelled out the steps we had to take to begin halting this damage including increasing conservation efforts, decreasing dependencies on fossil fuels, stabilizing the population, eliminating poverty, and giving women rights over their own reproduction.
To put it simply, the statistics are devastating. Since just 1992, the human population has increased by 35%, or 2 billion people. Population growth itself is the driver for much of the ecological impact. We are pushing the earth to its capacity to handle life.
The chart below, from the publication, shows the exponential changes that are occurring in recent history. This is having devastating effects on food scarcity, clean water, and animal life.
However, what this second warning also tells us is with a concerted effort it is possible to begin slowing and reversing our impact.
We can make a change.
Scientists noted that there has been progress made in reducing poverty and fertility in third world areas due to advancements in women's education. Women are gaining power over their own reproduction and the ability to educate themselves. These two pieces were part of the suggestions in 1992 that scientists said would be crucial to begin to change.
Renewable energy industries have also grown, demonstrating the effects of advocacy and societal pressures on changing our ways.
"With a groundswell of organized grassroots efforts, dogged opposition can be overcome and political leaders compelled to do the right thing. It is also time to re-examine and change our individual behaviors, including limiting our own reproduction (ideally to replacement level at most) and drastically diminishing our per capita consumption of fossil fuels, meat, and other resources."
How can we respond to this warning?
While it is important to donate to worthy causes, recycle, and participate in local elections to support leaders that will support the environment, the key piece that is wreaking havoc is our obsession with consumption.
Gone are the days of buying clothes when it was needed and using products until they were gone, the retail industry has surged on the notion of keeping up with trends. The clothing industry itself is the second largest polluter in the world only to oil.
Those $10 shirts at mega retailers like Old Navy and H&M are having an incredible impact. There is an extraordinary amount of resources needed in cotton farming (toxic pesticides and dyes), to extraction, harvesting, manufacturing, and shipping. I recommend watching The True Cost documentary, available on Netflix, to get an idea on the harrowing impact on not only the earth but human rights that the retail industry is having.
Small changes to habits can have exponential impacts on your personal finances and environmental footprint. However, changing these habits clearly means changing our mentality and pushing back against industries that are marketing to you.