We are living through a decisive decade—for the future of human societies, and for the life of our species, and of millions of other species.
- The IPCC finds we are close to losing the possibility of successful climate-resilient development. The IPBES finds we are at risk of losing more than 1 million species in the Earth’s 6th mass extinction, currently ongoing and caused by human activities and choices. Failure to prevent these losses could lead to the collapse of production in all food-growing regions.
- A study by Deloitte has found that inaction on climate change will cost $178 trillion over 50 years—significantly degrading quality of life, basic human security, and political stability in every nation.
- The Financial Stability Oversight Council and the Commodity Futures Trading Commission have found unchecked climate disruption will destabilize the entire financial system. Such devastation of the macroeconomy will create unmanageable financial and political conditions, and will exacerbate already worsening trends toward debt distress, destabilization, and insecurity.
In ‘What we owe the future’, William MacAskill argues that “we are the ancients”, that the pace of rapid change of the last few centuries cannot be sustained for very long, so our choices now are not just consequential for the next few years or decades, but for the entire future of our species.
- Success, he argues, will mean the possibility our species lives much longer than the average mammalian species on Earth.
- Failure will mean we fall well below the average species lifespan.
- The difference will be trillions of lives lived or not lived, with conditions available to those who do live shaped by our choices.
- Artificial intelligence is evolving so rapidly, many experts, ethicists, and human rights advocates worry it may begin to colonize our everyday choices in ways we no longer fully understand, and could eventually be beyond our control.
- There are concerns advanced artificial intelligence could also pit destructive industrialized systems against the wellbeing of people and nature on an unprecedented scale.
Even if we are not fully aware of the consequences of our choices, future generations will remember our choices with great specificity, and attribution, because their reality will be shaped by them. They will know what we did and did not do, and what effect that had on the planet and on their lives.
The 2020s are the decisive decade for determining whether future generations of humankind will know peace and thriving, or chaos and deprivation. Will we allow the Anthropocene epoch to be characterized by worsening out of control impacts from past overconsumption or will we set the stage for a future of responsible stewardship of natural systems, with consistent benefits to human health and wellbeing?
The only home we’ve ever known…
The featured image at the top of this page is the photograph known as “The Pale Blue Dot”. It was taken by the Voyager 1 space probe on Valentine’s Day 1990, from a distance of 4 billion miles, beyond the outermost planets of our solar system.
Astronomer Carl Sagan described our home planet, as seen in this photograph, as a “pale blue dot”. He made the photo famous with existential context about our place in the universe, noting there is no other home we can yet escape to if this one fails us, adding:
Like it or not, for the moment the Earth is where we make our stand.