Saturday, 19 December 2015

Our Very Own Epoch

Our Very Own Epoch, Welcome To The Anthropocene

By Pratap Antony

 “The protection of earth's vitality, diversity, and beauty is a sacred trust…”
Political parties do not take the state of the environment seriously and show no interest or knowledge of the state of our environment, or the need to protect it. (Conclusion after studying the manifestos of the BJP, the Congress and AAP in April 2014.)
There was nothing in any of the manifestos about sustaining our biodiversity, respect for nature, conservation of our biosphere. There was nothing about habitat loss, human disturbances, predation, protective action, or ensuring that something will be left of nature and the environment for future generations to come.
There was nothing significant in any of the manifestos about raising awareness and public interest in conservation efforts, or conservation projects to ensure our future survival; or how we can reduce our impacts on the environment, or instill a sense of responsibility towards human rights or economic justice which are related to environmental conservation.
Politicians do not listen to environmentalists when they raise these issues, nor do they have any desire to know or do anything about the environment, or climate change, except when they attend environmental protection or climate change conferences like COP when they are briefed by aides and like good actors, remember their lines and speak like experts and lecture the world about environmental safety, climate change and global warming, not forgetting to put a political spin on it. In reality, they are blowing bubbles; meaningless foam from their mouths. That’s why these conferences end in failure, with much hot air adding to the pollution and without actionable decisions being taken.
Politicians and political parties throughout the world have no idea of the enormity of the mess we have collectively made of our very own small planet which looks like a blue marble from space.
But, we can’t blame the politicians for everything. Though it’s easy to make politicians our scapegoats. We are responsible too! We are either unaware, indifferent, or we do not want to step out of line to do anything about, or protest the goings-on around us, while we continue to destroy life on the planet. We are therefore proactive in its destruction.
We have forced earth into another age in our evolution. Some geologists believe that we have now entered a new geological age. The Anthropocene Epoch. This term is being used more and more often in scientific literature.
The Anthropocene epoch describes the effect of man on the planet, because human activity continues to alter our planet – irreversibly.
The Ancient Greek [anthropos] means “human being” while [kainos] means “new, current.” The Anthropocene would thus be best defined as the new human-dominated period of the Earth’s history. - globaia.org
Officially, we are in the Holocene epoch, a geological epoch accepted by the International Commission on Stratigraphy as having begun at the end of ‘the ice age’, which is called the Pleistocene Epoch, 11700 years BP (Before Present).
The word "Anthropocene" was coined by Dutch Nobel Laureate chemist, Paul Crutzen about a decade ago.
One day Crutzen, who shared a Nobel Prize for discovering the effects of ozone-depleting compounds, was sitting at a scientific conference. The conference chairman kept referring to the Holocene, the epoch that began at the end of the last ice age. “Let's stop it,” Crutzen recalls blurting out. "We are no longer in the Holocene. We are in the Anthropocene.' Well, it was quiet in the room for a while." When the group took a coffee break, the Anthropocene was the main topic of conversation. Someone suggested that Crutzen copyright the word. National Geographic
It’s staggering that though we have lived on Earth for less than 1% of its existence, we humans have been able to alter land surface, seas and the atmosphere of the Earth enough to establish a new geological epoch in our own name! But it’s true, we humans have overpoweringly affected the Earth for the last 250 years through our activities and we are inexorably changing the chemistry of the oceans and atmosphere, the character of our soils and the selective breeding of species of all kinds.
 “No matter the label, human impact on the environment is greatly amplified since the Industrial Revolution. Human activities around energy and food production that leave their mark on the geological record include mining, damming, agriculture, deforestation, leading to air and water pollution, elevated carbon dioxide levels and reduced biodiversity”. … Nancy Roberts in Care2Causes
But we, and our short-sighted politicians and political parties, are indifferent to the repercussions, they continue to drive more and more nails into the coffin and lease out land to corporations for mining; give permission to build ports in fragile ecosystems; build dams and destroy ancient fertile land; cut down forests for their mineral wealth; build whole new areas for office blocks and residential areas on marshlands; permit genetically modified crops to be grown; drill for oil and become more dependent on dwindling resources of fossil fuels; set up ‘killing’ nuclear power plants while talking about Solar power as a solution to our energy problems. Meanwhile displacing indigenous people and their livelihoods.
We must realise the larger effects of our acquiescence to short term political decisions. We, and our politicians must think about the larger repercussions of our policies.
Thankfully, there are some politicians, and some concerned institutions who think beyond themselves and their immediate gains. All of us, and our politicians and political parties, may do well to study the Earth Charter as a constant point of reference at all times in everything we do.
 “The Earth Charter is an international declaration of fundamental values and principles considered useful by its supporters for building a just, sustainable, and peaceful global society in the 21st century. Created by a global consultation process, and endorsed by organizations representing millions of people, the Charter "seeks to inspire in all peoples a sense of global interdependence and shared responsibility for the well-being of the human family, the greater community of life, and future generations."
 “The drafting of the text was done during a six-year worldwide consultation process (1994–2000), overseen by the independent Earth Charter Commission, which was convened by Maurice Strong and Mikhail Gorbachev with the purpose of developing a global consensus on values and principles for a sustainable future.
The final text of the Earth Charter was approved at a meeting of the Earth Charter Commission at the UNESCO headquarters in Paris in March 2000”. WIKIPEDIA
Excerpts of the Earth Charter principles:
 “The global environment with its finite resources is a common concern of all peoples. The protection of Earth's vitality, diversity, and beauty is a sacred trust. … preserving a healthy biosphere with all its ecological systems, a rich variety of plants and animals, fertile soils, pure waters, and clean air”.
    a. Adopt at all levels sustainable development plans and regulations that make environmental conservation and rehabilitation integral to all development initiatives.
    b. Establish and safeguard viable nature and biosphere reserves, including wild lands and marine areas, to protect Earth's life support systems, maintain biodiversity, and preserve our natural heritage.
    c. Promote the recovery of endangered species and ecosystems.
    d. Control and eradicate non-native or genetically modified organisms harmful to native species and the environment, and prevent introduction of such harmful organisms.
    e. Manage the use of renewable resources such as water, soil, forest products, and marine life in ways that do not exceed rates of regeneration and that protect the health of ecosystems.
    f. Manage the extraction and use of non-renewable resources such as minerals and fossil fuels in ways that minimize depletion and cause no serious environmental damage.
    g. Recognize that all beings are interdependent and every form of life has value regardless of its worth to human beings.
We must understand that due to the speed of our impact on the Earth’s resources, and the global scale of our activities, we are already facing degradation of the ecosystem, scarcity of critical resources, and a decreased capacity of Earth to absorb our wastes. All this adds up and affects the whole planet. We must stand up for our planet. We must make our voices heard in whatever forum we can. Everything is connected. Everything is interdependent. Our once beautiful planet, Earth, has become a victim of ourselves. Welcome to the Anthropocene! Our very own Epoch.