Just about everyone nowadays realizes that humanity faces multiple crises, but a new article makes the point that even experts underestimate just how bad things are now and how precipitously our situation is likely to deteriorate. The short article is
Underestimating the Challenges of Avoiding a Ghastly Future, by Bradshaw et al
and it is well worth reading. The authors point out that only about 5% (!!) of the mass of the world’s invertebrates are wild individuals (the rest are humans and our livestock), and that human consumption is now nearly double (170% of) the Earth’s regenerative capacity. The most memorable phrase is that “… humanity is running an ecological Ponzi scheme …”.
The authors conclude:
We have summarized predictions of a ghastly future of mass extinction, declining health, and climate-disruption upheavals (including looming massive migrations) and resource conflicts this century. Yet, our goal is not to present a fatalist perspective, because there are many examples of successful interventions to prevent extinctions, restore ecosystems, and encourage more sustainable economic activity at both local and regional scales. Instead, we contend that only a realistic appreciation of the colossal challenges facing the international community might allow it to chart a less-ravaged future. While there have been more recent calls for the scientific community in particular to be more vocal about their warnings to humanity (Ripple et al., 2017; Cavicchioli et al., 2019; Gardner and Wordley, 2019), these have been insufficiently foreboding to match the scale of the crisis. Given the existence of a human “optimism bias” that triggers some to underestimate the severity of a crisis and ignore expert warnings, a good communication strategy must ideally undercut this bias without inducing disproportionate feelings of fear and despair (Pyke, 2017; Van Bavel et al., 2020). It is therefore incumbent on experts in any discipline that deals with the future of the biosphere and human well-being to eschew reticence, avoid sugar-coating the overwhelming challenges ahead and “tell it like it is.” Anything else is misleading at best, or negligent and potentially lethal for the human enterprise at worst.
As I said, the entire short article is well worth reading.
The key question is are we willing to do anything about this?