Politics Essay

4100 Words17 Pages
I would like to start by pointing to the seriousness of our current environmental problem and then turn to the question of how this relates to capitalism. Only then will we be in a position to talk realistically about what we need to do to stave off or lessen catastrophe. How bad is the environmental crisis? You have all heard about the dangers of climate change due to the emission of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases into the atmosphere -- trapping more heat on earth. You are undoubtedly aware that global warming threatens the very future of the humanity, along with the existence of innumerable other species. Indeed, James Hansen, the leading climatologist in this country, has gone so far as to say this may be "our last chance to save humanity."2 But climate change is only part of the overall environmental problem. Scientists, led by the Stockholm Resilience Centre, have recently indicated that we have crossed, or are near to crossing, nine "planetary boundaries" (defined in terms of sustaining the environmental conditions of the Holocene epoch in which civilization developed over the last 12,000 years): climate change, species extinction, the disruption of the nitrogen-phosphorus cycles, ocean acidification, ozone depletion, freshwater usage, land cover change, (less certainly) aerosol loading, and chemical use. Each of these rifts in planetary boundaries constitutes an actual or potential global ecological catastrophe. Indeed, in three cases -- climate change, species extinction, and the disruption of the nitrogen cycle -- we have already crossed planetary boundaries and are currently experiencing catastrophic effects. We are now in the period of what scientists call the "sixth extinction," the greatest mass extinction in 65 million years, since the time of the dinosaurs; only this time the mass extinction arises from the actions of one particular

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