[My comments boxed -perryb]
Jeffrey Sachs does not seem to understand that he is part of the problem -as
are all scientists (and mathematicians) who are not free of what can only be
called primitive beliefs of one kind or another: democracy in particular
among all other 'isms', is not 'the best form of
government', and its 'free-enterprise capitalism', worse yet, is an
absolute guarantee of continuing corruption of planet integrity into the brick
wall of unsustainable overpopulation.
With this final column I will transition Sustainable Developments from
Scientific American to the home page of the Earth Institute
(www.earth.columbia.edu). Although I will continue to contribute occasional
essays to the magazine, I will use this last regular column to say thank you
and take stock of the deepening crisis of sustainable development.
During the four years of this column, the world’s
inability to face up to the reality of the growing environmental crisis has
become even more palpable. Every major goal that international bodies have
established for global environmental policy as of 2010 has been postponed,
ignored or defeated. Sadly, this year will quite possibly become the warmest
on record, yet another testimony to human-induced environmental catastrophes
running out of control.
People in government are invariably not much better educated in these
'realities' -the nature of man, than the
populace; worse still, away from their laboratories and blackboards,
scientists and mathematicians themselves have the same existential
concerns that the man on the street has; there is, in other words,
neither impetus nor agency to offset complaints here.
The recovery has sputtered: Obama bet on “stimulating” exhausted consumers
rather than on a long-term program of public investments in sustainable
infrastructure. The Senate, true to form, sustained its 18th year of inaction
on global warming since ratifying the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate
Change in 1992.
This was to be the year of biodiversity. In 2002 nations
pledged, under the auspices of the United Nations Convention on Biological
Diversity, to slow significantly the planetary loss of biodiversity by 2010.
This goal was not even remotely achieved. Indeed, it was barely even noticed
by Americans: the U.S. signed the convention in 1992 but never ratified it.
Ratification fell victim to the uniquely American delusion that virtually
all of nature should be subdivided into parcels of private property, within
which owners should have their way.
This year was also to be the start of a new post-Kyoto
treaty, but that effort was stillborn by the continuing paralysis of U.S.
policy making. President Barack Obama came empty-handed to the Copenhagen
climate change negotiations, and the U.S., China and other powers settled
for a nonbinding declaration of sentiments and goals rather than an
operational strategy and process of implementation.
According to Obama’s 2008 election campaign, this was to
be the first year of a new climate and energy policy for the U.S., too, and
the second year of a “green recovery.” We’ve had neither.
The Importance Of Biodiversity
Most people 'rue possible loss of biodiversity', but asked why it is
important, they fall upon essentially emotional explanation that has
absolutely nothing to do with 'inevitable consequences of deliberative
capability and genetic imperative'.
Simply stated, most people have learned to expect a certain continuing
predicability of resource/environment dynamics upon which man has
depended from 'the beginning' -food, for example, one way or another.
What 'common man' does not know -but evolutionary biologists do,
on the other hand, is that as we corrupt natural, pre-sapiens
dynamics [eating what he's used to] through overpopulation and existential excesses, we
also permanently degrade that resource/environment of material and
information that, driven by genetic imperative and therefore
inevitably to be regretted, 'the life-form needs to live as
long as possible'.
(-from Human Nature and Continuing Human
This year was ushered in by the phony “Climategate”
controversy, which involved leaked e-mails of a British climate research unit;
the political right wing depicted some ill-considered language in the messages
as proof of a vast global plot. Independent reviews have since rejected the
charges of scientific conspiracy, but the damage is done: the U.S. public once
again swings toward disbelief in the basic science of human-induced climate
What deep features of our national and global socioeconomic
processes cause these repeated failures? First, the risks to sustainability are
truly unprecedented in their global scale and have come upon society rather
suddenly in the past two generations. Second, the problems are scientifically
complex and involve enormous uncertainties. Not only must public opinion catch
up with reality, but key sciences must also scramble to measure, assess and
address the new challenges.
We are losing not just time but the margin of planetary
safety, as the world approaches or trespasses on various thresholds of
environmental risk. With the human population continuing to rise by 75
million or more per year and with torrid economic growth in much of the
developing world, the burdens of deforestation, pollution, greenhouse gas
emissions, species extinction, ocean acidification and other massive threats
Jeffrey Sachs does not seem to understand that he is part of the problem
-as are all scientists (and mathematicians) who are not free of what can
only be called primitive beliefs of one kind or another: democracy
in particular among all other 'isms', is not 'the best form of government', and its
'free-enterprise capitalism', worse yet, is an absolute guarantee of
continuing corruption of planet integrity into the brick wall of
Third, although the problems are global, politics is
notoriously local, which impairs timely, coordinated international action.
Fourth, the problems are unfolding over decades, whereas politicians’ attention
spans reach only to the next election and much of the public’s to the next meal
or paycheck. Fifth, vested corporate interests have mastered the dark arts of
propaganda, and they can use their deep pockets to purchase a sea of deliberate
misinformation to deceive the public.
Scientific American and the Earth Institute are committed
partners in the same make-or-break effort: to bring objective science to the
public sphere and to empower a democratic citizenry who must become responsible
stewards of the planet before it is too late.
Jeffrey D. Sachs is director of the Earth Institute at Columbia University