Sisters of St. Joseph of CarondeletDecember 15, 2017

Earth Concerns News

Chapter 2: Plan B: Mobilizing to Save Civilization by Sister Clare Pelkey, CSJ


(The Home/Land Committee continues to summarize "The Challenge," the first section of the book, Plan B: Mobilizing to Save Civilization. Over the next few months, the column will summarize the remaining chapters.)

In Chapter Two, entitled Population Pressure: Land and Water, Brown zeros in on the following: civilization's eroding foundation, topsoil; falling water tables; water from farmland being lost to cities; land and water conflicts; competition for grain between people and cars; and the rising number of environmental refugees. Any one of these is a major issue and calls for new ways of thinking to address it.

Population explosion seems to be the core cause of grain and water scarcity. As land throughout the world becomes overgrazed, immense amounts of its topsoil are being lost. Frequent dust storms are destroying entire villages. (Some of us may recall the movie, "The Grapes of Wrath," that depicted a similar occurrence in the Southwestern United States earlier in the 20th Century.)
 
The depletion of fossil aquifers eventually affects the grain harvest. As deeper aquifers are gradually being depleted, the world faces an immense water shortage. When many hand-dug wells dried up in India, thousands of desperate farmers committed suicide. As countries strive to expand their economy and create jobs, they end up taking water from agriculture. China dammed a river that cut off water to 120,000 villagers who depended on the water for their livelihood. At some point, water scarcity becomes the cause of food scarcity.
 
Social tensions arise when herders and farmers, Christians and Muslims, in many countries compete for the land and water they need. Not only is one's livelihood threatened, but also is survival itself! A food analyst from the World Bank attributes 70 percent of the rise in food prices to the growing of grain for fuel for cars. This fact appears to be a moral issue of epic proportion.
 
There are now millions of people leaving their homeland, risking and sometimes losing their lives as they search for food and water. It is urgent that we stabilize the climate and population or risk being overwhelmed by them.
 
Chapter Three, Climate Change and the Energy Transition, focuses on rising temperatures; melting ice and rising seas; melting glaciers and shrinking harvests; and the decline of oil and coal. The chapter concludes by noting these issues are a challenge without precedent.
 
As we alter Earth's climate, we are starting trends we do not always understand and whose consequences we can't know now. As Earth's temperatures and sea levels rise, people in low-lying areas will be displaced and entire ecosystems will disappear. Agriculture as we know it will have to be re-thought and quickly! Four hundred million persons will be forced to move from coastal cities as melting ice causes the seas to rise. Twenty-three million of these persons will be in the United States.
As Earth becomes hotter, the highest snow-laden mountains, "reservoirs in the sky," are threatened with a domino effect on food supplies. Higher temperatures can stop photosynthesis and prevent pollination, thus leading to crop dehydration.
 
With the decline of aging oil fields in their output, a "business-as-usual" energy policy cannot continue. There has never been such a threat to civilization in its entire history as that which we are experiencing at the present time. It is of the utmost importance that we transition from fossil fuels to renewable energy. Coal is the most carbon-intensive fuel and has the most deleterious impact on human health. China is now pushing wind and solar energy to take the place of coal which has taken its toll on the health of its citizens.

To meet these unprecedented challenges there is a need to work at stabilizing climate change and population, to eradicate poverty and to restore Earth's natural systems. Global food security depends on all nations of the world reaching all four goals. Only by working together for the welfare of all nations will any nation survive. Plan B is based on how quickly we can cut carbon emissions and save the critically important glaciers; replace coal-fired plants with wind farms; electrify the transportation system; and design cities for citizens and not for cars. In this book we find a vision of what the future might look like, one that is not based on conventional thinking but that offers a new mindset to get us out of the critical situation we're in. Brown urges all of us to be aware of local actions being taken to address and redress any one of the issues stated as challenges. Then we will be part of the solution and not part of the problem.

(Upcoming articles will focus on succeeding chapters in the section, The Response. The author delineates some of the actions that have been or are being taken, as well as those that need to be taken by all nations to address the complex and inter-related issues facing the entire global community.)