Are we at the point of no return?

Jack Emberly is a former teacher and environmentalist

Recycling helps reduce your carbon footprint.

Recycling helps reduce your carbon footprint.

“Every mammal on this planet develops a natural equilibrium with the surrounding environment,” says Agent Smith, in the Matrix, “but you humans do not … you multiply until every natural resource is consumed. There’s another organism on this planet that follows the same pattern… a virus.”

Online investment magazine, Energy and Capital, isn’t offended. Maybe 10 billion people on earth by 2050 isn’t all bad. If people are dumber than yeast, writer Nick Hodge suggested recently, (“yeast stops multiplying when it reaches the limits of its host”)  we’ll have a lot more folks needing gas for their cars. The Alberta tar sands has it. What a great investment opportunity!

Environmental film maker, Jon Cooksey, (How to Boil a Frog, 2009) chuckles at the notion that humans and viruses are soul mates. People, says Cooksey, a North Vancouver TV producer, are more like amphibians.

“Drop a frog in boiling water,” he tells us in his documentary about the destruction accompanying human proliferation, “and it will jump out. But, put it in warm water, slowly increase the temperature, the frog stays there until it boils.”

Warm water?  Two billion is the number of people the earth can sustain. We reached it in 1925. Cooksey calls anything beyond that global overshoot  – putting more demands on Mother Nature than she can handle.

Any problem the world faces, he suggests, results from human excess, a sociopathic monster with an insatiable appetite for anything consumable.

Symptoms of the woes created by our gluttonous Frankenstein include war, terrorism, pandemics, but in Frog, Cooksey focuses on five: peak oil, climate change, income inequality, the War on Nature, and overpopulation.

“I doubt there is any denial as huge as this (overpopulation) one… as we watch food shortages from extreme weather caused by global warming, but exacerbated by bio-fuel production, (burning the stuff we should be eating) and soil erosion.

Peak oil (depleted oil reserves) is likely to cause the machine of industrial agriculture to grind to a halt. They’ll be massive starvation like we’re seeing today in Somalia. I doubt we’ll make nine billion.”

Solutions, says Cooksey, depend on individuals. “If adults produced no more than one child from now on, we’d be back to two billion by 2050, but that would only be a solution to a symptom.”

Like liposuction without an exercise program?

“Making changes in lifestyle, changing our “lifebulbs,” says Cooksey, “is the only way to address global overshoot.

“Overpopulation is also about inequity of resource distribution.

“Activism (getting involved in a cause), and transition (building resilient communities) address this “by encouraging people to look into their own spiritual hole, and filling it with things other than consumption. I get e-mails from people who are pissed off about something in their area and want to find other Frogheads to make trouble.”

Peak oil?

“Fewer babies are prep for a lower oil supply. Buying used gets people to take from the waste stream, rather than buying new things that are made with oil. We should be letting go of the desires corresponding to a lifestyle that will not be maintained as the oil supply declines.”

Climate change?

“Oil and global warming are two sides of the same issue – carbon. Become aware, lower consumption, learn to be happy with a footprint seven per cent of what you’re putting out now.”

The War on Nature? “There’s more plastic in the ocean than plankton,” says Cooksey.  It breaks into fragments, but never disappears.

“Don’t eat beef,” he suggests. Forests are converted to grass to feed them. Besides, cows account for 18 percent of greenhouse gases – methane – a gas that retains heat better than CO2. “We’re meddling with the food chain that supports us.”

The gap between rich and poor?

“The oil curse is a major issue in global poverty. Our job, in the developed world, is to shrink, shrink! It’s critical that we do all we can at the local level to transform our communities to a sustainable level of consumption … and try to avoid resource wars. Urban agriculture is becoming downright fashionable. The third leg of the stool –along with mass transit and local food – is urban redesign so people don’t feel the need to drive and consume so much. The transition movement is saving lives.”

Maple Ridge is a transition town. The aims of GETI, the Golden Ears Transition Initiative will be revealed at a coming-out party Sept. 24 in Memorial Peace Park.

“You are putting local communities on a more resilient footing in advance of a crisis, and making your own lives more meaningful. But, local efforts will be moot if nobody confronts global warming or the current effort to kill every last fish in the ocean by 2048.”

Will we do it, or are we dumber than yeast?

“The yeast are getting signals somewhere – we, because of the way our brains are formed can’t look out the window and see global warming. The question is do we have the courage to be more emotionally vulnerable than yeast to our other yeasties. Because that’s how radical change will happen.”


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