Editorial April 2007: Earth Books By Hilary Williamson
'The Supreme Reality of Our Time is ... the Vulnerability of our Planet.' (John F. Kennedy, 1963, quoted in Wikipedia)
With Earth Day on the horizon, and worrisome environmental stories in the media almost every day, it seemed a good time to browse our electronic shelves for Earth books. In Dancing at the Dead Sea, Alanna Mitchell tracks 'the World's Environmental Hotspots' including Madagascar, where the island's ancient forests are burned for firewood. She wonders if all mankind are like the Malagasy, blindly assuming that 'if we keep walking we will find another tree'. Will mankind be forced off the planet once its resources are recklessly consumed, just as the Malagasy will ultimately be forced off Madagascar by lack of fuel?
Farley Mowat tells us that 'The living world is dying in our time.' We know of countless species that have become extinct; is homo sapiens also on the brink? In No Turning Back: The Life and Death of Animal Species, Richard Ellis looks at causes of mass extinctions - are we in one such cycle now? In his excellent (and very disturbing in its reporting of daunting statistics) Little Green Handbook, nuclear physicist Ron Nielsen presents an overview of the significant challenges that face our children and theirs. He addresses seven major trends - population explosion, diminishing land and water resources, destruction of the atmosphere, the approaching energy crisis, social decline, and conflicts and increasing killing power - that contribute to 'the developing global crisis' Is it already too late?
Nielsen is cautiously optimistic, suggesting that 'We can still repair much of the global damage, restore the environment, change the way we live, increase the ecological capacity of our planet, and create a sustainable future.' Activists all over the world are making a difference, as documented in Rex Weyler's Greenpeace, using tools like the mindbomb, a single image that can 'stimulate mass changes of consciousness'. Individuals can Recycle!, live A Greener Life, get Off The Grid, and practice Home Enlightenment - each small impact adding to others' efforts, just as over-consumption is cumulative.
Though it looks like we're lagging in the race to reduce mankind's giant ecological footprint before it stamps us out entirely, Dr. Jane Goodall shares with us her Reason for Hope. Renowned science fiction author Arthur C. Clarke mused that 'This is the first age that's ever paid much attention to the future, which is a little ironic since we may not have one.' Let's hope he's wrong.
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