State shift: have we reached the tipping point?

by Mars
state shift

Recently, I have found myself thinking a lot about the climate, sustainability and the demise of our planet. It’s a mess: uncontrollable fires in Australia, plastic choking our seas and oceans, melting polar ice caps, rising sea levels, bleaching corals, droughts, floods, record temperatures. Things are out of control.

It seems that the world is focused on ‘green’ and sustainability matters but nothing’s changing. What I find equally disconcerting and worrying is the nonchalant, blasé, ill-informed (and often aggressive) attitude of people when it comes to this subject. I have two examples.

First up, I recently came across a blog that published a story about the UK government’s decision to ban fossil fuel heating systems in new builds by 2025. This is a positive, progressive move in my opinion. Yet, the comments to the article astonished me. People are extremely resistant to change and they’re quite happy to keep burning gas and oil to heat their homes with no regard for the planet.

The level of acceptance and wanting to try new things is something to worry about. We moved to an air source heat pump to heat our property. It’s not perfect, but we’re learning how to use it and it’s getting better. We have solar panels and our electricity provider is 100% renewable energy, and we are no longer burning through over 500 liters of oil a month to heat our house. But people are unwilling to alter their mindset and don’t even want to give it a go.

Secondly, last year, we had our first snow fall in early November and I posted a photo on a weather site citing that temperatures were well below the 20 year average for our area. The comment onslaught was unbelievable with a barrage of comments saying climate change was a hoax and that the temperature variations have been an anomaly. Touchy subject, clearly.

So I get back to my original thought. The world is changing, quickly, and not for the better, and what happens next is both unpredictable and predictable.

I believe that humans have irreversibly altered the state of our planet. How do you undo the millions tonnes of plastic that have littered our oceans and the CO2 that we’ve released into the atmosphere, while still continuing with the same practices? There’s been no significant slowdown in plastic production and we are finding more ways to get more CO2 (and other pollutants) into our atmosphere.

You may have come across a term scientists use to describe a turning point in biospheric systems: state shift. Essentially, “ecological systems are known to shift abruptly and irreversibly from one state to another when they are forced across critical thresholds.” (I recommend reading this paper). It’s becoming abundantly clear that humans are not wired to deal with and address this state shift.

Modern man’s activity is incredible to watch. It knows no limits. Knuckle-dragging man wiped out mammoths over centuries of overhunting, but look at how we’ve evolved into instant destruction machines. We are killing fauna, flora and microbes at unprecedented speeds on land and sea. We need look no further than the deforestation in South America and Asia, and gross overfishing.

And it all ultimately stems from humans wanting to make money. This is the overriding factor and what has brought us to this pivotal point in history and taken us perhaps to the brink of a new, post-human era. More on that in a future rant.

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