‘Green growth’ doesn’t exist – less of everything is the only way to avert catastrophe | George Monbiot

OpinionIt is merely not possible to bring on at the existing level of financial activity without ruining the environmentThere is a box labelled “environment”, in which politicians talk about the environment crisis. You might call the decrease of the North Atlantic best whale a shipping crisis, or a fishing crisis, or an environment crisis, or an acidification crisis, or a contamination crisis, or a noise crisis. Our failure to see the entire ensures that we stop working to address this crisis systemically and effectively.When we box up this circumstance, our efforts to resolve one element of the crisis worsen another. Already, mining and processing the minerals needed for batteries and magnets is laying waste to habitats and causing brand-new pollution crises. Now, as Jonathan Wattss terrifying article in the Guardian this week shows, companies are using the climate crisis as reason for drawing out minerals from the deep ocean flooring, long before we have any concept of what the impacts might be.This isnt, in itself, an argument versus direct air capture makers or other “green” technologies.

OpinionIt is merely not possible to continue at the existing level of economic activity without damaging the environmentThere is a box labelled “climate”, in which politicians talk about the climate crisis. There is a box named “biodiversity”, in which they go over the biodiversity crisis. There are other boxes, such as pollution, soil, deforestation and overfishing loss, gathering dust in our worlds lost residential or commercial property department. But they all include aspects of one crisis that we have actually divided up to make it comprehensible. The categories the human brain develops to understand its environments are not, as Immanuel Kant observed, the “thing-in-itself”. They explain artefacts of our understandings rather than the world.Nature recognises no such divisions. As Earth systems are assaulted by whatever at the same time, each source of stress compounds the others.Take the situation of the North Atlantic ideal whale, whose population recuperated a little when whaling ceased, however is now slumping once again: less than 95 females of reproducing age remain. When whales are struck by ships or tangled in fishing equipment, the immediate factors for this decline are primarily injuries and deaths caused. However theyve ended up being more vulnerable to these effects due to the fact that theyve had to move along the eastern seaboard of North America into busy waters.Race to the bottom: the devastating blindfolded rush to mine the deep seaTheir primary prey, a little swimming crustacean called Calanus finmarchicus, is moving north at a rate of 8km a year, due to the fact that the sea is heating. At the very same time, a business fishing industry has established, exploiting Calanus for the fish oil supplements falsely thought to be useful to our health. Theres been no attempt to evaluate the likely impacts of fishing Calanus. We also have no idea what the effect of ocean acidification– also triggered by increasing co2 levels– might be on this and lots of other crucial species.As the death rate of North Atlantic ideal whales rises, their birthrate falls. Why? Maybe due to the fact that of the contaminants accumulating in their bodies, a few of which are likely to lower fertility. Or since of ocean sound from boat engines, sonar, and oil and gas exploration, which may stress them and disrupt their communication. You could call the decline of the North Atlantic ideal whale a shipping crisis, or a fishing crisis, or a climate crisis, or an acidification crisis, or a pollution crisis, or a noise crisis. It is in truth all of these things: a general crisis caused by human activity.Or look at moths in the UK. We understand they are being damaged by pesticides. The impact of these contaminants on moths has been researched, as far as I can discover, only separately. Studies of bees reveal that when pesticides are integrated, their effects are synergistic: simply put, the damage they each cause isnt added, however multiplied. When pesticides are combined with herbicides and fungicides, the results are multiplied again.Simultaneously, moth caterpillars are losing their food plants, thanks to fertilisers and habitat damage. Environment mayhem has likewise knocked their reproductive cycle out of sync with the opening of the flowers on which the adults depend. Now we find that light contamination has devastating results on their breeding success. The switch from orange sodium streetlights to white LEDs conserves energy, but their larger colour spectrum ends up being devastating for bugs. Light contamination is spreading out quickly, even around secured areas, impacting animals nearly everywhere.Combined effects are desolating whole living systems. When coral reefs are damaged by the fishing market, contamination and the whitening caused by global heating, they are less able to hold up against the extreme environment occasions, such as hurricanes, which our fossil fuel emissions have actually also heightened. When jungles are fragmented by lumber cutting and livestock ranching, and wrecked by imported tree illness, they end up being more vulnerable to the fires and dry spells caused by climate breakdown.What would we see if we broke down our conceptual barriers? We would see a full-spectrum attack on the living world. Rarely anywhere is now safe from this sustained assault. A current clinical paper estimates that just 3% of the Earths land surface area must now be considered “environmentally undamaged”. The different effects have a typical cause: the sheer volume of economic activity. We are doing too much of almost whatever, and the worlds living systems can not bear it. But our failure to see the whole makes sure that we fail to resolve this crisis systemically and effectively.When we box up this predicament, our efforts to fix one aspect of the crisis intensify another. If we were to construct enough direct air capture makers to make a significant distinction to atmospheric carbon concentrations, this would demand an enormous new wave of mining and processing for the steel and concrete. The impact of such construction pulses circumnavigates the world. To take just one part, the mining of sand to make concrete is trashing numerous valuable environments. Its specifically ravaging to rivers, whose sand is highly sought in building and construction. Rivers are already being struck by drought, the disappearance of mountain ice and snow, our extraction of water, and contamination from industry, sewage and farming. Sand dredging, on top of these assaults, might be a final, fatal blow.The trillions in our pension pots could be crucial to tackling the climate crisis
George Monbiot is a Guardian columnist
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