From a conflict transformation perspective, it is planet Earth's greatest conflict, that is, its greatest incompatibility of goals between the way humanity runs its voracious and destructive existence, and the fairly thin web that supports life on this, the only planet known to science where life exists.
No other life form is responsible for its causes as humans are, but each and every one of them is a victim of its consequences, including humans, of course. Some species don't even exist anymore. The Center for Biological Diversity calculates that dozens of species vanish from the face of the Earth permanently every 24 hours, and this has been going on for many years. Forecasts indicate that as many as 50% of life forms could disappear by mid century. By then, my daughter will be younger than I am today. Her planet will be radically different than it is today, and not in a good way. Amidst this vast vacuum of global leadership, global citizens appreciate such bold words from a true global leader as president Barack Obama spoke last Monday at the GLACIER Conference in Alaska.
It is clear in his gestures that he is having a hard time saying some of the things he is saying. He is describing his daughters' world and he won't be here to do anything about it. But he can now, and so can we. Just picture, for an instant, 90 centimeters more of ocean levels in the coast nearest to you, or at the beach of your last tourist destination, or on the city or island where your good friend lives or that you would like to visit one day. That's a conservative forecast that has been approved by scientific consensus and leading towards climate change negotiations later this year in Paris.
If you ask widely reputed scientists, like former NASA's James Hansen, it could be as high as 14 meters of sea level rise by the end of the century. If one meter was a challenge to London, Shanghai, New York, Lagos, Rio de Janeiro, all of Florida, all of Bangladesh, fifty island nations around the world, 14 meters is bye-bye to all of these human communities and natural ecosystems as we know them.
Now picture what should be done: pretty much all the fossil fuels that have not been extracted from beneath the crust of the Earth -be it oil, natural gas, shale gas, tar sands, coal- should stay underground. This implies a massive shift in cleaner, renewable sources of energy to supply a growing demand used to power our cars, buses, trains, airplanes, ships; to power our electric appliances at home to cook, wash, keep us warm in the winter and cool in the summer, and be entertained; to pump, purify, transport and discard water for human and agricultural use; to give us electric lighting. That is just the first step. It is urgent. It is indispensable. It is non-negotiable. The other steps deal with consumption of other renewable and non-renewable natural resources, like some types of animal protein, forests, fertile soil, water, clean air, marine life and biodiversity in general, to mention a critical few.
But first, energy. The technology and the finances are there. The public opinion and the desire of the peoples of the world are there. It seems that what is holding us back is politics. If it doesn't work in our favor, then let's innovate and go around it. Let's bypass it. Let's bring it back to what serves the best interests for the greatest majority in the most effective manner. Unless we are willing to talk, walk, stand and act like U.S. President Obama. In which case, let's get going.