Julian Cribb has just published a book entitled Surviving the 21st-century. Humanity’s ten great challenges and how we can overcome them.
The book has been unanimously praised by a cast reviewers that includes Paul Ehrlich, Robyn Williams, Clive Hamilton, Peter Doherty, former Governor-General Michael Jeffery, David Lindenmeyer, Mark Stafford-Smith, Bill McKibben and Ian Lowe.
Cribb identifies the ten challenges as:
- the progressive collapse of ecosystems
- the growing depletion of resources
- the proliferation of nuclear and other weapons of mass destruction
- the uncontrolled pace of human induced global warming
- the extensive poisoning of our environment by man-made toxins, chemicals and pollution
- the security of the food system on which the growing human population depends
- the still growing human population and the expansion of cities everywhere
- the prospect of pandemic disease spreading like wildfire through huge centres of overcrowding and poverty
- the clever technologies that we are devising that we only dimly understand and which we are uncertain how to control
- the extent to which we delude ourselves that somehow by continuing to grow our numbers and economy economic demands on the planet we will stumble on mechanism for surviving the limits to growth.
The author explores each of these and identifies ways we can positively approach each of them. But he says the greatest challenge lies not in the physical threats we face but in our own minds. He argues that our belief in non-material things like money, politics, religion and the human narrative often diverts and undermines our efforts to work together for survival.
Cribb’s book echoes the message of Pope Francis’s remarkable 2015 Encyclical, “Laudato Si”, in which he says,
We have come to accept the idea of infinite or unlimited growth which is so attractive to economists and financiers that is based on the lie that there is an infinite supply of resources and this leads to the planet being squeezed dry beyond every limit.
The Pope articulates an urgent need for us to move forward to a bold revolution. He says in his closing chapter,
Many things have to change course but it is we human beings above all who need to change. We lack an awareness of our common origin, of our mutual belonging and of a future to be shared with everyone. A great cultural, spiritual and educational challenge stands before us and it requires that we set out on the long path of renewal.
Cribb says that the solution to the collapse of our ecosystems where dozens of species are going extinct every day due to human activity, is not as hard as some imagine. It is to move half of the world’s food production into cities and recycle nutrients and water and to “re-wild” about half the land mass under the wise management of indigenous people and farmers. He says we must gradually replace mining with mineral recycling and cease releasing toxins. We must replace fossil fuels with renewables.
On the issue of resource scarcity, he says that massive recycling through a circular economy is already feasible and becoming profitable. Yet resistance by political and vested interests continues to block it.
You might hope that all of these issues would be central to the thinking of all of our political aspirants, and that they would be actively promoting the kinds of activities outlined by Cribb in his book. But ten days out from a crucial election that will set the scene for the next crucial four years, we are bogged down in discussions about minor modifications in “business as usual.”