Will our Ecosystem Survive the Millennium?
The State of the World and What to Do

July 5, 2005

Will Our Ecosystem Survive the Millennium?
David Suzuki / The Millennium Assessment

David Suzuki
Media reports about the findings of a massive new United Nations-sponsored study have been decidedly grim, but buried beneath the avalanche of bad news is a message of hope.

Four years in the making, the project was given the tongue-twisting name Millennium Ecosystem Assessment and it brought together nearly 1,400 experts from 95 countries. Their goal was to conduct a global inventory of the state of our ecosystems, quantify the effect that human activities are having on them and make suggestions for the future.

Although many people still consider nature as something that is "out there," and not relevant to our everyday lives, we are, in fact, deeply embedded in the natural world. As a result, the health of natural systems actually has a profound impact on our quality of life. Natural systems purify our air and water, stabilize our climate and soils, provide us with raw resources and much more. That's why the assessment focused especially on how ecosystem health affects human well being.

As expected, the findings are sobering. According to the assessment, some 60 per cent of the planet's ecosystem services are currently being degraded by human activities.

These activities include polluting the atmosphere with excess greenhouse gases, draining freshwater aquifers, over-harvesting our forests and fisheries, polluting our oceans and introducing alien species to new regions. As a result, 20 per cent of the world's coral reefs have been lost, 40 per cent of the planet's rivers have been fragmented, and our climate has been disrupted.

We're all in the Same Lifeboat
Directly or indirectly, these problems affect us all. They affect our health, our security, our capacity to plan for the future and even our freedom. In our statement from the board (of which I am a member), we felt it of vital importance to reiterate these points. Protecting natural areas and conserving resources is not a luxury of the rich. With six billion of us now on this planet, conservation is essential to maintain and enhance humanity's quality of life.

This is especially true for those living in the developing world. These people rely most directly on ecosystem services for survival. For them to have a bright future requires us all to reduce our resource consumption to levels that the planet can sustain. Learning to live in balance with our natural systems will directly affect our capacity to provide humanity with all that we consider necessary to lead a fulfilling life -- health, freedom and justice, for example. Simply put, we must find sustainability.

The Millennium Assessment was a first step. It has created a baseline for us to measure successes and failures of future policies and actions. It has given us a snapshot of where we are and where we are headed if we do not start making changes soon. Humanity really won the lottery with this planet. It provides everything we need to survive and to thrive. But right now, like some lotto winners, we are spending as if there is no tomorrow. We are eating away at our natural capital rather than living off the interest.

We Still Have Time to Save Ourselves
The good news is that there is time to change. As the Millennium Assessment tells us, we still have enough natural capital left to give humanity a bright future for our children and grandchildren. We just have to start making changes -- and quickly.

Steps like the Kyoto Protocol are pointing us in the right direction, but we keep losing sight of what these processes are for. They are not political games. They are not fodder for industry and pundits to blithely and callously pick apart over details and minutiae. They are urgent, necessary measures to correct humanity's course and put us on a path to a better future.

If the Millennium Assessment tells us one thing, it's that it is not enough to talk about change, or to bicker incessantly about the tools needed. In many cases, we've already created the tools. Now we must use them.

David Suzuki is an award-winning scientist, environmentalist and broadcaster from Canada, Chair of the David Suzuki Foundation, and member of the Board of Directors of the Millennium Assessment. www.millenniumassessment.org/en/Article.aspx?id=60

Offices: IEG India | SCOPE France | UNEP Kenya | UNEP-WCMC UK | WRI & Meridian Institute USA | RIVM Netherlands | WorldFish Center Malaysia | Contact: info@millenniumassessment.org

The State of the World – and What to Do
By John McConnell / Earth Trustees

"Oh wretched mortals, open your eyes"
-- Leonardo deVinchi

John McConnell
Many scholars agree human history will soon come to an end - unless there is a major change in human conduct. New technology makes it possible for massive destruction by a few seeking revenge for a real or imagined wrong.

There is little awareness of the history of our institutions and how human greed and lust for power produced structures and policies that are evil and reward deception. The banking system itself is a prime example. The people who control the banks, are a key factor in the control of the world. Today the most powerful individual or institution is the one that has the most money.

President Bush controls our media-made views. As a result, most Americans support his belief that America should control the world.

Lust for power corrupts. President Bush inherited millions from his grandfather, who made millions by providing Hitler his weapons. If you want to make big bucks, invent and promote a new devilish weapon.

What could and should be most powerful are the voices that speak for peace, justice and and the care of Earth's amazing web of life.

Earth Day and its Earth Trustee agenda provides the way to a better future. Here is an event and vision that can appeal to the most people and do the most good. Here is The Way to a Peaceful, Prosperous Future all over the world:

One reason for poverty, pollution and war is the lack of a well-defined agenda for peaceful progress. As a result adversaries lack a basis for peaceful resolution of differences.

Discussions too often neglect areas of honest accord. Peace efforts then stall in spite of international laws and United Nations agreements and resolutions. We need to stress where we agree and what we have in common.

But again, we must be aware of the "Spin Doctors" who make our words mean the opposite of their intent.

Earth Trustee Solution
The Earth Trustee solution is for every individual and institution to think and act as a Trustee of Earth, seeking choices in ecology, economics and ethics that will eliminate pollution, poverty and violence on our planet."

This will bring the rejuvenation of our planet and fair benefits for everyone.

We will see a change of attitude and conduct world-wide from fear and despair to hope and faith. More and more people will act, each in their own way, as responsible trustees of Earth. They will sincerely act as trustees of Earth because they know it will be best for them as well as for others.

This will provide a moral equivalent of war -- a Peace Blitz for a Better World. Instead of wealth being spent for war, it will be devoted to projects that heal, build and unite. (Examples of projects that "heal, build and unite" include: the American Friends Service Committee, Fellowship Of Reconciliation, Franciscans, Menonites, Quakers -- Society of Friends.)

To succeed, leaders and laymen are asked to avoid the historic mistakes of humanity's past. Instead of emphasis on our differences, let us call attention to the important matters in which we agree. We all want a world without war and the end of poverty. We would like a stake in Earth's natural bounty -- for ourselves and everyone, including the disinherited poor.

Now is the time for the realization of human potential -- physical, mental, spiritual in a world of freedom and order.

To achieve this we should look below the surface at the root causes of civilization's sickness. In the past individuals identified with and were most loyal to their clan, nation, religion or business. The narrow view of competing groups often led to conflict and sometimes war.

Today, the astronauts and cosmonauts have provided a global view of our planet. "We set out to explore Space -- and discovered Earth!"

We are now aware that one fragile planet is our home, the home of one human family. Now we have a chance to see in our diversity a unity that will enable us to fairly adjust our differences with new solutions -- unseen in the past.

In all decisions we must now consider how they affect the nurture and protection of Earth and the rights of individuals to the use of our planet. Seeing the whole picture will help us make the right choices.

Part of the problem is faulty economic policies and institutions. A basic mistake in history is the development and establishment of unfair, inefficient systems of money and credit. We have a planet with assets in the trillions of dollars -- much of it in developing countries. Once we see that money is not wealth -- wealth is land, raw materials, technology, factories, people with skills, etc. -- we might avoid the folly of war prosperity, followed by peace depression -- with more money for money manipulators than producers and workers.

By a change in monetary policies to fair, free credit -- based on adequate assets, and by making money an honest medium of exchange backed by assets and available in the measure needed for stable exchange of goods and services, we could soon bring prosperity to our whole planet.

Use the New Technology
To take advantage of the amazing new technology that covers the Globe, a vital necessity is to tap the spiritual and emotional resources of our religious faith ... in ways that will not compromise our separate creeds and beliefs.

Love of God, love of people, love of Earth, honesty, fairness and truth are to be found in every major religion. I may totally reject the creeds of other religions where they relate to a future life and at the same time approve their actions that heal and help people and planet. A deeply held shared goal aids communication and promotes more openness to each others point of view -- often resulting in a basic unity that helps resolve many differences, with accommodation or separation where needed. True love of God will result in love of neighbor and nature.

Once the primary universal goal of Earth Trusteeship is established and affirmed by leaders and world public opinion, we will more constructively sort out differences and find areas of agreement.

This will increase understanding and bring better definitions of issues -- how they relate, provide direction, or help achieve global goals. Then, with the aid of an enlightened, responsible mass media, world public opinion, a powerful force, will promote good will, peace, justice and Earth's rejuvenation.

Now is the time to mobilize our faith and our institutions in an Earth Trustee Campaign for Earth. Now is the time, especially, for a new sense of purpose and responsibility by public media. Let them sponsor a Media Blitz for Earth's rejuvenation, with features and headlines for the many solutions that are working and need attention. Call attention to places where Earth Trustee words are being followed by Earth Trustee actions.

Earth Minutes
To aid inner commitment we are urging all radio and TV stations worldwide to program daily Earth Minutes at 0300, 1100, and 1900 GMT (Convert to local time in each time zone). These minutes without words will have locally produced music, views of Earth from Space, nature, and children.

When you hear Earth Minute announced you can link your thought, your prayer, with others all over the world.

At other times during the day, there can be reports and features about Earth care solutions, planned or in progress. This can provide a new sense of Earth Trustee identity that will tap the best of our personal religious convictions, diminish fear, hate, greed and lust and assure an era of peaceful progress.

We ask radio, TV stations and newspapers to start an Earth Trustee Media Blitz. We have the raw materials, the technology, instant global communications -- and there are people ready and willing around the world.

All that is needed is to get their attention. The picture here presented can then bring the needed Earth Trustee choices in words and actions -- and peaceful progress will prevail.

John Adams said, "Statesmen may plan and speculate for liberty, but it is religion and morality alone which can establish the principles upon which freedom can securely stand. The only foundation of a free constitution is pure virtue, and if this cannot be inspired into our people... they may change the forms of government, but they will not obtain a lasting liberty."

Gandhi said, "Pluralistic nationalism excludes the establishment of any State based solely or mainly on one religion." Jerusalem -- holy to Christian, Muslim and Jew -- should be ruled by peace-loving leaders from all three religions.

What a great thing it would be to see Jewish, Christian and Muslim leaders in Jerusalem thinking and acting as Earth Trustees. By focus on our common humanity and the right of everyone to an Earth Claim, they could provide homesteads for homeless constituents. Their actions would result in friendly communities throughout the Mid-East. Soon the whole world would see the Earth Trustee solution and we would be on our way to a Global Peaceful Future.

John McConnell trusteeone@aol.com 4924 E. Kentucky Circle Denver, Coloradl 80246 USA. Earth Day/Earth Trustees. You will find a partial record of what Earth Day and its Earth Trustee agenda has accomplished at: www.earthsite.org, www.wowzone.com/mc-lee.htm.

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