The danger of political impotence
Our paper found global policymaking falls far short of addressing these existential threats. Securing Earth’s future requires prudent, long-term decisions. However this is impeded by short-term interests, and an economic system that concentrates wealth among a few individuals.
Right-wing populist leaders with anti-environment agendas are on the rise, and in many countries, environmental protest groups have been labelled “terrorists”.
Environmentalism has become weaponised as a political ideology, rather than properly viewed as a universal mode of self-preservation.
Financed disinformation campaigns, such as those against climate action and forest protection, protect short-term profits and claim meaningful environmental action is too costly – while ignoring the broader cost of not acting.
By and large, it appears unlikely business investments will shift at sufficient scale to avoid environmental catastrophe.
Fundamental change is required to avoid this ghastly future. Specifically, we and many others suggest:
- abolishing the goal of perpetual economic growth
- revealing the true cost of products and activities by forcing those who damage the environment to pay for its restoration, such as through carbon pricing
- rapidly eliminating fossil fuels
- regulating markets by curtailing monopolisation and limiting undue corporate influence on policy
- reigning in corporate lobbying of political representatives
- educating and empowering women across the globe, including giving them control over family planning.
Don’t look away
Many organisations and individuals are devoted to achieving these aims. However, their messages have not sufficiently penetrated the policy, economic, political and academic realms to make much difference.
Failing to acknowledge the magnitude of problems facing humanity is not just naïve, it’s dangerous. And science has a big role to play here.
Scientists must not sugarcoat the overwhelming challenges ahead. Instead, they should tell it like it is. Anything else is at best misleading, and at worst potentially lethal for the human enterprise.
This article originally appeared on The Conversation
- Matthew Flinders Professor of Global Ecology and Models Theme Leader for the ARC Centre of Excellence for Australian Biodiversity and Heritage, Flinders University
- Professor in the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology and the Institute of the Environment and Sustainability, University of California, Los Angeles
- President, Center for Conservation Biology, Bing Professor of Population Studies, Stanford University