Beginnings of A Rescue Plan for The Earth and Humanity to Avoid Ecological Collapse

Sustainability Solutions Initiative - Threats to Global Sustainability Demand Urgent Solutions

One of the gravest threats to global ecology is feel good half-measures propagated by misinformed, often delusional environmental do-gooders that do not understand the extent of the global ecological crisis or the magnitude of responses required to sustain the Earth. I spent much of 2005 writing Earth Meanders regarding gathering global ecological collapse. There is little hope of the Earth and humanity regaining a state of balance absent a major surge in ecological based policies in virtually every human realm and/or a major human population collapse. This essay first reviews the inadequacy of traditional environmentalism and then lists the top ten measures necessary to bring humanity and Earth to a state of global ecological sustainability.

Too many people are consuming too much and their developments have severely diminished natural ecosystems. The Earth system's biogeochemical cycling of energy and nutrients has been ripped apart and subsequently the global ecological system which provides humans their habitat is failing. Ecological collapse has already started and as a result people are dying from Haiti to Indonesia to New Orleans. The signs of ecological collapse are everywhere - melting glaciers, chaotic weather patterns, emergent disease, starvation, and burning forests. Further death and ecological mayhem of much greater magnitude is assured. It is now just a matter of how severe, if the biosphere will be able to recover, and whether modern human society will persist.

What hope exists for avoiding global ecological collapse, the death of billions and the end of civilization lies in bold visionary proposals that are adequate to transform humanity's relationship with the Earth. Minor reforms propagated by forces ranging from the Hollywood glamorati through the mainstream environmental corporations are nibbling around the edges and will prove to be too little too late. For example hybrid cars and compact florescent light bulbs are not a climate policy (sorry Leonardo). And ancient rainforests cannot be environmentally harvested (whatever Greenpeace, WWF and Rainforest Action Network say).

When virtually the entire political and social system is selling out the Earth with inadequate policies - even lefty celebrities and radical environmental groups - things are grim indeed. There exists a tremendous disconnect between ecological science, sustainability policy, and the political organization, advocacy and communication strategies necessary to sustain the Earth. Tinkering around the edges and incremental feel good bullshit is causing more harm than good.

The remainder of this essay presents the beginnings of an Earth rescue plan. These sustainability solutions are based upon ecological science, and together they are adequate - indeed required - to address virtually all environmental crises, which after all at root reflect humanity's deep state of ecological unsustainability.

Top Ten Policies Necessary to Pursue Global Ecological Sustainability

Following are the most urgent policy prescriptions necessary to maximize the likelihood of a habitable biosphere and minimize human death as a result of collapsing ecosystems. To have any chance of averting global apocalypse these sorts of policies must be implemented with all haste. Your comments are welcome regarding this list and avenues for implementation (which will be enumerated in subsequent Earth Meanders).

No. 1 - POPULATION - Human populations surpass what the Earth can bear. We must stabilize and then reduce human population to at most a third current levels. Global limits must be placed on the number of children born, using incentives at first such as tax benefits for smaller families. Humanity can reduce population on their own accord or the Earth will do so for us.

No. 2 - GREENHOUSE GASES - Abrupt runaway climate change is happening now as energy costs the Earth dearly. Greenhouse gas emissions must be reduced by 60% as soon as possible. Maintaining an operable atmosphere requires phasing out coal and oil, introducing a substantial carbon tax, investing in renewable energy, and rigorously pursuing conservation and efficiency. [No large-scale new energy systems such as nuclear or biofuel until shown to be environmentally benign in the long-term.]

No. 3 - PROTECT ECOSYSTEMS - Large, connected and strictly protected ecosystems over much of the land and sea are a prerequisite for provision of air, water, [biodiversity,] soil and other services upon which life depends. Large protected marine areas must be established, ending industrial fishing. And ancient forest logging must end, strictly protecting remaining intact natural habitats.

No. 4 - CONSUMPTION - Excessive resource use to meet frivolous human wants must be restricted by promoting a consumption ethic that stresses voluntary simplicity and a sense of "enoughness", and laws that minimize impacts. Simple reforms such as standardizing consumer packaging and making all waste recyclable will reduce necessary consumption's impacts.

No. 5 - AGRICULTURE - A transition must be made to sustainable agricultural practices and eating habits with the emphasis upon organic, non-GMO, low meat diets that are locally produced. Eating habits impact virtually all ecosystems, resulting in natural forest clearing, toxic food chains, depleted water, soil loss and reduction of ecosystems' ability to hold carbon.

No. 6 - SUSTAINABLE ECONOMIES - Economic systems are a subset of ecological systems and as such all economic activities must maintain or expand natural capital. Growth that destroys natural capital is not sustainable, and growth as a measure of economic activity is an ecological malignancy. A steady state, sustainable economy must be business, industry and humanity's goal.

No. 7 - GREEN TECHNOLOGY - Technology by itself cannot bring sustainability, but clean and green technologies are important and provide huge economic opportunities. There is tremendous potential for development of energy efficient, more sustainable and fully recyclable buildings, products and services [including hybrids and fluorescent lightbulbs]. But the use and trade of toxic chemicals must end.

No. 8 - ECOLOGICAL RESTORATION - Too many ecosystems have already been lost and diminished for humanity to persist. Achieving sustainability and preparing for post collapse societies depends upon targeted restoration of important ecosystems. Priorities for ecological restoration include watersheds, establishing ecological core areas and urban environments.

No. 9 - POVERTY- Billions living in desperate poverty is unethical and damages the environment. All cannot live like Americans, but if the Earth's wealth is shared we can all live as Europeans do. The focus must be upon the overdeveloped world living more simply, sustainable development, equitable and just political and economic systems, and green technology transfer.

No. 10 - DEMILITARIZATION - Increasingly conflicts over resources fuel militarism and insurgency. Military budgets divert resources from crucial social and environmental investments, and must be slashed. Lasting security that is equitable, just and sustainable is best achieved through greater international law and investments that nurture global ecosystems.

The Sustainability Solutions Initiative

The above list is a first draft which will form the basis of Ecological Internet's new think tank entitled "Sustainability Solutions Initiative". The Sustainability Solutions Initiative will be devoted to sufficient policy measures to achieve global ecological sustainability. It will focus upon making scientifically credible policy initiatives accessible to policy-makers and the public. It is intended that this essay start a dialogue, and your responses and critiques of the above list will prove important in this project's final formulation and launch.

After a lifetime spent studying the global ecological system and trends in the Earth's decline, I have come to the conclusion that it is absolutely essential that measures of the sort listed above are immediately pursued. Anything less ambitious perpetuates deadly trends, wastes precious time and ensures the Earth will not be saved. The next time someone tells you ancient forest logging or light bulbs are sufficient responses to the world's environmental problems, kindly tell them to piss off. Then direct them to Earth Meanders and Ecological Internet's soon to be launched Sustainability Solutions Initiative.


Dr. Glen Barry Bioiography

Dr. Glen Barry is the President and Founder of Ecological Internet (EI). He is a conservation biologist and ecologist, a writer of essays and blogs, and a computer specialist and technology researcher. Dr Barry's tireless use of the Internet to address global ecological change has been described as providing "the global ecological conscience" necessary to pursue and achieve global ecological sustainability.

Ecological Internet specializes in the construction of environmental portals with unique information retrieval tools and original analysis. EI's web sites (Climate Ark,, EcoEarth.Info, Water Conserve, Ocean Conserve and Rainforest Portal) are widely recognized as premier environmental news, information and analysis web sites, and enjoy some 30,000 users a day from around the world. As the leader of EI, Dr. Barry carries out a range of duties requiring disparate proficiencies including ecological research, campaign strategizing, computer programming and NGO management.

Dr. Barry holds a Ph.D. in "Land Resources" from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, a Masters of Science in "Conservation Biology and Sustainable Development" also from Madison, and a Bachelor of Arts in "Political Science" from Marquette University. His research has been into use of the Internet to facilitate conservation outcomes, where his scholarly insights have been repeatedly tested through years of observation of actual Internet campaigns on behalf of the Earth. He is deeply committed to environmental sustainability, and his rainforest conservation and Internet campaigning have been supported by the MacArthur Foundation, Threshold Foundation and many others. He has worked within academia, multi-lateral organizations and non-governmental organizations.

Dr. Barry is single with a 13 year old daughter and a well trained and loyal golden retriever. He resides in rural Wisconsin where he practices green living. He enjoys walking, reading, tree planting, gardening, traveling and movies. Perhaps nothing brings him more satisfaction than waxing philosophically on environmental sustainability and related issues on his Earth Meanders personal blog.