Our understanding of the global commons is key

“There is no space left on Earth for egoism.”
~ Naoko Ishii, environmental policy expert from Japan

It can’t be said more clearly.

This TED-conference presentation by Naoko Ishii – a Japanese environmental policy expert who leads the Global Environment Facility, a public financial institution that provides around US$1 billion every year to help tackle our planet’s most pressing environmental problems – has been viewed by over a million times since it was launched in September 2017.

That’s good numbers, but considering how important it is, we need many more to see it. Ishii delivers a peak TED moment as she touches on the roots of the problem with climate change. She opens a critical conversation we need to have with one another and with our community leaders about the global commons.

As long as our society – citizens, businesses, lawmakers – don’t respect or understand the concept of the global commons, the problem with carbon emissions, climate change and destruction of the biosphere is likely to continue to be inadequately addressed.

“We all share one planet – we breathe the same air, drink the same water and depend on the same oceans, forests and biodiversity. Economist Naoko Ishii is on a mission to protect these shared resources, known as the global commons, that are vital for our survival. In an eye-opening talk about the wellness of the planet, Ishii outlines four economic systems we need to change to safeguard the global commons, making the case for a new kind of social contract with the earth.”

» Transcript of Naoko Ishii’s TED-talk




https://twitter.com/thehill/status/1015224362088173570/photo/1

“Turn what is happening in the world into your own personal suffering”

In Laudato Si’, Pope Francis says we must “dare to turn what is happening in the world into our own personal suffering and thus discover what each of us can do about it”:

“We see increasing sensitivity to the environment and the need to protect nature, along with a growing concern, both genuine and distressing, for what is happening to our planet. Let us review, however cursorily, those questions which are troubling us today and which we can no longer sweep under the carpet. Our goal is not to amass information or to satisfy curiosity, but rather to become painfully aware, to dare to turn what is happening to the world into our own personal suffering and thus to discover what each of us can do about it.”

» More from Pope Francis below

“This report is intended to help governments and other stakeholders reflect on how they should respond to the challenge of climate change in light of Laudato Si’ and broader Catholic Social Teaching. It provides guidance on how tackling climate change can also address the underlying issues of environmental degradation, poverty and inequality. The guidelines in this report enable members of the global Catholic family to engage with their governments’ climate plans and help adapt the principles of Laudato Si’. An executive summary of this paper is also available.”
» CIDSE – 14 November 2017:
Climate action for the common good
“Reflecting the principles of Laudato Si’ in our transformative response to the climate crisis,” CIDSE, November 2017





Changes to the biosphere

Here’s some of what is happening in the world, apart from the dramatic and deadly climate disruptions that make it to the television news screens on a daily basis:


“Sudden and catastrophic ecosystem shifts have occurred recently across Australia”

“Our research, recently published in Nature Climate Change, describes a series of sudden and catastrophic ecosystem shifts that have occurred recently across Australia. These changes, caused by the combined stress of gradual climate change and extreme weather events, are overwhelming ecosystems’ natural resilience.”

» The Conversation – 6 July 2018:
Ecosystems across Australia are collapsing under climate change


“60 good harvests left in our topsoil”

“Some estimates suggest we may only have 60 good harvests left in our topsoil and our natural flora and fauna are disappearing at an alarming rate; some 17,315 species of mammals, birds, plants, insects, coral, fungi, and others are now teetering on the verge of extinction according to the IUCN. Simultaneously, the human population has almost doubled. (…)

Frustratingly, much of the damage wrought by our globalised food supply occurs without reward. Up to 50% of the food we produce is wasted.”

» Medium | Weapons of Reason – 19 June 2018:
The Revolution Will Not Be Fertilised
“What can farmers of the future learn from Norman Borlaug’s Green Revolution?”





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“Onslaught on biodiversity”

More than 26,000 of the world’s species are now threatened, according to the latest red list assessment of the natural world, adding to fears the planet is entering a sixth wave of extinctions.

Scientists have warned the loss of biodiversity is more of a threat than climate change because it erodes the earth’s capacity to provide clean air, fresh water, food and a stable weather system. Compilers of the red list said the latest toll showed the onslaught on biodiversity.

» Read more on www.theguardian.com/environment




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“What economists proclaim as progress, ecologists recognise as ruin”

“The United Nations reports that our use of natural resources has tripled in 40 years. The great expansion of mining, logging, meat production and industrial fishing is cleansing the planet of its wild places and natural wonders. What economists proclaim as progress, ecologists recognise as ruin.”

» The Guardian – 29 June 2018:
Our natural world is disappearing before our eyes. We have to save it
“The creatures we feared our grandchildren wouldn’t see have vanished: it’s happened faster than even pessimists predicted.” Article by George Monbiot




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50 per cent of all wildlife has disappeared in just 40 years

By 2020 – just a couple of years from now – that figure is projected to rise to 66 per cent: Two thirds of all wildlife on planet Earth wiped out on our generation‘s watch.

“We need to act with great urgency.”
~ Steve Boyes, a conservation biologist who wants to study and conserve the endangered Okavango Delta in Botswana and overall fights for preserving wilderness and “our basic human right to explore”

» See Steve Boyes’s presentation on www.ted.com




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» The Conversation AU – 15 June 2018:
Dark Emu and the blindness of Australian agriculture
“Farming wasn’t sustaining the land, it was ruining it. It was an extractive industry that had gobbled up thousands of years of sustenance in a few generations of sustained plunder…” The powerful ideological connection between Australia and agriculture is being increasingly scrutinised. A spate of recent books have recast basic assumptions about our relationship to the land.




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 #ENCYCLICAL: 

Climate as a common good

Pope Francis wrote about “Climate as a common good” in his encyclical letter in 2015. It is worth reading:

“23. The climate is a common good, belonging to all and meant for all. At the global level, it is a complex system linked to many of the essential conditions for human life. A very solid scientific consensus indicates that we are presently witnessing a disturbing warming of the climatic system. In recent decades this warming has been accompanied by a constant rise in the sea level and, it would appear, by an increase of extreme weather events, even if a scientifically determinable cause cannot be assigned to each particular phenomenon. Humanity is called to recognize the need for changes of lifestyle, production and consumption, in order to combat this warming or at least the human causes which produce or aggravate it. It is true that there are other factors (such as volcanic activity, variations in the earth’s orbit and axis, the solar cycle), yet a number of scientific studies indicate that most global warming in recent decades is due to the great concentration of greenhouse gases (carbon dioxide, methane, nitrogen oxides and others) released mainly as a result of human activity. As these gases build up in the atmosphere, they hamper the escape of heat produced by sunlight at the earth’s surface. The problem is aggravated by a model of development based on the intensive use of fossil fuels, which is at the heart of the worldwide energy system. Another determining factor has been an increase in changed uses of the soil, principally deforestation for agricultural purposes.

24. Warming has effects on the carbon cycle. It creates a vicious circle which aggravates the situation even more, affecting the availability of essential resources like drinking water, energy and agricultural production in warmer regions, and leading to the extinction of part of the planet’s biodiversity. The melting in the polar ice caps and in high altitude plains can lead to the dangerous release of methane gas, while the decomposition of frozen organic material can further increase the emission of carbon dioxide. Things are made worse by the loss of tropical forests which would otherwise help to mitigate climate change. Carbon dioxide pollution increases the acidification of the oceans and compromises the marine food chain. If present trends continue, this century may well witness extraordinary climate change and an unprecedented destruction of ecosystems, with serious consequences for all of us. A rise in the sea level, for example, can create extremely serious situations, if we consider that a quarter of the world’s population lives on the coast or nearby, and that the majority of our megacities are situated in coastal areas.

25. Climate change is a global problem with grave implications: environmental, social, economic, political and for the distribution of goods. It represents one of the principal challenges facing humanity in our day. Its worst impact will probably be felt by developing countries in coming decades. Many of the poor live in areas particularly affected by phenomena related to warming, and their means of subsistence are largely dependent on natural reserves and ecosystemic services such as agriculture, fishing and forestry. They have no other financial activities or resources which can enable them to adapt to climate change or to face natural disasters, and their access to social services and protection is very limited. For example, changes in climate, to which animals and plants cannot adapt, lead them to migrate; this in turn affects the livelihood of the poor, who are then forced to leave their homes, with great uncertainty for their future and that of their children. There has been a tragic rise in the number of migrants seeking to flee from the growing poverty caused by environmental degradation. They are not recognized by international conventions as refugees; they bear the loss of the lives they have left behind, without enjoying any legal protection whatsoever. Sadly, there is widespread indifference to such suffering, which is even now taking place throughout our world. Our lack of response to these tragedies involving our brothers and sisters points to the loss of that sense of responsibility for our fellow men and women upon which all civil society is founded.

26. Many of those who possess more resources and economic or political power seem mostly to be concerned with masking the problems or concealing their symptoms, simply making efforts to reduce some of the negative impacts of climate change. However, many of these symptoms indicate that such effects will continue to worsen if we continue with current models of production and consumption. There is an urgent need to develop policies so that, in the next few years, the emission of carbon dioxide and other highly polluting gases can be drastically reduced, for example, substituting for fossil fuels and developing sources of renewable energy. Worldwide there is minimal access to clean and renewable energy. There is still a need to develop adequate storage technologies. Some countries have made considerable progress, although it is far from constituting a significant proportion. Investments have also been made in means of production and transportation which consume less energy and require fewer raw materials, as well as in methods of construction and renovating buildings which improve their energy efficiency. But these good practices are still far from widespread.”

Excerpt from Pope Francis’ encyclical letter Laudato Si’ from 2015, ‘Climate as a common good’


“I can live with fewer comforts and conveniences when I see my part in global warming and poverty. I can hold companies and politicians accountable for their actions, voting in elections and with my wallet.”
~ Father Richard Rohr, Priest, New Mexico, USA


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Social media meme – author unknown

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