Monday, May 07, 2007

Would Jesus vote green? II

As I mentioned back here, tonight I gave a talk titled 'Would Jesus vote green?' at a restaurant in Harbord. Over the next few days, I'll post the talk in a short series.
What has Jerusalem to do with Athens the Amazon?
Human beings are currently causing the greatest mass extinction of species since the extinction of the dinosaurs 65 million years ago. If present trends continue one half of all species of life on earth will be extinct in less than 100 years. A total of 11,046 species of plants and animals are listed as presently threatened or endangered. Current extinction rates are estimated to be around 1,000 times the normal background extinction rate. Within 50 years, one-third of all land-based species could face extinction. According to the United Nations, 71-78 per cent of the world's fisheries are 'fully exploited', 'over exploited' or 'significantly depleted'. All wild seafood will have disappeared from the world's menus within 50 years if current trends in overfishing continue according to one of the most comprehensive studies of marine life. In just 60 years the Antarctic blue whale population fell from 220,000 to just 1,000. One-quarter of the Earth's bird species have been driven into extinction by human activities.

Somewhere between a third and a half of the land surface of the earth has been transformed by human action. More than half of the fresh water sources of the world are now put to use by human beings.

Ancient forests are home to around two-thirds of all plant and animal species found on land. More than 2,000 tropical forest plants have been identified by scientists as having anti-cancer properties. Less than one percent of the tropical rainforest species have been analyzed for their medicinal value. Nearly 90 percent of the 1.2 billion people living in extreme poverty worldwide depend on forests for their livelihoods. Yet 80 percent of the world’s ancient forests have already been either destroyed or degraded, and half of that has been in the last 30 years. An area the size of a football field of ancient forest is destroyed every two seconds. That’s an area bigger than France and Spain combined in the last ten years. At current rates, all tropical forests may be gone by the year 2090.

Demand for oil and energy resources from industrialized nations like China are expected to almost double by the year 2030. Two thirds of all energy generated in power stations is lost as waste heat – up the chimney and along transmission lines. The energy use per capita of high income countries is more than 10 times higher than that of low income countries. The world has a finite supply of oil. We are roughly halfway through using it. At some point within the next few years, it is likely that the rate of oil extraction will fall into decline. With ever-growing demand, once this point of ‘peak oil’ production is passed, prices are likely to rise rapidly, with possibly disasterous consequences for the global economy. For every kilojoule of energy we gain from eating food, we spend ten kilojoules of (mainly oil) energy to fertilise, harvest, transport, refrigerate and cook it. If we were to replace all fossil fuels with nuclear power, world uranium supplies would be depleted in four years.

More than one billion people lack access to safe drinking water, 2.6 billion lack access to adequate water for sanitation. Water-borne diseases are the leading cause of death worldwide. This situation is getting worse. Two thirds of the world population will be without safe drinking water and basic sanitation services by 2025.

The Sahara desert in Africa currently expands southwards at the rate of 5-10 km per year.

Australians are ranked 7th worst in the world for our average ecological footprint. The total human ecological footprint is estimated to have exceeded the biocapacity of the planet by 25%.

And I haven't even mentioned climate change, toxins in the air and water, soil loss or nuclear waste.

How does this make you feel?
Five points for naming the location from which the first photo was taken. Fifteen for guessing the region in which the second one was taken. Second photo by JKS.
Series: I; II; III; IV; V; VI; VII; VIII; IX; X; XI; XII; XIII.

UPDATE: When I first posted this, I avoided discussion of climate change because it is so politicised at the moment and seems to distract from the bigger picture. However, here is a useful site answering 26 common myths about climate change. H/T OSO.


byron smith said...

I have web-links for all the claims in this post (doesn't mean they're true, just that I didn't make them up), but it's too late to bother doing all the leg-work tonight. Ask me if you want one.

Anonymous said...

Does this mean that you also are running for president?

Philip Britton said...

sounds to me like the world is groaning in pain, waiting for the redemption of of the children of

Anonymous said...

How does it make me feel?

Well. Not good. Creation groans indeed!

You managed to push most of my 'green' buttons. Except melting ice-caps... Why didn't that get a run?

BTW, the first picture looks like it was taken in the Royal Botanical Gardens, Sydney. The second one looks like it was taken... no idea, actually... near warragamba during winter?

Anonymous said...

oh dear! That makes me feel very sad and distressed. It makes me want to do something but confused too, as it is hard to know what to do.

Anonymous said...

Excellent summary mate.
Couldn't have said it better myself.

Exponential growth in a finite system = a bubble that's expanding and expanding..... pop!

But don't worry. All the Tim Lahaye "Left Behinders" tell us that we should burn up all the fossil fuels as fast as we can, so that the Rapture will just HAVE to happen! ;-)

(We all know nothing bad can happen to American Christians because America has God's special golden stamp of approval).

Don't forget, "Crude" by the ABC screens 8:30 Thursday 24th May, 2007.

What do you reckon the chances are of this becoming an election issue? Which politician would have the guts to stand up and say that the final oil crisis is imminent, and we all have to make do with far, far less of everything? Even though this is the ABC's own science unit announcing the final oil crisis, I just don't see how a politician can put up their hand and say, "Vote for me... I'm the guy telling you the rest of your life is going to suck!" They just don't tick that way. It's popularity, not truth, that winds their spring.

But good on you Byron for telling it how it is.

Matthew Moffitt said...

First picture: if not the Botanic Gardens, then the pictur of Chifley Tower and the Deutsche Bank building would be taken from...the domain?

byron smith said...

Moffitt - another five points. Your monthly total is looking very healthy.

Linden - some people consider the Doman to be part of the RBG, so I'll give you two points. Moffitt was more specific.

Matthew Moffitt said...

Murray River?

Matthew Moffitt said...

The Rhine?

byron smith said...

No (though the beanie and big coat would make a little more sense there. Oh I guess the upper Murray can be quite cold).

Matthew Moffitt said...

South Coast - i imagine it can get cold there too.

byron smith said...


Anthony Douglas said...

Scottish coast - eg somewhere near Loch Ness?

byron smith said...

That would be here. No, but you're closer than any guess so far. I realise this one is probably harder than most.

Anthony Douglas said...

Yes, that was the one I checked against to see if the beard was at a similar stage ;-)

Did you pass through the Lakes District, then? I can't remember...

byron smith said...

We did pass (very quickly) through the Lakes district. Having come from near Loch Ness that morning, we drove down through Glencoe, passed Loch Lomond, went straight through Glasgow and down to the border, arriving in the Lakes as the sun was setting, so we rushed through it (as much as we could, with winding roads and heavy traffic) to see the beauty in the fading light. We only got out of the car once before the sun was almost set, when we stopped again to look out over Windermere in the last light of the day. From there we had one day to see York and make it back to London in order to catch a plane to NYC early the next morning, so we decided to keep going (since it was the middle of winter and the sun was setting at about 2.30 in the afternoon - OK, it was actually 5.35, now that I check). We thought we'd head over to York and find accommodation somewhere on the way (we hadn't booked anything because we didn't know how far we'd manage to get). In our ignorance, we didn't realise that between the Lakes and York are some of the least inhabited and developed parts of England (the Yorkshire moors), which are quite beautiful in their own right, but since it was already dark and most of the very few and tiny villages don't even have street lights, we didn't see much except for the very narrow, very windy single-lane road that runs like a drunk rollercoaster across the country at this point (if we'd looked more carefully at the map, the lack of alternative routes, the curves in the road, the size of the road, the lack of significant settlements - all this should have given us hints). Over three hours later (we thought it might take us a little over an hour to get near York), we were still some distance from York and the petrol light was on. We hadn't seen any open petrol stations (and only two closed ones) since the Lakes and were starting to seriously consider sleeping in the car by the side of the road next to a petrol station.

We didn't. But that's another story for another time.

So what is your guess?

Matthew Moffitt said...

Did you make it to York?

Is it the Tweed River?

byron smith said...

We did, but not that night.

Not the Tweed river.

Anthony Douglas said...

I'll guess Windermere, just because I'm replying anyway.

Our funny moors story...Jude had come down with giardia or something like it, and we were camped out for a week in Lancaster...which doesn't really warrant a week more than the rest of the north.

So, having waited a couple of days to see if the vomiting blew over, we gave up waiting, and figured we'd do something. A day trip to York sounded nice, and we'd both enjoyed James Herriot in our misspent youths, so over the dales we went.

Windy road. Wife with disposition to sudden vomiting.

Slow trip.

We made it to Thirsk for "lunch" - I ate mine at least, Jude found some medicine, fluorescent pink in colour, which was supposed to keep things down.

It worked until we reached York. We stopped on the edge of town, Jude redecorated those ancient city walls, and then we took the motorway back home. I caught a glimpse of the spire of York Minster when I should have been watching the road, and that was the day.

The day we decided, stuff this, we're going home. I booked us on the only trip available before our scheduled flight in ten days time. Which meant, we were leaving Heathrow the following morning around 10am.

I spent a busy night packing, and planning a route that would enable us to thread through major towns when it wasn't peak hour...and we made the plane with half an hour to spare.

As for the flight home, that's another story, but an even funnier one.

byron smith said...

Wow - sounds like lots of fun... and have fifteen points.