On Earth Day this year (March 20th) no doubt there will be considerable focus on climate change, and its effects on the environment. But are we all missing the point? According to John Burton, of the World Land Trust, politicians and environmentalists alike are not confronting the real reasons for climate change. According to John Burton "While the use of fossil fuels and the release of CO2 is clearly driving climate change, reducing our individual consumption on its own will not make a shred of difference to the future of the planet." He went on to explain, "It is only when we confront the real issue that is driving the whole energy issue that we can hope to prevent the total chaos that is likely to result over the next few decades. And that is far too many people exist on this planet."
The real issue is the exploding human population bomb. That population, with its ever increasing demands on the world's resources, is totally unsustainable. The developed world is only able to sustain its own standards of living and use of resources by exploiting fossil fuels and the resources, including labour, of the less developed parts of the world. And as countries such as China, India and other parts of Asia catch up, more and more resources will be consumed, particularly energy and water. Intensification of farming in the developed world has temporarily alleviated food shortages, but simultaneously devastated wildlife, with millions of acres now effectively barren of wild animals and plants. And as this intensification spreads worldwide so even migrant birds suffer.
Asked what hope there was, John Burton admitted to being very pessimistic about the future of the world, "However, since the World Land Trust was created in 1989, more and more organisations are seeing the importance of preserving what little is left. We have helped save over 350,000 acres, and our American partners, more than a million. It's not a huge amount, but by targeting key areas, perhaps something will survive for future generation when human populations are brought under control."
But meanwhile politicians try and convince us that a bit of recycling here, and a more energy efficient light bulb will save the planet, and ignore the fact that every extra million human beings means huge amounts of oil, huge amounts of food and other resources are going to be needed. And this is not a 'third world problem' every single Briton consumes vastly more than an impoverished peasant farmer in Central Africa. The unpalatable fact is that in addition to wrecking the British countryside, Britons are also responsible for depleting the resources of many other parts of the world. In the past the problem has been resolved by war, famine and disease. All three loom ominously close, and we are, to use the famous metaphor, still re-arranging the deck chairs on the Titanic, with the iceberg in full view.