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The Inconvenient Truth About Earth Day

In 1950, Hillman published a book called The Dying Earth, a collection of fantasy stories written by Jack Vance, and set in the future, when cities are rotting, civilization is in decay, and the sun is just about ready to fizzle out. Vance may have unknowingly predicted the present.

 Image courtesy of SPENGLISH
Today, in 2015, Mother Earth isn’t doing so well. She is, in fact, dying, and yet we, her children, continue to kill her.

As early as 2012, 22 scientists warned us that we had already passed a planetary tipping point. Some go even further: we’ve passed several tipping points. With a population of about 7 billion, we’ve succeeded in acidifying, polluting and killing our rivers, lakes and oceans; poisoning our land, mangroves, jungles and the biodiversity they support; screwing up our ecosystems; driving our species extinction rates up to 1,000 times the usual rate – the same rate that wiped out the dinosaurs; occupying 40% of land masses and severely affecting another 40%; and, destroying, stressing, and depleting our natural resources, among others.

Whether or not we’ve reached the tipping point doesn’t even matter; because, everything we’ve done to the earth is irreversible.

And, we’re seeing the effects.

The Carteret Islanders of Papua New Guinea, the world’s first entire community to be displaced by climate change, had left their homes for good; because, this year, their island will be completely submerged. The people of Newtok, Alaska are the first climate refugees in America, because they, too, have lost their land to the sea.

We may not be that far behind. According to Germanwatch, a climate and development organization, the Philippines ranked 10th among countries severely affected by climate change. We now go through up to 24 typhoons a year compared to only 18 15 years ago, according to Esteban Godilano of the Climate Change Congress of the Philippines.

A study released by the United Nations University’s Institute for Environment and Human Security and the German Alliance Development Works paints an even grimmer picture: in terms of climate change, the Philippines is the third most vulnerable country in the world.

Surprisingly, many don’t seem to care. People are hell-bent on keeping their habits, more than anything else.

Developers are still building on the island of Boracay, for example, while the 50,000 visitors of the annual 4-day LaBoracay event continue to throw away over 200,000 water bottles; 263,000 cigarette butts; and, 736,000 straws. Oh, they also flush 5.2 million liters of water down the toilet every single day.

Speaking of water, it takes 2500 gallons of water to produce one pound of beef; up to 3,000 children die every year from drought; and, up to 1.2 billion people, or almost one-fifth of the world’s population, live in areas where water is scarce. According to a Human Development Report by the UNDP, not only are 500 million more people approaching this situation, but also, another 1.6 billion people, or almost one quarter of the world’s population, may be facing economic water shortage soon.

The fact is, Mr. Smith from the Matrix was right: humans are, indeed, a virus. We fester, breed, multiply, infect and kill our host.

A study by the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) said that at our present rate of unbridled consumption, we’d need two planets the size of the earth to sustain us. In 2050, there would be no fish in our oceans, forests gone, and fresh water, scarce.

What kind of world would that be?

As forecasted by the HSBC’s report on “The World in 2050,” the Philippine economy will become the 16th biggest in the world in 2050.

By then, maybe many of us would be dead. At a certain point, with a limited supply of food, energy and water, the population will—and has already begun to—decline. Then, it will fall. The phenomenon is called “demographic transition.” Once enough of us die off, only then can the earth begin to heal herself. Again.

The future is bleak; and, if there’s only one thing we could do for Earth Day 2015, it is for each of us to make a personal, inconvenient promise to clean up our lives.

Sadly, even that is highly unlikely.

But we can always try.  At the very least, we can always try.

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