To The Editor,
On the eve of COP26, I thought I’d write a little something on where we stand today, from an environmental perspective, relative to where on earth we’re heading.
Where on Earth are We Going? is the title of a book written by Maurice Strong in 2001, so I thought I’d share where he thought we’d be in just ten years from now—in 2031.
For those who never heard of him, Maurice Strong was a Canadian businessman who, at age 29 was the President of Power Corporation and senior Advisor to the World Bank. In 1992, at age 40, he went on to make possible and served as Chair for the Rio de Janeiro United Nations Conference on Environment and Development, or Earth Summit, as it came to be known. The first World Summit at which 180 countries pledged to act in addressing the environmental issues before us.
That background established, here cited are the opening paragraphs of where Strong, back in 2000 predicted we might be on January 1, 2031 “unless we’re very, very, very lucky, or very, very wise”:
1 January 2031
Report to the Shareholders, Earth Inc.
“The best that can be said of the past year—and the past tumultuous decade, the most devastating in human experience—is that it’s behind us. If this were a business, the board of directors would have recommended shutting the doors and padlocking the gates, turning the workforce loose to pick up scraps where they might. But of course this is not a business; it is the Prison of Life, and there is nothing beyond the gates of planet earth but the formless void. Since we cannot escape, we must endure, and since we cannot give up, we must continue the struggle. We must also grasp at what straws there are. Perhaps the past decade has been so awful that it must get better. Perhaps in the chaos and degradation we have experienced, the seeds of a new order have finally been planted, and deep in the muck strong new wood is growing. Perhaps not. But life without hope is a living death.”
There is little I can add to Mr. Strong’s words save maybe that, during an election, political opportunists will say anything to win the environmental-vote including nonsense like “balancing the environment with the economy” is necessary, as if improving the economy always comes at the expense of creating environmental problems—or solving environmental problems always comes with an economic cost.
The truth is, solving environmental problems would create economic growth and new jobs, and come at a much-reduced cost than staying on the unsustainable course we’re on at present.
A healthy people is conditional upon a healthy planet.