Leading biological scientists are concerned about the state the planet is in and the growing mismatch between available resources and the ever-rising demand for those resources. They advocate the need for rapid social and political change if effective solutions to environmental and biodiversity issues are to be found. While large-scale solutions relating to population control, food production and water availability have not always been realistic, the scientists argue that some of them should now be revisited in light of the worrisome condition the planet is now in.
From the dawn of time, regional civilisations have prospered, stagnated and then declined.
Some, such as the ancient Egyptians and Romans, managed to bounce back several times after temporary crises, while others, like the Mayas, slipped away forever after a relatively short time. However, now, for the first time, global civilisation is facing possible collapse. The challenges it faces are well known, such as global warming, an accelerated loss of biodiversity, various sources of pollution, and, beyond that, in these experts’ view, overpopulation, excess consumption, and the proliferation of technologies that are detrimental to the environment.
Five to seven Earths would be needed if all seven billion people enjoyed the same living standards as Americans. In light of this, demographers and economists believe it is irresponsible to raise living standards for most of a world whose human population is expected to expand by another 2.5 billion by 2050. Ecosystems would be unable to withstand the breakneck pace of the economic growth that would then be necessary, especially given that, as things now stand, environmental damage is not linear, but exponential to population growth.
Will future technological advances help offset these phenomena – population growth and rising living standards – by helping people address the damage done, consume more sparingly, recycle intensely, grow crops without deforestation, produce without polluting, and use only renewable energy? Can natural and social scientists work closer together to achieve the necessary re-modelling of energy, food and water infrastructure on a global scale? Hard to say now but, in any case, such advances will have to be significant and will have to come with drastic savings and changes in economic paradigms. There appears to be no other choice.
BNP Paribas Investment Partners’ environmental funds are doing their part to seek out innovative technological solutions by financing companies that aim to save available resources and, thus, preserve ecosystems.
Written in December 2016 in Paris