Human extinction in coming decades looks increasingly certain, unless we can somehow, quickly engineer, radical transformative change in the way humans everywhere, live and relate to the planet.
If we could do that very quickly, we could probably manage nine of the interconnected threats that are bearing down on us; global overheating, chemical poisoning, weapons of mass destruction, resource depletion, pandemics, ecosystem destruction, food insecurity, overpopulation and uncontrolled technologies. The tenth threat is more difficult to manage. It is the systematic disinformation and denial by vested interests, that has promoted the delusion that none of these things are really happening, and/or that we can afford to wait and see what happens.
Meanwhile, time to rescue a survivable human future is rapidly running out
We know what needs to be done about climate change and there is clear evidence that if we take it seriously, the Australian economy could benefit massively from exploitation and application of our rich renewable resources of wind and solar power. Dealing with the climate risk will also help to deal with the food security risk but we know that we must also pay urgent attention to methods of regenerative farming and our over-dependence on meat in the human diet.
On the nuclear threat, Australia could immediately sign the UN abolition of nuclear weapons treaty that has now been endorsed by many nations, but not ours.
We have so far, done well on this pandemic but should undoubtedly develop a National Centre for Disease Control to prepare for future pandemics which will continue to come along and pose their own complexities.
Much is known about the dangers of toxic chemicals and robotics and artificial intelligence, but insufficient government attention is being paid to their regulation and control. Australia could and should be showing the way on these two matters.
On the issues of extinctions, ecosystems and depletion of essential resources we must embark on a radical program of recycling, reuse and regeneration.
A great deal is written by experts on all of these matters. Here in Australia, the Federal Government should appoint an expert panel to review and advise on progress in Australia’s move to a survivable future.
I am personally appalled that we have not yet responded as a nation to the Uluru “Statement from the Heart” carefully prepared by Australia’s indigenous people. A positive response to that statement is urgent and will set the tone for exciting new thinking about our future.
As we begin as a nation, to revive our economy, create new jobs and respond to infrastructure needs, we must also accept the principal that every human on the planet should have sufficient resources to live in dignity with a living wage. We must review the operation of our economic system and its track record in doing this, and adjust it to address this need in the face of obscene global inequality.
Is there a realistic likelihood that we can turn all this around in the short time that is open to us to do so? The Covid pandemic has set the scene for radical new thinking and exploration about the human future. And, we have seen some surprising and unexpected flexibility by some of our leaders.
I am in incurable optimist, but I must admit that it is a daunting challenge.
Em Prof Bob Douglas is a retired public health academic and a member of the recently developed Council for The Human Future. www.humanfuture.org