Transforming for human survival: a challenge to ACT Legislators

Mar 15, 2024

It is not difficult to understand, nor to agree, with the growing numbers of thoughtful people who argue that humanity is on the brink of extinction. And that, without transformational change in the way, we think, and live, our descendants are doomed.

The size of our human population, the way we operate the economy, the difficulties that democracy is having in many parts of the world, the failure adequately to address the changing climate, and the massive damage we are doing to other ecosystems are just some parts of the challenge.

Canberra science writer, Julian Cribb in his most recent book, “How to Fix a Broken Planet” says that there are 10 remediable problems that are together, threatening human survival. They include:

a) The destruction of Earth’s life support systems.

b) Depletion of resources, including fresh water, soil, forests, fish, oxygen and other key essential resources.

c) Global poisoning by uncontrolled chemical pollution.

d) Global overheating from accelerating uncontrolled climate change and tipping points.

e) Overpopulation, with human numbers vastly outnumbering the earth’s carrying capacity.

f) Food insecurity, with a growing risk of simultaneous harvest failures globally, and failures of supply chains.

g) A new nuclear arms race, and the proliferation of other weapons of mass destruction.

h) New pandemic diseases, from ruined environments and science labs.

i) Uncontrolled new technologies, like artificial intelligence, biotechnology, nanotechnology and universal surveillance.

j) Widespread misinformation about these matters which is paralysing societies from saving themselves.

The serious worry is that nowhere are governments yet adequately addressing these manageable problems, and communities are not yet insisting that they do so.

On the issue of the economy, many experts have written about the problems associated with the idea that if we act in our own selfish interest and consume what we feel we need, the system will adjust. It adjusts alright, and contributes to massive inequality between the wealthy and the less well off. Gross inequality between nations and between groups in all nations, is another huge challenge to long term human survival.

British economist, Kate Raworth, has written about the need to modify the economy. She advocates adopting what she describes as a “Doughnut Economy” and argues that human societies can only live safely between the outer and inner edges of a theoretical doughnut.  Her ideas have been adopted in several parts of the world.

Raworth has suggested a series of seven changes that will be required to keep humanity between the safe, outer, and inner rings of the doughnut. The essence of the doughnut economy is an inner ring, social foundation of wellbeing that no one should fall below, and an ecological outer ring of planetary pressure that we should not go beyond. Between the two lies a safe and just space for all.

Beyond the outer ring, or ceiling of the safe space, we will be exposed to the dangers of a series of nine planetary boundaries, several of which we have now exceeded. And outside the inner ring of the doughnut, we will be exceeding 12 central issues that are vitally important to healthy social functioning.

Raworth says that we need to make seven key changes to our conventional, economic thinking to establish a healthier doughnut economy. These include:

1. Changing the central goal from unbridled consumption and GDP growth, to living in the doughnut.
2. Seeing the big picture that the economy is part of the earth system and needs to be a service to life.
3. Nurturing human nature from self-interest to social reciprocity.
4. Getting savvy with systems. From engineering the economy to “gardening” it and taking care of it.
5. Designing to distribute both incomes and wealth and avoiding inequality.
6. Creating to Regenerate through changing the business model to turn waste back into valuable goods.
7. Being agnostic about growth and focusing on the level needed to meet both ours. and the planet’s needs.

Raworth’s economic approach could serve us well in Australia, and the ACT would be a very good place to begin. And our legislators could combine that with a serious attempt to take action on an “Earth System Charter” that has been advocated by Julian Cribb and The Council, for The Human Future. to help to set in train a global campaign against threats to human existence.

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