When I was still a child, at the age of eight, I learnt in geography that there were still under three billion people living on the planet. The amount of life concealed by this number meant nothing to me. Now I’m 50 years older and, in that time, the world’s population is supposed to have almost trebled. Is that right? Do you understand what I have written there, and am myself trying to understand? There are now seven and a half billion people living on our beautiful blue planet EARTH. And the number isn’t falling. I have another look at the UN’s figures. They are not wrong. There will soon be ten billion of us. How is that supposed to work?
I could tell this story from the point of view of a lion, tiger, elephant, rhinoceros, cheetah, orangutan, a giant panda, a gorilla, or from the point of view of coral or a bee. What do you think all these animals have in common? Do you know? They belong to the almost 83,000 species that have an entry in the IUCN’s (International Union for Conservation of Nature) Red List. More than 23,900 of these species are threatened with extinction because the way of life of seven and a half billion humans leaves less and less space for other animals. The news that 75% of all insects are thought to have turned to dust in the past 30 years owing to humans’ way of life also angers me. Or maybe not?
But maybe these numbers shouldn’t make me angry. Perhaps they won’t increase further in the foreseeable future. Foreseeable? What does that mean? And not increase? What could that look like? But ECO123 stories always need a happy ending.
Building a future on catastrophes that are based on climate change is not a solid foundation. They come along so unexpectedly and aren’t fair either. Will climate change prevent humanity from multiplying? Humanity as a collective whole does not have the courage, and hardly has the intelligence, to regulate itself, in order to avoid its own downfall. We prefer to do away with each other in interpersonal conflicts and wars, and in return reap tornadoes, torrential rainfall, floods and forest fires. In this way, whole swathes of civilisation inevitably become uninhabitable. Florida, Texas and California will not be reconstructed more than three times. Because, after each hurricane, investments and resources become scarcer. Insurance companies will stop insuring houses and other things at some stage. The risks are too great.
So what can we do? In the history of our planet, there have so far been five mass extinctions. But the prognosis for the sixth extinction will probably put all previous occasions in the shade. Really? As the world’s population grows continuously and exponentially, our wrong lifestyle, our consumption and our emissions increase just as continuously and exponentially, while natural resources and the number of plant and animal species declines continuously and exponentially. Really no good news, is there? It’s a deadly cocktail of climate change and environmental pollution, disease, hunger, war and the loss of living space.
The only possible good news is built on a single hypothesis, which is this: we need to change intellectually and emotionally NOW, for the better of course, and invest all our knowledge and resources in improving the training and education of our next generation, worldwide. And Portugal has to start. I fear that we will not manage this together, because what does “improvement” mean? Can we find a common denominator? Alongside a global one-child policy for every pair of parents (disapproval?), the sustainable transmission of knowledge would be vital for the survival of our children and our species. Meanwhile, Portugal is first of all preoccupied with striking teachers and their unsolved problems.
Even the key question hasn’t been answered. What are the roots of our crises? Are they due to the fact that we always just learn separate bits of knowledge off by heart in our state education systems, but never learn to understand the interrelationships in life, and their basis? Is it also due to the fact that we do not understand ourselves and the living spaces in our natural surroundings? Do we want to keep going in this way for ever? The same teaching style, the same content, the same approaches?
In this edition, ECO 123 is focusing on learning; learning from mistakes, as well as on the targeted learning of skills such as mindfulness and loving, and places them at the heart of the discussion. ECO123 looks into the question “What could our children’s lives in the 21st century look like if they, after all, are to survive in our spaceship, on our planet EARTH?”