Published on 28 Nov 2012

Last chance saloon to save the planet

Last night a big company had asked me (pro-bono) to chair a gathering to look at what they should be doing above and beyond their own core line of business.

The twenty-five people present came from an eclectic range of International organisations and businesses; there was the odd professor too.

This was an event I would never have expected to find “blogworthy”. Yet it very soon became clear to me that this was to prove a seminal experience. The participants were both worldly, wise, and articulate.

Very quickly a common theme emerged, a consensus even, that we are in a kind of last chance saloon.

That we have perhaps fifteen years to “get it right”. Get what right? To get saving the planet and humanity’s survival.

There was surprisng consensus that we are living amid unprecedented global warming – perhaps four per cent by the end of the century; perhaps six per cent soon after that.

There was consensus that from London to Lagos, the “city” per se is in crisis. Urban living cannot continue as it is.
Another common theme was that lifestyle has to change.

Obesity is ever-growing

Agreement too that obesity and diabetes are on a massive march (I was shocked to find in Qatar two weeks ago that 60 per cent of this tiny Gulf state are obese and 20 per cent already suffer from Type 2 diabetes.

Dementia stalks the western world and we have no idea how to tackle it; junk food is now consuming not only the developed world but increasingly the developing world with it.
In short, the evening became a debate about sustainability and the inability of the political classes to tackle it.
There was widespread recognition that this fight for survival could not rest on the state.
I don’t know what this company will do to adapt to this fight – there were a myriad of ideas in play.

Fighting for humankind’s survival?

But there was agreement round the table that the corporate sector had to learn that the very ingredients they had contributed to this crisis must now be turned around and deployed to resolve it.
I went to that meeting last night thinking that fighting for humankind’s survival, and our planet with it, is an intoxicating battle fought by the minority. 

I’m increasingly discovering that it is rapidly becoming more mainstream.
I used to ride a bike because it was the quickest way to and from work. Am I already now am now riding it as an adjunct to saving the planet!

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15 reader comments

  1. margaret brandreth-jones says:

    Save the planet? the planet will save itself in whatever method it chooses .Humans are merely passers through on earth. Passing from birth to death is a journey of no interest to climate change. If the planet warms, the land above sea level will become significantly less . When humans are finally destroyed and natures balance is dominant without the annoyance of us little pathetic creatures, it may freeze again and warm again, add infinitum, until the core cools.

    It would be interesting to see where we go forward in evolution , but alas we will never know.

    1. Frances Mannion says:

      Hallo Margaret, wasn’t quite sure what to make of your view. You may be right, seems a bit pessimistic. As its Christmas soon, you may enjoy a lighter view on things. Can recommend Laurence Shorter’s ‘The Optimist’, funny in a mild sort of way. Was unsure if this line from his book was profound, funny, both, neither:
      “Global warming is a side issue. The real battle is for our souls. The real battle is about meaning”.

      Are we getting overfocussed as a world on the environment and underfocussed on why we are all here anyway?? Don’t think the church is as active as it could be on contributing on world discussions. Global warming is surely an example of poor stewardship of what God gave us. Never mind the science, its also bad morals.

    2. Peter Hart says:

      A little bleakley put, but true enough I think! However, I wouldn’t give up on attempting to do what we can: I wouldn’t simply party until doomsday!

  2. Rob's Uncle says:

    ‘four per cent’ should be 4 deg C.

  3. Janet Haney says:

    Thanks Jon, I really appreciate your work. I was partly prompted to revisit The Corporation (Canadian documentary circa 2005) by the Ch 4 news item on Google last night. The film notes that US corporations, by law, have to maximise profits, even at the expense of social and or ecological damage, and that Corporations had been given the status of ‘persons’ by law, but could not be held accountable as real people are. Two problems created by laws, solvable there too, I suppose. What did the worldy wise and articulate have to say about that at your event last night? I’m sure they discussed this film as it is right on topic.

    I am reminded of another film – Ikiru (Kurasawa 1952) in which a man facing death finally gets up and does something decent for once in his life. At his funeral all his old colleagues pledge to do the same in his honour. Next day …

  4. Moonbeach says:

    There are many people, some of whom even have a brain cell, who think that these prophets of doom do not reside on our planet! You do not say, Jon, how many sceptics were in the room and argued against the proposition!

    Humankind’s track record in prophesying the future is not good. For example, the weather, the economy, the football results, the winner of the 3:30 at Haydock and so on have all made idiots of so-called experts.

    It is probably true that the planet is warming although some even doubt this. But no scientist or engineer worth his salt can put his hand on his heart and say “global warming is definitely caused by …….”.

    I totally agree that we should try to minimise pollution in all its forms. But we know so little about the effects of the sun, what happens below the surface of the sea and the effects of volcanic activity below the surface of the Earth that forecasting has little meaning.

    This is why the bill that all of us, rich and poor, will have to pay as a result of Chris Huhne’s stupid, unilateral law on carbon emissions is so ridiculous.

    1. Janet Haney says:

      Hi Moonbeach, you say: “It is probably true that the planet is warming although some even doubt this. But no scientist or engineer worth his salt can put his hand on his heart and say “global warming is definitely caused by …….”. Have you seen Werner Herzog’s documentary ‘Encounters at the end of the world’ (2009)? Lots of scientists, engineers, and other wise and articulate people, lots of hands on hearts, lots of valuable salt. And not so much ice as there used to be. Plenty of sand in cities for people to put their heads in, tho.

      Prof Joel Bakan (in his book The Corporation, also a film) points out that politics in different countries give rise to different positions on what I think you are pointing at: ‘proof’. In some European countries, if there is reasonable concern that something might cause terrible damage then they can decide to stop doing it.

    2. Moonbeach says:

      Hi, Janet,

      Ben writing below gives my view. My scepticism about the prophets (or is it profits?) of doom surrounds the Met Office and other models and whether they are fit for purpose.

      They still cannot predict tomorrow’s weather with certainty yet they would have us believe that they can predict rainfall and temperature rises in 50 years to 3 places of decimals!

      A thought. Just how much damage are wind farms doing to the planet’s weather system? We seem to have forgotten Newton’s 3rd Law; action and reaction are equal and opposite.

      It is axiomatic that these ubiquitous windmills are stopping some of the wind’s force. What are the consequences of this on our planet other than the whole life costs of production, maintenance and replacement?

  5. JohnD says:

    A great article Jon, I hope you will continue to spread the message!

  6. Ben says:

    Hi Jon

    Do you know about the time at the beginning of the 14th century, when Europe experienced a period of 30 years rain and cold temperature?
    If you look at the annals of European monasteries (the only diaries for that time), year by year, they wrote that again another year of rain destroyed the harvest. People were exhausted by hunger and many died of starving.

    All these experts would go mad if we experienced a 30 years rain period today. We would have to pay a 100% rain tax.

    I remember very well the special programs on German TV about global warming in the 80’s. They showed a overheated earth and claimed “there will be no snow below 1500m in 25 years” (sic!). Everybody believed it. 25 years later, Europe experienced heaviest snowfall.
    In 2007, the BBC/weather website had a special sub-menu “global warming”. When winters got colder in Britain since 2008, BBC change it to “climate change”. Suddenly all experts tell us that it becomes colder is a result of global warming.

    To be honest, Jon, I don’t need to study meteorology to know that weather has always changed. You only need to read books in order to realise that weather has always changed. It is how it works.
    We are currently in the middle of that 5 million years time window were we all (animals and plants) in perfect harmony can survive. And we all will die when sun loses power and temperature drops.

  7. Hugh Gage says:

    Key statement in that blog post: “….and the inability of the political classes to tackle it”.

    1. Meg Howarth says:

      Not ‘the inability’ but ‘the unwillingness of the political classes to tackle [sustainability]’. Profiteering and its puppet-master politicians have no soul, and so no ability to think of alternative ways of living unless a fast buck’s to be made.

      I must take issue with the statement that ‘urban living cannot continue as it is’. City-living is generally more sustainable than rural life, and the quality of life better for the inhabitants – better, more sustainable transport, access to health facilities, utilities etc etc. Perhaps what you meant to say was city-living the way it is presently can’t continue – lights on all night, pollution, property-price inflation etc. Then I agree. So it’s how we organise our city-living that must be changed. We don’t need to abandon it.

  8. Meg Howarth says:

    Here’s a great link for everyone interested in climate change – thanks for C4’s Tom Clarke for posting on Twitter:

    Global Carbon Project: … Emissions up 54% since Kyoto year 1990.

  9. Sue Jones says:

    Earth has experienced the snowball effect in its history. Deserts and the grand canyon were once oceans of raging water. The earth is resilient, but in order to save it from our reckless behaviour and before we can inflict any lasting damage, with any luck, civilisation will kill itself off.

  10. Jeremy says:

    We humans are capable of immense healing and renewal, as well as immense destruction and waste.

    It is time to choose where we, individually, place our energies.

    On renewal or destruction.

    I am choosing renewal.

Comments are closed.