An exciting new concept has been proposed, it is intended to galvanise global cooperation in facing the challenges of escalating climate and ecological collapse. The idea involves asking the UN to consider ratifying a ‘Universal Aspiration for an Altruistic Anthropocene’. The proposed wording will challenge all countries to enhance their school systems to prioritise the understanding of ecological footprint, ecological balance and the need for conservation of at least 50% of the planet for non-livestock vertebrates to be free to evolve in the natural fashion. This will address the escalating sixth mass extinction and bio-diversity loss which is rapidly shortening our collective life-expectancy. Pandemics like COVID-19 are a natural consequence of the ecological imbalance that we have caused. Every country will be challenged to aspire to reduce its ecological footprint to less than 50% of the biocapacity available within its borders, according to the latest data from the Global Footprint Network.
To embrace this new concept of a Universal Aspiration mankind will need to evolve to a new level of emotional maturity. This evolution will be inspired by remorse, compassion and a selfless love of Earth and all its life forms. We shall stop striving to dominate our environment and instead try to leave the majority of life-forms to evolve in the natural way. We shall find the courage to overcome our fear of death, for we shall come to appreciate the importance of death within the cycle of life. We shall relax our reliance on external items, learning instead to rely on our internal peace and connectedness. Our new direction will emerge from a position of selfless concern for the longevity of life on this planet.
Our newfound emotional maturity will generate powerful collective strengths. Unexpected personal qualities will evolve and astounding levels of generosity will be demonstrated. Global collaboration and mutual encouragement will enable us to all to be our best selves. We shall embrace new aspirations to be responsible, accountable and as honest and authentic as our awareness can achieve. We shall honour and embrace each other’s pain and support each other through the necessary processes for healing. We shall find new ways of being close with each other both as individuals and within our local communities, and in the wider global context. We shall learn how to live in a way that appreciates all the myriad of different experiences within a human lifetime. Gratitude, joy and peace will gradually fill our lives as we evolve and aspire to mature into a responsible race, letting go of any particular outcomes, even as we rebuild our lives together.
New research which models the impact of the ongoing ecological collapse on human population has recently been published and is available at this link. In the past demographers have extrapolated birth and death rates to estimate future demographic changes but that approach does not apply during a mass extinction event. This research by Professor Chris Bystroff of Rensselaer Polytechnic predicts that human population decline has already commenced, the black-line in the graph below represents our destiny as dictated by the continuation of our current behaviour. This research forecasts the loss of billions of human lives within the next twenty years, unless we redress the ecological overshoot and free up 50% of the Earth’s biocapacity for other species to evolve unhindered by mankind. The graph below is from the research. It shows that if the aspirations expressed in the ‘Universal Aspiration’ are achieved within 20 years, such an evolution in our behaviour can avoid the population collapse that would result from continuing with business as usual.
There are already indications that these predictions are likely to be closer to the truth than any other predictions available, for example China’s latest census figures coupled with the fact that it’s population growth rate has now slowed to the point where its actual population will probably begin to fall next year. Furthermore, the recent escalation in deaths from the COVID pandemic in India reinforce the likelihood that these predictions are more reliable that extrapolating past trends.
Unfounded optimism is unwise at this point in time. It is essential that we feel a level of fear which is commensurate to the level of danger that we now face. Mark Twain once wisely observed – “Courage is resistance to fear, mastery of fear, not absence of fear.” Without adequate fear we shall never muster adequate courage. We must deploy the full range and strength of our emotional toolkit for the best hope of surviving the challenges ahead.
The rapid drop in population shown in the prediction above will either arise from pandemics, famine or from wars over diminishing resources. Alternatively we could make serious efforts to soften the harsh reality which is shown in these predictions by changing our behaviour patterns to focus on stabilising our eco-system. To do this we would need to choose to minimise our consumption, refuse eco-costly medical care and seek to avoid conception whilst we strive to restore the ecological balance.
Concerted efforts to re-establish bio-diversity will undoubtedly soften our crash-landing. Once people are aware of these predictions they will hesitate to bring children into a world which offers such an insecure future. Therefore it will be important to ensure that everyone is empowered to either choose not to have children or to opt for much smaller families, by ensuring that access to free contraception or sterilisation is readily available worldwide. Counselling skills will be much in demand to help young adults and elderly people embrace the new collective aspirations which are embodied in the Universal Aspiration. Many affluent people will need help to heal their sense of loss and disappointment as they realise that many of their past aspirations do not fit with the new direction of humanity. We have the skills amongst us to tackle this transition of aspirations in a truly loving and effective fashion. The transition from economic growth to purposeful degrowth is likely to heal much of the emotional angst with which our current society is plagued. This is because the frenetic pace of life which is required by growth aspirations is not appropriate when our objectives are focussed on degrowth.
Clearly economic growth is not feasible in our collapsing environment. Therefore in conjunction with the proposal for a Universal Aspiration there is also the intention to mount a formal challenge to the unwise aspirations to global economic growth. This will be achieved by challenging the viability of the existing UN Sustainable Development Goal 8, which currently sets a goal of ‘Decent Work and Economic Growth’. The latter objective of global ‘Economic Growth’ is clearly unsustainable in a finite world, especially one as depleted and ecologically damaged as ours is at the moment. Instead we are proposing to replace SDG8 with a more appropriate pair of aspirations, specifically ‘Awareness and Empowerment’.
The replacement SDG8 for achieving ‘Awareness and Empowerment’ advocates the need to ensure that all citizens with the necessary mental capacity will learn about the concept of ecological footprint and the validity of the data provided by the Global Footprint Network. Within this new SDG8 two important terms are defined, because both these phenomena contribute to the size of the ecological footprint of the human population within a country:
- Overconsumption refers to any use of affluence and technology that is considered non-essential for the basic survival, emotional well-being and emotional resilience of the overall human population.
- Overpopulation refers to a scenario in which a population exceeds the biocapacity within its borders. Lifestyles significantly influence the use of biocapacity. Therefore in affluent countries strategies for reducing overpopulation will need to include the adoption of minimalist and sustainability-oriented lifestyles.
Clearly affluent countries will have more capacity to adjust their lifestyles to address their issues of ecological overshoot. In poorer countries the ‘Empowerment’ aspect of the new SDG8 is likely to have more significance. To quote from the latest proposal for SDG8:
To urgently address the global ecological overshoot, affluent individuals are urged to reduce their consumption to essential requirements only. Where possible surplus affluence should be used in ways that will both alleviate the overshoot, and redress the unjust distribution of the resulting problems.
Some poorer countries are not empowered financially to do much about their population at the moment. They do not have access to the free contraception and free sterilisation that affluent countries enjoy. Many people in the global South are frequently compelled to choose between buying food or purchasing contraceptives, clearly food will be their priority. Their situation is often desperate, women are frequently subject to rape and prostitution with no way of preventing the inevitable outcomes.
The petition for a Universal Aspiration and the challenge to SDG8 is the way forward to allow monetarily wealthy countries to be permitted to assist with meeting unmet needs for family planning. In the past there have been anxieties that sterilisation or family planning might be mandated. For a long time these anxieties have prevented aid from being consistently available in sufficient quantities. Without a collaborative approach to the existential problems that we have created, mankind will sink into resource wars which will result in atrocities of all types. We need to break through our inhibiting anxieties of the past, the new SDG8 will encourage us to do what is necessary to address our current existential crises on every front possible, both by voluntary use of contraception and sterilisation and also by dramatic alterations in the lifestyles in affluent countries. To achieve the necessary alterations to lifestyles, affluent countries will need to be willing to dismantle many of their eco-costly social infrastructures, and they will need to agree to let go of many privileges that they currently enjoy. This will require the emotional maturity mentioned earlier and the selfless love that is mentioned in the title of this article.
The author of the petition to the UN has written a book envisaging how this transition might be achieved in the UK specifically. The book can be downloaded from this link.
For further details about these proposals please read the petition and the proposed SDG8. If you represent an NGO and your organisation would like to support these proposals please contact email@example.com.