Millennium Alliance for Humanity and Biosphere
Blog by Arthur Dahl
More than 50 years ago, one of my professors at Stanford University was Paul Ehrlich, who introduced me to the science of ecology. He has since become a leading thinker in population studies and conservation biology. A few years ago, he admitted that science alone was not going to save the world, and that something like a religion was needed to motivate action. As a dedicated humanist, he founded the Millennium Alliance for Humanity and Biosphere (MAHB) (https://mahb.stanford.edu/) to try to fill the gap.
The MAHB’s humanists collaborate to:
1. Understand and communicate foresight intelligence; and
2. Create a vision of a plausible and compelling world in 2050 which is moving towards sustainability and social equity.
The MAHB is an Alliance of individuals and organizations concerned about the existential threats to civilization. It is working to create a vision of a world moving rapidly towards sustainability in 2050. MAHB teams are defining what a future smart world in 2050 might look like—a compelling world of some 9 billion people. Building on a growing scholarly effort, the MAHB is in the process of describing economic systems that depend on agility and equity without depending on growth, social systems that recognize the limits of our ecosystems, energy and resource infrastructure, and governance for a world where most people can meet their basic needs while enjoying a high quality of life.
The MAHB includes scholars working across disciplines to build the knowledge that is necessary for civil society and governments to act in ways that will have the highest positive impact quickly; it is assembling resources on the MAHB website to become the “go to” place for the best literature, multi-media materials, analysis, movies, and editorials on the interconnected issues threatening humanity and it’s life support systems. The MAHB website catalogs and makes available ideas of activities for high impact action. All of this is done with a sense of urgency. If we are to reverse the degradation of the systems that support civilization, we need to act now. The MAHB aspires to make available the tools necessary for fostering a contagion, a passion for action.
One MAHB member, Jeremy Lent, published a blog on 2 January on “What Will It Really Take to Avoid Collapse?” (https://mahb.stanford.edu/blog/avoid-collapse/). A few excerpts from his blog follow:
“Fifteen thousand scientists have issued a dire warning to humanity about impending collapse but virtually no-one takes notice. Ultimately, our global systems, which are designed for perpetual growth, need to be fundamentally restructured to avoid the worst-case outcome.” [see the article in the December IEF Leaves https://iefworld.org/newslt102]
“For a moment, the most important news in the entire world flashed across the media like a shooting star in the night sky. Then it was gone. In November, over fifteen thousand scientists from 184 countries issued a dire warning to humanity. Because of our overconsumption of the world’s resources, they declared, we are facing ‘widespread misery and catastrophic biodiversity loss.’ They warned that time is running out: ‘Soon it will be too late to shift course away from our failing trajectory.’
“This is not the first such notice. Twenty-five years ago, in 1992, 1,700 scientists (including the majority of living Nobel laureates) sent a similarly worded warning to governmental leaders around the world. In ringing tones, they called for a recognition of the earth’s fragility and a new ethic arising from the realization that ‘we all have but one lifeboat’.
“Along with their warning, the scientists list a dozen or so examples of the kind of actions that could turn humanity’s trajectory around. These include indisputably necessary strategies such as halting the conversion of native habitats into farmland; restoring and rewilding ecologies; phasing out fossil fuel subsidies; and promoting dietary shifts toward plant-based foods. With the future of humanity at stake, why aren’t we already doing these things? What will it really take for our civilization to change course and save itself from destruction?
“Which leads us to some of the underlying structural changes that need to occur if human civilization is to avoid collapse. The fundamental problem is brutally simple: our world system is based on the premise of perpetual growth in consumption, which puts it on a collision course with the natural world. Either the global system has to be restructured, or we are headed for a catastrophe of immense proportions that has never been experienced in human history. However, the transnational corporations largely responsible for driving this trajectory are structurally designed to prevent the global changes that need to take place.
“Like any Ponzi scheme, this global growth frenzy is based on maintaining the illusion for as long as possible. Once it becomes clear that this rate of growth is truly unsustainable, the whole house of cards will come tumbling down. We saw in the 2008 financial meltdown a relatively tame dress rehearsal for what a full-scale financial collapse would look like.
“However, the only thing that will truly avert collapse will be a radical restructuring of the economic system that is driving us ever more rapidly to that precipice. This will only come about when enough of us are ready to jettison the consumer values that pervasive mainstream culture foists on us. In their place, we need to find other sources for meaning in our lives: growing the quality of our experiences rather than our consumption, building our communities together, and reconnecting with the natural world.
“There are radically different ways for a society to function effectively that could apply to nations around the world if given half a chance. A flourishing future might involve more cooperative ventures, protection and expansion of the commons, and enhanced global governance with strict penalties for those who destroy ecological wellbeing. Collapse isn’t the only future in store for humanity—it’s merely the one we’re headed for unless and until we change course. Since the mainstream media isn’t going to get the word out, it has to be up to each of us who cares about the future of the human race. So, let’s get to it.”
To read the whole blog, go to https://mahb.stanford.edu/blog/avoid-collapse/
Last updated 12 February 2018