Sometime ago, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern described climate change as her generation’s “Nuclear Free” moment. Yesterday I saw an article pointing out how wishy washy this all is.
There are several reasons why one can believe the threat of nuclear war is still the credible source of New Zealand’s “Nuclear Free” moment. They range from the departure of the U.S. from arms limitation treats such as the I.N.F., New START, and so forth; Russia and the United States actively upgrading their nuclear arsenals; upgrad the ability to deliver those warheads to the development of a new low yield nuclear warhead by the United States and the resumption of Star Wars. New Zealand might be far from it, but we will suffer as much as anyone else in a nuclear exchange of any size, duration or location.
But it is not just nuclear weapons that raise concerns. And it is because of these non-nuclear issues, that make Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern’s idea of climate being “Nuclear Free” a rather misleading one. When one considers the following issues, it becomes clear that no one man made threat is dominating in terms of what it means to humankind.
Climate change will eventually get humankind on the ropes, but I think we might be finished before then. Climate change will finish off what was already in progress. Before then biodiversity will decline to a level that cannot cope with large scale human activities, such as those which you see now.
Our biodiversity is dying at a rate that is simply not sustainable.
If you compress the life of the planet into a single day. Humankind has been on it for about one (1) minute. In that time the level of carbon in the atmosphere has risen to levels not seen for 3 million years. In that time acidification of the ocean has got so bad there are credible concerns for the future of coral reefs, urchins, shell fish and so far because they will not be able to calcify. Acidity in the ocean has increased by 26% since about 1850, which is ten times faster than the rate for the last 55 million years.
Some anthropologists believe the 6th Mass Extinction is in progress, with previous ones occurring. That might be debatable, but there is little disagreement over the fact that in the time since modern humans formed, the rate of extinction has increased dramatically.
If one combines the above with below, the case for Thomas Malthus conceived a theory of Malthusian collapse, whereby human over population exceeds production of food leading to a collapse of society. This may be achievable should our current socio-economic structure be allowed to stay standing and locking up large amounts of food and resources, which are consumed by the very rich and/or hoarded instead of being distributed to lower income and resource groups.
We already have the very rich locking up and hoarding resources. We already have a very sick planetary ecosystem with large numbers of species being wiped out. The sea, the air and the land are getting more and more toxic from industrial, farming and other pollutant discharges.
We can control this, but it would require a complete political revolution. The revolution would need to upend the laissez faire capitalist system that we operate in at the moment. It would need a fundamental overhaul of how this country produces waste and disposes of it; a significantly tighter minimum flow regimes for rivers Would New Zealand have the gumption go through with recommended changes? Possibly not – it might well muddle through just like many other nations in this community of nations – for any number and/or combination of them. And even if New Zealand does have the gumption to do something radical, it will be meaningless if the nations of influence – U.S., Russia, China, India, key E.U. nations, Canada, Brazil and Australia among others – are not on board.
So, no. Climate change is not my nuclear moment. That is still the prospect of a limited nuclear exchange (India/Pakistan), or an actual larger scale exchange (W.W.3). But realizing that a Malthusian collapse is not so unrealistic as it sounds, is. Not least because there is good reason to believe it has already started.
Why I still have some hope though, will be described in the next article.