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The Steady-State Initiative

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A Stressed Planet

We live in interesting times. We live on a stressed and distressed planet. Many environmental scientists describe in great detail how our planet is experiencing multiple stresses simultaneously. Here are some of the most striking challenges facing the earth. These are facts, not opinion.

Lost of polar ice caps

The Arctic ice cap and the Greenland and Antarctica ice sheets are melting at alarming rates. As these melt, sea levels around the world could rise by 10 to 15 meters. Many coastal settlements will be under water. As the permafrost warms up, huge amounts of methane gas will be released to the atmosphere. Methane is a greenhouse gas that has a warming effect 25 times greater than carbon dioxide. This puts the earth's thermal control system on a positive feedback loop of rising temperatures and more melting of the ice cover and permafrost.

Lost of mountain ice caps

As the ice caps and glaciers disappear, rivers such as the Ganges in India, the Yellow in China and the Colorado in the U.S.A. are experiencing reduced flow and lower levels. Communities, cities, agriculture and industry that depend on the flow of these rivers are in jeopardy.

Water shortages

As world population grows and the level of human activity increases, the demand for water also increases. The high demand for water for irrigation, industrial and human usage is causing a rapid depletion of water in lakes, rivers, underground aquifers and water tables. Lake Chad, the Aral Sea, the Sea of Galilee and the Dead Sea are all fractions of their former sizes.

Advancing deserts and loss of topsoil

Increasing numbers of humans, livestock, cattle, sheep and goats put terrain and grassland under stress. As trees, shrubs and grass are removed from the landscape, nutrient rich topsoil become exposed and is blown away in the wind. Semi-arid land is taken over by advancing deserts. Grazing land and whole settlements become consumed by the desert.

Collapsed fisheries

Nowhere are the global effects of over-harvesting more evident than in the oceans. Increased demand for seafood and advanced efficient fishing techniques and equipment have literally caused the decline and collapse of cod, herring, sole and tuna.

Coral reef dead zones

Runoffs of chemical fertilizers from agricultural land, industrial pollution and sewage find their way into the rivers and oceans. These accumulate as a toxic cesspool at the mouth of rivers and kill marine life in the coral reefs. More than 200 dead zones have been identified in the world's oceans and seas. Coral reefs are not there for their natural beauty. They provide habitat and breeding grounds for essential organisms that are the frontend of the aquatic food chain.

Shrinking forests

As forests are cleared for lumber, human habitat or cropland, they lose their ability to capture and retain rainwater. When a sufficient area of the land has been cleared, the rainforest can not longer sustain itself and the entire ecosystem of the forest collapses.

Loss of biodiversity

Humans not only slaughter excessive quantities of animals for their own personal need and profit but also human activity encroaches on their habitat and put the survival of many species at risk. Continuing competition for land for human habitation and degradation of the natural environment result in diminishing diversity of living things on the planet.

Rising carbon dioxide Levels

We continue to spew more and more CO2 into the atmosphere by burning fossil fuel in our engines, heating our homes and feeding coal-fired power generating plants. Normally, the forests and oceans would regulate the amount of CO2 in the air by sequestering excess quantities. We are generating CO2 much faster than the forests and oceans can absorb. The concentration of CO2 gas in the atmosphere has risen from about 280 ppm (parts per million) to 380 ppm. Scientists simply do not know the threshold level of CO2 concentration beyond which we would have passed the point of no return.

All of these cases of stress and distress are occurring as a result of rising human population, increasing human activity and excessive consumption of material goods. As our standard of living increases, quality of life decreases. While we see all the warning signs telling us that the planet has reached its carrying capacity, we continue on with life with business as usual. We refuse to make changes to our lifestyles, whether simple or drastic. It is as if we choose to allow ourselves to have changes forced upon us rather than to make changes through our own choice.

In order to reverse the destructive trend that we are witnessing, we must take efforts to reduce world population, curtail our desire for material goods and reduce our demands and impact on the environment.

Ask yourself...Are you committed to make a change? What changes are you willing to make today, right now, this moment, in order to preserve the planet for future generations?

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