Three Generations Left? Human Activity and the Destruction of the Planet” is a book written by Dr Christine Parkinson and published in October 2016 by New Generation Publishing. The book describes how a whole host of factors are all having the effect of increasing carbon emissions, which will ultimately lead to the destruction of the planet. The three generations idea in the title refers to the fact that scientists have predicted that, in three generations time (or by the end of the century), we will have lost many of the species that inhabit the earth, due to habitat loss, inadequate food sources or climate change. They are predicting another mass extinction event, the sixth in the history of this planet.
The book is divided into chapters, each concerned with a different issue that is upsetting the balance of the planet. Each chapter will have a different page in this blog. They include:
- Our beautiful planet in harmony;
- The industrial revolution;
- Human Inventiveness and the Concepts of Progress and Freedom;
- Trading Systems, Deficits and the Concept of Growth;
- World Human Population, Past, Present and Future;
- Conflict, Conquest, Weaponry, Wars and the Power of Propaganda;
- The Economy;
- Global Networks;
- Bringing it all together and a way forward;
- End Piece Two.
The book includes illustrations to help clarify the issues and is written in an easily-readable style, as it is targeted towards people who might not normally read books on this subject. It is believed that, by bringing many people to an understanding of how urgent the issue is, we may begin to see lobbying throughout the world, for governments to take heed of, and legislate on, the factors that continue to add to the carbon load on the planet. It is urgent that something is done and not just done locally but by international co-operation throughout the globe.
It is considered that the book might be suitable for use in secondary schools and/or undergraduate courses. New sections are added to this website, as new information comes to light; this might be used when preparing lesson plans and/or chapter summaries with questions which might be used for homework.
The INTRODUCTION to the book is included below:
In 1994 I went on a sabbatical trip around the world, the purpose of which was to meet women engaged in social mission in the cities of this world and to learn from them. It was like a pilgrimage. I met with inspirational women, lived alongside the poor myself and met several visionary people, whose books and projects continue to inspire me. I wrote up the details of this journey in a book and the following (italicised) is a direct quote from my first book1.
“I met indigenous people and visionary leaders in the Far East, Australia and South Asia. I tasted the colourful diversity and beauty of the world and returned exhilarated. But I also saw much that was not good:
First, and most important, was the pollution suffocating each of the cities I visited, caused by filthy fumes belched from immobile traffic jams, from elderly motor cars, factory chimneys, gigantic airliners and forest fires. An immense, choking, cloud of blue-grey haze hung over each city, destroying the ozone layer, causing global warming, the melting of the ice caps, famine, flooding and changes in climate in all parts of the world – a series of events that may have already gone too far to be reversed.
Second, I witnessed extreme poverty in some parts of the world: mothers with tiny, malnourished babies, begging for scraps, alongside the sick, leprous and disabled, whilst in nearby hotels, the rich gorged themselves in hedonistic displays of self-indulgence. Governments and developed nations seemed oblivious to the suffering of the poor, which I saw as a violation of human dignity, and so little was being done.
Third, I saw that the world had been taken over by greedy merchants. By this, I don’t just mean the rip-off merchants to be found in every port of the world; I mainly refer to the people who trade in all kinds of goods for their own benefit, regardless of the effect this has on the stability of the world, its ecosystems, its mineral and animal resources, its local economies and cultural traditions. Examples of this are the following trades: the capture and international trade in rare species, ivory, fur, immature primates etc.; the development of animal foodstuffs from animal carcases (creating cannibalism in ruminant species and diseases like BSE and CJD); the holding of developing countries to ransom by powerful banks, through exploitative usury; a similar use of oil (itself a dangerous pollutant) by oil-producing countries; the development of powerful, polluting and dangerous motor vehicles for their owner’s enjoyment; the development of genetically-modified foods for commercial purposes; the unnecessary transport of foods across continents, adding to the pollution and global warming; currency speculation – an international casino in which unscrupulous traders destroy the economies of whole nations; multi-national trading by powerful companies, which destroys local cultures and gains profits by avoiding national controls; the siting of polluting factories close to human populations. The list could go on….
What I see is a blindness of thought, insularity, a lack of responsibility for the wider damage caused by individual actions in all three dimensions, all three inextricably bound together. There is a dogged belief in freedom – but freedom for its own sake, without responsibility, without compassion, runs unchecked. Politicians promote a market economy as if it were a good thing but I saw that it was at the root of the cycle of destruction. Left without controls, it leads to competition and materialism, acquisitiveness spreading like a cancer, greed, the exploitation of one group, nation, or species by another, the concomitant resentment triggering jealousy and wars, with the end result being the ultimate destruction of our beautiful world by selfish people. Rather than assessing needs to develop standards, values and strategies, the vagaries of the market determine priorities and direction, so that the rich benefit at the expense of the poor, as well as at the expense of the planet…..
Tinkering with these issues at G8 summits is not enough. Resolving conflicts of interest through threats and wars, and the offering of paltry aid to poor countries are also totally inadequate. To reverse current trends, and to prevent the destruction of the world, there is an urgent need for co-operation between nations, in which the commonality of the human condition is stressed, rather than its diversity. Then, mankind might find a way to tackle global warming, to alleviate extreme poverty and to frustrate the exploitation of the merchants. One vehicle for this might be through a reformed and inclusive United Nations, commissioned to act with robust determination to save the planet, its peoples and all its beautiful creatures.”
The things that I saw and the people that I met during those months of travel continue to influence and encourage me. On my return to the UK, inspired by what I had seen, I went on to set up two more social projects for marginalised people living in the inner city of Birmingham. The setting up of these projects is what has delayed me in the writing of this book. It has taken me 22 years to actually put pen to paper about the issue of climate change.
At about the same time as I was writing my first book, I also received a number of letters from a friend and neighbour, Barbara Panvel, who divided her time between living in Mumbai, India, and in the UK. One day she was meditating whilst in India and felt compelled to write to me about a new initiative that she was being led to develop. She sent me a New Era Statement (see Table 1) for my comment. At that time, she hoped to establish a coalition of like-minded people who would identify with the statement. She later set up a New Era Network website and, initially involved several people from her wide circle of contacts in writing reports on “Counting the Costs” (of our present system); these reports are made available on the website. The first of these, written in 2005 by Jeremy Seabrook, Mark Tully and Molly Scott Cato (now a Green MEP)2. I will draw on this material in the writing of this book, as it provides statistics which give weight to the theory that I will attempt to expound.
More than ten years have passed since Barbara set up the website and it is still active, containing a wealth of positive information, added to daily, about initiatives that may bring about the changes to our society that we seek.
As we continued our correspondence between Mumbai and Birmingham, we came to an understanding that, rather than listing all the negatives about our present dysfunctional society, we needed to define what a civilised society might look like. So, we put together a list, which each of us has used in our separate ways since then. Barbara constructed several websites associated with the list and adds material to them regularly. The websites are shown below:
Civilisation 3000 (civilised attitudes to defence) http://civilisation3000.wordpress.com/
Airstrikes: (formerly Drone Warfare) – https://dronewarfare.wordpress.com
C3000 – Antidote to gloom (positive news) : https://antidotecounteragent.wordpress.com/
Nuclear Industries (environment, defence) https://nuclearindustries.wordpress.com/
Political Concern website: http://politicalcleanup.wordpress.com/
Fair Deal Food: (justice) https://fairdealfooduk.wordpress.com/
Chemical Concern (health of people and environment): http://gmandchemicalindustry9.wordpress.com/
Waterway Freight – (cleaner greener transport, environment) https://wordpress.com/view/addressingthetenpercent.wordpress.com
Another World is Possible – visionary ideas by authoritative people – https://preparingforgovernment.wordpress.com/
Localising: a re-skilled Britain – (environment, social justice) https://idiocracy331103922.wordpress.com/
Working for Future Generations – on a shoestring – https://good426.wordpress.com/about/
Future Generations & Climate Change – https://chsandsachetan.wordpress.com
New Era Network: (individuals working for a better world): https://notthembutus.wordpress.com/
The sites are visited regularly by hundreds of people from across the globe. It is a valuable piece of work and I have drawn on articles posted on the websites in the writing of this book.
I expanded the list of the characteristics of a civilised society to a total of 17 factors and published it at the end of my first book (shown here in Table 2). Some might think this list to be somewhat Utopian – and it probably is, as there is no doubt that no society exists today, anywhere in the world, which could tick all 17 boxes. Maybe there are some which could tick none of them. But we need a model to aspire to and this list is as good as any other.
In 1979, James Lovelock, an eminent British scientist, published a theory, which he named “Gaia”3. It is an inspirational and classic work, which sees the evolution of life and the evolution of the Earth as a single, tightly-coupled process from which the self-regulation of the environment emerges. It is now available in paperback. As a scientist myself (life sciences), I find his theory fascinating and compelling. As a Christian who strongly believes in good stewardship of the earth, I also find it exciting. The main thrust of Lovelock’s theory is the inter-connection of all the ecosystems on earth and in the atmosphere. If one thing goes out of kilter, such as too much carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, then the whole of life on earth will be affected. And we are living in such a time, with global warming caused by an excess of carbon dioxide, leading to climate change and catastrophic weather events and the loss of indigenous species, with the eventual destruction of the planet, and the life on it, if nothing is done to stop the process by re-balancing the systems and cycles and reducing carbon emissions.
It is my belief that the social, demographic, industrial, trading and economic systems on this earth have a similar inter-connectedness, with each other and also with environmental ecosystems. The purpose of this book is to try to demonstrate this inter-connectedness. I am a scientist and a social entrepreneur, not an economist, but I will draw on other people’s theories in those areas where I am less qualified.
We have all seen experimental set-ups with dominos – thousands of them set up in a pattern across a room – then one domino is pushed over, to start a chain reaction in which they all eventually tumble over. I believe it is the same with the inter-connected systems of this world – if one gets out of balance, then all the others will eventually follow, tumbling down into chaos, like a house of cards.
All of the inter-connected factors will be dealt with separately, in their own chapters but I hope to show in this book how they each overlap, connect and influence all the others. There are certain books, which I have drawn on particularly and I would recommend them to anybody who wishes to study this subject further. They include:
Winin Pereira and Jeremy Seabrook (1996) Asking the Earth – the spread of unsustainable development4;
Richard Douthwaite (1999) The Growth Illusion5;
Paul Rogers (2012) ORG Special Briefing6;
George Monbiot: www.monbiot.com and his various articles in the Guardian7;
James Lovelock (2009) Gaia3.
And, in addition to these, I must add Naomi Klein’s book, “This Changes Everything”7. Her book came to my attention when I had written about half of my book and it is rapidly moving to the position of being a classic work on climate change. I refer to some of her ideas in the later chapters of my book.
A learned colleague of mine, who was also an editor, once advised me that, when writing up my scientific research for publication, I should aim to explain things so simply that an elderly aunt might be able understand them. Whilst his comments were both ageist and sexist, I have understood the spirit of his comment and I still try to take his advice when I write. Much of this book is therefore written in a fairly simple style, in the hope that non-scientists will be able to understand it. I believe this is important because, whilst there are many people in the world who read, and link into the New Era Network and Civilisation websites, there are many more others who seem unaware of the dangers that we face on this planet, if we continue with our present way of life. Maybe these others have been influenced by the right wing press into thinking that what the scientists are saying is not true or is overly exaggerated. I would like this book to be read, and understood, by many people, for it is only when the masses come together to lobby for change, that change will occur. The political powers, both nationally and globally, have too much vested interest in maintaining current systems and economies, to bring about the changes that are urgently needed. Their links with the business world also affect their ability to see the situation holistically and objectively.
But I apologise in advance to those people who find this book too simple or who believe that I am telling them what they already know. If you are one of these, please bear with me as there may be something new for you here among the pages – or material that you can use in your own awareness-raising and/or lobbying for change.
NEW ERA STATEMENT
“Actively, or through our inactivity, we have fashioned a society whose members are fed on polluted food, breathe toxic air, have varying degrees of ill health or disease due to damaged immune systems, and are distressed by rising levels of violence – nationally and internationally.
Having historically deprived our young people of the ability to be independent by taking their share of the commons – land, skills and the means of production – all we can currently offer them is a poisoned chalice, containing no hope of a better future and the abhorrent legacy of nuclear waste.
To enter a new era by effecting beneficial change, we think it important that people rescind their acceptance of the party political system and of the current economic mythology which has brought about our present social, psychological environmental stresses and distresses.
The decision-making, which has led us into our present situation, has been conducted within the framework of a party political system, which attracts people, greedy for power and/or money, to come forward and govern. Most able, honest and altruistic people will not contemplate taking part in it as presently constituted.
Conventional classic economic theory and practice ignores the basic rights of the majority in order to make huge profits for a minority – similarly greedy for power and money.
People who are altruistic, demonstrably honest (in financial and personal dealings), aware that every one of our institutions is failing and are seeking wholesome alternatives, need to come together…..
A New Era Movement would grow organically….. Its emphasis would be to promote and celebrate ethically sound, socially just, environmentally sustainable developments in every sphere.”
NEW ERA: CIVILISATION 21st CENTURY
In a civilised society people should have:
- Pure drinking water;
- Clean air;
- Sufficient food to keep them from starvation, that is uncontaminated by pesticides, genetic modification, food-chain-infringement or other pollution;
- Adequate shelter from the elements;
- Access to good, affordable medical care;
- The opportunity of high quality education throughout their lives;
- Opportunities to participate in self-fulfilling work;
- An expectation that they will be cared for in a thoughtful, un-violating way, should they become orphaned, injured, disabled or disadvantaged in any way;
- A choice of sustainable livelihoods;
- Freedom of (courteous) speech;
- Effective participation in decision-making;
- An agreed code or legal system, effectively and democratically implemented;
- Freedom of association (political, religious etc.);
- An ability to move within society without fear of violence, abuse, derogation, marginalisation or exploitation;
- Respect for the needs, dignity and rights of other peoples and species inhabiting the globe;
- Honesty and transparency in both financial and personal relationships and dealings;
- Opportunities to resolve problems through dialogue and non-violent action – at local, regional, national and international level.