human activity and the destruction of the planet

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New York City to bring lawsuits against five of the biggest oil companies

Full details of this breaking story are to be found in The Times: January 11th 2018 article by Robin Pagmanenta, Deputy Business Editor.

The global warming lawsuit claims that these oil companies have contributed towards global warming.  The first lawsuit will be brought against BP and Royal Dutch Shell.  New York city’s mayor will be claiming damages worth billions of dollars from the companies.

New York city has spent $20 billion on schemes to boost the resilience of the city to flooding  and other effects of climate change.  The mayor, Bill de Blasio, is a Democrat and is quotes as saying: “We’re bringing the fight against climate change straight to the fossil fuel companies that knew about its effects and intentionally misled the public to protect their profits…“As climate change continues to worsen, it’s up to the fossil fuel companies whose greed put us in this position to shoulder the cost of making New York safer and more resilient.”

The oil industry has been aware for decades that burning fossil fuels contributes to climate change.  This issue has been outlined in chapter 4 of my book “Three Generations Left: Human Activity and the Destruction of the Planet”, which provides data to substantiate the issue; it particularly focuses on ExxonMobil, which is one of the companies that New York City is bringing a lawsuit against, together with Chevron and Conoco Phillips.

de Blasio made the announcement as he unveiled plans for the city’s five pension funds to end their investments in fossil fuel companies. “New York City is standing up for future generations by becoming the first major US city to divest our pension funds from fossil fuels,” he said.  The city would submit a “joint resolution to pension fund trustees to begin analysing ways to divest from fossil fuel owners in a responsible way that is fully consistent with fiduciary obligations”.

Other American cities are also filing lawsuits against fossil fuel companies.

These actions are also in line with a UK initiative, which is crowdfunding to raise funds to sue the UK government for not acting to meet its targets agreed in the 2015 Paris Agreement (see earlier blog on this website). However, whilst important in drawing attention to the plight the world is in, action is needs on other fronts as well, so that the use of fossil fuels worldwide declines more rapidly.



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The Uninhabitable Earth: a worst-case climate scenario

On July 9th 2017, New York Magazine published an article with this title, which led to a burst of media comment and controversy. It quickly became the most-read article in the magazine’s history.  See:, written by David Wallace-Wells which summarises the response to the original article.

Another, deeply thoughtful, response, written by David Korten for Common Dreams is entitled, ‘For the Love of Earth’ and can be found at:

Korten discusses the concept of Earth being a living super-organism (from Lovelock – and discussed also in my book Three Generations Left). The concept is about the Earth being able to self-regulate its systems (discussed also in Chapter 1 of my book “Our Beautiful World in Harmony”, which can also be found on this website). It is widely believed by many that the earth will ultimately recover from human’s destructive behaviour, which in some has led to complacency.

Korten goes on to say that “We are destabilizing the climate through the release of sequestered carbons; disrupting natural habitats through ocean acidification and temperature change; destroying natural forest and grassland habitats; and depleting, degrading, and contaminating soils and sources of fresh water on which all species depend. This in turn drives species extinction and renders growing areas of Earth uninhabitable.”  His contention is that humans have become like an invasive species and he quotes from Clive Hamilton’s book, Defiant Earth: the Fate of Humans in the Anthropocene”, also reviewed in the Guardian:

Korten’s view is that, having brought the earth and its species to the brink of extinction, it is now our responsibility to heal it – and that we do have this within our power.


All this puts me in the mind of a piece I read this morning, some research by geoscientists, who have drawn the conclusion that the human species first left Africa to settle in Asia and Europe 60,000 years ago, in order to escape a climate change phenomenon. Using sediment samples from the Horn of Africa, the team found that Africa had undergone a major climate transformation at that time. Its previously fertile ‘Green Sahara’ had started to dry out, in fact at around the time humanity started to leave the Sahara was even drier than it is now, and a lot colder.


People are already saying that there is now nowhere on Earth that we can escape to this time, and suggesting that we need to find another planet to live on.

Can we heal the effects of what we have done here – or is it already too late?

Yet another take on it all was published in The Times on 19th September 2017 by their Environment Editor, Ben Webster.  His review suggests that senior scientists are now saying that the worst impacts of climate change can still be avoided, as the world is warming more slowly than they had forecast earlier using computer models.  New projections suggest that the world has now a better chance of meeting the 1.5 degrees target of global warming, than was previously thought. The study is published in Nature Geoscience. See the Times article at:

However, as mentioned above, I don’t think there is any room for complacency.  How do we know that these scientists have not come under political pressure from those with business interests and want to keep the status quo?  But it suggests that we still have time to heal the effects of what we have done. Perhaps we should listen to David Korten. But are enough of us fully motivated to make the lifestyle changes that are needed?