page started 7-16-2020
The Myth of Sustainability
Guy R. McPherson*Corresponding authorGuy R. McPherson, Professor Emeritus, University of Arizona.Submitted: 26 June 2020; Accepted: 02 July 2020; Published:08 July 2020ISSN: 2639-7455www.opastonline.com
Humans are able to sustain neither industrial civilization nor our species, Homo sapiens. Whereas many pre-civilized groups practiced sustainability, contemporary industrial civilization is not sustainable. Indeed, global industrial civilization underlies abrupt, irreversible climate change and also the ongoing Mass Extinction Event. We continue to overheat Earth, which is already at the highest global-average temperature with our species present. The rapidity of environmental change is increasing and will continue to accelerate with either increased industrial activity or, paradoxically, diminished industrial activity. This paper offers a path forward for all of us, and especially those who wish to educate others, in light of these daunting facts. If our species is destined for extinction, as all species are, then how shall we proceed? If our species is destined for extinction in the near term, as seems apparent, then how shall we proceed? What is the role of educators in the face of an existential threat?
According to an overview published by European Strategy and Policy Analysis System in April 2019 , an “increase of 1.5 degrees is the maximum the planet can tolerate; … at worst, [such a rise in temperature above the 1750 baseline will cause] the extinction of humankind altogether.” In other words, according to this major synthesis, we have passed the point beyond which human extinction is likely to occur. After all, Earth is currently at least 2 C above the 1750 baseline .One common suggestion in response to our fossil-fueled dilemma is to reduce fossil-fuel emissions. However, slowing or stopping industrial activity heats Earth even faster than the ongoing planetary heating resulting from industrial civilization. Industrial activity not only produces the greenhouse gases that heat Earth, but industrial activity also produces the aerosol masking effect that keeps Earth cool . The aerosol masking effect has been greatly underestimated, as pointed out in recent research by [28-30]. The collective evidence indicates a 1 C rise in global-average temperature will occur within a few days or weeks after industrial activity is reduced by as little as 20%, as summarized by [10, 14]. (bold is mine)