On November 8th, 2016, a choice was been made that might push us over the environmental cliff – the election of Donald Trump as President of the United States of America. The political decisions taken in the next four years could set us down an unpredictable path of environmental transformations that will last hundreds to thousands of years. There has never been a time so dire, when short term action has had such an immense impact on long term processes. American politics and society might forever change the history of planet Earth.
The United States of America has seldom been a cooperative player on issues regarding global change; especially those concerning climate change, biodiversity loss and ecosystem degradation. The preponderant economic and developmental paradigm that USA puts forth is one of continual growth, and many times at the expense of the bountiful, although less developed nations. Several authors, organizations (Global Footprint Network) and multilateral organisms suggest that approximately three and a half planets are needed in order to provide the average American’s affluence to the rest of the seven billion people on Earth. This is a grim realty we have to face, for the continuity and well-being of the human populations depend on a cultural and value driven revolution, regarding our consumption patterns, and our relationship with the ecosystems that surround us. Without ecosystems and their limited resources, there is no technology so great or marvelous that could provide the livelihood that some of us have today.
After the Second World War, our lack of knowledge and environmental consciousness, developmental thirst and the fear of communism hyped the productive forces into a globalized scheme that has greatly damaged our planet’s ecosystems. Only recently have we began to truly understand the effect of our actions on the biosphere, and put forth partial efforts to mitigate the consequences of global change. However, as is any topic that is tangent to human well-being, freedom of agency and economic industrialization, debates regarding global change are filled with politics, uneducated opinion and what Ben Goldacre has coined “bad science”. The changes required to halt the damaging vicious cycle we are in involve immense sacrifices, and most importantly a reorganization of the balance of power and social hierarchies. Limiting carbon emissions, restricting areas for the expansion of resource exploitation and regulating industrial activity greatly damages the economic and political leverage that many countries hold. Undoubtedly, if we are to tackle global change, economies must shrink and redistribute their growth, for our planet cannot withstand unencumbered material growth as most all nations stride for. It is clear, the great and powerful will not cede their leverage for the benefit of humanity; that is a task for those who cannot pay (in money or energy) for the consequences that global change may bring.
Our present situation is much worse than many believed it would be when issues such as climate change and environmental degradation were beginning to be studied. Today, polar icecaps are melting faster, sea level is rising faster, biodiversity is shrinking faster, carbon dioxide is accumulating at a growing rate in the atmosphere and population is continually increasing, despite a slowdown in birthrates. That is why our short term actions have obtained an exponential importance regarding their long-term consequences. There has never been a time in recorded history when environmental change has happened so dramatically and fast.
Donald Trump, the new President-elect of the United States of America is, among other questionable things, a denier of climate change and has little or no regard for the environment. His economic policy proposes growth beyond that which the American and planetary ecosystems can withstand. In the globalized economy that we live today, American well-being largely depends on resources from all across the globe. The expansion of American industrialism with no regard for the environment is not only dangerous for Americans themselves, but for the entire Earth. One man, followed by a few others (unwilling to see a reality that is ever more visible), will change the course of planetary history in a matter of four to eight years. If certain thresholds are crossed, we will begin to tread down a one-way road of unpredictable global phenomena. Amongst many perturbation, rain patterns will change – making equatorial regions uninhabitable -, deforestation and loss of biodiversity will hinder our ability to produce food and fiber, many of our important urban areas (where most of the population resides) will be left underwater – forcing mass migration movements – our energy sources will be degrade rapidly and our fresh water availability will decrease well below basic necessity levels.
The fate of our planet depends on a countering of these political and economic forces that put biospheric systems on the edge. If American politics is unwilling to act on their irresponsible behavior, it is the job of every inhabitant of the Earth to take matters into their own hands. We must change our way of lives to ensure that our Home Planet continues to be a suitable living space. The next four to eight years will be critical, and one man’s decisions should not change the fate of the lives of 7 billion people and those unborn yet to come. It is my hope that the rest of the world leaders come to terms with the reality that we face, and act to counterbalance the damaging actions that a man such as Donald Trump purports. Today is a time when not only American should stick together and stand their ground, but the rest of the world as well.