Visionary Perspective - The
Millennium Ecosystem Assessment
Earth Manifesto Insights
Tiffany B. Twain
Ecosystem Assessment released in July 2005 provides mankind with both a stark
warning and compelling reasons for hope.
This Assessment confirms that the human race is unsustainably consuming
natural resources, and that at the same time we are significantly degrading the
ecosystems upon which we completely depend. The report makes it clear that the harmful consequences of this
degradation will grow worse in the next 50 years. Thus it is critically important that we make bold changes in our
attitudes, behaviors, actions, markets, institutions and public policies.
activity is putting such strain on the natural functions of Earth that the
ability of the planet's ecosystems to sustain future generations can no longer
be taken for granted." Yikes! ---
We must heed these overarching risks!
Ecosystem Assessment is the most comprehensive document ever published
regarding the growing existential challenges facing the human race. This assessment was prepared by almost 1,400
experts in 95 countries after 4 years of research that was focused on human ecosystem
impacts and the probable consequences of changing conditions on human
well-being. (For details, see the website at www.MillenniumAssessment.org).
extensively analyzes not only the growing problems confronting us, but also the
best hopes and the many options and the tremendous scope of potential positive
actions that could and should be undertaken to avert the growing potential for
environmental and social calamities. Unfortunately,
business-as-usual politics and most of the forces that defend established power
and privilege are manifesting an increased rigidity, aggressiveness, opposition
to social justice, doctrinaire unfairness, and stubborn dogmatic resistance to
progressive change. Humanity must alter
its course, and embrace healthy initiatives that could lessen the severity of
the damages we are causing.
Ecosystem Assessment should contribute to our awakening to the true nature of
our interdependencies, and to the real seriousness of ecological challenges. It provides us with common sense strategies
and new, bold, honest and enlightened ways to protect the health and vitality
of our environment. It emphasizes that
we must protect and enhance vital ecosystem services. And we must conserve resources, minimize pollution, mitigate the
production of toxins and greenhouse gas emissions, and strive to help preserve
basic needs, together with the powerful motives for greed, money, power and
control, are combining to wastefully and unsustainably use up natural
resources, and to harm ecological systems that are critical to the health,
balance, and prosperity of the human race. In addition, mindless consumerism and rapid population growth not
only threaten our own well-being today, but also that of all future
generations. And our impacts are
diminishing the fundamental biological diversity of life on planet Earth.
the environment should be a kind of instinctive self-preservation. Such concerns are not some form of misguided
liberalism. Mankind is winning a string
of Pyrrhic victories over the natural world at a staggering cost. The terrible extent of the harm and adverse
consequences of these "victories" is becoming more and more clear as
our human activities increasingly dominate and threaten to overwhelm natural
systems. We must not fail to
effectively address problems caused by pollution, depletion, resource
exhaustion, environmental damages, militarism, and regressive economic and
The majority of
human beings struggle to meet their basic physiological needs for food,
shelter, and security, as well as their psychological needs for belonging,
acceptance, and accomplishment. It is
up to more highly self-actualized, progressive-minded people to demand that societies
strive for values that are characterized by greater public-spiritedness,
vision, depth, meaning, connectedness, empathy, and nobility of purpose. Grassroots movements must support broad and
positive social action.
must step forward to thwart the narrow and selfish interests that defend the
status quo. They must speak truth to
manipulative forces of entrenched power. They must strive to offset the reactionary strength of regressive
and repressive ideologies. Republican conservatives
and established Churches, as epitomized by the new Pope, are highly motivated
to dominate and control society by cynically "putting the smackdown on
heresy", but humanity is arguably in ever-greater need of intuitive
wisdom, open-mindedness, and adaptive flexibility. We must be more willing to enact long-term-oriented visionary
change. We must establish fairer social
policies, create greater ecological sanity, encourage peaceful coexistence, improve
mutual security, foster religious tolerance, empower women, and encourage the
use of contraceptives to prevent unwanted pregnancies and reduce the transmission
of sexual diseases and slow population growth.
We must move in
the direction of sustainable actions, for the fact is that sustainability is
the key purpose of existence. All forms
of life strive to survive, and survival is synonymous with a sustained
existence. Therefore, activities that
are sustainable represent the ultimate utilitarian and moral good.
It is ethically
and morally wrong to allow the forces of exploitative capitalism, resource
depletion, environmental damage, doctrinal rigidity, traditionalism, and
defense of the privileged to irreparably harm people and the prospects of
future generations. Profit-obsessed
corporations, right-wing Republicans, and conservative religious leaders today
dominate our decision-making and our institutions. We cannot afford to continue allowing greed, corruption,
orthodoxy, and shortsightedness to become so powerful and fashionable that we
can no longer see the truth. The truth
is that the only way for us to survive and prosper is to boldly transform our
societies in response to changing circumstances. We must use our wisdom, reason, far-sighted intelligence,
technological innovation, progressive understanding, spiritual concern, and
passionate caring for the greater good.
The health of
our children and their descendents is more important than ruthless strategies
for increasing short-term profits for Big Business at the public's expense. We must prioritize our decision-making so
that all issues are resolved in favor of choices that benefit the public health
and welfare, instead of giving greater power to corporations to pollute and degrade
the environment and to deplete resources and to advance business prerogatives
at the expense of social well-being.
We must courageously
transform our societies in response to unprecedented social, demographic, and
environmental changes that are taking place. We must shift our priorities and make radical changes in the ways
that Earth's ecosystems are treated at every level of decision-making. We must dramatically curtail the degradation
of Earth's habitats and ecosystems.
New avenues of
cooperation between individuals, businesses, government, civil society, and
other nations must be developed and embraced. Those who defend the status quo must accept changes to our current
economic and political systems. We must
redesign them in ways that ensure we respect the importance of healthy
ecosystem services. Local communities must
help to protect the environment. More
enlightened policy-making must be implemented in such areas as investment,
trade, incentives, green taxes, sensible farsighted regulation, technology, positive
innovation, international banking, and foreign policy.
Some say that
"environmentalism is dead"; that
mankind is triumphing over nature; that
God is going to whip the Devil, with some absolute form of good triumphing over
a clear evil; that faith will save us; and that the free market will ensure that
everything will automatically work out for the best.
Yet our world
is clearly flawed due to growing insecurities, serious social inequities, grave
injustices, and extreme unfairness of privilege. A growing lack of community, and confusion and alienation caused
by both envy and contempt, are contributing to this malaise. Economic and political tyranny and abuses of
power are making things worse rather than improving them. Aggression by defenders of the Establishment
and retaliation by terrorists are causing terrible injustices. Civic indifference and Procrustean
conformity in the face of needed change are likewise having adverse effects.
better world. It's easy if you try. Hope, confidence, optimism, positive dreams,
faith, and nobility of intention provide a wholesome starting point. But wishful thinking alone is inadequate. Critical thinking, clear reasoning,
freethinking, fair-mindedness, and committed caring are valuably important to
It is a great
irony that in our collective struggle to make ourselves more secure, we are
inexorably creating ever-greater mutual
insecurity. Fear-fanned worries
about terrorism assails us, so we are spending hundreds of billions of dollars
to attack and repress this tactic. Yet
militarism, aggression, prisoner torture, and born-again self-righteousness in
the face of injustices and religious fundamentalism are approaches that
exacerbate problems instead of helping to solve them.
threats than terrorism loom before us.
Degradation and destabilization of ecosystems, together with human
exacerbated changes in the global climate, are putting tens of millions of
people at risk. We must change our
priorities in recognition of the seriousness of these dangers.
The best way
for the human race to ensure its survival and prosperity is to be flexible and
nimble in adapting to rapidly changing conditions. As our understanding becomes more and more clear and
comprehensive, we must act more intelligently to adapt our behaviors and institutions
to wiser ways of living and being. We
could and should strive to make ourselves safer by enacting fairer economic
policies and programs that are more just and humanitarian. We must create more sustainable development
initiatives and more cooperative international agreements and more ecologically
In addition, we
must recognize that our species' often-desperate struggle for survival
represents a terrible adversity to millions of other species of life. We are becoming the worst living scourge in
the long history of life on Earth. We
are insidiously upsetting the health, balance, beauty and sustainability of
natural systems. We are devastating
many of the species of life that we share the planet with. We are doing this by over-harvesting wildlife,
over-fishing the seas, and clear-cutting rain forests. We are destroying habitats, fragmenting Earth’s
ecosystems, extensively exploiting and depleting mineral and fresh water resources,
and altering the global climate by pouring greenhouse gases into the skies. And we are introducing pest species into new
niches worldwide, and creating and dispersing pollutants and poisonous toxins, and
rapidly increasing our needy human numbers, and idolizing hyper-stimulated
economic growth, and borrowing enormous sums of money from the future.
The result of
this assault on the diversity of life constitutes a grave threat to our own
well-being as well as to that of all future generations of our descendents. We are figuratively sawing off the limbs of the
tree of life upon which we are ever-more precariously perched. We are speeding towards the precipice of Peak
Oil, and of a dangerous scarcity of fresh water. We are sowing the seeds of heightened conflict over resources, and
of social instability that is being driven by increasing injustices and
overpopulation. We are creating a
dangerous imbalance between what Nature can provide and the demands of
desperate human needs and growing desires and the arrogant compulsions of
carelessly unbridled greed.
We must wake up
and pay more concerned, mindful attention! The maelstrom of obsessive activities in pursuit of meeting the
needs of our daily lives tends to blind us to perspectives that more clearly
recognize the ecological Bigger Picture. We are figuratively failing to see the forest for the trees. Deeper purposes and meanings are too
frequently being overlooked in our preoccupation with materialistic pursuits,
perks, privileges, busy obligations, chores, sensational news stories, sporting
diversions, and selfishly myopic involvements. We must find ways to reform the economic status quo, and to
mitigate the strength of entrenched resistance to necessary positive change.
We also need a
greater open-heartedness and broad-mindedness to help us cope successfully with
widespread poverty on Earth. We need
the courage to act wisely in the best interests of future generations, rather
than continuing to pander to misguided, retrogressive, shortsighted vested interests.
There are, of
course, many ways of looking at things, and many possible interpretations of
experiences and occurrences. There are
many opposing worldviews and viewpoints.
The range of competitively partisan interests in our societies is
astoundingly extensive. An infinite
variety of circumstances exists, and a great subjectivity. There is a great depth of complexity of
ideas, involvements, perspectives, and implications. Dilemmas and conundrums abound. Yet truth is not some arbitrary, unknowable, mythological, or
relativistic notion that is independent of reason.
In the final
analysis, our behavior and institutions must be modified to be more respectful
of moderation and the striving for greater good and a commitment to fair
policies as characterized by the Golden Rule. We must begin to understand and accept greater truths about
society, and life, and our interconnectedness with nature. This is necessary in order for humanity to foster
a just, sustainable, and healthy future.
I have a dream,
and that dream is that one day there will be greater justice, better equality
under the law, more widespread freedom, and greater civic-mindedness,
intelligence of action, far-sightedness, ecological sanity, and mutual
security. Wisdom simply must triumph
over ignorance and shortsightedness; generosity
and fairness must win out over greed and corporate privilege; and compassionate understanding must prevail
over hard-line selfishness and vindictive self-righteousness.
are my strongly felt and passionate perspective. I hope that the reader will see their value, and take action in
whatever ways that they are able. We
must help to improve conditions and alter the harmful trends identified in the
Millennium Ecosystem Assessment. Please
peruse other ideas in the Earth Manifesto for more comprehensive ideas on how
this can be done!
Note: See One Dozen
Big Initiatives to Positively Transform Our Societies and the Progressive Agenda for a More Sane Humanity
in Part Four of the Earth Manifesto for good ideas on how to accomplish the
daunting changes that we need.