‘Breathing in poison’
‘More plastic than fish in oceans by 2050’
‘The climate refugees of the Arctic’
‘How humans are driving the sixth mass extinction’
‘Deforestation may threaten majority of Amazon tree species’
‘August ties July for hottest month on record’
It is surely a defining characteristic of our times that headlines such as these have become commonplace in the media. Perhaps they no longer even shock most readers. The fact that you have picked up this book is a good indicator that this kind of news concerns you. But if you do find yourself rather unalarmed by those headlines, think for a moment of how your father or grandmother may have reacted if they were reading the same news at your age (here's a hint: plastic only really entered consumer markets after World War Two). Today many of us could recite a long list of problems that ail the earth: climate change, species extinction, deforestation, air and water pollution, resource depletion, etcetera. But what drives these problems? What are their underlying causes? What are governments, the United Nations, corporations, and individuals doing to ameliorate these problems? Are their actions making any difference? The aim of this book is to take you behind the headlines of environmental news stories and find answers to these questions.
We begin this chapter by taking a look at the current state of the planet. Human activity has had such a massive impact on the environment that scientists now say that we have provoked an epochal shift: the planet is no longer in the Holocene but the Anthropocene, the era of the human. We will look at the socio-economic trends and earth system trends that underpin this claim. We then consider the ways in which global environmental issues are political issues, and what this means for our capacity to resolve problems like climate change, deforestation, and hazardous waste. Various actors are involved in the political processes that aim to improve environmental conditions (states, scientists, civil society, and business), and we briefly review the roles they play. Finally, you'll find an outline of the book, including summaries of each chapter.
State of the Planet
Humans are just one of the 8 million species that occupy the earth (UNEP 2011).