Thursday, January 18, 2007

State of the Earth Report

This is reposted from

The Green Party of the United States EcoAction Committee marks Earth Day 2006 with its State of the Earth Report.

Posted April 25, 2006

Human life relies entirely on the Earth's complex and resilient Biosphere and the Ecosystems that sustain it. The oxygen we breathe is replenished by plants, which also help to create the soil in which we grow our food to feed our children. Our wastes are cleansed and our water is purified through wetland ecosystems. Much of the building materials for our homes are derived from the forests we love or from the rock we stand upon. The air, food, water, and shelter that benefits us as a species; all of these are supplied by the Earth's ecosystems.

While the Biosphere of the Earth is inherently resilient it not impervious to harm. The diversity of the Earth's species enables this inherent resilience and leads to an ever evolving yet subtle equilibrium. Existing niches are filled and re-filled leading to new and more specialized species which, in the face of environmental change, respond to produce highly functional and elegant adaptations. The resiliency of Ecosystems can be measured by the level of species diversity, and thus, are threatened when ever-expanding resource depletion and environmental degradation exceed the replenishment capacity of the Biosphere. Human induced environmental changes that exceed the natural pace of specie adaptation leads to mass extinction, weakened ecosystems and a reduced Biosphere.

On this Earth Day, the current rate of species extinction has never before been matched, not even by the great mass extinctions observed in the fossil record. Those were periods of geologically induced ecological collapse when the character of life on Earth changed over millions of years, or a geological-blink of an eye. The boundary of the Cretaceous-Tertiary extinction event in the geological record shows the effect of mass extinction, where approximately 50% of all plant and animal species on the Earth disappeared.

While there maybe multiple hypotheses for the cause of the extinction, there is no debate on the effect. After mass-extinction events geologist have noted "gaps" in the fossil record. These gaps are understood to be a time of measured recovery of the species diversity that is characteristic of robust ecosystems.

That is, the recovery of healthy ecosystems that are capable of sustaining large creatures, like human beings, took geologic periods of time to retrieve their lost diversity.

It has only been a few decades since humans first realized that their actions, deforestation for example, can be directly responsible for causing high rates of extinction in sentinel species. What we know now, on this Earth Day, is that just stopping deforestation and adopting better natural resource management may not be all that is required to halt the high extinction rates in forest ecosystems. What we know now, this Earth Day, is that we are rapidly changing the whole of Earth's climate: our Biosphere. Forest ecosystems, even left to themselves and untouched by logging, may disappear in a generation in response to changing precipitation patterns, stress from invasive species distributed by humans, and changing temperatures. All of which conspire to overwhelm their capacity to adapt.

Last year we witnessed the huge human toll exacted by large and violent storms, but what we witnessed will be nothing compared to the human toll that will accompany a rapidly collapsing Biosphere. We only need to look to those who live on the edge, such as the Inuit of Russia, Alaska and northern Canada. The plight of the Inuit, who are losing their ability to hunt, along with their brothers and sisters in the animal kingdom may seem slight compared to the loss of majestic cities to rising sea levels, but the Inuit's plight is a clear sentinel warning to us all. The changes leading to ecological collapse are happening and will cause us to lose what we hold dear.

The greatest threat to bio diversity and human society today is from Global Warming caused by increased levels of CO2 released from the burning of fossil fuels. The USA is the largest per-capita emitter of CO2 and as such each citizen has a primary responsibility, an individual duty, to curb unsustainable and harmful appetites for energy. We must find ways to improve our lives and our way of life, while using clean and sustainable forms of energy. We believe that the Green Party of the United States is the sole political leader in the effort to achieve these goals. The Green Party of the US has been leading the call to reduce our CO2 emissions, and in the interest of planetary ecosystems as well as humanity, we implore each citizen and the Nation to join us.

Theodore Roosevelt said, "The nation behaves well if it treats the natural resources as assets which it must turn over to the next generation increased, and not impaired in value."

This Earth Day, we recognize that to help our sisters and brothers of the Inuit to restore the ecosystem they rely on, and to ensure the survival and well-being of future generations, we must set aside our wars and our divisions first to stabilize and then to reduce green house gas concentrations in the atmosphere. We declare that in order for all future generations of Americans and Inuit to enjoy the Earth as we have, ecosystems must be preserved and not shattered by our actions. For in reality, all people, past present and future are Inuit, and all future generations are our children.

As representatives of the people, it is critical for public officials at all levels of government to initiate actions that will begin to address the damage done to the atmosphere and develop comprehensive and realistic plans that can be implemented to construct a renewable infrastructure alternative. The GPUS EcoAction Committee seeks to promote and advance the existing science and policies to provide leadership in the new century that takes America away from depleting, non-renewable fossil fuels and towards renewable and sustainable forms of energy. We encourage the system-wide approach for national energy retooling.

To these ends, the GPUS EcoAction Committee calls on the government and people of the United States to aggressively support and implement the following measures:

-- We, as individuals must make profound changes in our own lifestyles, demonstrating to elected officials our own commitment to and expectation of change in local, regional, national and global environmental policy;

-- We must phase out all subsidies and tax breaks to fossil and nuclear energy industries;

-- We must move to full cost pricing starting with carbon taxes;

--We must provide incentives, legislation, and institutional reforms to bring renewable energy technologies on line and readily available to the consumer;

-- We must encourage the export and expansion of these technologies into overseas markets to competitively displace fossil and nuclear power, and large-scale hydroelectric projects;

--We must research and implement interim, as well as long term offsets, such as reforestation, accompanied by measurable cutbacks in emissions;

-- We must reject biomass incineration and inefficient biofuels production as unnecessary, insufficient, polluting, damaging to ecosystems and a waste of energy;

--We reject the concept of "clean coal";

--We must put an absolute limit on CO2 emissions Nationally and work to facilitate a Worldwide CAP. This limit should be based on the amount we need to cut fossil fuel usage in order to aid in reversing the rise in average global temperatures.

--We must base our cutbacks in fossil fuel usage on this limit; this means stabilization as quickly as possible and an 80% cutback to be reached within ten years;

This Earth Day, the GPUS EcoAction Committee calls on all citizens and all branches of the US government to provide responsible stewardship and care of the Earth and all people, and we call on the people to demand justice and accountability from your representatives and from yourselves. We must act to ensure that future generations are not harmed by our way of life, but that their lives are enhanced by it.

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