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Historic Opportunity

SARP 2011
June 22, 2011 George Seielstad

If we are not careful, we will end up where we are going.

Chinese adage

John R. Taylor, An Introduction to Error Analysis University Science Books (1997).

Rare Historic Opportunity


What we have before us are some breathtaking How? opportunities Future disguised as insoluble problems.
How Fast? John Gardner, Pres. Johnsons


Secy. of Health, Education, Welfare


Business as Usual Equity

Sustainability: Where We Must Head

Meeting needs and values of todays generation of humanity. . . and all its relatives. Preserving planets life-support systems so needs and values of future generations can be met.

20th Century Assumptions

Energy and water are cheap and abundant. Human Population must grow. Economies must grow even faster. Resources are unlimited. Earth can absorb unlimited waste. The climate will always be stable.

Finite Home

Finite Home



Three Critical Questions

If everyone lived as we in the West do, would we be leaving a better world for our children? Inter-Generational Ethic

Can Westerners live as we do, while denying others the same opportunities? Intra-Generational Ethic
Can extinctions without limit preserve a habitable planet? Inter-Species Ethic

Inter-Generational Ethic Let us put our minds together and see what kind of life we can make for our children

Sitting Bull

Population: Any Limits?

Population Peak

You may live at time when human numbers are their largest.

Replacement Rate

Replacement Rate


Human Changes to Land

N. Jones, Nature 329 (2011), p. 133

Irvine Ranch, 1959

Agricultures Trends

Pesticide Imports Pesticides

Tilman et al., Science 292: 281-284, 13 April 2001.

Soil Degradation

Crop Growth Rates

Alston et al., Science 325 (2009), pp. 1209-1210

Need for Another Ag Revolution

FAO Food Demand Forecast 2050 vs. 1995
Population Increase Changing Eating Habits TOTAL 1.76 x 1.25 x 2.25 X

Consumer Society

Photographer: Ernest Wright

6 million years for Nature to carve 50 years for Humans to fill

Wilkinson, Geology 33: 161-164 (2005)

2,000,000 Plastic Bottles every 5 minutes.

Artist Chris Jordan, 2007 Running the Numbers

106,000 Aluminum Cans every 30 seconds

Artist Chris Jordan, 2007 Running the Numbers

28,000 Barrels of Oil Every 2 Minutes

Alberta Tar Sands

Worlds Water

Human Domination--Water
Humanity uses >50% of surface freshwater

In U.S., only 2% of rivers run unimpeded. Many rivers no longer reach the sea.
528 gallons to produce 1 days food for 1 person.

Freshwater Withdrawals

By 2050, 45% of worlds people will live where water supply is less than daily requirement!

Water, Giver of Life

Nile River

Sea Level Projections

6 ft

2.5 ft

Vermeer and Rahmstorf, PNAS 106 (2009), pp. 21527-32.


Main Island, Funafati

Spiegel Online, 9/14/2007

High Tide Floods

Ocean Acidification

In 2100: Offscale, -0.355 (45% more acidic) 20% more acidic in 1990 , 1700-1990

Pacific Science Association

Ocean Acidification

K. Richardson et al., Climate Change Synthesis Report, University of Copenhagen (2009)

More Acidic

Coral Reefs

Coral Reefs

Air (Atmosphere)

Air (Atmosphere)

Historic Good Fortune

Epoch of Human Civilization Coincident with Sweet Spot
0 T E M P E R A T U R E





Years before Present




Bowles, Science 314: 1569 (2006)

Ill pause for a moment to let this information sink in.

The New Yorker, Dec. 6, 2010

21st Century Climate Communications

Global Warming

Fire (Energy)
World: 2 hopper cars per second US: 1 hopper car every 4 seconds

CO2 per kilowatt-hour

Science 329 (2010), p. 787

Electrical Energy Efficiency

Available Energy

100 years

200 years

300 years

Science 329 (2010), p. 786

Oil: Civilizations FoundationNow

800,000,000 light vehicles worldwide 2,000,000,000 gallons gasoline burned daily

24,000,000 tons CO2 emitted daily

US Fleet Efficiency: 14 mpg in 1920 23 mpg in 2010

5 Generations

Inter-Species Ethic
Life creates the conditions that are conducive to life.
Janine Benyus

Miguel Covarrubias (1939) DeYoung Museum, San Francisco

Fundamental Messages
You are part of Nature, not apart from Her. Your existence depends on services provided by the Web of Life, to all of whose organisms you are related.

Nutrient Recycling Water Purification Climate Moderation Pollination Soil Stabilization Radiation Protection Med & Ag Gene Pool

Only multicellular organisms

Present Pace of Extinctions

About 30,000 extinctions per year 80 per day 3-4 per hour

1001000 x Background Extinction Rate

Intra-Generational Ethic
The genetic makeup of any two humans is 99.9% identical. We are a single human family.

California Academy of Sciences, San Francisco

Age Distributions

Future Human Family

"Out of every 100 persons added to the population in the coming decade, 97 will live in developing countries."
Hania Zlotnik

Spaceship Earth

Global Shrinkage

Travel Time in hours and days

European Commission Global Environmental Monitoring

World Wide Web

Near Speed of Light Travel Times

Voices from the Dark

Pressure on Planet = Population + Affluence

You are writing the History of the Future.

New Basic Philosophy

From: Exploit natural resources of planet to support human wishes for immediate wealth and glory.

To: Exploit human resources to support social justice, ecological integrity, and economic health.

Consumers World

Earth provides enough to satisfy every man's need, but not every man's greed. M. Gandhi

2005 International Comparison Program World Bank (Dec. 2007)

Think beyond your brief time on this planet.

New Core Values

Accept Responsibility for:
Several generations into the future

Disadvantaged within present generation Other species

Your Most Needed Contributions

Commitment to Sustainability Strong Moral Convictions CREATIVITY, IMAGINATION, INNOVATION Sense of Urgency

Think Long-term, Act Now

Do what you can, where you are, with what you have.
Theodore Roosevelt U.S. President, 1901-09

The End