Combating the Sixth Mass Extinction

The pandemic is awful but, much worse, Dr. Lucy Shapiro, internationally honored scientist and chair of Stanford University Medical School’s Biology Department, declared recently that the world has begun the sixth mass extinction. UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres says that a bit differently when quoting the Nobel Prize winning 2018 UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. He quotes that we may have as few as 12 years (in 2018) to reverse the current excessive carbon effluent to avoid the sixth mass extinction but will already experience some of the negative impacts permanently. 

The impacts, that Dr. Shapiro, Secretary General Guterres, and over 11,000 international scientists describe include: radical droughts, fires, and flooding; uncontrollable mass migrations as sections of the world become unlivable and ungovernable; and the influx of unremedied new viruses and biological infections that lead to the eventual bankruptcy and breakdown of civil society.  Dr. Shapiro reminds that those terminal societal maladies are already happening. What can be done now, immediately, to minimize those terrible impacts and buy time for our gifted children to find a real remedy?

President Biden and the other world leaders, who attempt to sustain and strengthen the Paris Accords, are on the right track but need our strong encouragement to move more quickly worldwide to:

  1. Eliminate all carbon combustion (coal, petroleum, and wood) as quickly as possible.
  2. Convert to only sustainable energy from wind, solar, and other non-carbon sources.
  3. Incentivize economies around the world and locally to make that conversion quickly and without the unexpected consequences of using remedies with byproducts worse than the current crisis.
  4. Help the least of us worldwide and in our communities to share in those improvements or the world will devolve into a chaos of civil wars.  
  5. Pray for a future for our children and theirs.  

The world’s corporate leadership is making progress.  Most of the major auto manufacturers are shifting to electric vehicles. Charging systems are being broadly established. Several petroleum companies are exploring solar and wind energy production. Electric trucks, buses, and electric trains are replacing dirty diesels. Coal mining is waning. But the shift is not fast enough to beat the UN’s twelve year deadline. 

It is absolutely unconscionable for the world’s carbon industries to sacrifice my grandchildren’s future by insisting upon selling the last drop of oil and last lump of coal. Why retain California’s toxic fracking to create 2% of the nation’s oil while endangering thousands? Those investors must be encouraged to reinvest their funding and management skills into clean energy. The fine employee-base devoted to petroleum and coal production must be retrained and employed in the rapidly expanding, better paying, more healthy, and sustainable solar and wind industries.  And that shift must occur immediately…while there are still a few years left in Secretary General Guterres’ 12 year deadline to the point of no return.  

Dr. Shapiro reminds that most of the prior five extinctions took a short time to occur and tens of millions of years for a vastly different looking Earth to evolve.  Well, my grandchildren do not deserve to be subjected to the chaos of the ending of civilization on Earth.  What will you tell your beloved youngsters in about ten years when they ask if you did all possible to avoid Armageddon?  

Provided by Rod Diridon, Sr. President of the Silicon Valley Ethics RoundTable and former chair of the National Research Council’s Transit Cooperative Research Board, and the national Council of University Transportation Centers. 

SVER NOTE: The opinions in this article are solely those of the author and do not reflect those of the Silicon Valley Ethics Roundtable. Articles are posted for comment and discussion.

No comments yet.

Add Comment