One of the most senior figures in the UK’s environmental movement of recent decades, Jonathon Porritt, recently made the statement that it is now impossible for the large fossil fuel companies of today to adapt in “a timely and intelligent way to the imperative of radical decarbonization.”
The statement, importantly, was accompanied by the announcement that his Forum for the Future institute was cutting its decades-long ties with BP and Shell — making the recent statements something more than just words, and potentially a strong example for others to follow.
In an interview with the Guardian, Jonathon Poritt put it pretty bluntly: “These are companies whose senior managers know, as an irrefutable fact, that their current business-model threatens both the stability of the global economy and the longer-term prospects of humankind as a whole.”
Certainly true. Given the enormous issues currently facing human civilization, of which fossil fuel use and climate change are only “one,” business as usual is more or less a death sentence for the current social and cultural order(s).
In a just-released study published in the journal Science, an international consortium of numerous scientists across various fields has warned that human activity has now pushed 4 out of 9 of the processes/systems that life on the planet is dependent upon past the point of stability, and that we are now at the point-of-no-return as far as some of these go — with unpredictable consequences now more or less guaranteed to occur in the relatively near-future.
The planetary boundaries referenced by the researchers, are:
- Climate change (global weirding)
- Change in biosphere integrity (biodiversity loss and species extinction, endangered primates, etc)
- Stratospheric ozone depletion
- Ocean acidification
- Biogeochemical flows (phosphorus and nitrogen cycles)
- Land-system change (deforestation, desertification, etc )
- Freshwater use
- Atmospheric aerosol loading (microscopic particles in the atmosphere that affect climate and living organisms)
- Introduction of novel entities (eg organic pollutants, radioactive materials, nanomaterials, and micro-plastics)
While Porritt’s move for divestment from fossil fuels certainly isn’t an earth-shattering occurrence, it’s definitely what we may as well call a positive one. Many other notable organizations and individuals haven’t done so yet.
But, as Porritt noted, perhaps the time for believing in engagement has now passed?
It has been quite a painful journey for me personally. I so badly wanted to believe that the combination of reason, rigorous science and good people would enable elegant transition strategies to emerge in those companies. But we learn as we go. And go those companies surely will, if not in the near future.
On that note, it’s worth mentioning here that “Global Divestment Day” is rapidly approaching — on February 13–14 — so perhaps we’ll see others take his lead?
Image Credit: Oil Sands via Flickr CC
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