Mark Lynas - The God Species - Page 2
Lynas uses the example of our success in dealing with ozone production as evidence of our ability to act as planetary managers. This is dubious; the production of a relatively small amount of a relatively small number of pollutants by a relatively small number of companies was fairly easy to change and doesn't really tell us anything about dealing with other planet-scale problems. What the ozone layer problem does teach us is that even small amounts of tinkering with the biosphere can have unexpected and potentially disastrous consequences.
Lynas then goes on to suggest that further tinkering with the biosphere may be necessary to avoid climate change impacts, as though science has passed some technical boundary and the impact of such tinkering can now be quantified and anticipated in virtual laboratories. This seems like hubris to me, and postulates a level of skill for our species that we do not have. I don't deny that we may be able to at some time in our distant future.There are small pockets of the world where we have managed our impacts by creating reservations for protected areas and species. However, the level of management in these reservations is extremely crude and doesn't always work, and we cannot turn the planet into one giant reserve. Lynas makes an ambitious claim on behalf of humanity, that we are capable of managing our future, but cannot back it up with sufficient evidence to make us believe it.
The biggest omission is on the political front. He describes the Copenhagen Debacle but fails to suggest any political framework that would help to achieve a global accord that we need to tackle global issues. Political leadership is lacking, particularly from the US, and there is no sign that this is about to change. In the absence of political will don't we need something to fill the vacuum that individuals can support and can use to build a global consensus? Isn't this a problem that social media was invented to solve?
I welcome this book, its scope is ambitious, and the questions he asks are some of the most important questions for our species. What are the safe limits to our impacts on this planet, and what must we do to manage our impacts to stay within those limits? Lynas cannot answer them all, no-one can. But he should be congratulated for asking them, and in popularizing the concept of Planetary Boundaries he does us all a valuable service.