The survival of our human species is under very serious threat.
Nobody wants to hear this message, and most governments around the world are currently ignoring it. But action in the coming decade by all of us is essential, if our children and theirs are to have a future.
The Council for the Human Future, chaired by former federal opposition leader John Hewson, is a new body, whose mission is to alert people everywhere to the 10 catastrophic threats that are bearing down upon us, and which must be dealt by people across the globe, and all at once, if we are to avoid a grim future.
Many books have been written about these threats, including several by Council member Julian Cribb, and there is no lack of solutions to them. The Council's message is relevant to everyone.
There are now nearly 8 billion humans on the planet, and the way we live has created 10 major threats to our continued occupancy of it. The threats must all be addressed urgently and together in ways that do not worsen any of them.
The 10 threats are:
- Climate change
- Depletion of essential resources
- Destruction and extinction of other species
- Widespread chemical poisoning
- Uncontrolled proliferation of technology including artificial intelligence
- Weapons of mass destruction including nuclear weapons
- Pandemics of new as well as previously well-known diseases
- Insecurity of food supplies
- Too many humans
- Misinformation and denial that the threats are as serious as they are
Threat number 10 is perhaps the most serious of all.
People, who are doing well out of the present system understandably do not want to see it changed. So, we are lulled by what is often "fake news" into a false sense of security.
The response to the COVID-19 pandemic has shown how quickly we can respond to a global challenge, both domestically and internationally. We have changed the way we live, work, travel, spend and save, and we have accepted a greater role for governments and key institutions.
The Council has suggested to the Chief Minister of the ACT, that Canberra could show the way with a commitment to taking action to address each of these 10 threats. We could begin with a focus on the issue of food security, and develop a program on "renewable food".
Time is short, and we must act quickly.
We need to promote discussions with our friends, family and other contacts about the nature of the problem and what needs to happen.
Schools across the nation need to help students to better understand the issues and to become involved in their solutions.
Kitchen table conversations with groups of eight to 10 people who know each other are an excellent way to ensure that we are talking about problems and their solutions.
Governments everywhere need to hear from their constituents that we support urgent action to place human society on a survivable course.
Our aim should not just be surviving, but thriving as well. There is a new movement around the world to focus on human wellbeing rather than simply seeing growth in gross domestic product as our marker of progress. That should be included in the ACT initiative.
For our progeny to both survive and thrive - in the face of the constellation of threats now facing humans everywhere - is the biggest challenge ever faced by our species.
- Emeritus Professor Bob Douglas is a retired public health academic and a member of the Council for the Human Future. You an read the full report from the recent Delivering the Human Future worldwide conference here.