In 1959 on Mauna Loa, the first measurements for global carbon dioxide were recorded at 316 ppm. Today, the number stands at 419 ppm and is rapidly increasing at over 2 ppm annually.

The higher warming in the colder polar regions has already displaced towns in Alaska and caused massive ice shelf collapse in Antarctica. The oceans are being acidified, the coral reefs are dying, methane (50 times more impactful than carbon dioxide) is being released as anerobic bacteria feed on the melting permafrost vegetation.

This is no inflection point. We have fallen off the cliff and are, with increasing velocity, heading toward a catastrophic landing.

Some would say it is too late to save ourselves, and perhaps they are right. I prefer, however, not to give up and adopt the doomsday “on the beach” scenario.

While the climate initiatives in the Inflation Reduction Act are positive, it really is only window dressing and a form of political posturing. It is not the planet’s parachute to a safe landing — far, far from it.

The corporate bribes that are paid out by the fossil fuel industry to our politicians have stymied our ability for over 60 years to formulate a solution. We need to eliminate corporate and individual contributions and establish publicly-funded elections. This would help eliminate vast corruption in what we try to call a democracy.


In addition to eliminating the use of fossil fuels and basing our energy source on a renewable energy strategy, we need to initiate a massive conservation effort. This would not only entail greater efficiency, but also a reduction in consumption.

Some studies have suggested that conservation could cut our energy consumption in half. One of the largest structural problems is that our economy is based on growth. Growth requires greater and greater consumption.

To save the planet we must stop chasing a Growth Domestic Product Model and start accepting that less is better. At the same time we shift to this new paradigm, we must initiate population control across the globe. Seven and a half billion folks are way beyond the carrying capacity of the earth. We must realize that the western lifestyle is the problem — one of us is many more times consumptive than the global average.

There are many immediate changes we need to make in order to give us a chance to slow the rate of climate destruction — restorative agriculture, veganism, elimination of forest destruction, to name a few.

Forest restoration is perhaps the fastest and cheapest way to help mitigate climate change. Planting trees alone will not suffice. We need to allow the third of the world’s forests that have been destroyed to recover. We need to mandate that all forests are allowed to mature and reach old age at which point they are maximizing their carbon sequestration potential. The logging practices of clear cutting for chips and wood pellets are as bad as coal burning.

In the final analysis, unless humanity can immediately reverse the course of planetary destruction, there is little hope for a brighter future. The unanswered question is whether we in the United States and the rest of the global community can find a viable path forward. It will require those of us who have lived a profligate life of luxury to reduce our consumption and to start the sharing of our great wealth with the have nots.

Restoring the health of the planet goes hand-in-hand with restorative justice.

There is an old Cree proverb, “Only after the last tree has been cut down. Only after the last river has been poisoned. Only after the last fish has been caught. Only then you will find that money cannot be eaten.”

Jonathan Carter of Lexington Township is director of the Forest Ecology Network.

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