St Margaret's News March 2015 - Page 9

A Gospel of hope for all creation Introduction “In 1911, John Muir observed how, ‘When we try to pick out anything by itself in nature, we find it hitched to everything else in the Universe.’ A century later, a gathering of the World Economic Forum discovered the same phenomenon. Four hundred top decision-makers listed the myriad looming threats to global stability, including famine, terrorism, inequality, disease, poverty, and climate change. Yet when we tried to address each diverse force, we found them all attached to one universal security risk: fresh water.” – MARGARET CATLEY-CARLSON, Patron, Global Water Partnership, 2008-2010 Chair of World Economic Forum Global Agenda Council on Water Security1. The evidence is now well established that human kind is impacting in profound ways on the biophysical functions of the planet and to an extent that no other species have ever done before. We are living in the Anthropocene. Human activity has transformed between a third and a half of the land surface of the planet. Most of the world’s major river systems have been dammed or diverted. Human’s use more than half of the world’s readily accessible fresh water runoff. Fertilizer plants produce more nitrogen than is fixed naturally by all terrestrial ecosystems. Fishing removes more than a third of the primary production of the oceans’ coastal waters. World agriculture is a primary driver of global change and is the single largest contributor to the rising environmental risks in the Anthropocene. It is also in the Anthropocene that the challenge of feeding humanity needs to be resolved. It is self-evident, however, that continued exponential growth in the demand for natural resources cannot continue forever on our finite planet Earth. There are thousands of examples across the country, every day, where individuals, communities and businesses strive to live sustainably - to build human well-being and live within a safe operating space for the landscape, continent and planet. Yet overwhelming scientific evidence is that many of Australia’s environmental assets are in poor condition and are continuing to deteriorate. The destruction of native vegetation, over-extraction of water from rivers and aquifers, introduction of weeds and pests, mining soils of carbon and nutrients, and poorly-planned urban development, have all set in train processes that are driving the long-term degradation of the Australian landscape. As our population grows and as nations promote economic growth to improve people’s living standards, our demands on nature will place even more pressure on these resources. Climate change is adding a whole new dimension to these pressures. Major shifts in weather systems are occurring, increasing risks from higher temperatures, sea level rise, and more extreme droughts, floods, cyclones and bushfires. Australia is at a crossroads. If we continue with the short-term view of an endless Australia where we can take more and more from nature without any consequences, we will forfeit our long-term future by destroying the ability of our ecosystems to sustain us. St Margaret’s News 9 March 2015