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  • Writer's pictureThe Gaudie

Our Time is the ‘Age of Environmental Breakdown’

The think-tank Institute for Public Policy Research describes in a new report how politicians, diplomats, and policy makers lack proper understanding of the severity of the environmental crisis facing our planet

by Isabella Engberg

A critical warning has been published to wake up policymakers across the world, BBC writes. The think-tank IPPR had it in their new report on the changing of our environment to define our time as the ‘age of environmental breakdown’ to emphasise an acute need for comprehending the gravity of the ‘scale, pace, and implications of environmental destabilisation resulting from aggregate human activity.’ This destabilisation has reached a grave speed previously unseen in human history.  

An increasing number of flooding, extreme temperature events, and wildfires have drawn headlines since the latter half of the twentieth century. Since the Paris Agreement, climate change has – finally – achieved headlines in media; but what about the decline in species across the globe? What implications does plastic taking up more space than fish in the ocean have? The report claims that this sole focus of climate change neglects the severity of the world’s entire environmental crisis. The authors advocate three shifts in political understanding to combat this crisis, which is identifying the ‘scale and pace of environmental breakdown’, getting to know ‘the implications for societies’ and lastly, acting on ‘the subsequent need for transformative change’.

The politicians’ lack of comprehending the bigger picture of environmental breakdown will result in a potentially fatal combination of elements. The report foresees that this will have serious agricultural and economic consequences, and the globe’s increasing population makes this fact even more worrisome. To give an example: facts surrounding the change in soil erosion predicts a dark future for species and the world’s food supply. Topsoil is now lost 10 to 40 times faster than it is naturally replenished, 30% of Earth’s land has become infertile since the first half of the twentieth century, and lastly 95% of the world’s land areas are predicted to heavily degrade. This is echoed locally in the UK, where the country is described to be one of the most nature-depleted countries in the world, having seen a loss of 56% of its species and an annual erosion of 2.2 million tonnes of topsoil since 1970.

The questions arise if governments and society will take action when prompted by this new definition of our age. "This century will be marked by rapid social and environmental change - that is certain.

What is less clear is if societies can make wise political choices to avoid disaster in the future,” professor of Global Change Science at University College London, Simon Lewis, comments to the BBC. Harriet Bulkeley, geography professor at Durham University, further comments that there is plenty of technology to spark protective action of the climate and environment, but that often, politicians make the argument that they need to do ‘evidence-based policy.’ This, she says, can be used as an excuse for delay.


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