Seeing the Big Picture

Aug 24th, 2021 | By | Category: Environment/Sustainability

By Geoffrey Holland, writer for Transition Earth.


If we ruin the Earth, there is no place else to go.

~ Carl Sagan, Son of the Cosmos

‘Code Red’ for humanity – that’s the deeply troubling conclusion of the latest report from the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).  There is no greater authority on this issue.  Our world is getting ever hotter. Our weather is becoming ever more extreme.

We are now nearly eight billion in number. All together, we humans are taking nearly everything the planet has to offer for ourselves.  We are literally sucking the life out of the only home we have.

The small number of us who are primarily responsible – the same ones that benefit from business as usual –  are not going away quietly. They are fighting defiantly to maintain their financial wealth and political power.  Meanwhile our planet is on fire, and the fate of humanity grows darker and more ominous by the day.



Today’s IPCC Working Group 1 Report is a ‘Code Red’ for humanity … This report must sound a death knell for coal and fossil fuels, before they destroy our planet.

~ Antonio Guterres, United Nations General Secretary



Life on Earth is at Risk

The whole damned planet is hemorrhaging in so many ways. Beyond climate change, we have deforestation, fresh water and aquifer exhaustion, top soil loss, chronic food insecurity, plastic waste filling up our oceans, toxic chemical waste lurking everywhere,  and the collapse of the planet’s plant and animal bio-diversity. We are near the precipice of no-return for our Earth’s living systems, and that’s with eight billion humans. Imagine what it will be like as we add two billion more humans by the end of this century.

It’s not a pretty picture.

We humans are caught in a deadly spiral downward. No one did it to us. We alone are responsible for our planetary-scale dysfunction.  We are the only ones that can turn humanity away from the abyss.


Saving civilization is not a spectator sport.

~ Lester R. Brown, Plan B 4.0



The Struggle Between Old and New

We are far past the point where half-measures will do. Yet, that’s the best our elected officials seem to be able to muster at the moment.

In fact, we are caught in a cultural struggle between the old guard – that would be bankers and other big players wedded to profit before all else  – and the increasing number of people around the world who recognize that compassionate planetary citizenship is the best path forward for humanity.

The big players behind ‘business as usual’ know how to manipulate the minds of  people who choose tribalism.  Right now, the outcome of this conflict is uncertain, despite the fact that media polls consistently report a substantial majority of people in the U.S. and in other parts of the world want to put planetary stewardship front and center.

The whole problem with the world is that fools and fanatics are always so certain of themselves, and wiser people so full of doubts.

~ Bertrand Russell



[Photo by Bryan Goff on Unsplash]

[Photo by Bryan Goff on Unsplash]

The Needs of the Earth System

Quite simply, we all have to recognize our lives depend on protecting the resiliency of our planet’s living biosphere.

The forests of the world supply the oxygen that keeps us alive. Fresh water is another survival necessity for life on Earth.  Beyond those two basics, the Earth system is a complex array of cycles, ebbs and flows of minerals and nutrients. In a healthy Earth System, all of these cycles are functioning smoothly according to nature’s design.

We do not live in a healthy Earth System.

For most of our existence, our impact on the Earth, though always mindlessly exploitive, was not enough to do lasting damage. That has changed, particularly in just the last 50 years with the massive growth in human population. Our numbers along with our consumption habits are overwhelming our planet’s ability to provide.

The current industrial economic model is built on relentless consumption of resources and constant economic growth, while showing little or no concern for the consequences of our ways.

The good news is we now largely understand the science behind nature and the biosphere.  Ignorance is no longer an excuse. We know what we are doing to the only home we have.  We see the risks that go with continuing to exploit our planet to its limits. We see the big picture.

The question we are left with is how we get everyone on the same page so we can fix the mess we’ve made.



The truth is: the natural world is changing. And we are totally dependent on that world. It provides our food, water and air. It is the most precious thing we have and we need to defend it.

~ Sir David Attenborough


Our Stake in Our Common Home

We humans find ourselves at a crossroads. We have to choose between what we have been, and who we can become if we embrace a worthy common path forward.

Coming together on a planetary scale is something that has never been achieved before.  It is without question a monumental challenge.   It is also the only way we humans avoid the worst consequences of the dysfunction we all share responsibility for unleashing

So, how to do we do it?  How do we get women and men around the world of all ethnicities and persuasions in sync, pulling the planet’s cultural oars in the same direction?

Bridging cultural barriers starts with trust. Trust is the primary ingredient for building a common future based on dignity for all and shared stewardship of the biosphere.

That level of trust can emerge from a legal commitment to gender equality in all ways, social justice for all, and responsible planetary stewardship.

The pathway to that kind of global-scale regulatory framework is being paved right now by Portugal-based Common Home for Humanity.  In association with the United Nations Environment Programme, Common Home is focused on building a common set of codes, standards, and regulations that can ultimately be adopted by every nation on behalf of all the world’s people.

Building trust on a planetary scale can come when the same law applies to every person in every corner of the Earth.  No exceptions. No one gets a pass.

A common legal framework that holds every person accountable in the same way: this is the primary focus of Common Home for Humanity. This is how humanity can bridge cultural barriers and build trust on the road to a future for all the world’s people that is life-affirming and sustainable.


From a legal point of view, we now have the scientific and technical capability to quantify a stable and well-functioning state of the Earth System as an intangible object of international law which, by being global and indivisible, should belong to all humanity – the intangible Common Heritage of Humankind.

~ Paulo Magalhaes, Founder and Chairman, Common Home for Humanity


[Photo by Chang Duong on Unsplash]

[Photo by Chang Duong on Unsplash]

A Pandemic’s Primary Lesson

We’ve now been through 18 months of the COVID Pandemic. Every nation, every person on the planet has been impacted. Around the world, about 210 million people have been infected, and nearly 5 million have suffered and died from COVID.

The only sure remedy is vaccination. Every person on the planet benefits from being vaccinated. COVID doesn’t care where on Earth you live. It doesn’t care what gender you are, what ethnicity you are, what religion you are… We are all vulnerable when we fail to recognize that where the pandemic is concerned, we are all at risk together. There is no safe haven when some people are denied access to the vaccination queue: think of the world’s poorest nations which remain mostly unvaccinated. There are also those in the US that refuse to be vaccinated.

Dealing with the pandemic is a public health issue. That’s all it should be. Instead, protective measures, including vaccinations and masks, have been politicized. The same people that are invested in ‘business as usual’ socially and economically have politicized the pandemic response. They continue to urge their followers not to trust vaccines, and even to make wearing masks that protect against infection an issue of ‘personal freedom’ rather than public health.

This same brand of tribalistic fractiousness muddies the lens through which we can see the ‘Big Picture’ of life on Earth.

The list of existential risks we humans are caught up in at this moment have the potential to kill most if not all life on Earth.  There is no good answer for these challenges if we take them separately and apply half-measure solutions.  The remedy requires that we address the risks together and apply good answers that address all of the risks together.

That can only happen if we marginalize the mindless naysayers. We must get on the same page and work together, all of us, for solutions that serve our common welfare, and that of the biosphere we all depend on.

When we see our plight through a ‘big picture’ lens, we cannot help but be alarmed. The planetary-scale dysfunction, for which we are all responsible, is unambiguous and undeniable.

Each of us has to decide. Do we stay on the dark path to ruin we are on now, or do we elevate ourselves as planetary citizens and proper stewards of nature?

The party has to be over for crass self-interest and mindless tribalism.

We humans are not above and superior to nature. We are a part of nature. We are all obligated to embrace our common planetary duty.

Together is the only worthy way forward.



Give me a lever long enough and a fulcrum on which to place it, and I shall move the world.

~ Archimedes



Geoffrey Holland is an award-winning writer/producer, and the author of The Hydrogen Age.





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