by Jenny Friedrich-Freksa

Earth, how are you doing? (Issue I/2018)


It's hard to say. Other developments are more clear cut - for example, the mass extinction of species which is well underway: Animals are disappearing. It is happening all around the world - and it is irreversible. Take the northern white rhino, of which there are only two females left worldwide after the last male of the species died earlier this year. But other animals prosper amid warmer temperatures and fewer predators. Take the American comb jelly fish which has seen its population explode. Also many plant species are flourishing after being exported from their native environment and taking root elsewhere, making them a winner of globalisation. Among these is the Australian acacia which is spreading fast across South Africa, creating shade with its large crown and damaging native animal and plants.

This magazine is an exercise in stock taking. How is the earth doing in January 2018? How fertile are its soils? How dirty is its air? How are its fresh water reserves? Which greenhouse gases are drifting through the atmosphere? The earth's landscapes and climate have long since borne the imprint of human intervention, but we talk as though change was something reserved for a distant future: At some stage will it get one, two or three degrees warmer? What will happen then? No one really knows. There are bad and less bad forecasts - but no good forecasts. But a huge transformation of nature is already happening. We analysed data and spoke to experts. Some pieces of information are deeply odd: Breeding animals across all the continents added together weigh in at 700 million tonnes, while all the humans on the planet total 300 million tonnes.

People and our relationship with nature is further explored in this edition. But one point remains clear: If we do not steer away from the model that emphasizes growth, the earth will be destroyed - and we will disappear with it. Our environment just can't keep up. But where should we go from here? "We have to create a whole new way of thinking about our place in the world," said the philosopher Charles Taylor in an interview, but he also saw creating a fairer society as a priority. He explained how equality and climate change are interlinked. "I am convinced that we can change," he said. I hope so too. 

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