5 decades of environmental protection in 5 books
3. Environmental crisis as a global problem
Man as God, Mark Linas, 2011 (Jan Van Arkel Publishers)
If you read scientific work on climate (change) today, you will always find a reference to Johan Rockstrom and colleagues’ conceptual framework on planetary boundaries. Ten years ago it was different. To understand problems, analysis always follows a quadrature. It does not differ with environmental problems. The division between air/water/soil has always been in the trash, as well as the distant topics (eutrophication/acidification/climate change) and the division into addition/extraction/change. A universal framework was needed to quantify system disruption flows and to quantify (absolute) boundary values. Then there was Johann Rockstrom. Mark Linas helped put him on the map.
Who was and what is Marc Linas? In 2008 Mark Linas published the best science book, according to the Royal Society of England. Address? Six Degrees, a book he started in 2005. Six Degrees indicates a projection of the (potential) increase in global temperature due to global warming. At the time, many were constantly saying that warming could be limited to two degrees. He liked to describe the expected consequences of each degree. Because, according to Lynas, people don’t realize how dangerous it is, he wanted to add two elements to the discussion with the writers. First, he wanted to stress the importance of biodiversity and how it is threatened by global warming. Second, he wanted to put global warming in a broader geological perspective
Today, Lynas’ choice seems understandable. He often writes for The Guardian about the environment and especially the climate. And most importantly, his opinion is recognized and respected. Ten years ago it was different. He was not admired by the (British) environmental movement, despite his roots there. It’s against dark night, against thermostat lowering (and DikkeTruienDag), and for nuclear power, etc. He talks about Fukushima in terms of “exaggerated reports”, “irrational point of view.” Linas struck a deal with scientists that, as a writer and environmental expert, he would do what scientists could not do, which was to make scientific knowledge known to the general public.
In 2011, he published the book “Man as God, How the Earth Can Live in the Anthropocene”. Choosing the title was easy for him. “We are horrible, profoundly ignorant. As if God were blind and deaf and dumb, we transcend, seemingly without any awareness or understanding of our abilities.” This is exactly why Lynas argues that nature can no longer control us, and that we have to do it ourselves.
It turned out to be a great book, largely made up of the narrative of the first scientific workshop on planetary boundaries, organized as part of the Tällberg Forum in Sweden. He was also able to continuously draw on the Radcliffe Library of Science. Linas was invited to join a group of scientists to discuss the concept of “planetary boundaries,” a term coined by Johan Rockström, director of the Stockholm Resilience Center. The scientists, all of whom are globally recognized experts, wanted to determine which parts of the “Earth System” are most affected by humans and what the corresponding limits to human activity are in those parts. The goal was to define the space in which people could work safely. Meanwhile, Johann Rockström & Co.’s philosophy, Planetary Frontiers, has been widely recognized and supported for years. The story mentions nine planetary boundaries: biodiversity, climate, nitrogen, ozone layer, acidification, land use, fresh water, toxin reduction and aerosol limit.
However, looking back at Lynas & Rockström for ten years gives a different view of the same reality. Rockström & co developed the concept of planetary boundaries and Lynas popularized it. The concept was unknown, different and new, today it is universally spread, widely used and widely recognized. It is painful, of course, that the limits of the planets have only come under greater pressure and are increasingly being overrun.
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