December 17, 2022•394 words
We are living through a decisive decade—for the future of human societies, and for the life of our species, and of millions of other species.
The IPCC finds we are close to losing the possibility of successful climate-resilient development. The IPBES finds we are at risk of losing more than 1 million species in the Earth's 6th mass extinction, currently ongoing and caused by human activities and choices. Failure to prevent these losses could lead to the collapse of production in all food-growing regions.
A study by Deloitte found that inaction on climate change will cost \$178 trillion over 50 years. The Financial Stability Oversight Council and Commodity Futures Trading Commission have found unchecked climate disruption will destabilize the entire financial system. Such devastation of the macroeconomy will create unmanageable financial and political conditions, and will exacerbate already worsening trends toward debt distress, destabilization, and insecurity.
In 'What we owe the future', William MacAskill argues that "we are the ancients", that the pace of rapid change of the last few centuries cannot be sustained for very long, so our choices now are not just consequential for the next few years or decades, but for the entire future of our species. Success, he argues, will mean the possibility our species lives much longer than the average mammalian species on Earth; failure will mean we fall well below the average species lifespan. The difference will be trillions of lives lived or not lived, with conditions available to those who do live shaped by our choices.
Artificial intelligence is evolving so rapidly, many experts, ethicists, and human rights advocates worry it may begin to colonize our everyday choices in ways we no longer fully understand, and could eventually be beyond our control. There are concerns AI could also pit destructive industrialized systems against the wellbeing of people and nature on an unprecedented scale.
Even if we are not fully aware of the consequences of our choices, future generations will remember our choices with great specificity, and attribution, because their reality will be shaped by them.
The 2020s are the decisive decade for determining whether we will allow the Anthropocene to be characterized by worsening out of control impacts from past overconsumption or whether we will set the stage for a future of responsible stewardship of natural systems and human health and wellbeing.