Earth is in our hands

On Earth Day (April 22) we are reminded that Earth is in our hands.

Humans dominate the earth’s environment. Our capacity to shape nature – both consciously and unconsciously – has sky-rocketed. At present, 2024, 14.6% of the world’s land area has been modified by humans, according to research. This is equivalent to 18.5 million km², an area greater than Russia.

The lighter-coloured patches in the map below shows the areas of Earth that have been modified by human activity. Large parts of Earth are uninhabitable, usually because they are too dry, too cold, too mountainous, or covered in ice, for example.

Source: Visual Capitalist (click image to enlarge)

The problem is that human impacts are not confined to just land, countries or regions. There are many unconfined problems caused by human activity including:

  1. Greenhouse gas emissions
  2. Ice melting in the Arctic, Antarctica, Greenland and glaciers all around the world.
  3. Acidification of oceans and seas
  4. Ocean and sea pollution, including plastics and microplastics
  5. Soil erosion, salination and desertification
  6. Freshwater pollution
  7. Air pollution
  8. Biodiversity loss and extinction

In 2023 the world’s population reached 8 billion (see population clock here), and as average consumption levels rise (per capita), ever more of Earth’s surface and systems will be impacted. What can be done?

Earth is in our hands

“Modern man talks of a battle with nature, forgetting that, if he won the battle, he would find himself on the losing side
– E.F. Schumacher

The impacts that humans have are not a given, we can change them. Whilst humans must have some impact on nature we, as individuals and as a whole civilisation, can do two key things to reduce our impacts:

  1. Produce and consume less on average
  2. Produce differently

Consume less

This is about living simply and reducing our average ecological footprint. There is plenty of information on this website and elsewhere about simple living. The point is that by living simply we are helping our shared planet and we are helping ourselves because of the many personal benefits simple living provides.

Produce differently

There are many ways that we can produce necessary goods and services that have less impact on nature, including:

  1. Organic farming – this reduces the use of fertilisers, pesticides and herbicides and increases the amount of carbon sequestered in the soil.
  2. Intensive farming – this increases yields and tends to create more jobs whilst using less fossil fuels
  3. Using natural materials and products – this decreases pollution and toxic waste
  4. Reducing fossil fuels and increasing renewable energy sources and the use of lean technology (not a typo!)
  5. Eliminating waste – use a circular economy model
  6. Self-sufficiency – whatever people can produce themselves will help reduce their net consumption and ecological footprint because it increases biocapacity

“Since the outstanding characteristic of the biosphere is its inherent ability to sustain life, a sustainable human community must be designed in such a manner that its technologies and social institutions honour, support, and cooperate with nature’s inherent ability to sustain life.”
– Fritjof Capra

What are we waiting for?

We don’t have to wait for governments, corporations and institutions to make a change – and we shouldn’t. These behemoths are interested in the status quo, so change must happen at the grassroots.

Earth is in our hands right now – each and everyones’ hands. By living simply, being more self-sufficient and choosing ethical, natural products and services we can simply BE the change we want to see. And thereby set an example that others will want to follow.