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Regret and apology of a generation

Regret and apology of a generation

Writing in Arab news, Hassan Yassin says we’re leaving a depleted and damaged planet to future generations, and that our greed may undo more than a century of progress.

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October 12, 2010 1:28 by



The past 100 years have seen by far the greatest human achievements and advances in our history, but they have also seen the most catastrophic damage done to our planet, its resources and its ability to provide for future generations.

The inheritance we are leaving our children and grandchildren is sadly one of a depleted planet and environment, with population and economic growth rates that could wipe out all the gains made in the quality of life over the last 100 years.

The hydrocarbon age made possible new levels of comfort, communication and quality of life, but it also set us on a path of blind irresponsibility and potentially irreversible destruction. In his book “The Long Emergency,” which looks at how our 20th and 21st century lives were based on the availability of cheap oil, James Kunstler notes that “the fossil fuel bonanza was a one-time deal, and the interval we have enjoyed it in has been an anomalous period of history.” In other words, not only have we pillaged our planet, in doing so we have made it well nigh impossible for future generations to maintain a similar standard of life.

The 20th century has also been the deadliest by far for humanity, and as historian Paul Johnson wrote, “the 20th century state has proved itself the great killer of all time.” On top of the immense amount of oil we have siphoned out of the planet, we have consumed more iron, copper and every other imaginable resource in 100 years than we have in the previous thousands of years of human history. Since 1970, commodity prices have risen fivefold, and over the last 10 years they more than doubled. This is a clear sign of the unsustainable levels and speed at which we are depleting those resources.

Most of the close to 7 billion people who inhabit this planet today do not realize that almost all transport, agriculture, construction, pharmaceuticals, electronics and even the clothes we wear rely heavily on the 30 billion barrels of oil we consume each year. Nor do they understand the implications of hydrocarbons running out in what some believe could be a matter of decades. That same schedule applies equally to other resources “essential” to our modern lives, such as tin, copper or platinum.



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