Nothing is off the list of threats that are circling the planet. But what about all our progress?
Prince William, the Duke of Cambridge, interviewed broadcaster Sir David Attenborough at the World Economic Forum meeting in Davos this week.
Reaching deep for the hard question, Prince William asked: “David, recently you were in Poland and you spoke out very powerfully at the UN climate change conference there. How urgent is that crisis now?” Sir David did not fail to take up challenge: “It’s difficult to overstate it.”
But let me try, he might have added. “We are now so numerous, so powerful, so all pervasive, the mechanisms that we have for destruction are so wholesale and so frightening, that we can actually exterminate whole ecosystems without even noticing it.”
Attenborough — promoting Our Planet, a new Netflix series set to stream in April, backed by the environmentalist activists at the World Wildlife Fund — also told a Davos audience “The Holocene has ended. The Garden of Eden is no more.”
That may be true, but who wants to go back to the Garden of Eden, when humans were at the mercy of nature, including routine weather events? In his bestselling book last year, Enlightenment Now: The Case for Reason, Science, Humanism and Progress, Harvard University’s Steven Pinker writes: “Our ancestors were powerless to stop these lethal menaces, so in that sense technology has not made this a uniquely dangerous era in the history of our species but a uniquely safe one.”