Scientists from Nanyang Technological University, Singapore (NTU Singapore) and the University of Sheffield in the UK, have called for sustainability to be redefined as being able to live harmoniously with nature in a shared planet with other species, without exploiting it.
They say that this redefinition is essential if society wants to mitigate climate change and for civilisations to prosper in future.
Writing in a Perspectives article published in One Earth, a new environmental and sustainability journal, the authors describe the development of human civilisation and how it has contributed to the “existential crisis” which the world is facing now from climate change.
They argue that all the effort that goes into sustainability is based on a fatal flaw – that humankind has the right to exploit everything on Earth for its benefit and that sustainability will be delivered somehow if nature and the exploitation of resources are controlled better.
Professor Benjamin Horton, Chair of the Asian School of the Environment at NTU Singapore, together with his father, Professor Peter Horton FRS from Sheffield, write that the solution to this flaw begins with recognition that Homo sapiens is just one of the millions of species that share the planet, and to begin to act according to this principle.
While governments are urged to meet the Paris Agreement emission targets and to do more to combat emissions, scientists at NTU Singapore are embarking on a study to model accurately the sea level rise projections for South East Asia and its potential effects.
“In this paper, my father and I illustrate why the world is so gravely unprepared for effects of climate crisis,” says Professor Benjamin Horton. “and we have suggested a path forward, where governments, companies and individuals can each make a difference culminating in a collective effort that is sufficient enough to mitigate effects of climate change.
“This shift in values and mindset change will result in a reduction in poverty and water shortages and stop levels of migration from soaring, thus avoiding an irrefutable toll on human life.
“We suggest that this change entails repositioning the human race within the biosphere as just one of many species that has to humbly live with others in harmony, respecting the land, the oceans and the atmosphere from which everything derives.”
Professor Peter Horton, a renowned biologist who is a Fellow of The Royal Society and the research adviser to the Grantham Centre for Sustainable Futures said that the relentless increase in human population, economic growth and consumption is changing the atmosphere, warming the planet, degrading land and polluting oceans, leading to potentially catastrophic climate change and dramatic declines in biodiversity.
“The only way environmental and climate collapse can be avoided is by a profound transformation in the attitudes, values and lifestyles of our civilisation, recognising our place in nature and taking responsibility for all life on Earth. My generation caused this crisis and it is up to all of us to support the activism of today’s young people, and help give them the knowledge, innovation and creativity to make this transformation happen.”
The paper titled “Re-defining sustainability: living in harmony with life on Earth” is now published in One Earth by Cell Press. Download here.
This media release was submitted by the Corporate Communications Office of NTU Singapore.
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Feature image by One Save/Day via Unsplash.