I was recently invited to speak at the University Francisco de Vitoria in Madrid to give a freestyle lecture. An idea of freestyle speaking is quite appealing and the audience was generation Z, which I decided to ‘torpedo’ with the topic of adaptability of humans to change.
The change is a paradigm and it could affect somebody’s life, a single community or a larger population. One self initiated action, when perestroika was hitting the door in the Soviet Union solely affected the course of my life. This societal change, taking place back in the 90s could have influenced the lives of many of us due to various actions, but these were not interrelated.
But one change could affect the life of the whole community, where the singular actions of individuals do not play any role. The German Völklinger Huette making large scale ironworks was closed in 1996 after various ups in downs in the steel industry development. It is situated in one of the ‘underdeveloped’ regions in Germany, and by 1965 it was employing around 17,000 people. The closing down of the production facilities had affected the region, which economically did not manage to recover until today. However, the air became more clear in Saarland. And beyond this region, this change has not affected anyone – I would dare to say. The people probably moved to other regions, looked for other jobs, the Government gave support, but perhaps few adapted their living habits including consumption in the future course of their lives.
Now you possibly reckon what I am heading to. The much bigger change, which is not only impacting a community or region, but rather the humanity as a whole.
According to the Australian National Universtity Emiritus Professor Will Steffen the Anthropocene is a proposed new geological epoch based on the observation that human impacts on essential planetary processes have become so profound that they have driven the Earth out of the Holocene epoch (end of the glacial period). The activities of the humanity have damaged the features of the Earth system and there is nothing new. In 1972 Club of Rome already pointed out that the economic system could not grow indefinitely as it will cause environmental and resource issues that will likely cause the whole global system to collapse. The research was done based on the historical data between 1900 and 1970. And this is 50 years ago, most of you are aware of the earliest research and the latest IPCC report.
This change is global (are u fed up to hear this word?) and it requires action and efforts of each of us. Our actions are interrelated and we need to adapt.
Humans tend to defend their status quo, but prolonging the life of something which is overdue (eg. CEV with e- fuels vs EVs debate), outdated (eg.using coal or oil for heating as in the mid of the XIX century) is not opening the space for innovation and holding back any new developments. It does not also make sense, for example to attack the electric vehicle (EV) developments for the natural resources depletion of Li and Co, as the Li ion battery cells will be replaced by another generation of less resource intensive ones quite soon (note how fast the LFP cell emerged) and the older batteries are suitable for energy storage. Do you have an idea how to use empty oil wells or gas fields?
At the end of the lecture, a young student asked me whether 0 fertility (the Earth is overpopulated) should be a part of an adaptation process. I leave the answer to you. In 1967 Desmond Morris in his book “The Naked Ape” referring to uncontrollable aggressivness (not climate change) that increases with the overpopulation, noted that the best solution for ensuring world peace is the widespread promotion of contraception.