Redlining the Planet

Peter Russell, a British author and futurist, has a mesmerizing world clock on his website.

This clock doesn’t tell time, it measures global stress issues, such as population growth, species extinctions, deforestation, and CO2 emissions. I reset the clock, sat down to read the paper, and came back an hour later. What happened in my 60 minutes of leisure time?

  • 1480 hectares of forest were cut down (3660 acres)
  • 690 hectares of new desert were created (1700 acres)
  • 3.1 Million tons of CO2 were emitted
  • 3.5 Million barrels of oil were pumped
  • 3 species went extinct
  • The world’s population grew by 8,800 people 

In autoracing, the term ‘redlining’ refers to the maximum speed an engine and its components can operate at without causing damage to the system. Go over the redline and the damage is usually widespread and severe.  Watching the numbers on the world clock continue to grow, can there be any doubt that there is a planetary redline for each of these metrics? We don’t know where the upper limits are, but it goes without saying that our world can not support limitless population, greenhouse gas emissions, desertification, or oil. If we knew these upper limits, and watched as the needle slowly approached the redline, I wonder if we would take the issues more seriously.

On the climate front, the carbon meter currently reads 385 parts per million (ppm). Many of the world’s leading scientists estimate that 450 ppm is our self destruct point. Still others feel that we need to drop back down to 350 ppm, and have already hit the redline — we just don’t know it yet. The number is rising by 2-3 ppm per year, and to get atmospheric CO2 to stop rising, scientists believe that global emissions need to be cut by at least 50%. Whether we are approaching or have passed the limit, we clearly need to take our foot off the accelerator. (You can sign the Care2 petition in support of a strong US climate bill here.)

There is of course a second definition of redlining, which is the practice of denying or increasing the cost of necessary services (health, food, jobs) to residents in defined racially determined areas. Sadly, in an indirect way the world clock also measures this. As the metrics increase, it is many of the poorest in the poorer countries who will be impacted most, exacerbating the differences between ‘haves’ and ‘have nots’.

Because of both redline issues, we need to start thinking more holistically about our planet. As Russell says;

“The real crisis we are facing is not an environmental crisis, a population crisis, economic crisis, a social crisis, or a political crisis. It is, at its root, a crisis of consciousness.  A crisis is an indication that the old mode of operating is no longer working, and a new approach is required. This is true of a personal crisis, a family crisis or a political crisis. In the case of the environmental the old way that is no longer working is our self-centred materialistic consciousness. It may have worked well in the past, when we needed to provide ourselves with the basic commodities necessary for our individual well-being – but it clearly no longer works today.”

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Image copyright ClimatePath. Adapted from / CC BY-SA 2.0. Globe image courtesy of Nasa.


LMj Sunshine

Thank you for article.

LMj Sunshine

Thank you for article.

LMj Sunshine

Thank you for article.

LMj Sunshine

Thank you for article.

Frank Lornitzo
Frank Lornitzo7 years ago

Those of us who have lived long enough and also those who livedd near vulnerable spots should bear witness to the accumulation of changes that lead up to disasters. Just one item that may alert the deniers who like to take ski trips:
How many places have shut down because of several years without snow? and several years with snow changing to ice making skiing impossible?
How about Rhode island where snow removal equipment is rusting where years ago there were 3 foot blizzards.
How about valley towns that are no linger protected from floods
because they are increasingly torrential.

How about hot spots such as in the Oklahoma panhandle that have been spreading as uninhabitable.?

How about some common sense to see th clear cutting of forests especially rain forests and the tonnage of coal burning?

Throughout the ages civilization has created poop and someone else has had to clean it up. Do you deniers want to stop now from cleaning up our own poop?

No Body
Chi Warrior7 years ago

redlining the planet. all comes back to population sustainable population. As population increases, it increases consume of fossil fuels, timber, food. leads to deforestation, global warming emissions

Meredith D.
Meredith D7 years ago

Um...corporations stopped being collections of people and became the toys of billionaire CEOs a long time ago. Corporate interest is entirely different than in the interest of the people who work there. The every day working person is getting fired while the same small group of people make more and more money running various business' into the ground, putting people out of work, and destroying the environment. While they give themselves million dollar bonuses to do it. So yes, big corporations are a big part of the problem.

Angela Mccloud
Angela Mccloud7 years ago

The only way all this will change ( global warming) is that we all ( the world) pray to God for forgiveness. God is upset with the way things are going on this earth. The wars have to stop. Alot of peoples are being killed. The visions i had years ago are coming true. I pray to God everyday; but all ( the world ) have to change, and pray. Too all whom don't beleive in God; Beleive!; because there is a God, and he is watching all that is going on; on this earth every day. God, he comes to you in the spirit. God is a Holy Spirit. God love us all, and he is upset. I know this because he came to me in the spirit. Thank you God for coming to me. Thank you father. Father, you must see something in me Father. I'am crying. God came to me. He choose me. There are others he choose too. I know this; because i meet an Angel whom save my brother daughter ( she was sick). She's well now, and doing good. The wars have to stop. The killings have to stop. America, we have to repent of our sins ( the world also); but America (my country) we upseted God. God showed me a vision, and this is why i know he is upset. If you don't beleive me it's ok; not everyone understand when a person have a visions. Just pray to God to protect you from the evil spirits ok. I love you all; and don't forget to pray to God; and pray to God for forgiveness of all your sins ok. Talk to you all later.

Steve K.
Steve K7 years ago

Well the planet has as far as we know had a CO2 concentrattion in the atmosphere much more than 350pm of course there have been a number extinctions and we don't know if they were linked to the eleveated CO2 levels or whether there was some other cause. I doubt the planet is trying to get rid of us, and yes of course we should be more cautious. However we may have prevented another ice age. I think it is really still somewhat up in the air, but overall it would probalby be a bad idea to raise the CO2 concentration by an order of magnitude.

The big thing is we are engaging in a great experiment with the whole planet and we don't really know what we are doing. We ought not count on the hope that the planet has homeostatic mechanisms we haven't discover3ed yet.

Have FUn,
Sends Steve

P.S. By the way I have always wondered about the validity of those statements that go bad things happen every seconds, minutes or other short unit of time.

Marie K.
Marie K7 years ago

Yes, the ridiculously large numbers of Cows raised to feed the over-population of over-eaters who eat far more red meat and drink far more milk than good nutrition dictates, those cows do produce a large amount of CO2 emissions. So, we should drive our cars less AND consume less meat and milk!!!