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Sharman's Bigger Planet

Presentation to the Linnean Society of London 15 April 2010

Martin Sharman

on 8 August 2015

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Transcript of Sharman's Bigger Planet

The obvious solution
to biodiversity loss:
a bigger planet the study of all aspects of the biological sciences,
with particular emphasis on
evolution, taxonomy, biodiversity and sustainability personal thoughts this does not represent
an official position thinking
is an
actity Aims of the Linnean Society and the urgency
of the challenge these calm words disguise... the scale,
difficulty, importance, swifly find paths that will take us therefore
must take pride of place will try to justify this
in the next few minutes not bringing you any easy answers

only questions
too difficult for me
to resolve rescuing
a world out of balance continued global biodiversity loss
is a symptom of a species-threatening dysfunction biodiversity loss
is not a thing
we can treat
on its own inextricably knotted
into a poly-crisis human appropriation of photosynthesis
(net primary production) over allocation of water degradation and
loss of soil global warming pollution violence disease poverty famine waste humans are quite simply
not dealing with their environment
in a way that shows... ...regard
for the future ...understanding of anything, really limits
exponential growth
stewardship "mutually beneficial"
means that
not only gains from
but also cherishes
biological diversity over the long term into a mutually beneficial relationship
with the rest
of the living world act as if we believed in
and felt responsible for
the future sustainability biodiversity
has links with
all of these no need to
spell these links out almost always complex just note in passing
self-organsing systems
feedback and
emergence can expect
critical transitions this is the hardest thing humans
have ever tried to do the devil
is in
detail human appropriation of net primary production
and fresh water
ocean acidification
loss of soil
global warming
waste ocean acidification what's
missing? finance
energy and biodiversity loss
is an indicator
of a non-sustainable society humans benefit
from reducing biodiversity human (short-term)
well-being depends
on a (local)
reduction in biodiversity
(e.g. agriculture)
fine if rate of replenishment is greater than rate of reduction if your society depends on driving down biodiversity faster than it can regenerate,
your society is not sustainable economic paradigm oil economic paradigm endless economic growth growth requires that
tomorrow is bigger than today fine while there is surplus energy
life on Earth surplus limits to
growth not exactly
a new idea decoupling and dematerialisation
are attractive concepts decoupling economic growth
from environmental impact:

relative decoupling is not enough,
but absolute decoupling
flies in the face of physics nothing to suggest
growth is compatible with
sustainable use of life on Earth exponential growth
3% per year implies
doubling in 24 years in next 24 years
we will use as much
of everything and generate
as much waste as in all of human history growth generates
wealth recession generates
misery both are driven
by feedback a no-growth economy
seems unstable dreadful
dilemma if you don't want to
let go of growth tomorrow is no longer
bigger than today exponential growth
means that tomorrow surprises us rushes up out of nowhere overshoot overshoot paid for by those excluded
from the market the destitute the unborn species other than humans cheap oil
unlimited water
bountiful nature if we are reaching
the limits,
what will break first? a toss-up finance
energy or oil
tide oil energy let's pretend oil = transport oil 150 years of
abundant, cheap, transportable energy high energy density
hugely efficient source of motion
essential for transport
plastics, pharmacuticals, pesticides, paint... First commercial strike: 27th Augst 1859 Billy Smith and
Edwin Drake 23m below
Titusville, PA 20th century civilizations
and wars
built on an energy glut boom time for humans 15th April 2010 +/- 10 years peak oil moment when rate of extraction
reaches its maximum

from then on, it's all downhill
energy cost of extraction
closes in on energy obtained Energy Returned on Energy Invested not good news
for an economy
addicted to oil increasingly strenuous
efforts to find alternatives heavy crude
tar sands
oil shale
thermal depolymerization of waste
hydrogen + sequestered CO2
biomass high energy cost of extraction
highly contaminated with sulfur biomass significant additional pressure
on natural ecosystems

competition between SUVs and human mouths end of the party ...not quite sure where we're going next not likely to be good news for biodiversity at least, in the short term numerically, anyway...

because the benefits of the boom
have been unevenly distibuted some have not quite lived the dream staggering away... Sustainability what is implied? relationship with the living world
(human and non-human) relationship with the recyclable world relationship
with energy relationship with the water world relationship with extractive,
non-recyclable world? end of fossil energy
is unavoidable will inevitably and
totally change society under these conditions,
how do we establish a
mutually beneficial relationship
with the rest of the living world? act as if there are no guardian angels,
no god and no heaven we got ourselves into this mess
we have to find our way through, too nobody will pop out of the woodwork to help us dematerialising the economy
matter-based to knowledge-based

extractive economy still needed,
economy cannot escape
need for material throughput current rate of consumption
of oil is closely equivalent to
current rate of production rate of production
has not responded
to recent increases
in global crude prices this and other observations
suggests that Thoughts on
blind summit what can we do
to anticipate the
unexpected as we
approach? what can we do to
prepare for what might be
waiting for us
over the crest? analogy not perfect -
hooting horn and
flashing headlights
unlikely to be much use being alert
monitoring speed
checking place on road Targets 8-fold path to Nirvana:

Right Understanding
Right Thoughts
Right Speech
Right Action
Right Livelihood
Right Effort
Right Mindfulness
Right Concentration Halt the loss of
biodiversity "biodiversity"
is a
composite of objects,
outcomes biodiversity is a
boundary object no single unit of measurement no single axis of measurement without a single axis of measurement measurement of loss is problematic how would we ever know
if we've "stopped the loss"? endpoint undetermined if biodiversity loss is a symptom then "stopping the loss" muddles ends and means who is responsible for achieving the target?
who is accountable?
who owns the job? "halting the loss"
fails to acknowledge that there are
beneficiaries of the loss you and me, for example are targets really the
right way to go? assess status, trends and functional relationships
understand drivers and mechanisms of change
develop and evaluate effective management and conservation
define, measure and value ecosystem services and their use by human societies
understand relationships between the functioning of complex systems and our capacity to extract services without degrading them
understand how to restore services which have been degraded
work out how to manage and use of ecosystems, land- and seascapes and component biodiversity sustainably
understand, mitigate and adapt to effects on the living world of human induced drivers (e.g. climate change, land-use change, pollution, over-exploitation, and invasions of non-native species)
understand resilience and learn to forecast tipping points of ecosystems under the interaction of drivers of change
provide knowledge on the living world to Contribute to meeting other Grand Challenges (Water, Food, and Energy Security, Population Growth, Human Health)
research to develop and support policies for a sustainable future the greatest of all
Grand Challenges ”New Worlds – New Solutions” Lund declaration identifies "areas such as
global warming,
tightening supplies of energy, water and food,
ageing societies,
public health,
and security" no mention of the living world except as food establish and maintain a mutually beneficial relationship
with the rest of the living world what research is needed
to help humans survive
for the next 100 years? ask the Linnean Society
to contribute to meeting
this grand challenge the most intellectually,
socially, scientifically
difficult thing
humans have ever tried to do biodiversity

biodiversity loss the living world
a subject of study
in its own right characteristic of the anthropocene
a subject of ultimate concern focus on short-term well-being
has damaged the world it's easy if you try above us only sky threatening many species,
not least Homo sapiens as "Grand Challenges"
for European research H : dream on

H : 6th extinction

H : collapse of civilization

H : rapid transition to sustainable society 0 1 2 3 H : dream on

H : 6th extinction

H : collapse of civilization

H : rapid transition to sustainable society 0 1 2 3 the point of all this with so many
potential points of failure
in the poly-crisis our economic model
is not sustainable relationship
with consumption must radically change
to a non-growth economy blind summit 4 hypotheses
of the apocalypse debt investment credit payback next 20 years
will be very unlike
last 20 years possibly not the moment
to accelerate might be as well
to consider carefully
before overtaking you can't treat it
as a thing out there
to fix on its own can't expect to stop the loss
without changing the drivers of loss or simply find
a bigger planet
Full transcript