The World needs to change.
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Earth is home to millions of species. Just one dominates it. Us. Our cleverness, our inventiveness and our activities have modified almost every part of our planet. In fact, we are having a profound impact on it. Indeed, our cleverness, our inventiveness and our activities are now the drivers of every global problem we face. And every one of these problems is accelerating as we continue to grow towards a global population of 10 billion. In fact, I believe we can rightly call the situation we're in right now an emergency – an unprecedented planetary emergency.
We humans emerged as a species about 200,000 years ago. In geological time, that is really incredibly recent. Just 10,000 years ago, there were one million of us. By 1800, just over 200 years ago, there were 1 billion of us. By 1960, 50 years ago, there were 3 billion of us. There are now over 7 billion of us. By 2050, your children, or your children's children, will be living on a planet with at least 9 billion other people. Some time towards the end of this century, there will be at least 10 billion of us. Possibly more.
We got to where we are now through a number of civilisation- and society-shaping "events", most notably the agricultural revolution, the scientific revolution, the industrial revolution and – in the West – the public-health revolution. By 1980, there were 4 billion of us on the planet. Just 10 years later, in 1990, there were 5 billion of us. By this point initial signs of the consequences of our growth were starting to show. Not the least of these was on water. Our demand for water – not just the water we drank but the water we needed for food production and to make all the stuff we were consuming – was going through the roof. But something was starting to happen to water.
Back in 1984, journalists reported from Ethiopia about a famine of biblical proportions caused by widespread drought. Unusual drought, and unusual flooding, was increasing everywhere: Australia, Asia, the US, Europe. Water, a vital resource we had thought of as abundant, was now suddenly something that had the potential to be scarce.
By 2000 there were 6 billion of us. It was becoming clear to the world's scientific community that the accumulation of CO2, methane and other greenhouse gases in the atmosphere – as a result of increasing agriculture, land use and the production, processing and transportation of everything we were consuming – was changing the climate. And that, as a result, we had a serious problem on our hands; 1998 had been the warmest year on record. The 10 warmest years on record have occurred since 1998.
We hear the term "climate" every day, so it is worth thinking about what we actually mean by it. Obviously, "climate" is not the same as weather. The climate is one of the Earth's fundamental life support systems, one that determines whether or not we humans are able to live on this planet. It is generated by four components: the atmosphere (the air we breathe); the hydrosphere (the planet's water); the cryosphere (the ice sheets and glaciers); the biosphere (the planet's plants and animals). By now, our activities had started to modify every one of these components.
Our emissions of CO2 modify our atmosphere. Our increasing water use had started to modify our hydrosphere. Rising atmospheric and sea-surface temperature had started to modify the cryosphere, most notably in the unexpected shrinking of the Arctic and Greenland ice sheets. Our increasing use of land, for agriculture, cities, roads, mining – as well as all the pollution we were creating – had started to modify our biosphere. Or, to put it another way: we had started to change our climate.
There are now more than 7 billion of us on Earth. As our numbers continue to grow, we continue to increase our need for far more water, far more food, far more land, far more transport and far more energy. As a result, we are accelerating the rate at which we're changing our climate. In fact, our activities are not only completely interconnected with but now also interact with, the complex system we live on: Earth. It is important to understand how all this is connected.
In recent years, there has been much focus on millennials’ mental health, but there’s a whole new generation behind them now. Generation Z has never known the world without the internet and smartphones – how is that affecting their mental wellbeing?
According to the Mental Health Foundation, one in 10 children and young people in the UK are affected by mental health problems. And 70 per cent of those have not had appropriate interventions at a sufficiently early age – meaning that these children and young people will likely be carrying their mental illnesses into adulthood.
Dr Jean Twenge, professor of psychology at San Diego State University, says that, psychologically, Generation Z are “more vulnerable than millennials were”. Teen depression and suicide rates have “skyrocketed” since 2011 and she says it’s “not an exaggeration to describe [Generation Z] as being on the brink of the worst mental-health crisis in decades”. And much of this, she says, can be traced back to their phones.
I’ve been tracking trends in the attitudes and behaviors of teens and young adults for many years, primarily relying on a nationally representative survey of U.S. teens conducted every year called Monitoring the Future (MtF) that has surveyed 1.4 million teens since the 1970s. Around 2012 to 2013, there was sudden uptick in teens saying they were experiencing symptoms of depression — feeling hopeless, not enjoying life, believing they can’t do anything right. Depressive symptoms continued to increase over the next few years, making today's teens — whom I describe in my new book, iGen — significantly more depressed than teens just a few years before.
The world needs to change cause if it stays the way it is then I am pretty sure it won’t lead us to a very good future. So, take a action to change the world. Start by planting trees and by talking to your children about their life. Chip few dollars if you care about the world we live in or about your childrens. #Change.
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