The Tipping Point

By William Sosinsky
“A man’s conscience, like a warning line on the highway, tells him what he
shouldn’t do – but it does not keep him from doing it.”
Frank A. Clark
As far back as I can remember since we began to recognize our potential to destroy
our planet’s environment, experts have spoken of a tipping point. This is a
theoretical time frame where our collective action would no longer offset varying
degrees of catastrophic damage to our biosphere. The concept of a tipping point
has been a focus of arguments and the impetus for calls to action such that opinions
have varied widely as to the actual timeframe and consequences of this subjective
moment in time. Whether those who still insist we have not reached the tipping
point are just plain ignorant or using their opinion as a strategy of creating doubt to
delay action, the reality is we passed that proverbial tipping point years ago.
The wheels of change are now unalterably moving forward with a momentum we
are powerless to reverse. The manifestation of our impacts on the environment will
change our planet in fundamental ways that will have a huge impact on every
human being on earth. The ice caps will continue to melt, sea levels will continue
to rise, oceans will continue to become more acidic, weather patterns will continue
to change and become more severe, atmospheric temperatures will continue to rise,
and the general health and vitality of our food chain will continue to deteriorate
regardless of what mitigating steps we now take. Anyone who does not realize
these truths has failed to acknowledge the scientific trends and cumulative data
which points to these undeniable facts or is either living in a fantasy world too
afraid to admit the consequences of our failure to address these issues
preemptively. The sad truth is we are about to enter an unprecedented age of
resource depletion that has the potential to turn our future into an extended “dark
age” the likes of which our species has never experienced.
We are not without options however as to how this will eventually play out and
what we can still do to respond to these threats. The reality is there are degrees of
austerity and damage that could occur as we push forward into the 21 st century.
Much is still yet to be determined and will be the result or consequence of the
actions we take or our continued lack of a coordinated and decisive response. If we
were to collectively put into action a massive restructuring of our planets

supportive infrastructure and resource management policies much of the more
potentially severe consequences could be avoided. In some cases they could
actually be reversed. In that case we could avoid some of the other tipping points
which would then have permanent and irreversible consequences to humankind.
That being said, there is another tipping point that we need to focus on and is much
more significant that no one really talks about. What happens when we run out of
economic resources to respond to these threats and prepare our population for the
changes that are sure to occur? How will we answer these challenges when
societies around the world start to collapse under the pressure of diminishing
resources so that regional response becomes impossible? If you think that unlikely
look what has happened in Somalia. You might also consider the recent events in
Egypt, Tunisia, Yemen, and Syria during the Arab spring. The harsh reality is
when populations don’t have sufficient food and water they stop listening to the
authorities.
More than 75% of our global population lives in countries which are in jeopardy of
having their ability to support their population’s basic necessities for survival
completely collapse before mid-century. Additionally neighboring countries which
can somehow manage to get by are also at risk. Those remaining regions will
quickly come under pressure from migrating populations desperately seeking the
resources they need to survive. This is the frightening reality our modern world
now faces.
All is not lost however. We still have the opportunity to avoid the worst of this
scenario but time is running short. Every year as food, energy, and commodity
prices rise as a percentage of family income globally, our ability to counter these
trends diminish. Reduced financial and available capital resources will result in
families and countries having less and less money available for discretionary
investment and infrastructure development. This will eventually erode and cripple
our ability to respond. Subsidies will disappear, philanthropic efforts will diminish,
and money for education and health diverted in an attempt to make up for those
shortcomings till we are eventually broke and powerless. Read the papers or listen
to the news. These challenges are the subtext of practically every global challenge
we now face. The days of large humanitarian aid efforts will soon come to an end
and we will be powerless to act as we watch regions of our world collapse under
these pressures. This will be the consequence if we fail to prepare in advance of
that tipping point.

Never before has it been so important and necessary for humanity to act in
common purpose if we are to substantially counter this momentum and re-establish
balance back to our broken planet. Actions and projects need to be coordinated,
prioritized, and quantified for efficiency and impact. All of that will take financial
resources we can ill afford to squander. Our failure to accomplish these changes
will usher in a series of events that few of us can imagine in terms of the human
suffering and environmental destruction that are sure to occur as a result of our
inaction. This particular tipping point can and must be avoided at all costs.

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