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Seminar 9

“Future of Planet Earth” Participant Statement

Paris, France | June 3–5, 2008

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Norman Myers

What are the three most critical challenges facing Planet Earth going forward?

1. Climate change: because of its capacity to cause grand-scale disruptions of basic planetary functions and because of the long period of time (several centuries?) before the biosphere can properly recover.

2. Degradation of future evolution: the current biotic crisis is not limited to loss of perhaps half of all the planet’s species within the present century or so. At the same time, we look set to eliminate virtually all tropical forests and wetlands, each of which has served as a major source of new species following mass extinctions in the prehistoric past. This time around it looks as if we are severely depleting evolution’s capacity to generate species with numbers and variety to match today’s array. As has been well stated, “Death is one thing, an end to birth is something else.” Mass extinction could well precipitate broad-scope impoverishment of the planetary ecosystem, extending for several million years ahead.

3. Compounded impacts of several mega- and meta-“insults” to the planetary ecosystem, e.g. extensive soil erosion, deforestation, desertification, grand-scale pollution, etc. Situations can easily arise where one problem, con-joined with another problem, produces not a double problem but a super-problem.