25 years ago, 1,700 of the world’s leading scientists issued a grim “warning to humanity.” Within, they explained that human activities were doing serious, irreversible damage on the planet that, if left unchecked, would eventually make the planet uninhabitable. The scientists then listed all of the ways that the Earth was suffering on account of humanity, from ozone depletion to exploitation of water supplies to the destruction of rain forests.
On the 25th anniversary of the appeal, over 15,000 scientists have published “a second notice,” examining the pleas of the original letter and checking back in to see how humanity has responded over the past two and a half decades. You probably won’t be surprised to learn that we haven’t done much of anything to heed the warnings.
“Since 1992, with the exception of stabilizing the stratospheric ozone layer, humanity has failed to make sufficient progress in generally solving these foreseen environmental challenges, and alarmingly, most of them are getting far worse,” the scientists write in response to the data they have examined. “Especially troubling is the current trajectory of potentially catastrophic climate change due to rising GHGs from burning fossil fuels, deforestation, and agricultural production—particularly from farming ruminants for meat consumption.”
If we fail to limit population growth and rein in our consumption as a species, the scientists warn, we won’t be taking the steps necessary to ensure that we survive in the centuries to come. They insist that governments around the world do what they can to address these issues promptly, and that citizens of those countries rise up to demand that something be done. If we were able to limit ozone depletion, we can improve in other areas as well.
“To prevent widespread misery and catastrophic biodiversity loss, humanity must practice a more environmentally sustainable alternative to business as usual,” the scientists say near the end of the letter. “This prescription was well articulated by the world’s leading scientists 25 years ago, but in most respects, we have not heeded their warning. Soon it will be too late to shift course away from our failing trajectory, and time is running out. We must recognize, in our day-to-day lives and in our governing institutions, that Earth with all its life is our only home.”