We live in the anthropocene age. It’s a time when what people do changes how the Earth works – and whether it will be comfortable for us all to live on it or not. Today, humanity needs to wake up to the urgency of tackling the huge range of changes created by our impact on the planet if we are to avoid the dire consequences of that impact. So where do you start to take up the challenge? Well Prof Mike Berners-Lee of the Institute for Social Futures and Small World Consulting at Lancaster University starts where I would, with food, in his new, easy to read, book – There is no Planet B: A handbook for the Make or Break Years*. So I asked him why?
Starting with key questions such as can we feed everybody now and in the future, he moves onto to questions about how to keep fossil fuel in the ground, how should businesses think about the world to what are the economics, values and ways of thinking we need to avoid disaster and why he retains some optimism that we humans can do so.
The book is full of detailed analysis, such as how many edible calories we produce in the world and where they go. He explains why ‘The median Italian is about twice as well off as the median American, despite Italy having only just over half of the wealth per person.’ The key challenges lie not with technologies to address the problems, he argues, but through developing new thinking skills and practices that include ‘big picture thinking, joined up thinking, future thinking, critical thinking, dedication to truth, self-awareness, global empathy, and a better appreciation of the small things in this beautiful world that we live in’.
*He is speaking a various events around the UK until mid-May. You can tell him what you think about how we should and could live well in the Anthropocene and find out more on theresnoplanetb.net. I interviewed him just before the launch of his book last week at the Lancaster Environment Centre where I’m an honorary teaching fellow.