The Environmental Program of the United Nations has released its 550-page report, Global Environment Outlook (or GEO-4). The UN report warns that climate change, diminishing water supplies, and species extinction, among many other threats, will irreversibly alter life on Earth.

We’re in trouble, folks, and, unfortunately, as executive director of the program Achim Steiner notes, most nations had failed to “recognize the magnitude of the challenges facing the people and the environment of the planet.” Steiner went right to the source of the problem: overshoot and collapse. The capitalist treadmill of production, its imperative to expand the depletion of resources continually for the sake of profit, is a recipe for disaster. “That equation cannot hold for much longer,” Steiner said. “Indeed, in parts of the world it is no longer holding.”

Of course, the global warming denial lunatics are out in force denying the soundness of the science in the report. So I think it is helpful to point out that this report is five years in coming and is the work of nearly four hundred scientists. They took their sweet time in producing a very carefully researched report (it’s been a long twenty years since the last one).

The facts are dramatic and incontrovertable. Just take a look at one fact, first reported in June by the World Health Organization: thirteen million human beings die annually as a result of dirty water, polluted air, and poor working conditions. The UN report found that if the trends identified by WHO continue, almost two billion people will suffer from fresh water shortages.

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Andrew Austin

Andrew Austin is on the faculty of Democracy and Justice Studies and Sociology at the University of Wisconsin—Green Bay. He has published numerous articles, essays, and reviews in books, encyclopedia, journals, and newspapers.

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