A civilization in trouble


A responsibility to future generations that extends to the “7th generation yet unborn” (about 200 years) is an American Indian belief. This should be our goal was one of the messages given to the Pattaya City Expats Club at their Sunday, June 14, meeting by Steven Lance Stoll. Lance is a former adjunct professor of social sciences who taught sociology at several colleges in the Jacksonville, Florida. He is currently teaching English in Chonburi. His presentation was about climate change, its impact, and what can be done to reverse it.

Lance said that as a sociologist he is interested in why people, especially those in the U.S., deny the facts about climate change. One being that the U.S. has done virtually nothing to combat the causes, while Western Europe and Australia have at least taken some steps. He pointed out that 50% of the stories in the U.S. popular media dispute climate change, while 97% of articles written by scientific professionals agree that climate change is due in large part to actions taken by people. He noted that the last 25 years were the hottest in human history.

Sociologist Lance Stoll describes climate change and its impact on human life on earth to his PCEC audience.

Lance described what he termed “a civilization in trouble.” It’s not just about climate change, he said, it’s also about an energy crisis, a shortage of potable water, global warming, and environmental and societal decline.

On energy, he mentioned that 95% of estimated oil reserves have already been discovered. Extracting oil from places like the tar sands (which has very poor quality oil) is damaging the environment. Agriculture is too heavily dependent on oil, so high oil prices leads to higher prices for food.

As for water, Lance pointed out that there is vast shortage of potable water in the world. What little fresh water we have is being destroyed. In India, 80 million people get their fresh water from the run off from snow in the Himalaya Mountains, but there is less and less snow. Melting ice caps both reduce the supply of fresh water and increase sea levels. He showed a map comparing the size of the ice cap in Greenland in the 1970s vs. today. It was obvious that the Greenland today has significantly less ice. Lance predicts that in the future wars will be fought over water.

Other examples of the effects of environmental decline provided by Lance included the following: species are disappearing 1,000 times faster than natural evolution would dictate; developing countries are losing 6% of their rain forests per decade; 90% of the world’s large fish stocks have been depleted; the gap between the rich and poor has never been greater (300 individuals have more wealth than the bottom 3.5 billion people); 80 million people starve to death each year; there is a garbage field in the Pacific Ocean that is larger than the state of Texas; and there are more failed states than ever before.

Lance said that population growth is out of control; at the time of Jesus Christ, there were about 300 million people on the Earth. By the time his father was born in 1922, that number was 2 billion. During his father’s lifetime (he passed away recently), the Earth’s population has gone to from 2 billion to 7 billion.

Member Jim Jones (left) presents Lance Stoll (right) with the PCEC’s Certificate of Appreciation for his informative talk about climate change and what can be done to reverse its effects.

What can be done about the increasing population? Lance pointed out that the birth rate in impoverished countries was a major factor, whereas the countries with an educated and healthy population was not. Thus, in his opinion, poverty and poor health needs to be eradicated as mentioned in the work of Lester R. Brown, a leading environmental analyst in the U.S. The solutions advocated by Brown include the following: educate the 115 million children who do not go to school of any kind (cost: $12 billion a year); provide school lunch programs for children who are starving (cost: $6 billion a year); and provide universal health care (cost: $33 billion a year). In an analysis he did in 2006, Brown estimated that it would cost $77 billion a year to eradicate poverty, and $113 billion a year to restore the Earth. He called this his “Plan B.” His total Plan B budget of $190 billion compared with an estimated world military budget of $1,235 billion in 2006. Lance said that today estimated world military budgets are about $1,500 billion (1.5 trillion) a year.

Lance Stoll (left) is interviewed by PCEC member Tony Heron (right) about climate change and its future effect upon human life on earth.

Other things we should be doing, Lance said, include stabilizing the world’s population; re-structuring the economy; taxing environmentally destructive activities; and investing in clean energy development such as wind and solar power.

He believes every house in Thailand should have a solar panel in the roof. That’s one step we could take to resolve the damage to the environment caused by climate change. And not just in Thailand, but every place that enjoys a lot of sunshine, including parts of the U.S. like Florida and Arizona. Even places that get a lot less sun (e.g. Germany) have demonstrated the benefits of solar power.

After the presentation, MC Richard Silverberg brought everyone up to date on upcoming events and called on Tony Heron to conduct the Open Forum, where questions are asked and answered about Expat living in Thailand, especially Pattaya.

For more information on the PCEC’s many activities, visit their website at www.pcecclub.org.