FLASHBACK TO NANAIMO 2018 SYMPOSIUM: “We have created a Star Wars civilization, with Stone Age emotions, medieval institutions and godlike technology,” quoted Bob Sandford during his public lecture titled ‘The Hard Work of Hope – The Answer is in Nature’ (April 2018, watch on YouTube)

Note to Reader:

Renowned author and speaker Bob Sandford, EPCOR Chair for Water & Climate Security at the United Nations University, set the tone for the Nanaimo Water Stewardship Symposium.  At a public lecture on the evening of April 11, his inspirational message was a call to action.

The Social Conquest of Earth

“We are told that there are five fundamental instincts that appear in every culture and that all are tied to survival” stated Bob Sandford when he quoted Edward O. Wilson, author of The Social Conquest of Earth.

“The first is the instinct to nurture children and vulnerable people; the second, a strong demand for fairness and reciprocity; the third, loyalty to one’s group of origin which includes family, ethnicity and nationality; the fourth the desire to be able to move upward in one’s social hierarchy; and finally an instinct to cling to forms of purity defined by adherence to strict moral codes in the circles in which one belongs.

“Social scientists and big data analytics tell us that these five instincts can now be measured in every culture and that they know how to tap deep biological and often non-rational instincts through carefully constructed forms of communication through social and other media.

“They claim that if you know how these five instincts drive people you can engage with them more effectively, right down to the level of the individual. By identifying latent markers, such as the music you like, or the charities you support, you can predict people’s behaviour, with or without their permission, or them even knowing.

“More than that, if the story you can tell them can engage them at the level of their deepest instincts, you can move people beyond persuasion. We are also told that the goal of big data analytics is to map the entire world and to identify the differences in biologic markers sufficiently to allow more effective communication globally.”

Are We Too Late?

“But when those who wish to make the world a better place turn to big data and related breakthroughs in deeper communication in support of common understanding of issue such as water and water-related climate concerns, we find that we have arrived too late,” observed Bob Sandford.

“This space has already hijacked by the inevitable forces of power and greed. The public mind is already being heavily manipulated toward other ends and – get in line – that is why political populism is on the rise around the world; why to some extent Brexit happened; and why the U.S. elected Donald Trump.

“This is also why there has been a widespread resurgence of carefully orchestrated climate denial; why it is also then possible to sell more pick-up trucks; and in part why instead of remaining flat as they have for the last three years, energy-related carbon dioxide emissions globally did not go down as signatories to the Paris Climate Accord had hoped – but rose in 2017 to the highest levels in history.”

Why the Keeling Curve is Important

“While it seems sometimes that the only indicators of interest to our society are economic, the really important trend in my mind is the one being largely ignored: that is the Keeling Curve – the rise in the concentration of carbon dioxide in the Earth’ atmosphere,” continued Bob Sandford.

“When I was born – for all intents and purposes in 1950 – the concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere was around 300 parts per million. By the time I turned 20 its 320; when I turned 30 it was 330; and it was 350 parts per million when I turned 40. By the time I hit 50, the CO2 concentration was at 375 parts per million, up by 25 parts per million in only a decade and up 75 parts per million in the time since I was born. By the time I turned 60 it was at 390 parts per million. I am now 69 and the CO2 concentration is just under 410 parts per million.

“Unless you don’t believe in gravity and in the world you have created for yourself apples don’t fall from trees, the immutable laws of atmospheric physics point clearly in the direction climate disruption if not disaster.

“In one short human lifetime the concentration of one of the most critical greenhouse gases in the Earth’s fragile atmosphere has risen in concentration by 35%. To say that we are not adequately dealing with the climate threat is an understatement. So we appear to be back to where we started. If you want to have realistic hope for the future facts do, in fact, matter and so does science.

“It matters because it is from the science that we derive the urgency for meaningful action.”

To Learn More:

Watch the lecture on YouTube and download PUBLIC LECTURE – The Hard Work of Hope