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Can humans be a repairing force for our biosphere?

Written by Miguel Van Damme

For 2020, I wish everyone to protect actively our common biosphere – the blue planet. One often overlooks the miracle of our blue planet and our biosphere – from the Ancient Greek Bios (life) and sphaîra (sphere). It is the only place in the entire cosmos where life was made possible thanks to a series of improbable causes. However, over the last 10.000 years of the mankind, we, HUMANS, started to cause significant harm to our biosphere. It is absolutely crucial to act now in order to safeguard our biosphere. There is some good news though; solutions are at hand, and YOU can make it happen.

Our biosphere is a miracle

Our biosphere – where life is possible – represents only a very thin layer of the earth. At the scale of the cosmos, where temperatures are extremely hot or cold, this is a miracle. Our blue planet appeared 4,56 billion years ago, when after the explosion of a supernova, stardust clustered into a planet. Life appeared thanks to a series of conditions that were met, such as, distance to the sun, ability to create an atmosphere and presence of liquid water.

That water allowed for oxygenic photosynthetic bacteria to develop in the oceans. These bacteria performed photosynthesis in a similar way as plants do. They contained light-harvesting pigments, absorbed carbon dioxide (that was massively present at the time) and released oxygen which was still lacking. As such, 400 million years ago, there was sufficient oxygen in the atmosphere – enabling amongst others the formation of a protective ozone-layer – and allowed for the first life on land.

Our blue planet hosted life and became radically different than our sister planets with similar compositions, such as Mars, Venus, or Mercure. The creation of our biosphere is a miracle, and over the course of millions of years, animal and vegetal species were able to develop and gained in complexity.

Homo Sapiens as a disruptive force

The rise of the Homo Sapiens in 70.000 B.C. was followed by the first extinctions of species. This was clearly illustrated in America where the Homo Sapiens arrived around 13.000 B.C. The Sapiens, hunters at that time, targeted the most “suitable” animals for them. The large animals were relatively easy to capture and had a lot of meat. Only a few thousand years later, around 10.000 B.C., animals such as American mastodons, mammoths, bisons, camelops, deers and horse species had already disappeared.

As the Sapines changed its hunter habits and developed a farming culture, other major environmental issues arose. The dominant form of agriculture copied from the steppes of the Black Sea, consisted of cereals and cattle. This “steppe” type of farming caused major environmental problems in Europe and North-Africa. In Europe, the forests were cut down to allow to grow non-permanent cereals. In North-Africa, livestock farming allowed the Sahara to spread out. Plato was already aware of this when he wrote the following in Critias: “Back in the days, our land was extremely fertile. The mountains of Attica were covered by forests. […] Now, all fertile land in Attica fade away.”

More recently, over the last 50 years, we dumped over 250 Billion plastics in the Mediterranean Sea. Today, every single fish in that sea contains plastic. Pollution combined with overfishing is putting the existence of at least 40 species at risk, such as the red tuna and different manta ray species. In a near future, near 300.000 fishermen of the Mediterranean Sea will have to find a new way to provide for their income.

Yes we can

Reversing this harmful trend of extinction is possible, but it will require a combination of hard choices and technology. Hard choices will include the implementation of a carbon tax, a reduction of our beef consumption and a stop on fossil fuel exploration. High-tech and low-tech solutions will ensure that we maintain and even improve or occidental way of living.

Is it even possible to reverse the trend? Yes! We have been successful in the past when the UV-protective ozone-layer was in danger 30 years ago. Countries across the globe made agreed to ban CFC gases. Today, the ozone-layer has been restored. So how can you contribute?

First, at home:

1. Reduce the footprint of your house (heating, water & electricity)

2. Take public transport and bike, carpool, switch that city trip by plane to a city trip by train (much cooler)

3. Buy from environmentally friendly companies

4. Eat local and seasonal (Did you know that 1kg of fresh tomatoes in the middle of the winter, cultivated in heated greenhouses, requires as much as 2 L of fuel?)

And at work too, you can make change happen.

1. Put sustainability are the core of every business decision. Assess every new project first on sustainability components before analyzing the financial case

2. Assess the current footprint of your organization/team

3. Define an ambitious roadmap to reduce your organization/team footprint to zero (being truly ambitious will unleash creativity)

4. Define which services your organization will deliver once carbon neutrality will be a must for everyone, this will define your innovation roadmap


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