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November, 2015

COP21: Is humanity approaching its expiration date?

Selina Juul, Founder of Stop Wasting Food Movement Denmark (Stop Spild Af Mad)

Here we go again. This December, the world’s decision-makers will gather in Paris for COP21 to have another go at slowing the pace of global climate change. The nations of the world must commit to limiting their emissions of greenhouse gases, and COP21 in Paris may indeed be one of mankind’s last chances to save our civilisation.

Escalating climate change, world population growth, loss of biodiversity, and lack of resources all now point to an inevitable future, in which the human race itself is endangered - with humanity’s possible expiration date in 200-300 years from now. This is the reality if mankind continues doing what it has al-ways done – business as usual.

As humans, our mindset tends to be “someone will save us, won’t they?” When the Mayan calendar came to an end on 21st December 2012, the world was supposedly going to an end. Many people in the alternative communities believed, that there would be some sort of miracle, that our world would be reborn in a new age, and all the evils and problems in the world would be banished. Sadly, these people were wrong – the human race and all its problems are still here.

In reality, the belief that the world would end in 2012 was pure escapism: we would rather be somewhere else, absolved of responsibility, than face our problems.

Another example of such escapism can be seen in the huge interest in the up-coming Mars One reality show – a mission with a one-way ticket to Mars in 2023. The project had 202,586 applicants – including 489 Danes – all ready and willing to leave Earth with no hope of returning.

Instead of having blind faith that our politicians and world leaders will save the world for us at COP21, we can actively take responsibility ourselves and contribute to saving civilisation.

And who knows... NASA has recently announced evidence of  liquid water on Mars, so in the very distant future it might possibly be terraformed and be-come civilisation’s plan(et) B.

It may only be a matter of time until climate change and rising temperatures mean we can no longer prevent the situation, and can only adapt to the new scenarios we will be faced with. 

But we can also take action.

Instead of having blind faith that our politicians and world leaders will save the world for us at COP21, we can actively take responsibility ourselves and contribute to saving civilisation.

There are many who are already contributing: from corporations like Arla, IKEA and Unilever who have green strategies - to citizens, who are engaging in new sharing and recycling initiatives.

There is an enormous power in the actions of ordinary citizens.

For instance, the consumer movement against food waste has resulted in 25% less food waste in Denmark over the last five years, and most of the country’s food companies and supermarkets today have food waste prevention strategies. As citizens, we have the power to start green revolution, which ultimately creates green demand for businesses and fuels up the green transition and green growth.

There are no miracle solutions. Focus, determination, courage, a change in mentality, action, technology, and adaptability all play a role in our steps to-wards a green transition.

“We’re not meant to save the world. We're meant to leave it,” says Dr. Brand in the film Interstellar. But if we’re unable to figure out how to save civilisation here on Earth, will we be able to do so on other planets in some distant future?  And how long will it take for an established human colony for example on Mars to run into exactly the same problems that we face on Earth today?

Perhaps we should take a good look at ourselves first before looking to the stars.

Selina Juul is Winner of Nordic Council Nature and Environment Prize 2013, Dane of the Year 2014 and Blogger at The Huffington Post