Science Solitaire

[Science Solitaire] Baby steps are not for grown-ups when it comes to the planetary crisis 

Maria Isabel Garcia

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[Science Solitaire] Baby steps are not for grown-ups when it comes to the planetary crisis 
How can we be we be effective stewards of a burning planet when what we are only willing to do is to recruit relatively miniature expired fire extinguishers?  

“It was a different time, then, my friend.” This was how a close friend explained his behavior as I glared at him while he told me stories of harpooning mantas and sharks as a young boy while on a recreational tour with his family over five decades ago. 

“It was what was taught then, even in the best of schools. So we start with baby steps and change will come.” This was how business people, many of them friends of mine, also explain how they looked at nature as a trove of raw materials for extraction without accounting from what is also lost to life, economically, health-wise, ecologically, once they did. 

I know that. I was already alive during those times and while not exactly harpooning marine life or part of a conglomerate or government finance, I also thought plants and animals were merely provisions for human gain and amusement as I have been taught the same at home and in school. 

But I grew up. We all grew up. Everyone should even if many don’t. And with growing up, we gain new eyes to see. And you have to be insulated like a grain caught inside a shoe, inside a box, inside a suitcase within a storage room in a doomsday basement in a fortified village NOT to know the reality that ours is a living planet in crisis. Nature itself has brought us the consequences of that behavior from a different time and it also showed us how our lives have been diminished because we did not account for things that really mattered to our survival. 

Here are 3 glaring realities ( i.e., they are there whether you accept them or not) for grown-ups to reckon with and wake up to, regardless of your career or what you have been taught or made to believe:

  1. The annual global gross domestic product – the market value of all the goods and services produced around the world – is about 100 trillion. The annual value of all the benefits we get from nature is about $125 trillion– freshwater, food, fuel, genetic resources, natural medicines, natural regulation of water erosion, waste, climate and natural hazards, cultural diversity, educational values, social relations, heritage, and services that are necessary for the production of other ecosystem services such as primary production, nutrient cycling, and water cycling. You need not be a math genius to get a sense of what happens when you think you can grow GDP by just drawing and never renewing what accounts for that $125 trillion. In fact, a study already has shown that at least half of the world’s GDP is highly or moderately dependent on nature. 
  2. The latest report card on how countries are doing versus what needs to be done to mitigate or adapt to the impacts of the climate crisis says, among RAPID and SCALED changes (note that this is the opposite of “baby steps”) need to happen while ensuring that these do not disrupt and we can do this by taking whole-society approach. Among the 17 key findings, it requires that all actors, especially governments and corporations, should be transparent in their accountability so we really know what we are dealing with and the solutions we come up with actually make a dent on the actual world and not just to the psyche of your citizens or your shareholders;
  3. If you are in business, this recent study will assure you that investing in nature is the ONLY way we can have real and lasting economic gains. If you are still being hypnotized by the economic models of the 19th and 20th century with their cognitive deficits in understanding what nature is, it will only cause a decline in your profits because a planet in crisis means a global economy in crisis. This study showed that investing in nature, which right now is still largely merely an option to consider like “doing good,”  will GREATLY improve economic outcomes. 

“Baby steps” in environmental stewardship will be only make sense and be acceptable if we behaved as stewards to start with. But obviously, we were far from being stewards of nature. We were marauders.  For most of our lives, the way we worked, lived and played never accounted for nature. Our global and national policy makers are starched with gilded degrees from business and economics who tout vigor in studies they cite but fail to recognize the same vigor in studies that say we must pivot from BAU (business as usual) NOW.

We have been there and done that and look at where it got us. How can we be we be effective stewards of a burning planet when what we are only willing to do is to recruit relatively miniature expired fire extinguishers?  

We are a 200,000-year-old species with a brain that can create and send vessels to the moon and the Sun! Surely, we can reckon with the math involved to act based on what really counts. 

Indeed, baby steps are for babies. –

Maria Isabel Garcia is a science writer. She has written two books, “Science Solitaire” and “Twenty One Grams of Spirit and Seven Ounces of Desire.” You can reach her at

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