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"Preventing Overshoot and Collapse:
Managing the Earth’s Resources"
Account of the opening presentations and discussions

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Invitation to the Opening day on 24 August 2008
for the "Certificate of Advanced Studies in Environmental Diplomacy"

Introductory round-table
(speakers & panel)

Preventing Overshoot and Collapse:
Managing the Earth’s Resources

in collaboration with
Geneva Environment Network

Growing demands on limited natural resources and raw materials, compounded by continued population growth and spiralling food and energy prices, have more than ever raised the spectre of collapse in the Earth’s ability to support present and future generations.

What scientific tools are needed to assess how heavily we are treading on the planet? To what extent can technological solutions sustain our current consumption patterns? And is an equitable North- South deal for a fair share to the Earth dwindling riches possible?

You are cordially invited to find answers to these questions at a high-level roundtable to mark the opening of the third UNEP - University of Geneva – Graduate Institute Advanced Course in Environmental Diplomacy.

ecoglobe would advance that:
  1. The earth has already overshot its carrying capacity far beyond sustanability levels in most areas, i.e.
    - population size, and
    - per capita consumption of renewables as well as non-renewable resources.
  2. The situation is worsening because of continued economic expansion ("growth") and population growth.
  3. Technology is in itself part of the problem.
    The impact on the earth is normally represented by the equation
    I = P x A x T
    Impact (environmental pressure) =
                      = Population size x Affluence (level of welfare) x Technology (level)
  4. Technology cannot remediate climate change or deal with its effects such as floods and droughts;
    It cannot revive lost species or recreate disappeared forests with its biodiversity;
    It cannot recreate non-renewable resources;
    It can increase material efficiencies only to a certain maximum.
    It cannot create more living space for more people.
  5. Our problem is not a perceived scarcity of energy or so-called "clean" energy.
    Humanity has overshot the earth's carrying capacity because of a temporary glut in fossil energies.
  6. The situation is extremely urgent, not only because of increasing scarcities and pollution, but also because of the advent of Peak Oil, i.e. the maximum level of oil and gas availability. After the onset of Peak Oil, industrial and agricultural production will start to decline and we will be forced to reorganise our society, rolling back high mobility and globlisation.
    (Compare "THE TIMELINE OF DOOM From peak oil to the end of the petroleum age".)
  7. We will have a chance to survive if
    - we act now instead of hoping for yet-to-be-invented future "solutions", with the means and the knowledge that we have;
    - we carefully analyse every proposed "solution" on its feasibility and effects,
      including non-existing "sustainable", "different", or even "immaterial" growth,
      and the counter-productive Kyoto mechanisms;
    - we slow down, adopt a simpler lifestyle, relocalise production and outlaw many harmful and useless activities;
    - we stop growth and start reducing: population, and production and consumption.
A finite earth
The above is an abbreviated list of issues and a very short sketch of measures that can and must be taken.

Helmut Lubbers, MSocSc BE DiplEcol - 4 August 2008

Reference data for comparison:         A finite earth
  • fossil energy developments
  • Food outlook (FAO)
  • Eating habits in earlier days (basically in German)
  • Growth quotes: "Biofuel demand powering long-term food inflation"
  • "The Worst Mistake in the History of the Human Race"
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    14:00 Coffee
    14:15 Welcome by Pr. Jean-Dominique Vassalli, Rector, University of Geneva
    Mr. John J. Maresca, Rector, University for Peace, Costa Rica
    Pr. Philippe Burrin, Director, Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies
    Mr. Christophe Bouvier, UNEP Regional Representative for Europe
    14:30 Addresses by 2007 Laureates and alumni, including H.E. Ms. Violeta Ivanov, Minister of Environment and Natural Resources Moldova
    15:00 Round-table
    Introductory remarks by a representative of the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation
    15:10 Presentations by the Panel members:
    Dr. Arthur Dahl, President, International Environment Forum
    Dr. Mathis Wackernagel, Executive Director, Global Footprint Network
    Dr. Tariq Banuri, Senior Fellow, Stockholm Environment Institute- US Center
    Prof. Dr. R. Rabbinge, Sustainable Development and System Innovation, University of Wageningen, Netherlands, Chair CGIAR Science Council.
    Dr. Suren Erkman, Professor, University of Lausanne
    16:10 General debate and question and answer session
    17:10 Wrap-up by the moderator
    17:30 Refreshments
    You are cordially invited to participate in this roundtable. Owing to the limited number of seats available, we would be grateful if you could indicate your participation in advance by completing this form and returning it by 15 August 2008 to Ms. Fatma Gordon at the address below by fax 00 41 22 797 34 64 or email fatma . gordon at unep . ch