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Environmental Scientists Join the "mob."

By       Message Richmond Shreve       (Page 1 of 2 pages)     Permalink

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Proffessor Paul Ehrlich of Stanford University and other academic
scientists are distressed by the lack of action on our environmental
sustainability crisis. Recognizing that the problem is no longer one of
proving that the planet is at risk, but one of getting people to act,
they have organized the MAHB or "mob."

Their goal is to show the rest of us that Mother Nature is making an
offer we can't refuse. With Professor Ehrlich's permission we present
his letter here:

Dear Friends,

There is growing consensus among environmental scientists that the
scholarly community has adequately detailed how to deal with the major
issues of the human predicament caused by our success as a species --
climate disruption, loss of biodiversity and ecosystem services,
toxification of the planet, the deterioration of the epidemiological
environment, the potential impacts of nuclear war, racism, sexism,
economic inequity, and on and on. I and my colleagues believe
humanity must take rapid steps to ameliorate them. But, in
essence, nothing serious is being done -- as exemplified by the "much
talk and no action" on climate change. The central problem is
clearly not a need for more natural science (although in many areas it
would be very helpful) but rather a need for better understanding of
human behaviors and how they can be altered to direct humanity toward a
sustainable society before it is too late.

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That's why a group of natural scientists, social scientists, and
scholars from the humanities decided to inaugurate a Millennium
Assessment of Human Behavior (MAHB --- pronounced "mob"). It was
so named to emphasize that it is human behavior, toward one another and
toward the planet that sustains all of us, that requires rapid
modification. The idea is that the MAHB might become a basic mechanism
to expose society to the full range of
population-environment-resource-ethics-equity-power issues, and to
sponsor broad global discussion involving the greatest possible
diversity of people. It would, I hope, serve as a major tool for
promoting conscious cultural evolution.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) serves as a
partial model for the MAHB.

The IPCC involves hundreds of scientists from nearly every nation
representing diverse disciplines, from atmospheric physics, chemistry,
and ecology to economics and other social sciences. A major role
of the IPCC is to sort out the scientific validity of claims and
counterclaims of competing interests. It also puts a strong emphasis on
finding equitable solutions. The sessions are open and
transparent, and representatives of various governments, interested
industries, and environmental organizations also participate as

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An endeavor that might serve as another partial model for the MAHB is
the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment, which was developed by
environmental and social scientists to assess the condition of Earth's
life-support systems. Hundreds of ecologists and earth scientists all
over the world gathered information to feed into a major report that
was released in 2005. It included not only an assessment of the
state of the world's ecosystems but also projections of alternative
future trends and consideration of related policy choices.

What both lacked however, were broad open forums where people from
different societies and with different viewpoints could discuss what
humanity is and should be all about.

Plans are for the MAHB to be kicked off with a world
megaconference, more of less like the United Nations Conference on
Environment and Development (UNCED), held in Rio de Janeiro in 1992.
The purpose of the first MAHB conference, which we hope to hold in
2011, would be to initiate a continuing process; the MAHB will be
created as a semi-permanent institution. The MAHB is now at a
very preliminary stage -- although interest seems to be building
rapidly. Our nascent web site has just been opened to the
public. If you are interested in learning more or being involved
go to:


As you will see it is a work in progress, but there you will find our
preliminary mission statement, sign up to get the newsletter when it is
produced (click on "for more information"), read some of MAHB-pertinent
articles (they will change over time), and/or leave a comment on a
blog. And that means you can help us shape the entire program
from the foundation up. Join us in trying to get humanity to do
what is obviously required but thought to be impractical. Become
a MAHB Pollyanna, tilt at windmills, spread the word, help develop a
view of a decent future, and give humanity a little push toward a
sustainable society. We're not even asking you to help us get
money (yet!).

A global consensus on the most crucial behavioral issues is unlikely to
emerge promptly from the MAHB--or any other international forum. But,
since the MAHB is envisioned as an ongoing, large-scale global effort,
not all the goals would need to be reached immediately. And if the
scientific diagnosis of humanity's collision with the natural world is
accurate (and Anne and I believe it is), what alternative is there to

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Thanks for listening. If you can, please call our start-up effort
to the attention of as many friends and colleagues as you can.
Spread the word!

Best regards,


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Richmond Shreve is a retired business executive whose careers began in electronics (USN) and broadcasting in the 1960s. Over the years he has maintained a hobby interest in amateur radio, and the audio-visual arts while working in sales and (more...)

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