Exit strategy.

WITHIN a few weeks, a bunch of international geologists are expected to pick a spot to mark the birth of what some scientists are calling the Anthropocene, the latest epoch in our planet's history, distinguished by the direct impact of human activities on Earth's geology.

There is no consensus on the origins of the Anthropocene, although the current weight of opinion seems to lean towards the mid-20th century, notably the dramatic changes wrought by the 'great acceleration' that followed World War II.

Anthropogenic climate change is among the various distinguishing features of this era, and its reach is far and wide. Who would have thought, for instance, that it was even contributing to the extinction of languages? Well, it so happens that some of the most linguistically diverse places on earth are also most vulnerable to rising sea levels.

On the Pacific island of Vanuatu, 110 languages are spoken among a population of around 320,000. Most of them will wither away as the islanders migrate to safer shores. At the current rate of loss, it is (optimistically) estimated that half of the world's 7,000 living languages will have disappeared by the end of the century.

The Anthropocene may turn out to be short-lived.

Of course, colonialism in its malevolent forms has historically served as a more efficient means of diminishing linguistic and broader cultural diversity. Likewise, climate change is only one of the contributors to the startling diminution in biodiversity, with much of the loss of habitat attributed to human activities, eg, forest clearance, plastic pollution and overconsumption.

Any switch to renewables might not offer much of a panacea, given solar and wind farms are not necessarily conducive to the preservation of biodiversity. Amid predictions of the most devastating mass extinction event since the demise of the dinosaurs, a purportedly historic deal was reached last month at the biodiversity COP15 in Montreal, signed by 200 nations (excluding the US, as usual) to protect 30pc of the planet for nature by 2030, and to restore some ecosystems.

The trouble with such deals is that the initial exhilaration usually gives way to despondency when non-binding commitments go unimplemented. That is the problem with the better-known climate COPs.

The 27th iteration of the latter event, held in Sharm El-Sheikh last November, is a case in point. Its only notable achievement was a purportedly historic deal for the most relentless carbon emitters...

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