I've been thinking about this curve a lot over the last few years. It's not an exact representation of real data, but serves as a heuristic for thinking about the massive changes that humans have wrought on the planet.
Amount of Global Environmental Fuckedness: Almost every major biogeochemical cycle- water, carbon, nitrogen, phosphorous- has been majorly and irrevocably altered by human impacts. We are truly living in the Anthropocene. And these changes show no signs of slowing.
Traditional Conservation: I'm talking NGOs, government programs, posting on social media about how we need to cut back on meat consumption or save this river or deal with that toxic waste heap. This works- slowly. It takes much longer to un-fuck something than to fuck it up in the first place. This is called entropy.
Exponential Technologies: The only thing that seems like it has a chance of moving faster than the Curve of Environmental Fuckedness. It's also a root cause of a lot of problems: technologies are just tools, whether used for good or evil. It seems to me that while we still need traditional conservation mechanisms, it makes sense to pour as much time, energy, and capital as possible into potentially exponential solutions to the environmental crisis.
These types of technologies often have dramatic business upsides as well, which makes them more viable candidates for an economically sustainable as well as environmentally sustainable financial model (classic triple bottom line). I've been researching companies that, in 2018, use some sort of exponential technologies for good.
Examples of harnessing exponential technologies:
• rapid reduction in solar panel cost (Telsa, any solar installer)
• hydroponic agriculture that uses 1% of the land and water of traditional ag (Plenty)
• reduction in satellite imaging costs for more effective land use monitoring (Planet)
• innovations in food biochemistry (Impossible Foods)
These exponential forces are the only curve that I can think of that is keeping pace or faster than the pace of environmental degradation. Traditional conservation has its place, of course- I’m not advocating for ignoring it. But if we allocate more resources into harnessing some of these exponential forces into doing good for the planet, we might have a chance of keeping a semblance of the pre-Anthropocene Earth.