EARTH MEANDERS ESSAY By Dr. Glen Barry
PAMACC News - Given long-predicted and self-evident abrupt climate change and ecosystem collapse, and resultant perma-war and rise of fascism, despite decades of scientific warnings which went unheeded; will you now listen to science, embrace an ecology ethic, and act to avoid biosphere collapse and the end of being before it is too late?
Essentially every warning from ecological and climate scientists regarding the limits to growth have come to pass. Climate models have been amazingly accurate, if anything under-predicting the magnitude of the climate apocalypse dramatically playing out in Polar Regions and radiating heat globally. Water, farmland, soil, wetlands, oceans, old-growth forests, and the atmosphere are, as forecasted, in precipitous decline.
Whole regions are collapsing ecologically and are on track to being uninhabitable and will have to be abandoned. Yet demands for inequitable consumption placed upon nature by seven billion top predators continue to grow exponentially (as a billion live in opulent splendor, another billion face abject soul-sucking poverty, and a handful enjoy half of Earth’s wealth).
There are few naturally evolved large ecosystems remaining to cut, burn, and otherwise plunder for short-term ill-gotten gains as the biosphere and society bear the unpriced external costs. Those natural ecosystems that remain are under threat as the oil oligarchy consolidates its power in order to access and burn every last drop of oil and chunk of coal, destroying our atmosphere and last natural ecosystems in the process.
The global ecological system – our one shared biosphere that makes Earth habitable – is collapsing and dying as human industrial growth overruns natural ecosystems and the climate.
Resource scarcity resulting from ecosystem loss, albeit delayed through the advent of information technology, nonetheless underlies the surge in uncontrolled mass migration and diminished economic prospects for the formerly affluent Western middle classes. Landscapes ravaged by industrial capitalism in the developing countries in particular are barren wastelands unable to support indigenous and other local self-reliant lifestyles that provided for quality lifestyles for millennium.
As foreseen by this author and others, authoritarian fascism has arisen to exploit both environmental decline and surging inequity between the super-rich and multitudinous have nots. A state of perma-war and institutionalized war murders masked as a clash between cultures are more accurately depicted as a scramble for dwindling resources upon which to base overly consumptive and clearly unsustainable lifestyles for the privileged few for a while.
Fascist demagogues have arisen that spout charlatan alternative facts as they stifle voices of ecological and other truths.
Environmental and climate crises long perceived as distant or affecting others, but not you, are increasingly impacting average people in their daily lives, particularly in the over-developed world. Food and water systems are failing and prices rising, as regular patterns of seasonality are lost. Jobs based upon ravaging natural ecosystems are a thing of the past, as they are exhausted, and are not coming back. Foreigners from hard scrabble over-populated countries will work far harder for much less and increasingly take even domestic high-tech positions excluding locals.
Our present state of environmental collapse, driven by inequitable over-population and ecosystem loss, fomenting precipitous social and economic decline, was foreseen by ecological scientists. Numerous warnings from a host of ecological visionaries sought to highlight the problems and the course of action required to move towards not only sustainable, but also just and equitable sustainable development.
In the late 1960s and early 1970s the preceding work of Malthus, John Muir, Aldo Leopold, Rachel Carson and others went mainstream as the self-evident need to protect land, air, and water led to bipartisan efforts. The ground-breaking Limits to Growth publications highlighted once again the irrefutable fact that exponential growth can only lead to collapse. The advent of micro-processors has pushed back some limits, as others like the absorptive capacity of the atmosphere have clearly been breached.
It has been two years since I proposed a 10th Planetary Boundary in my peer-reviewed scientific journal article entitled Terrestrial ecosystem loss and biosphere collapse regarding how many natural ecosystems can be lost before the biosphere collapses. Noting how smaller ecosystems, indeed anything from which portions are cut, fragment and fall apart at around 40% loss; I proposed a threshold of 66% natural and semi-natural terrestrial ecosystem retention as being required to avoid biosphere collapse.
Despite my findings being subsequently validated in other studies by scientific luminaries, precisely nothing is being done by world governments and even leading environmental NGOS to begin the process of ending natural ecosystem loss and beginning an age of ecological restoration.
With about 50% of natural ecosystems having been destroyed already there can be no other outcome (after unknown lag times) than biosphere collapse and the end of being.
It is not through lack of effort by others and me that deep ecology has not caught on. Indoctrination into a nationalistic, consumptive worldview is pervasive and all-encompassing. Very few are able to escape the religious, racist, nationalistic, and economic lies forced upon them in youth.
Much of humanity has forgotten that it is possible to live in peace and within the bounds of nature. Social cohesion has dangerously frayed. Poorly educated folks falling from middle class lifestyles, as well as the well-off feasting upon the last ill-gotten fruits of nature, are unable and/or unwilling to grok causal connections between declining natural systems and limited economic prospects, and that such growth can only end in collapse.
Our fatally flawed education system fails to provide the necessary cognitive skills to grasp basic truths –like nothing grows forever, ecosystems make life possible, and water is required for life – upon which our existence depends.
Nothing grows exponentially forever, it is a physically impossible.
To deny Malthus, indigenous wisdom, and all subsequent iterations upon ecological knowledge and intuition found in science is sheer utter madness.
The truth of the matter is that while ecological trends are clear, the breaking point of ecosystems and societies is not known with certainty. There may be sources of ecological resiliency of which we are unaware. And given the drive for self-survival of a species can be found in all genetic code, including the hairless ape with the amazing opposable thumb, it would be incautious, indeed ludicrous, to give up.
But we need to quickly change our ways personally and societally to embrace an ecology ethic. We need to listen to ecological and other scientific experts and dramatically reduce industrial and population growth, as well as inequitable over-consumption, or we are faced with ecological apocalypse and biosphere collapse.
One last time swords must be beaten into plowshares (and restored ecosystems).
It is known with certainty that human prospects depend upon functioning natural ecosystems. And the personal and societal changes required to maintain such systems are known with surety as well.
Simply, pollution of land, air, and water must end or we all needlessly die.
To sustain local ecological patterns and processes globally, old-growth forest logging and industrial scale marine fisheries MUST cease immediately, and massive investments in ecosystem restoration be made. Decentralized renewable energy grids and nega-watts from energy conservation must be embraced with utmost urgency as fossil fuel burning ends. Massive investments in women’s education, birth control, and tax incentives for small families must be made worldwide to slow growth and then reduce human population. Genetic modifications and oil intensive agriculture must end as we return to family farming embracing organic permaculture. And all sources of sacred water must be protected at any cost.
Fascism and the threats posed by both large governments and corporations must be eliminated. A guaranteed minimum income must be established worldwide. Armies must be demobilized and international institutions strengthened to pay the price for our continued existence, while ending systematic war murders. Liberty, justice, and equity for all members of the human and all species’ family must be ensured.
This course of action is based upon scientific truths, and further ignoring of ecological limits is a willful death wish.
Humanity heeds the warnings of its sage elders and embraces such an ecology ethic now in all haste or we face intensified abject human misery prior to biosphere collapse and an imminent end to being. Let’s come together now to make it so.