Geoffrey Holland – I share your skepticism about the future of humanity. It appears we are on a course that will result in a catastrophic alteration of our biosphere, and a great deal of human suffering. On the other hand, there are signs of hope. Energy, the primary driver of human advancement, is on an accelerating green trajectory. Clean, renewable energy sources, particularly solar PV and wind, are already cheaper in many places than fossil fuels or nuclear power. Many who study global trends see the world running almost entirely on clean, renewables by as soon as 2050. That translates to less warming stress on our atmosphere, icecaps, and oceans. Good news, yes, but there is the matter of the still growing human population, which is currently 7.3 billion, on the way to 11 or 12 billion. That simply doesn’t compute. We are already overstressing the planet’s shrinking resources, driving a rapid collapse of the planet’s biodiversity. You always point to biodiversity as the loss that cannot be redeemed. Why is habitat loss and species extinction bad for the planet, and bad for humanity?
Michael Tobias – As you know, the 48th Session of the United Nations Population Commission was unable, for the first time in 20 years, to adopt any concluding resolution. This was first described as a last minute procedural ‘Anomaly’, but it may go much deeper than that. I suspect it concerns the vast, unmanageable array of ‘wish lists’, a welter of wildfires amid too many imperatives, and a world of complexities – with 237,211 new people to feed every day, 180 per minute, nearly 82 million more per year – ( http://www.populationmedia.org/issue/population/ )
Indeed, this is the penultimate enshrining of the famed I=PAT equation x The Tragedy of the Commons.
In other words, a biological calamity that has few anodynes beyond the basic human rights doctrines, which are not even universally adhered to, as radicalized groups like ISIS and Boko Haram have to our horror, more than proved. We are a mixed species, a decidedly schizophrenic species, and this attends upon every collective decision. In other words, our doom is decreed by the masses, whereas our liberation appears destined to emerge from individualism.
Since the time of Pericles of Athens there has never been a more contradictory political crisis than that currently at large amongst our kin: we cannot even agree on the word “genocide,” or “cruelty” or “animal” or “evolution.” We are utterly and ecologically illiterate, and the lack of contact with nature is spreading.
Meanwhile, nearly 50% of all nations remain above a Total Fertility Rate of 3 children per couple. This is insanity. Why? Because at that rate, we will likely exceed ten billion by the end of this century. We might even hit 12, even 13 billion. There will, of course, be demographers who say, “Nonsense! All the signs suggest stabilization at 9.5 billion.” But they don’t. There is no one who can, with a sane mind, conclude that we are shrinking in numbers. When, in the early 1990s I finished writing my book and preparing the film adaptation of World War III, we were adding well over 92 million per year. We have come down by ten million, and that is good news. But we are not even close to the stabilization quotient, which would be no children per couple for at least two generations, then one per couple for two generations, or there about. That is the elixir for limiting our unabashed and dreadful impact on habitat.
You ask why habitat loss and species extinction matters? Which is like, in my mind, the equivalent of wondering whether or not we should care about Hitler or Stalin. Their evil doing is all part of the evolutionary game plan: that whatever people do is okay because it somehow fits in God’s greater picture; or, from even the atheist position, that this vast and tragic loss of biodiversity might somehow be viewed as a mechanical kind of necessity within the overall productivity – millennium after millennium – of the biosphere.
But that is sheer lunacy. We know from clear and abundant data that every species is a link in a vulnerable chain of being; that each individual is equally critical to that chain. While we might not be prone to believe that very individual counts, we know from experience this to be false; that every individual is equal to every other individual. That the loss of one child matters, not just to the child, but to those left behind.
And it is no different with every other child of every species, and if readers might find that a tad sentimentalist, let them. It was Albert Schweitzer who regarded sentimentality as one of the most crucial ingredients of human nature. Should we lose the ability to shed a tear, to be euphoric over beauty, to celebrate nature, art, and our convictions, then we will perish, and so will other species – given our albeit ungainly but critical role, these days, as stewards of Creation. And, not to repeat the broken record, should we go on to lose pollinators, and all of the nurseries on earth – the rainforests and wetlands, etc., then we will lose our lives to the stupidity of human indifference. I know no one who can survive without food, or water, or air for a week, let alone an hour (in the case of air). And so I must conclude that those who advocate for blind progress are simply, tragically uneducated idiots; village idiots in search of a village.
Without biodiversity, we do not exist. Without habitat, biodiversity does not exist, the Earth as we know it does not exist. End of story… Read more.