Biological Extinction | Paul R. Ehrlich

| March 30, 2017 | Leave a Comment

Ae'o or Hawaiian stilt  (Himantopus mexicanus knudseni) | Photo by Minette Layne | Flickr | CC BY-NC 2.0

Item Link: Access the Resource

Media Type: Video

Date of Publication: March 2, 2017

Year of Publication: 2017

Publication City: Vatican City

Publisher: Casina Pio IV

Author(s): Paul R. Ehrlich

Categories: , , ,

How to Save the Natural World on Which We Depend

Paul R. Ehrlich presents during the workshop on biological extinction of the Pontifical Academies of Science and Social Sciences, providing an overview on Why We Are in the Sixth Extinction and What It Means to Humanity

“When we are killing off biodiversity, we’re sawing off the limb that we’re sitting on.  Intensely stupid, no question about it, and hardly paid any attention to. Now, that’s one set of reasons and we call those the ‘ecosystem service’ or the ‘natural service’ reasons that we want to protect biodiversity. But for me, and I think for most of my colleagues, unfortunately not for everybody, there is also a large ethical reason for preserving biodiversity. I didn’t mention the spiritual and aesthetic services we get. But even beyond them a lot of us feel that we have an ethical duty to protect the only other life forms we know that we share the universe with.”

Watch the video

Paul R. Ehrlich shared his thoughts following the workshop with the MAHB Blog in Vatican Visit.

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The views and opinions expressed through the MAHB Website are those of the contributing authors and do not necessarily reflect an official position of the MAHB. The MAHB aims to share a range of perspectives and welcomes the discussions that they prompt.
  • Dana Visalli

    Passed this link on, including Andrew’s observations, with this comment:

    Out of a population of 330 million people in the
    so-called United States there is only one comment

    after Paul’s talk. Really the first sign that we
    are coming truly alive could be when we refuse to pay

    for nuclear weapons as the legacy we leave our
    children (howsomeever, I never heard of Ehrlich, much

    as I adore him, refusing to pay for these tools of
    the pathologically insane). Dana

  • Andrew Gaines

    A tour de force by a true master!

    Paul uses a communication tactic that was pioneered by the
    Roman Senator Cato the Elder. He ended every speech, no matter what the topic with, “And furthermore I consider that Carthage must be destroyed.” Paul mentions the threat of nuclear war in every talk.

    I suggest that we all would do well to apply this tactic to a positive goal: transitioning to a life-sustaining society. For example, at every opportunity we can say something along the lines of, “The task of our time is to transition to a life-sustaining society, rather than continuing on our present course of ecological

    At the end of his talk Paul poses a question to the group:

    How do you design a world that is actually sustainable … and sees to it that everybody is treated as properly as they possibly can be treated?

    For example, how do you design an economic system that does not require growth?

    People in the Center for the Advancement of the Steady-State
    Economy (CASSE) and others have done a lot of work in this area. And indeed people have done work in every important area related to transitioning to a sustainable society.

    More generally, I suggest that the way we design a world that is actually sustainable is to ask the question: What are the core
    operating principles of a life-sustaining society? I suggest that a useful take on this is to boil it down to two operating principles. A life-sustaining society will

    1) Support the well-being of nature and communities (Riane Eisler
    calls this partnership-respect in contrast to domination-control),

    2) In the context of ecological sustainability − living within the Earth’s capacity to sustain us.

    Societies, like ecosystems, evolve. Paul is a realist, he is
    fully aware that collapse of some sort is not stoppable. We can further healthy evolution, in order to give coming generations the best chance, by championing the goal of transitioning to a life-sustaining society, and by enabling people to grasp the core operating principles. When people grasp the principles, they can
    find many applications within their sphere of personal influence.

    Our mutual challenge is to seed these ideas into mainstream
    culture. has ready-to-use tools to make communicating as easy as possible. Like Cato − except with life-affirming intent − let’s get on with it at every opportunity!

    • Rob Harding

      Great comment, Andrew. Thanks for sharing.