Ecological awareness is obviously fundamental -- or should I say ecological participation. Furthermore, the current trends in environmental awareness and responsibility are admirable and excellent. The sad truth, however, is that it is too little, too late. The trend of overpopulation is irreversible. We should do what we can, but in the main, the crises will be very hard to slow, let alone avert.
"Tree-hugging" is an absurd stance, and so is the notion that the planet is here to be exploited and turned to profit with disdain for any ecological considerations. Civilization simply must impact the environment, and a soaring population will only make it more pronounced as the years go by. But civilization is what we've got, so some type of moderate path toward realistic yet gentle use ought to be considered ideal. Some of the "green" nuts would like to see the planet depopulated by billions of people. Some of the ultra-materialistic, hardcore capitalists would like to see this planet destroyed for profit, which they see as okay because with technological advances we will be able to colonize others. Needless to say, sanity lies somewhere in between.
Our environmental initiatives are well-intentioned, but sadly they can be very appropriately compared to repairing a decapitation with a band-aid.
All the emphasis on global warming is way too little, way too late. We might have benefitted from this awareness a hundred and fifty years ago.
When you start meddling with an ecosystem, you're typically never able to stop.
Many (not all) of the environmentalists mean well enough, but really theirs is a caricature of a healthy awareness.
The environmental movement is primarily just a way for the people in charge of various charities and lobbying groups to make money for themselves, and by and large, it does very little to really help the planet.
Mother Nature can be brutal, and tragic, but for the most part it is fair. On average, an organism is likely to do quite well in general in most ecosystems, most of the time. Everything civilized man touches is quite another matter.
We talk about alternative energy as if that even means anything. We will not soon go to any alternative. That's not how humans operate. We will go fully toward a new energy technology when we absolutely have to do so, not when it's in our best interests. Humans don't make economic decisions based upon morality. Fossil fuels will be with us for decades to come, unless something drastically cheaper comes along, which doesn't seem too likely. Despite a real ecological need for change, the sad fact is that the economic realities trump any other consideration. Oil very likely won't be dethroned for some time.
It seems to me that it's frankly quite impossible to have a sustainable civilization with a world human population of 7.5 billion and climbing, in any way or at any kind of reasonable average standard of living.
Our species and its antecedents were egalitarian for literally millions of years. Our species has been living in social hierarchies for about eight to ten thousand years, and in that short span we have come to the precipice of destroying ourselves. We are slowly (or not so slowly) destroying the flora, fauna and life-sustaining capacities of the biosphere of the planet. Any number of conclusions can be drawn from this, but probably the most salient is that by living in this way, something has gone very disastrously wrong for almost all denizens of Earth.
You'd have to be pretty far away from open and honest scientific publications, even ones like Scientific American, still to be denying climate change at this point. I mean, for heaven's sake, islands in the South Pacific are sinking. I just read yesterday that 70% of the Great Barrier Reef off Australia is basically dead from coral's version of heat stroke. The planet has always been going through climate change. That's one argument from the right I've heard that's actually true. The planet has even been warmer in the past, that's another one, and it's true too. But the fact is that we are in the midst of a warming trend, and the CO2 emissions from civilization are indeed exacerbating it. There is solid, objective science to back this up. If you actually look at some of the hard science and the overwhelming number of data points, there is really no alternative argument to be made. It is my understanding that most of the scientific community who have reviewed these findings posit that there is a natural process in which certain gases in the atmosphere trap incoming radiation and keep it from reflecting back out into space -- this is known as the "greenhouse effect." This is a natural process that occurs with or without man. They further posit that the emissions from man's burning of fossil fuels are exacerbating this effect in unnatural ways -- that we are taking a natural process and speeding it up, and potentially sending it at least partially out of control. It is my contention that these positions are reasonable and correct, and further that any honest human being who has any contact with this information, and looks at global weather and climate data, would be unreasonable not to share them.
The entire modern economy is based upon consumption -- unlimited consumption at that. This is so far from healthy ecology that it is no wonder we are in crisis.
The climate has always been in a state of change, but it usually occurs in a semi-regular pattern. It has been exhaustively and scientifically demonstrated that we are now outside of that cycle, as a consequence of the abnormally high concentrations of carbon in the atmosphere. It is clear that the natural greenhouse effect is being exacerbated by modern civilized man. The evidence is everywhere an unbiased mind cares to look.
Oil will be the primary economic engine in the vast majority of countries probably for decades to come. Most countries can't afford alternative energy measures. So we'll just have to suffer the consequences and see if we can't mitigate long-term damage. We are past the greenhouse tipping point, anyway.
The only species on Earth that systematically and continuously destroys its own habitat is humankind.
If the ecosystem were going to fail on a large scale and take huge swaths of people down with it in a kind of natural genocide, why hasn't it happened already? The crisis really has to do with sociological, cultural and psychological faults endemic to the constitution of civilization itself. As George Carlin so rightly said, "The planet is fine -- the people are fucked." I have very little expectation that the ecological doomsdaying so popular with the environmental movement will turn out to be legitimate.
The wisdom traditions, and their accompanying environmental awareness, are coming into the global consciousness at unprecedented rates -- due mainly to the unprecedented connectedness of the globe. The truth is, it's too little, too late. The future is set, anyway, and, whatever happens, humans are on the way out.
We have, in truth, not done much to the planet. We have done quite a bit to the crust of the planet but, by and large the planet is fine.
I guess the assertion of the deep ecology people is that life is inherently fragile. I find this to be dramatically incorrect. It seems to me that life is exceptionally resilient and adaptive, and perpetually abundant. I don't think life as such is fragile at all. There have been living organisms on this planet continuously for over a billion years. Life seems pretty tough to me.
It is a tragedy and a shame that we are no longer intimately tied to the wilderness.
The problem of the environment, until we develop radically advanced technologies, is largely insoluble, I think. At the core of the destruction of the planet's flora and fauna, the contamination of its air, water, and soil, etc., is not some fundamental flaw with humanity or western culture, but rather the burgeoning global population. There are far, far too many people on Earth right now and by 2050 the number will nearly double. This is your environmental crisis. And what are you going to do about that?
What George Carlin said is basically true: The planet is fine, the people are fucked. Earth has been through far, far more violent episodes in its four and a half billion year history than our current overpopulation and consequent destructiveness. It is, as he pointed out, a self-correcting system, and if something needs to be corrected, it will be as a matter of course. In all this time of geological and ecological upheaval -- that is, Earth's history -- evolution has not ceased, nor will it. If we are doing something that will fundamentally upset the balance of the Earth's ecosystems to a degree that is unsustainable; that is, if we truly destroy the planet -- which is really to say, ourselves -- the result will necessarily be our extinction, and the Earth will move on as if nothing had even happened. In all truthfulness, our presence here is decidedly minor. It is our arrogance and hubris and chauvinism which drive the environmental craze (and much else). Don't get me wrong -- I'm all for cleaning this mess up: purifying our air and water, preventing extinction of species, and having an ecological conscience in general. But, let's be honest: The planet is fine -- it's the people who are fucked.
There is a lot of talk these days about civilized humans not being "close to nature." In truth, we have never been closer. But a distinction does need to be made. Objectively, we are as "close to nature" as we have ever been. Subjectively, perhaps we have never been further. We are disconnected from a direct relationship with our environment because we live and work in cages -- cages without locks, yes -- but we are still a domesticated species living in enclosures and communities separated from the non-human community. This barrier is completely artificial, and we are still as much a part of the Earth as we ever were. But the ecological awareness and (conditional) unity we had millennia ago has all but eroded away. We need to understand that this separation is artificial, not absolute, and illusory. But mentally, we are in a thoroughly different place than our evolution had intended. What we do to the Earth we do to ourselves -- to a point. Agriculture can sustain us in ecological conditions that might not otherwise sustain life -- and certainly not in the numbers we bring. A strong enough disruption to the biosphere could derail agriculture as well, yes. It is important, however, not to speak in absolute terms about an issue that is not so sharply defined as man vs. nature, and to understand that agriculture brings a novel element of ecology to the table (no pun intended) that deep ecology simply does not address. In the end, though, man is a part of nature, and nature is a part of man. If we can somehow tear down this artificial barrier (while of course, paradoxically, the structures will still remain erect), we will do all denizens of this planet a great service.
While I do condemn the wholesale destruction humanity is wreaking upon this planet, it ought to be admitted that it can recover from just about anything we have to throw at it and repopulate itself very easily.
The main reason for ecological destabilization and destruction; loss of habitat and wildlife; loss of various forms of diversity; high levels of toxicity in the water, land, and air; hunger; more suffering than ever before and countless other unfortunate effects is remarkably simple: an Earth homo sapiens population of more than seven billion, and one which, incidentally, has been reported to be on its way to twelve in less than fifty years. I am not one to claim that the sky is falling, or to say that given all of the ecological turmoil we are in danger of becoming extinct. The only threat of extinction that I can see comes from the existence of nuclear weapons stockpiles. However, let us clean this up and eliminate the destruction of billions of years of evolution. Let us give all creatures an equal right to life. Let us bring a halt to these devastating and irresponsible behaviors not because we must, but because we can and we should.
As far as the exacerbated greenhouse effect goes, I'm afraid we're fucked. It would take the world twenty years to get off of oil if we started today.
The fact is: it's over. It was probably over by the seventies. If at the time we had radically overhauled the economy and our environmental regulations (an impossibility then and now), we might have at least partially saved the ecology of the planet and taken a bite out of climate change. But the point of no return was passed long ago, and nothing seems to be changing much even now. I very seriously doubt we will be able to check, let alone reverse, exceedingly high levels of resource consumption and environmental damage. It's too late and the population far too large. What we will have (or have already) is a perpetual "neon sewer." Save the world? Indigestion.
Many people these days imagine the ecosystem -- the wild -- as some kind of virgin Shangri-La. Whenever I look closely at it, it's hard for me not to see it as a war-zone. Obviously, some species have it better than others. But it's apparent to me that it has always been quite difficult for most to make their living. There are good times and bad times for all creatures, but evolution seems to operate on a principle of 'just enough to get by.'
Quite possibly the best thing one can do for the planet is to refrain from having a child.
The only phenomenon one can control is oneself, and even there the picture is quite muddy. Notions of 'saving the world' are only hubris, and will come to very little.
As the population level increases, per capita quality of life decreases.
I think a line was crossed around the start of the industrial revolution -- around 1750 or so. Until then, agricultural human societies worked poorly for most humans, but we hadn't yet fully begun an all-out assault on the natural world. After approximately the onset of the mid-eighteenth century, the onslaught on the rest of the animal kingdom, and of course on large portions of humanity as well, began in earnest. And as the population by this point -- the twenty-first century -- has spiraled out of any reasonable control, moving conscientiously to some sort of gentle use seems essentially an idealistic fantasy. Until some cataclysm or miracle occurs, we've basically condemned the planet -- which is to say very many denizens of many ecosystems, including billions of humans.
It's impossible for me to get past the fact that we slaughtered the rightful inhabitants of this country, isolated those we didn't kill, and turned the land to profit by toppling every ecosystem from sea to shining sea. It seems very easy for most people to forget or dismiss this. I can't.