6th Mass Extinction, Climate Change, Collapse of Industrial Civilization, Conservation, Conservation Triage, Ecological Overshoot, Environmental Collapse, Guy McPherson, Kill the Messenger, Mass Media Manipulation, Overpopulation, Post-Antibiotic World, Willful Blindness
The process of industrial civilization’s collapse has been happening for some time now. It’s not a sudden overnight occurrence that can be appreciated by the fight-or-flight reflexes and here-and-now sensory stimulation of humankind. As the natural world slowly retreats and disappears under the expansion of humans, subsequent generations are normalized to an increasingly biodiverse-poor environment. What appreciation does a child have for an animal only seen in books? In a recent essay by Guy McPherson entitled ‘Global Madness‘, he writes:
If silence is the perfect music, then we’re about to have the (musically) perfect planet. But I doubt we’ll be pleased with the silence as we slip, one by one, into the abyss of unconsciousness.
As the invading cacophony of industrial civilization fills the air – car traffic, fire alarms, ambulance sirens, jet planes, bulldozers – the animal and insect voices of the natural world are extinguished, never to be heard from again. For the last forty years, Bernie Krause has been recording those now-absent sounds of nature:
…such is the rate of species extinction and the deterioration of pristine habitat that he estimates half these recordings are now archives, impossible to repeat because the habitats no longer exist or because they have been so compromised by human noise. His tapes are possibly the only record of the original diversity of life in these places.
“A great silence is spreading over the natural world even as the sound of man is becoming deafening,” he writes in a new book, The Great Animal Orchestra. “Little by little the vast orchestra of life, the chorus of the natural world, is in the process of being quietened. There has been a massive decrease in the density and diversity of key vocal creatures, both large and small. The sense of desolation extends beyond mere silence.
“If you listen to a damaged soundscape … the community [of life] has been altered, and organisms have been destroyed, lost their habitat or been left to re-establish their places in the spectrum. As a result, some voices are gone entirely, while others aggressively compete to establish a new place in the increasingly disjointed chorus.”
Hawaii, he says, is the extinction capital of the world. “In a couple of centuries since the islands were populated by Europeans, half the 140 bird species have disappeared. In Madagascar, 15 species of lemur, an elephant bird, a pygmy hippo and an estimated half of all the animals have gone extinct.”
Even partially disturbed habitats lose much of their life for many years, says Krause. Recordings of a meadow in the Sierra Nevada mountains east of San Francisco before the surrounding forest was selectively logged in the 1980s sounds very different to when Krause returned a year later…
A recent study helps prove how interwoven ecosystems are and that anything other than a holistic approach to conservation is futile:
…Lead researcher Dr Frank van Veen of the University of Exeter’s Centre for Ecology and Conservation said: “Our experiment provides the first proof of something that biologists have argued for a long time: predators can have indirect effects on each other, to the extent that when one species is lost, the loss of these indirect effects can lead to further extinctions. Although our study focused on insects, the principle would be the same for predators in any ecosystem, ranging from big cats on the African plains to fish in our seas.
“Our research highlights the fact that a ‘single species’ approach to conservation can be ineffective and even counter-productive. For example, protecting cod could lead to increased fishing pressure on other predatory fish which then, by the mechanism we have demonstrated here, could lead to further negative effects on the cod…
The feeble attempts humans make at saving the myriad of flora and fauna that support us is now called “conservation triage“. The web of life is looking more like a moth-eaten doily cloth beneath the morbidly obese feet of humanity:
…Even in our existing system we practice a form of triage by simply not funding recovery efforts for species that we don’t think we can afford to save. Many conservationists are saying, ‘Look, it would be much better if we had a more explicit, more rational system for making these decisions.’…
“Many species are threatened by climate change and there’s a concern that some species may be too far gone in some sense to save, that there may be forces that are too broad, too far along and that species is essentially a lost cause,” she said.
On Facebook, Amy J. Loiselle said there is one crucial element left out of this conversation: the impact of humans on other species.
“In all the conversations about species extinction there is hardly ever any mention of the continued impact of human population growth on the environmental problems we face,” she wrote. “This is driving extinction, climate change, poverty etc. All the other ’causes’ are directly related to increases in human numbers. Without solving this problem there is no foreseeable way to solve any of these other problem.
Choosing to control human population goes against a basic drive found in all species to ensure its survival – the desire to reproduce. Being the apex species with no predators does pose a bit of a problem with nature’s ability to check and balance our numbers. Of course the microscopic world of viruses and bacteria will create a growing threat to us in the post-antibiotic and post fossil fuel world:
Drug-resistant organisms will spread across the country in ever increasing numbers, and we are not going to be bailed out by the pharmaceutical industry,” said Gilbert, a physician at Providence Medical Center in Portland. “There is nothing in the pipeline. It takes up to 15 years to bring a new drug through the approval process.
Additionally, climate change will wreak havoc with the spread of new and exotic diseases and bugs:
…Long before the actual Runaway emerges, we can expect a host of exotic diseases will spread across the world and wreak havoc – and all the fools clamoring for warm temperatures (e.g. for “longer growing seasons”) will wish they were dead. Especially as we’re already losing efficacy of anti-biotics from over-use(See, e.g. Global Climate and Infectious Disease:The Cholera Paradigm, in Science, Vol. 274, 20 December, 1996, p. 2025.)
If people think the current invasion of West Nile fever is bad, wait until they’re faced with dengue fever (which I caught in the West Indies – and which can – after the 3rd successive bite-infection – lead to hemorraghing from all body orifices). Wait until cholera becomes endemic and other hitherto unseen (and unheard of) diseases appear. Then the morons will understand the enormous downsides of their ‘warmer’ world and huge price for their ‘longer growing seasons’.
Mostly understated in all the talk of exotic disease incursions, is the real risk we will be swamped by parasites throughout the country and even the world…
Will man go extinct? He certainly seems to be doing everything in his power to make sure it happens:
…the worship of an economic system that reduces everything to a financial object.
…the continued exploitation and burning of an increasingly more expensive and environmentally damaging energy source which is causing the climate to swing out of control with various feedback loops.
…the dismantling and perversion of regulations and the rule of law to satisfy greed and a grossly unjust social hierarchy.
…the indoctrination of the population into a materialist society detached from the appreciation of nature’s fundamental role in our survival.
…the degeneration of public debate into infomercial sound bites by way of mass media manipulation.
…the wholesale destruction of the natural world and the latest attempts of a so-called green economy to monetize every bit of nature in order to save capitalism.
…and the spread of the above described culture through globalization.
Guy McPherson, being the anti-establishment voice that he is, says he’s even received death threats against himself. This goes to show how much inertia and willful ignorance are built into the current system. ‘Kill the Messenger’ is the modus operandi of industrial civilization and Empire.