The Accelerating Destruction of Earth’s Biodiversity: When Will We Act?
EDITORIAL, 24 May 2021
As those individuals aware of it will have observed, presumably with deep regret, the latest ‘International Day for Biological Diversity’ passed on 22 May with the bulk of the human population continuing to act in ways that destroy Earth’s biosphere at an ever-accelerating rate.
Unaware that many authors continue to report the ongoing destruction of Earth’s biodiversity, which is under siege on a range of fronts by unchecked human destruction of Earth’s biosphere as well as particular assaults on Earth’s living creatures, responses to this ‘hidden’ path to human extinction continue to waver between non-existent and token.
Consequently, in such circumstances, the destruction of biodiversity might yet become the means by which Homo sapiens is consigned to the fossil record ‘beating’ nuclear war, the climate catastrophe and electromagnetic radiation as the fundamental driver of extinction.
Of course, these drivers are intimately related. Ongoing preparations for nuclear war (requiring the extraction of vast resources from the biosphere), the accelerating climate catastrophe and the ever-expanding electromagnetic contamination of the biosphere are all heavily implicated in driving the destruction of life on Earth and seriously addressing these issues is something only discussed in narrow, genuinely aware circles while official ‘concern’ and that of the human population generally continue to exhibit negligible engagement, perhaps ‘tut-tutting’ the latest news in the corporate media of the extinction of an iconic species. See ‘For Whom the Bell Tolls: A Report on the State of Planet Earth at Year’s End 2020’.
But given that 150-200 species of life on Earth (plants, birds, animals, fish, amphibians, insects, reptiles and microbes) become extinct daily, as noted in 2010 by Ahmed Djoghlaf, the secretary-general of the UN Convention on Biological Diversity who stated that ‘We are losing biodiversity at an unprecedented rate’, and with many biologists having noted that the species extinction rate is nearly 1,000 times the ‘natural’ or ‘background’ rate and ‘is greater than anything the world has experienced since the vanishing of the dinosaurs nearly 65m years ago’ – see ‘Protect nature for world economic security, warns UN biodiversity chief’ – only a delusional individual would argue that this issue is drawing the attention and profound action that is needed to halt this existential crisis.
And given that, back in 2010, the UN was arguing that the ‘economic case for global action to stop the destruction of the natural world is even more powerful than the argument for tackling climate change’ – see ‘UN says case for saving species “more powerful than climate change”’ – there is obviously no doubt that, officially and otherwise, the destruction of biodiversity has been neglected compared to the (admittedly also inadequate) attention given to the climate catastrophe.
So Homo sapiens moves quickly and efficiently to its own extinction, an inevitable consequence of the destruction of the web of life.
An important aspect of the destruction of biodiversity is what precedes the extinction of a species.
In their report compiled in 2017, Professors Gerardo Ceballos, Paul R. Ehrlich & Rodolfo Dirzo recorded that Earth continues to experience ‘a huge episode of population declines and extirpations, which will have negative cascading consequences on ecosystem functioning and services vital to sustaining civilization. We describe this as a “biological annihilation” to highlight the current magnitude of Earth’s ongoing sixth major extinction event.’ Moreover, local population extinctions ‘are orders of magnitude more frequent than species extinctions. Population extinctions, however, are a prelude to species extinctions, so Earth’s sixth mass extinction episode has proceeded further than most assume.’ See ‘Biological annihilation via the ongoing sixth mass extinction signaled by vertebrate population losses and declines’ and ‘Our Vanishing World: Wildlife’.
But, tragically, many additional species are now trapped in a feedback loop which will inevitably precipitate their extinction as well because of the way in which ‘co-extinctions’, ‘localized extinctions’ and ‘extinction cascades’ work once initiated and as has already occurred in almost all ecosystem contexts. See the (so far) six-part series ‘Our Vanishing World’. Have you seen a flock of birds of any size recently? A butterfly?
Why Is This Happening?
The accelerating destruction of Earth’s biosphere is driven by one fundamental cause. Over-consumption by humans in industrialized countries. With nearly a billion people living in poverty and about 500 million indigenous peoples living or attempting to live subsistence lifestyles around the world, it is those populations in industrialized countries who are determined to consume more than they actually need and generally live unaware of their ecological impact who are destroying Earth’s biosphere.
Because whether consuming water, energy for household use, fossil fuels for vehicle or airline travel, paper, plastic, metals or meat, only a rare human is keeping track of, and consciously minimizing use of, these ‘end product’ resources which are extracted directly from, or manufactured with resources extracted from, Earth’s biosphere, with a byproduct of this production being a massive amount of waste material, much of it not able to be disposed of in any way that is remotely ecologically benign.
And because the extraction of resources from the biosphere to satisfy consumer demand fundamentally depends on state or private corporations making a profit from the extraction, corporations will exploit anywhere with negligible concern for the local environments destroyed.
To highlight the cost of our endlessly-expanding consumption, one only has to consider a few of the near ‘endless’ list of biosphere assaults adversely impacting the Earth and the species dependent on impacted ecosystems.
Did you know about the planned oil drilling in the staggeringly beautiful and, until now, pristine Okavango Delta in south-west Africa, and what this might mean for the region’s 18,000 elephants and other wildlife (not to mention the human population)? See ‘A Big Oil project in Africa threatens fragile Okavango region’.
Did you know about the ‘massive volumes of fracking waste’ being illegally dumped at Vaca Muerta in northern Patagonia in Argentina? Good for the biosphere and local wildlife do you think? See ‘Argentina’s Illegal Oil and Gas Waste Dumps Show “Dark Side” of Vaca Muerta Drilling, Says Criminal Complaint’.
And while there is a huge number of mines around the world inflicting massive damage on their immediate location – see ‘Environmental Nightmares Created by Open Pit Mines’ – mining is just one way to destroy the biosphere.
Rainforest destruction is another key driver of biosphere degradation in all parts of the world where rainforests are located, notably including the Amazon, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Indonesia and West Papua, and the range of assaults is breathtaking with logging, burning, land clearance to create cattle farms, palm oil and soybean plantations, dam building as well as mining and oil drilling just among the most damaging causes. See ‘Our Vanishing World: Rainforests’.
But, as hinted at above, the emission of ‘greenhouse gases’, notably carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide is destroying the delicate composition of Earth’s atmosphere, to the detriment of the biosphere generally and with catastrophic implications for life on Earth. Despite largely successful efforts by the elite-controlled IPCC to delude people into believing that the global mean temperature has increased by only 1°C, in fact, since the pre-industrial era (prior to 1750) greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions have already caused the global temperature to rise by more than 2°C above this baseline (in February 2020). This occurred despite the Paris climate agreement in 2015 when politicians pledged to hold the global temperature rise to well below 2°C above the pre-industrial level and pledged to try to limit the temperature rise to 1.5°C above this level. See ‘2°C crossed’ and ‘Human Extinction by 2026? A Last Ditch Strategy to Fight for Human Survival’.
And electromagnetic radiation is inflicting rapidly increasing damage to all forms of life with the deployment of 5G now in full swing. See ‘Deadly Rainbow: Will 5G Precipitate the Extinction of All Life on Earth?’
Of course, all forms of military violence – invariably done to gain control over biosphere resources – as well as the preparation for it, destroys vast areas of the natural environment (including the creatures that live in it) either deliberately or as ‘collateral damage’. See ‘Ten Reasons Why Militarism is Bad for the Environment’.
As can be readily observed, the destruction of biodiversity is a primary subset of the destruction of the biosphere. Every living organism needs habitat to survive. Every time we destroy part of the biosphere, we destroy the habitat of the organisms that live in it. But we also destroy life and biodiversity directly too. How much longer can the wolf, for example, hold on against the onslaught? See ‘Bill Allowing 90 Percent of Idaho’s Wolves to Be Killed Passes House and Senate’.
Humanity generally is so unconcerned about destruction of the biosphere and the biodiversity cost that goes with it, that we studiously ignore this cost, even when it impacts our closest relatives, human and otherwise. See ‘West Africa’s chimpanzees are on the brink of extinction!’ and ‘Western Chimpanzee’.
And even the most iconic of species, such as the elephant, are not safe from the human onslaught. From 26 million elephants in 1800, the elephant population of Africa is down to 415,000, thanks to poaching for ivory, ‘trophy hunting’, destruction of habitat and other human causes. The International Union for the Conservation of Nature has now listed the African forest elephant as ‘critically endangered’ and the African savanna elephant as ‘endangered’. See ‘Disappearing Elephants’ and ‘Africa’s elephants now endangered by poaching, habitat loss’.
Of course, destruction of habitat takes an almost infinite variety of forms when it comes to Homo sapiens. The latest farming venture to threaten elephant habitat is just now being created. See ‘From poaching to avocados, Kenya’s elephants face new threat’.
Besides this, assaults on particular species are pushing many endangered species to the brink of extinction. Wildlife trafficking, for example, is worth up to $20 billion each year. Illegal wildlife products include jewelry, traditional medicine, clothing, furniture, and souvenirs, as well as some exotic pets, most of which are sold to unaware/unconcerned consumers in the West although China is heavily implicated too. And to mention elephants again in this context: every 15 minutes an elephant is killed for its tusks. See Stop Wildlife Trafficking.
But if we are not concerned about the iconic species, can you imagine the collective concern for those millions of creatures of which we have never even heard, let alone given a name? And yet, as the work of Professor Gerardo Ceballos and his colleagues cited above clearly suggests, there are many unknown or obscure species that are part of the ‘co-extinctions’, ‘localized extinctions’ and ‘extinction cascades’ that are driving the ‘biological annihilation’ that they have documented.
So What Can We Do?
Well, in theory, we can participate in official responses to this crisis. See ‘Previewing the UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration’.
But, as history demonstrates, we would be unwise to rely on responses generated by the elite and promulgated through its agents. Such efforts are inevitably designed to subvert effective outcomes, which they do with unrelenting monotony to which the record of uninterrupted destruction readily testifies.
Nevertheless, there is a great deal that we can do, personally, that will make a difference.
As is always the case with threats to biodiversity, the fundamental response to this crisis involves producing and consuming less. A lot less. ‘A difficult ask’ you might say. And more difficult than you probably realize, given the fundamentally dysfunctional emotional state that drives human over-consumption in materialist societies in the first place. See ‘Love Denied: The Psychology of Materialism, Violence and War’.
But for those emotionally equipped for the challenge, you are welcome to join those who recognize the critical importance of reduced consumption and greater self-reliance by participating in ‘The Flame Tree Project to Save Life on Earth’ which outlines a ‘step by step’ strategy for achieving these ends. In addition, you are welcome to consider signing the online pledge of ‘The People’s Charter to Create a Nonviolent World’.
Of course, you can also campaign to do other things as well. Halting war and all military activity of any kind would save the biosphere enormous resources so effort put into that is worthwhile. If you would like to campaign, strategically, to halt war there is a list of strategic goals for doing so in Campaign Strategic Aims.
In fact, if you wish to focus on strategically resisting any of the four primary threats to human existence – nuclear war, the deployment of 5G, the collapse of biodiversity and/or the climate catastrophe – you can read about nonviolent strategy, including strategic goals to focus your campaigns, on that website too.
Equally fundamentally, if you would like to nurture children to become powerful individuals capable of acting strategically to prevent and respond to violence while able to critique society and elite propaganda, see ‘My Promise to Children’. A child who is emotionally whole does not need to use consumption as a substitute for giving up their unique identity as a survival strategy during childhood, as the ‘Love Denied’ article also explains.
As an aside, if you want a better fundamental understanding of how we reached this point, see ‘Why Violence?’, ‘Fearless Psychology and Fearful Psychology: Principles and Practice’ and ‘The Global Elite is Insane Revisited’.
And if the options above seem too complicated, consider committing to:
The Earth Pledge
Out of love for the Earth and all of its creatures, and my respect for their needs, from this day onwards I pledge that:
- I will listen deeply to children. See ‘Nisteling: The Art of Deep Listening’.
- I will not travel by plane
- I will not travel by car
- I will not eat meat and fish
- I will only eat organically/biodynamically grown food
- I will minimize the amount of fresh water I use, including by minimizing my ownership and use of electronic devices
- I will not own or use a mobile (cell) phone
- I will not buy rainforest timber
- I will not buy or use single-use plastic, such as bags, bottles, containers, cups and straws
- I will not use banks, superannuation (pension) funds or insurance companies that provide any service to corporations involved in fossil fuels, nuclear power and/or weapons
- I will not accept employment from, or invest in, any organization that supports or participates in the exploitation of fellow human beings or profits from killing and/or destruction of the biosphere
- I will not get news from the corporate media (mainstream newspapers, television, radio, Google, Facebook, Twitter…)
- I will make the effort to learn a skill, such as food gardening or sewing, that makes me more self-reliant
- I will gently encourage my family and friends to consider signing this pledge.
Halting the human rush to extinction through the destruction of biodiversity will require monumental effort. Raising awareness of this rapidly unfolding but still largely-hidden tragedy is, therefore, a high priority. But that is only the start. Enormous effort is required as well.
Of course, for those too terrified to contemplate the reality of ongoing destruction of Earth’s biodiversity and its implications for our own behaviour, denial or delusion are easy ‘psychological retreats’, particularly when our childhood survival largely depended on such tactics.
So it is going to take those who are powerful enough to deal with reality to make a stand.
We are on the cliff-edge of extinction. What will you do?
Robert Burrowes, Ph.D. is a member of the TRANSCEND Network for Peace Development Environment and has a lifetime commitment to understanding and ending human violence. He has done extensive research since 1966 in an effort to understand why human beings are violent and has been a nonviolent activist since 1981. He is the author of Why Violence? Websites: (Charter) (Flame Tree Project) (Songs of Nonviolence) (Nonviolent Campaign Strategy) (Nonviolent Defense/Liberation Strategy) (Robert J. Burrowes) (Feelings First) Email: email@example.com
Tags: Chemical waste, Conflict Analysis, Earth, Environment, Extinction, Humanity, Nature, Nuclear Waste, Oceans, Pollution, Radioactive Waste, Solutions
This article originally appeared on Transcend Media Service (TMS) on 24 May 2021.
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