Unsustainable Human Activities: Loss of ecosystem services and the web of life that supports us
“I do not think we in any way should feel complacent that we are not on the list of possible extinctions.” ~ Richard Leakey, paleontologist
Every day that passes the world is in worse shape.
Humans are in the process of destroying more species on earth in this 100 years than have gone extinct in the past 65 million years. We hear overwhelming statistics and we dissociate. Earth is in human-caused crisis on almost every level – overpopulation of humans doing the wrong things in energy and mining extraction, poisoned and genetically altered food supplies, accelerating climate change, and destroying biodiversity to a tipping point of collapse.
Politics operates within the framework that humans are the lords of creation, and all life and the natural world are just a commodity for our abuse and consumption. In 1950, 2.5 billion people walked the planet. Now, 64 years later, we have nearly tripled our numbers, with no policies in place to quell our breeding. Heck – not just no policies – no discussion. We need a moratorium on human pregnancy. We act like other populations should be managed, but not our own?
It is not just overpopulation – it is the consumption factor. A child born in the United States equals the consumption of some 15 children in poor countries. But the developing world is also exploding into consumption. The lifestyle of “modern” industrial society is now served by tar sands development covering an area greater than the state of New York where Canadian boreal forests recently sustained life.
The Amazon is being deforested even faster than Canada to grow feed for global meat consumption. Poisoned, genetically manipulated food supplies and exhausted aquifers service the human confinement of 60 billion farm animals globally moved annually to slaughter.
World Watch Institute studies conclude that this slave trade of animals is causing 51 percent of the climate change we are experiencing. Landscapes are desertified and wildlife cleared wholesale for this corporate-promoted indoctrination to carcass consumption.
Derrick Jensen, author of “Endgame,” puts it in context: “If aliens took over the earth and vacuumed the oceans, changing our genetic structure, we would fight back.”
Right now on Earth, we have destroyed 98 percent of old growth forests and 99 percent of prairies. Some 80 percent of rivers no longer support life. Large fish populations in overexploited oceans are down 90 percent since 1950. African lion populations have been hunted out 90 percent since 1980. As one activist states, “We are out of species, out of soil, and out of time.” Mass extinctions of entire ecosystems are accelerating as predicted. A few of the species destroyed in this century can be viewed here.
We allow Wisconsin’s blind, deaf and dumb, obsolete Department of Natural Resources (DNR) to expand indiscriminate seven-month trapping seasons to all public lands, increase bow-hunting deer from the nine-day kill to four-and-a-half months, and destroy natural predators to farm for more deer and turkeys. A token number of wolves, who took millions of dollars and 38 years to recover to 5 percent of their former range, are irrationally demonized, tortured and half of them killed in two years to serve the DNR’s primary client base: trophy-killing wolf-haters.
White-nosed bat fungus has entered Wisconsin after racing through 14 eastern states with a 95 percent mortality rate. A third of bee populations worldwide are collapsing annually.
It is the entire structure of human design and mindset that is unsustainable.
Our culture has not given us the wisdom for dealing with this level of catastrophe. Rather, we consume more to feel better and live in a bubble of human-contrived artifice and denial. As Jensen says, “It is no wonder that we do not defend the place where we live. We don’t live there.”
It’s beyond anything humans have had to face, ever before.
The 7-year-old “Call of Life” documentary puts it in stark terms: “Natural systems that have been stable for millions of years are in turmoil.”
“It’s people carrying out the most basic of human activities that is causing all these things we share the planet with to disappear forever,” laments Gretchen Daily, director of the Tropical Research Center at Stanford University. She says it is hard to wrap our minds around our driving into oblivion so many species evolved over millions of years as our only known living companions in the universe. We are likely to wipe out half of the estimated 10 million species on earth in this century.
No species is an island, especially our own.
The film explores how many people will die from the loss of biodiversity. It is estimated to be billions from loss of ecosystem services and the web of life that supports us.
“This (saving life on earth) is something we have to do now. It is not something we can postpone …. It is a responsibility that our generation has uniquely,” warns Stuart Pimm professor of Conservation Ecology at Duke University.
Societies can change rapidly when made aware their own survival is at stake. Melissa Nelson, professor of American Indian Studies at San Francisco University, says: “We must bring this to bear in a radical, fiery, dynamic and committed way. This is a critical moment in human history. We are either going to wake up or die. We don’t know which one it is going to be.”