The horizon is not so far as we can see, but as far as we can imagine

One Million Species at Risk of Extinction + One

Globe on FireSo, you’ve probably seen all the articles aboutthe UN report which finds that one million species are at risk of extinction, out of the 8.7 million species we believe exist.

That’s more than 10 percent.

The key thing that tends not to get emphasized in this is that ecosystems are chains, or complex webs of interactions. The death of insects, for example (remember when driving caused bug splat? I can’t remember the last time I saw that), will reveberate through the entire web, starting with birds.

These interactions are complicated and we do not understand them well at all.

For example, there is a non-trivial risk that the algae, which are the major oxygen producers in the oceans, will die. They produce 70 to 80 percent of our oxygen.

If that happens, humanity will go extinct, along with a lot more than one million other species.

Our actions are insanity. Absolute insanity. We are destroying the web of life which makes our own existence possible.

We have no escape. We cannot even make biospheres (enclosed environments) work. Without that, we cannot begin to try to keep even a small population alive during the collapse (not that that would be anything but a catastrophe anyway).

But the fact that we can’t make even a simple enclosed environment which can support human life work is the point. We are playing with systems we don’t understand. We are committing mass genocide of other life forms.

And there is a better than even chance that it will be a million, or millions, +1. We do not exist separate from the web of beings who make life on Earth possible.

The results of the work I do, like this article, are free, but food isn’t, so if you value my work, please DONATE or SUBSCRIBE.


Week-end Wrap – Political Economy – May 5, 2019


The Coming War with Iran?


  1. Ven


    As a species, we have evolved a belief that (simplistically) greed is good. From there, we have created hierarchical up-scaling systems which overwhelm smaller, arguably more ecological ones. We have created exploitive capitalism, colonialism and plutocracy. We have created a government and governing systems by the few for the few. In the process we have caused more than one genocide, just of the human species, let alone others.

    We have tried revolution, anarchism, socialism . . . they have blossomed for a while, but then the mass of human nature, the scale and implicit anonymity of our ‘civilisations’ have driven our compassion and decency, and self-aggrandisement has re-emerged.

    We are categorically unable to respond to these warnings of climate change and species extinction. Even within one nation state, the political and indeed collective individual will is not there – only in minority representation. And politicians are inherently venal and self-serving anyway. And then you go to the global level to try to negotiate a consensual approach? With the US that believes it has the right to bully others as and when it pleases??

    You will be aware of karma. We are reaping a well-deserved, and well overdue, karma. The Bezos’ and Branson’s and Musk’s who think they are going to escape this – its pretty funny really.

  2. Olivier

    We are not the indispensable species. If we die, we die.

  3. bruce wilder

    I was almost amazed earlier today to see a blogger point to a basic fact of energy use that is routinely ignored by many of the well-intended:

    Using energy produces waste. Using more energy produces more waste. It doesn’t matter -much- what kind of energy is used, or what kind of waste is produced. The energy WE use produces waste, in a medium of which WE cannot survive. The only way to escape this is to use less energy. And because we have used such an enormous amount of energy the past 100 years, we must use a whole lot less in the next 100.

    Yes, we can blame ourselves for collective greed, but wilful stupidity plays a big role. Our society lacks conscience because our society lacks consciousness, because the vast majority has not the slightest notion of how the society works as a system, as a political economy. We stare at the consequences building at the horizon and still can not respond collectively with self-restraint.

  4. Hugh

    The US isn’t leading, but that’s OK. Nobody would follow anyway. No one is listening. World population is currently 7.7 billion. and is expected to hit 9 billion by 2038. The human carrying capacity of our planet is probably around a billion and no more than 2 billion. Climate change, environmental destruction, species extinction, and pollution would not pose the existential threats they do if there were simply fewer of us. But overpopulation is off the everyone’s radar screens. And even if the issue were raised it would immediately invoke cries of “Genocide” by all and sundry. We could deal with climate change, but we won’t. The Paris Accords are much hyped but there is little there in them. We could manage world population downward to sustainable levels, but again we won’t. But just because we choose not to act does not mean things won’t happen. I doubt that humans will go extinct, but I do see world population collapsing to a billion or less in the coming decades due to war, state failure, disease, and famine.

  5. Herman

    Would people be willing to give up economic growth and technological progress to save all of these animals and ourselves? I doubt it. Imagine if a politician said that Americans must accept a substantially less materialistic lifestyle. No Amazon delivery, no smartphones and other gadgets, far less air travel, no more car culture, etc. I don’t think that politician could ever get elected again. This is not just true for America and the industrialized countries but also for the developing world where more and more people demand to share in our insane lifestyle.

    Nothing will be done about the environmental problem until it becomes so bad that people are willing to accept substantial lifestyle changes. I am thinking of something on the order of World War II where people accepted massive changes in lifestyle due to the needs of total war. I think something similar will be needed in order to combat environmental destruction but by the time people get serious it might be too late.

  6. Paul Harris

    It probably is too late already. It started with the global loss of forest cover a few thousand years ago and along with the more recent loss of insect life will continue to cascade up and across the web of life and we are powerless to stop it. We have already pulled at the piece of yarn that will tear the fabric to bits.
    Change will be forced upon us and even then we’ll begrudge having to do so.

  7. someofparts

    I had just finished reading the article Bruce Wilder links to before showing up here.

    I think this line was the central point of the article:

    “The transition to renewables was doomed because modern industrial people, no matter how Romantic they are, do not want to return to pre-modern life.”

    Another take on all of this was posted at the Intercept last week:

    Here is the key thought from that piece:

    “So what can I do? Where does my motivation come from if things really do appear to be lost? That’s where I had a big conversation with a Cherokee medicine man named Stan Rushworth, actually. He reminded me of the difference between the colonial settler mindset of, “We have rights,” versus the indigenous philosophy of, “We’re all born onto the planet with obligations.” The two big ones that he shared with me are: an obligation to take care of, and be a steward of, the planet; and an obligation to serve future generations and make my decisions based on what’s going to take the best care of them. And so no matter how dire things look today, if I get up and I ask myself, “OK, how can I be of best service today to the planet and to the children?” Then I have my work cut out for me, and there is no shortage of things to do. And I am morally obliged to do everything in my power possible to try to help somehow, whatever that’s going to look like.”

  8. Ché Pasa

    The “tiny house movement” is a microcosm of what happens to Western notions of Green-ing. It started with the notion of downsizing and living simply in small, inexpensive, portable, and largely carbon neutral quarters that would not be a burden on the dweller or the earth. In the process, one would be able to learn how to live “green”, how to unburden, and how to become self-sufficient, at least insofar as that is possible in today’s complex world.

    Well. That lasted a year or so. I exaggerate, but not by much. The movement was largely confined to well-off white folks, mostly young-ish idealists, who sought to show ways forward toward a better world. It very quickly became Business, a multiplicity of competing businesses, selling plans, engineering, architectural concepts, construction services, and on and on and on. A whole subculture developed around the ideas and ideals put forth by the originators of the movement. But the Business dominated.

    Over time, it became extremely complex, difficult, specialized, expensive and not particularly Green at all. Tiny houses became an obsession for some, a folly for others, a lifestyle for still others. Idealism was largely thrown overboard as survivalism took precedence. How are businesses and individuals to survive in a fiercely competitive and inelastic market?

    Tiny houses, after all, are still illegal as dwelling units in most jurisdictions unless they are RV certified and placed in an authorized RV accommodating mobile home park. In other words, the idea may be nice, but in effect it’s impossible to realize under current zoning and residential requirements.

    Much the same happens with Western notions of a Green future. What starts out as a positive ideal becomes commodified and complexified out of recognition. It becomes unattainable by most folks and undesirable by most of those who have the wherewithal to attain it. It’s made illegal in some places, out of reach in others. Ultimately, the ideal fails in its purpose. And we are left to start over or go in a different direction.

    The extinctions and the destruction of habitat are normalized. TINA rules.

    Finding and implementing alternatives is still the only way to go, while inertia — and law –prevents widescale adoption of those alternatives.

  9. Hugh

    Here is the link to the pdf of the summary for policymakers of the IPBES biodiversity report:

Powered by WordPress & Theme by Anders Norén