Is Humanity Simply Overwhelming Nature?

Republican Presidential Candidates All Deny Climate Change  (from Truthout)

But here’s my view:

Is Humanity Simply Overwhelming Nature?

Zoologists tell us that we are, right now, living in the sixth great extinction of species on earth.

The previous five all had natural causes, the most recent being 65 million years ago when an enormous asteroid slammed into the Gulf of Mexico.  Clouds of dust encircled the earth, blocking sunlight, chilling the atmosphere and killing vegetation.  The majority of plants and animals living then disappeared.  Good-bye, dinosaurs.

The current era of extinctions is considered anthropogenic, or human caused.

Beginning some 10,000 years ago, human societies and agriculture began displacing other species.  Our impact has grown dramatically with population growth, industrialization, increased consumption per capita, and disposal of wastes into the air, water and land.

Estimates are that some 50,000 or more species of plants, animals, insects and microbial life are going extinct every year as a result of human impact.

Scientists, ethicists, and religious leaders agree that stewardship of nature and the environment are humanity’s responsibility. We must ask ourselves what sort of world will we pass on to all future generations.

On the weekend before the Paris Climate Summit in December, there were “Global Climate Marches” around the world, and in Oklahoma City.  The message was, “We demand a climate treaty in line with the realities of science and principles of economic justice.”

According to the Climate March website, 780,000 people in 175 countries participated in 2300 marches.

Emissions of carbon dioxide (CO2) are warming the atmosphere and the oceans. Sea levels are rising as polar ice melts, but also because water expands as it warms.

Oceans become acidified as they absorb CO2, causing the bleaching of coral reefs and reducing the reproductive potential of fish that serve humanity as food.

For all these reasons, Climate Marchers also urged agreement to leave most remaining fossil fuels in the ground, and to finance a global transition to 100% renewable energy by 2050.

Coal is the dirtiest fossil fuel, producing carbon dioxide, sulfur dioxide, and other particulates that contribute to asthma, emphysema and lung cancer. While being transported by rail, one percent of coal’s mass is lost into the atmosphere as coal dust, further contributing to lung irritation and disease. Strip mining for coal – “mountaintop removal” – is an environmental disaster.

By contrast, solar and wind power do not cause warming of the atmosphere, lung disease, earthquakes, or require thousands of years of safe storage of radioactive wastes.  The technologies are proven and are improving:  Denmark produces 100% of its electricity with wind, selling the excess to its neighbors. Oklahoma’s wind and solar potential are enormous.

Governments can not do everything:  People and industries can reduce their carbon footprint by conserving energy, insulating, installing LED lighting, driving hybrid and electric vehicles, reducing meat consumption, and living more simply.  Geothermal heating and cooling save energy.

Business schools teach that economic growth is essential to economic health. So, growth is good, they say, in the production of energy, food, products and services, particularly as human population has grown from 3 billion in 1960, to 7 billion today, to perhaps 9 billion within this century.

Economic equations, however, do not factor in the cost of degrading the quality of air, water, land or the natural systems that support life.  Earth is a finite planet, so unlimited or unmanaged growth has serious consequences for all life.

Can humanity fundamentally change our ways to live as a part of nature?  Or will we continue to ignore the degradation of natural systems that support all life – including our own?

Everything we do – and do not do – contributes to the answers to those questions.

Peace & Onward,
Nathaniel Batchelder
Director, The Peace House