After we murder Nature, then what? I know some of you may think this a dubious assumption as to possibility, and I would be among you–that is, until recently.
As is, Nature has atrophied and we live increasingly in asphalt environments, with Nature relegated to a few urban parks and, even then, they tend not to be passive parks given over to Nature, but to ball fields, children’s playgrounds, etc.
As evidence of our increasing sequestering of Nature, consider that more of us in the USA and Canada visit local zoos than attend professional sports events combined!
The pity is that Man is himself the evolutionary outcome of millions of years of a once teeming biodiversity. The question then follows as to what happens to us when we marginalize the very sources of our being and our future.
I’ve seen science estimates of the number of species of existing plants and animals as somewhere between 5 and 100 million. We know that invertebrates vastly outnumber vertebrates like ourselves, perhaps some 10 million, of which only a million have been identified.
Zoologist Edward O. Wilson tells us that if humans were to suddenly disappear, all would still be well on earth; conversely, were the invertebrates to disappear, life would soon revert to its initial state a billion years ago of myriad algae, bacteria, and a few multi-celled organisms (In Search of Nature, 153).
In short, we are intertwined with nature right down to the tiniest organism.
Our mistake is to think that even the smallest entities of Nature, so staggering in numbers, cannot be vulnerable to human excesses:
When a valley in Peru or an island in the Pacific is stripped of the last of its vegetation, the result is likely to be the extinction of several kinds of birds and some dozens of plant species. Whereas we are painfully aware of that tragedy, we fail to perceive that hundreds of vertebrates will also vanish (Wilson, 145).
As is, humans from their earliest beginnings up to the last century had already wiped out an estimated 10% of flora and fauna species. Alarmingly, bird population is declining rapidly, with a drop of 25% in bird species. Presently, the drop-off in all species, not only birds, is occurring 100 to 1000 times higher than in pre-human times.
Consider the continuing decimation of the Amazonian rainforest, the world’s foremost repository of biodiversity with huge implications for pharmaceuticals, agriculture and oil substitutes and, of course, climate change. Each year, we lose to chainsaws an area approximating half the size of Florida!
Unfortunately, we’ve inherited a primordial disposition that prioritizes personal safety, followed by family, tribe, then outsiders ((Wilson 186), a selfishness that unless it gives way to altruism expressed in environmental regard, is likely to doom us.
Today, we’re hearing a lot about climate change, and it certainly can’t be minimized, since we are largely responsible for it. But it’s not just a matter of carbon, but our burgeoning numbers, with corresponding exponential demands on limited resources. The more population increases, the more decimation, with habitats reduced and species extinguished, many of unknown importance to our survival. Consider Nigeria with its present population of 175 million (2013). PEW research estimates it will reach 440 million by 2050, exceeding the USA population.
Although population rates are declining, the world’s population will be just under 10 billion by 2050, with sub-Saharan Africa experiencing explosive growth, an area already confronted by widespread poverty, disease, and ethnic conflict. Unfortunately, in many places, cultural traditions and religious beliefs continue to dominate.
We can still save the day, but it’s unlikely that we care enough to act meaningfully and quickly.
Take where I live, Kentucky, where we have two senate candidates, Democrat and Republican, trying to shout down each other in denouncing President Obama’s policies affecting environment, especially coal. Accordingly, reducing the powers of the EPA is a foremost goal for both.
Unfortunately, evolution gave homo sapiens a well-developed brain, but pulled up short in maximizing a moral prowess vital to its long term survival.