Here’s what’s happening in the world – natural and unnatural.
- Planet earth is losing flora and fauna species at an alarming rate. Extinction is a phenomenon that occurs naturally, but the main cause of the current extinctions is the destruction of natural habitats by human activities, such as cutting down forests and converting land into fields for farming.
- Scientists estimate we are currently losing species 1,000-10,000 times faster than normal attrition, which means that literally tens of species are vanishing from the face of the Earth every day. (worldanimalfoundation.com)
- Across Africa, the U.N. estimates that 23.6 million people are facing food shortages due to the worst locust infestation in 70 years followed by torrential rains. (WSJ, Jan 31, 2020)
- Australia is, after a month of wildfires that burned 12.35 million acres and killed as many as one billion animals, experiencing unprecedented rains and floods – 15.4” in 4 days. (AP)
- Worldwide, 65.6 million individuals have been forcibly displaced because of persecution, conflict, violence, or human rights violations, per the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR 2017).
- Arctic and Antarctic ice caps are melting at an astonishing rate. On June 13, 2019 Greenland lost more than two billion tons of ice in one day. (nationalgeographic.com)
- In Brazil, between 15 and 17 percent of the Amazon rainforest has been lost, and if the amount of cleared forest land reaches 25 percent, there won’t be enough trees cycling moisture through the rainforest. (vox.com)
Why? Well, it’s complicated…but at its root it’s because we, as humans, haven’t been good stewards of each other’s welfare or the planet’s. It’s clear now; we have hard evidence that if we are to survive – if the planet is to survive – we need to make an urgent course correction. Instead, America has gone tribal, ignoring the evidence and doubling down on fossil fuels, extractive industries, unsustainable agribusiness, military industrial power, and isolationism.
Elizabeth Kolbert describes the crisis in her bestseller, The Sixth Extinction. She explains that the five prior extinction events, such as the extinction of the dinosaurs, were the result of extreme natural events like an asteroid striking the earth or massive volcanic eruptions but that human behavior is on the verge of causing another mass-extinction—the sixth in the history of the planet.
I’ve always thought of myself as a short-term pessimist and long-term optimist, but it’s hard to see any silver lining as we hurtle toward our own extinction. As Nathaniel Rich pointed out in a series of articles in the New York Times in 2018.
“Nearly everything we understand about global warming was understood in 1979. By that year, data collected since 1957 confirmed what had been known since before the turn of the 20th century: Human beings have altered Earth’s atmosphere through the indiscriminate burning of fossil fuels. The main scientific questions were settled beyond debate, and as the 1980s began, attention turned from diagnosis of the problem to refinement of the predicted consequences. Compared with string theory and genetic engineering, the “greenhouse effect: – a metaphor dating to the early 1900s – was ancient history, described in any Introduction to Biology textbook. Nor was the basic science especially complicated. It could be reduced to a simple axiom: The more carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, the warmer the planet. And every year, by burning coal, oil and gas, humankind belched increasingly obscene quantities of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.”
There is a part of me that would like to blame the current White House for the whole thing. After all, of the 175 signatories the United States is the only one to pull out of the Paris Climate Accords. We may only have been nibbling around the edges, but in the last three years this president has rolled back whatever gains we made in recent years. There’s an echo of Nero fiddling while Rome burns in almost everything Trump does, but we’re all complicit. We’re burning up the planet.
I want to believe in evolution. Silly me. I should have known when we began designing nuclear bombs that evolution was a hoax. But, Iike my climate denier friends, I kept thinking this and other human foibles were anomalies–until a set of recessive genes took over the White House and showed us how wrong we were.
Still, there must be a soupçon of hope in human DNA that keeps the dream alive. I know we can do better. I want to die believing my children and grandchildren will be part of a grand turn-around. “Hope is an optimistic state of mind that is based on an expectation of positive outcomes with respect to events and circumstances in one’s life or the world at large.” (Wikipedia)
Count me in for the positive outcome, but first we need to rid ourselves of The Denier-in-Chief and his 40 Thieves. They’re driving the bus that’s hurtling us toward the Sixth Extinction, so let’s take the steering wheel back and turn this thing around. We may be beyond the point of no return environmentally, but let’s leave a positive note for the next iteration of human life so they won’t judge us too harshly.
Isn’t it a lovely ride?
Try not to try too hard
It’s just a lovely ride
Now the thing about time is that time
Isn’t really real
It’s just your point of view
The Secret of Life – James Taylor
Remember him? Are we next?