Earth In Overshoot; Human Growth Is Killing Her
By Dr. Glen Barry
18 May, 2014
The global ecological system is collapsing and dying under the cumulative filth of 7 billion people INEQUITABLY devouring their ecosystem habitats. It is impossible to avoid global ecosystem collapse if humanity continues to breed like bunnies; tolerates exorbitant inequality, abject poverty and conspicuous overconsumption; and destroys the ecosystems and climate that – rich or poor – are habitat for all of us. As I have written previously and will write again, the human family either comes together to address converging ecology, rights, and injustice crises – largely brought on by inequitable overpopulation – or faces global ecological collapse and the end of being.
It is not possible to go from 1 to 7 billion people in 135 years – while still growing exponentially – without profound impacts upon natural ecosystems that provide air, water, food and livelihoods. If you don’t understand this, you are uneducated, dumb, and/or indoctrinated; you need to study ecology and get out and see the world. Or go and look at an overgrazed cow pasture and extrapolate. Merging climate, food, water, ocean, soil, justice, poverty, and old-growth forest crises – all which are to some degree caused by inequitable overpopulation – are destroying ecosystems and threaten to pull down our one shared biosphere.
Earth has lost 80% of her old-growth forests, 50% of her soil, 90% of the big fish – and many water, land, and ocean ecosystems, as well as atmospheric stability, as human population has soared more than sevenfold. The human family is living far beyond its means, devouring natural capital principal and ravaging its own ecosystem habitats, which can only end in ecological, social and economic collapse. Earth's carrying capacity has been exceeded, and we must equitably and justly bring down human population and consumption inequity or else face global ecosystem collapse. We can start the necessary social change or an angry Earth will sort it out herself by killing billions; as we possibly pull down the biosphere with us, ending most or even all life, during a prolonged collapse.
Earth is not designed for 7 billion people (and growing), some of them destroying ecosystems globally as they live in opulence, others more locally through their grinding poverty and need to survive. Overpopulated, inequitable, unjust human industrial growth ravages ecosystems; destroying all that is natural, indigenous and good, heralding a brief era of opulence for some and abject misery for many, before collapsing the biosphere and causing the end of being for all.
Together the human family must find a way to first limit and then reduce human population to avoid collapsing the biosphere. Infinite economic growth in a finite world is impossible; either we embrace a steady state economy together, or we die.
Solutions to overpopulation – to ensure humanity’s cumulative consumption remains within Earth's carrying capacity – include more equity (fewer extremes, basic needs met, hard work rewarded, without communism or authoritarian regimes), educating all girls, free birth control, and lower taxes and more social benefits for families with one to two children. Ensuring every girl in the world is educated and empowered to make her own life decisions, especially about fertility, is the key. Those who cling to ancient superstitions or contemporary greed to resist these policies must be ridiculed and ignored or overthrown.
There are many other common sense ways to keep population in balance with ecosystems. Some obvious and essential global ecological solutions include agroecology, ending fossil fuel dependence, protecting and restoring ecosystems including ending old-growth forest logging, and an embrace of ecology, truth, justice, wisdom, and love as the meaning of life.
The human animal is fundamentally an ecological being – as with all organic life, part of and springing from natural ecosystems. Without natural ecosystems and a healthy atmosphere, there is nothing. Tragically, centuries of advancement in human rights and welfare are at risk as climate and ecosystem collapse are being misdiagnosed and met with authoritarianism rather than ecologically based policies.
The global ecological system upon which all life depends is being systematically dismantled in the name of "development". Whatever became of aspirations for real human advancement in justice, rights and duties, truth, equity, love and peace? Instead most postmodern humanity seems only to want more stuff, self-aggrandizement, and comfort at any price including our shared future. Now is the time for moral and political courage as together we stop and reverse abrupt climate change, ecosystem collapse, and rising tyranny – by rationally and logically using humanity’s accumulated wisdom and knowledge to craft and implement together the required social change for global ecological sustainability.
Again, to survive and achieve universal well-being, humanity must choose ecology – by leaving fossil fuels in the ground, protecting and restoring natural ecosystems, embracing organic permaculture, and reducing our own numbers equitably and justly – or, it cannot be said enough, we face ecological collapse and the end of being. There is no other way.
The challenge of the present and perhaps all time left to us is to remain free. Together, as one human family, we must embrace our duty to protect nature, end fossil fuels, reduce human numbers, and share with other people and kindred species.
There is nothing normal about being well adjusted and silent as ecosystems and climate collapse globally, threatening the imminent death of us all. Living in such a manner can no longer be tolerated as acceptable. As global ecosystems and society collapse, chances for future survival and well-being depend critically upon holding onto our shared humanity as together we restore ecosystems, care for each other and all life, and find new ways to live well sustainably.
Dr. Glen Barry is the President and Founder of Ecological Internet (EI). He is recognized internationally by the environmental movement as a leading global visionary, ecological policy critic and public intellectual committed to communicating the severity of global ecological crises - and related justice, rights and equity issues - while actively organizing with others sufficient solutions
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