Are we facing imminent ecological disaster?
Scientific observation remains more or less content with the conclusion that a 16-ounce container has 8 ounces of fluid in it. From a management perspective, however, the crucial question may be whether the container is half full or half empty. This question determines the appropriate course of action–whether more fluid is needed, as it were. The problem, of course, is that half full and half empty are value judgments derived from the interests of the people.
~R. McGreggor Cawley and John Freemuth
From what I’ve been told, we are facing an imminent ecological disaster. Species are dying off right and left, we’re wasting or polluting all available resources, and soon, if we continue in our present course, we will doom ourselves and the rest of the planet to extinction.
I doubt the biosphere is that rigid and intractable. In fact, I’d have to say that knowing there have been several historical mass extinctions, the planet itself has little to fear. And seeing how developed countries have reduced or reversed pollution (in their own areas…a significant portion of said pollution has been merely removed to developing countries), I don’t think we’re going to poison ourselves to death any time soon. H. sapiens is probably the most resilient of Earth’s creatures.
Speaking of resiliency…this impending mass extinction? For one, I think it’s overhyped. For two, even if it is not, we’ll lose some really cool species, yes, but we’re not going to lose everything. Coyotes, pigeons, red foxes, rabbits, cereal grains, cattle, white-tailed deer, and even the humble eggplant all seem to be doing just fine, in fact flourishing. Some of them because we like them, some of them because we like killing them, some of them despite our best efforts and pounds and pounds of strychnine.
We live in a very complex web…one that we may never understand. Pluck the wrong strand, and the whole web may very well fall apart. But nature and spiders are nothing if not redundant, and it’ll probably take plucking a lot of damn strands before doomsday happens and in the meantime, the spider spends a good deal of time trying to fix it. Yes, it’s possible that we may one day fuck up good enough to kill ourselves and most of the lifeforms on this planet, but we’d probably have to try.
Extirpation is more likely. Fuck an area up enough and it may be unsuitable for human life until we figure out how to clean it. Even then, we’re ingenuous enough that it won’t take us too long before we mangle some sort of use out of it. We have people living in space, for fuck’s sake. Not thriving, but definitely surviving. I think we can manage to live somehow even if we royally mess up.
Would we want to live in a world without lions and tigers and bears? Yea, but it wouldn’t be nearly as cool. Given the choice, I’ll take the lions and tigers and bears. And the wolves, spiny-backed orbweaver spiders, and water lilies.
But I don’t think we’re facing Impending Doom, nor do I think we should market environmentalism as the only thing standing between us and extinction. It may net more donations in the short term, but in the long run honesty is probably our best policy.