We’re not killing the planet

“You know, I never meant for people to believe in the Turtle,” said Didactyles unhappily. “It’s just a big turtle. It just exists. Things just happen that way. I don’t think the Turtle gives a damn.”
~Terry Pratchett, “Small Gods”

Yes, I ranted about this before.

We’re not killing the planet. Short of physically destroying it, which, to my admittedly limited knowledge, would be hard for us to do with our present technology simply because the planet is physically that large.

Life arose on this planet once before in an era much more cutthroat than our own. Against all the odds, almost literally, it succeeded.

To assume that we’re responsible for the planet’s welfare and that restoration and revegetation and rewilding are absolutely necessary is as anthropocentric as assuming we are the top of the evolutionary ladder. Sorry, but like many biologists, I have to give the badge of “success” to the arthropods.

Sure, we accidentally, or maybe intentionally, gave many non-native species a free ride into new domains. Maybe they would have found their way there eventually, or not at all. But we anthropocentrically offer the classification of “naturalized” to the nice ones that don’t cause problems and the term “invasive” to those that don’t behave the way we want them to. But such organisms are merely doing what they have been doing for their entire existence…making do in a nasty dog-eat-dog world. The only creature on this planet that says it’s wrong to introduce non-native species is us. Other species do their best to rework their immediate environment to better suit their tastes, or not, but we’re the only ones that demonize or angelicize such actions.

No matter what we do to it, the planet will survive. More likely than not, no matter what we do something will be able to survive or even thrive in the environments we create. Even if we kill every form of life on this planet, chances are that things will start up all over again just as they did before we came out of the proverbial muck.

It’s not terrible to wish to keep our world more or less as it was when we found it. We do, after all, have a rather powerful instinct for self-preservation. And let it be what it may, we are biophiles and become attached to the species we share the planet with. But to automatically assume that we are solely responsible for what happens to the planet, or to assume that we are some powerful creature that can dictate Earth’s ultimate fate is an anthropocentric fallacy. We’re relative newcomers, doing what seems to us monumental damage. The planet itself may not see it that way.

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2 Responses to “We’re not killing the planet”

  1. I wonder what would happen if we tried (as only a thought experiment of course) to cobble up an ecosystem based only on species we’ve helped propagate… crows, dandelions, bedbugs, ???mosquitoes???, catfish, snakeheads, E. coli, pigs, cows, dogs, cats, grass, ???earthworms???, rats, rice, wheat, soy, pigeons, jellyfish… I’m pretty sure I’m missing dozens if not hundreds of various plants and fungi and single-cells here.

    • We’ve also drastically increased numbers of animals like coyotes, deer, wild turkey, house sparrows, grackles, brown trout, numerous plant species. Some of these we’ve helped directly, others indirectly. Some of them despite our best efforts to the contrary.

      We’d get a functional ecosystem out of it somehow, especially if we ourselves were involved. Everything is an ecosystem of some kind…even large cities. It may not be very exciting, but it would function.

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