I'm posting this because it illustrates the predicament we've got ourselves in and what might be entailed to get ourselves out of it. I know you don't want to read this but it's important, vitally important and so I feel obliged to post it anyway. I almost feel like I should be apologizing for this.
The planet is reeling from loss of biodiversity. This is a problem that reaches from lowly microbes to the largest lifeforms on Earth. Species are falling extinct at rates wildly above normal and far beyond sustainable. Surveys of non-human life of all sorts, marine and terrestrial, have found that life on Earth has declined by half since the 1970s. Our stocks of terrestrial life and down by half. Our stocks of marine life are down by half. In case you're wondering, they're still in decline also.
Along comes E.O. Wilson, a world class biologist, who has a way to fix all this. He wants us to set half the world aside for all other forms of life. Humans get half. Nature gets half. That goes for our oceans too.
The reason why half is the answer, according to Wilson, is located deep in the science of ecology.
“The principal cause of extinction is habitat loss. With a decrease of habitat, the sustainable number of species in it drops by (roughly) the fourth root of the habitable area,” Wilson wrote via email, referencing the species-area curve equation that describes how many species are capable of surviving long-term in a particular area.
By preserving half of the planet, we would theoretically protect 80% of the world’s species from extinction, according to the species-area curve. If protection efforts, however, focus on the most biodiverse areas (think tropical forests and coral reefs), we could potentially protect more than 80% of species without going beyond the half-Earth goal. In contrast, if we only protect 10% of the Earth, we are set to lose around half of the planet’s species over time. This is the track we are currently on.
Nice idea but there are snags. The biggest snag is that humanity, as we're constituted today, can't live with just half of Earth. The reason that our stocks of marine and terrestrial life have plummeted by half over the past four decades is because of us. We're taking so much of everything that there's not enough for everything else and so their numbers have to plummet.
“For all his zeal, (misplaced) righteousness and passion, his vision is disturbing and dangerous,” they write. “It would entail forcibly herding a drastically reduced human population into increasingly crowded urban areas to be managed in oppressively technocratic ways. How such a global programme of conservation Lebensraum would be accomplished is left to the reader’s imagination.”
Did you get that? Wilson's solution would be truly dystopian beginning with a massive cull of humanity. Some calculations have concluded that Earth's human carrying capacity is just under 3 billion. Half an Earth then might need us to get down to 1.5 billion. We're nearing 7.5 billion now so that would be a cull of most of humanity and as much as 80%. Or we could go full-bore Blade Runner and cram billions more into chronic urban density.
The point, however, is that the way we're living now will not continue. This graphic from 2014 produced by the Global Footprint Network illustrates our ecological dilemma.
In 2014 we had reached the point where we, mankind, were consuming the equivalent of 1.5 times our planet's capacity for renewable resource replenishment. We needed one and a half planet Earths to support our consumption. Today that has reached the 1.7 point. By 2050 we'll hit 3.0 - except we won't.
In the course of hunting down that graphic I came across this post from October, 2014 about a gathering of Nobel laureates who met annually to evaluate the state of our planet. They called for "revolutionary change" saying there was no other path.
From global warming, deforestation and soil and water degradation to ocean acidification, chemical pollution and environmentally-triggered diseases, the list of planetary ailments is long and growing, Doherty said.
...The worsening crisis means consumers, businesses and policymakers must consider the impact on the planet of every decision they make, he said.
Underpinning their concern are new figures highlighting that humanity is living absurdly beyond its means.
...“The peril seems imminent,” said US-Australian astrophysicist Brian Schmidt, co-holder of the 2011 Nobel physics prize for demonstrating an acceleration in the expansion of the universe.
“We are poised to do more damage to the Earth in the next 35 years than we have done in the last 1,000.”
It's well known that people, even progressives, tune out to reports dealing with the environment or climate change. The "head in the sand" approach guarantees one result and only one.