The dirty hippies at Lawrence Livermore tell me that global warming is costing us now, and in the past few years, $5 billion annually in lost production of cereal grains alone.
Consider: esteemed public research institutions are tallying and analyzing the losses, monetary and otherwise, that have already been caused by global warming, and we still have idiots in the Senate that deny its reality.
Politics be damned for the sideshow and fool’s game that it is. Reality is elsewhere.
Thirty, fifty years after it emerged as an issue in scientific discourse, global warming has finally made it into public awareness.
Here’s my problem.
Global warming is only one part of the emergent catastrophe. And we don’t have the luxury of another fifty years. There is no more margin.
I believe that in the long run the sixth global mass extinction event, already underway, is a catastrophe second only to global warming in significance. The two are intimately intertwined, but the present, ongoing, catastrophic collapse of global biodiversity proceeds almost completely unrecognized and certainly unnoticed by the culture at large.
It just can’t go on like this for long. Biologists know it. Jane Goodall and E. O. Wilson and Richard Leakey know it, but nobody is listening to them.
You can only pull so many threads from a tapestry without the entire structure collapsing. We are perilously close to ecosystem collapse, and we are sleepwalking over this cliff.
I believe that it is essential that the “larger we” become more fully aware of this imminent pauperization of the world’s primary infrastructure, its first-level economy, on which all else is built, and that we begin to reverse it now.
The catastrophic loss of biodiversity is not primarily about cutie-pie pandas and adorable giraffes. It is about the collapse of fisheries that properly managed could feed millions, the loss of forests that are the lungs of the planet and at the same time the livelihood of indigenous people who have managed them wisely for centuries.
Like all catastrophes, this one will hit the poor the hardest. In what we used to call the third world (I can see it out my window) people live close to the ground. They depend more immediately, that is to say, on ecosystem resources than the typical resident of Gotham, although Gotham eats and breathes and shits too, much like everyone else.
And hell yes, it is also about who we are. We become less human when we shrug our shoulders at the demise of the baiji, the tiger, the grizzly, the meadowlark. Who do we measure ourselves against, once the giants are gone? Who taught us to sing but the birds?
We are the products of hundreds of millions of years of evolution – not the crown of creation, at most a smallish gem in the tiara – and it is the height of folly to expect our children to thrive in a world that is not fit for animals.
It is imperative that a way be found to assign proper value to ecosytem services and products (potable water for the cities of New York and Sydney and Jerusalem, food for a great number of people with more pressing worries than the housing bubble, carbon sinks whose value transcends these pitiful valuations currently assessed).
I believe that it is time for a great reintegration with the natural world. Following McDonough’s hints, there will be no waste, just as there is none in nature. There will only be nutrient streams.
We condemn the Christian fanatics for sacking the library at Alexandria and burning the works of Sappho, and turn a blind eye to the pyres in Papua and Uganda and Amazonia that consume we know not what answers, cures, miracles. We, who should know better.
A thousand Al Gores won’t solve the problem. We need a general awakening. We need a sea change in human attitudes.
Let’s start now. Let the integration begin. There is plenty of everything if we only abandon the philosophy of scarcity and adopt the philosophy of abundance that is embodied in the myriad of blossoms on the fruit trees and the uncountable salmon in the few rivers we have not dammed. The earth has never failed us; there is no reason to think she ever will.