Meanwhile, mainstream society has invented a comical joyride in magical thinking — if we simply call something ‘sustainable’ enough times, then it is! In the blink of the eye, forest mining becomes Sustainable Forestry™ and soil mining becomes Sustainable Agriculture™. In a barrage of oxymorons, business as usual is kept on life support, by any means necessary, for as long as possible. What should we do about this? How can we revive the original meaning of sustainability?
A stunning new study published in the prestigious journal Science concluded that we are on the verge of causing “a major extinction event” in the oceans, and one of the scientists who authored the study stated frankly, “I honestly feel there’s not much hope for normal ecosystems in the ocean” without a dramatic shift away from the current business-as-usual fossil-fueled economy. Additionally, another recent study found that sea levels are now rising 25 percent faster than previous estimates, and the acceleration witnessed in the 1990s is even more dramatic than previously calculated. To make matters worse, another major study published in Science recently found that human activity has already pushed the planet beyond four of its nine “planetary boundaries.” The conclusion of the study said that at the rate things are progressing, the coming decades will see the earth no longer as a “safe operating space” for human beings, let alone most other species. The four boundaries we’ve already crossed are the extinction rate, deforestation, atmospheric carbon dioxide levels, and the flow of nitrogen and phosphorous (land fertilizers) into the oceans.
Some scientists, Guy McPherson included, fear that climate disruption is already so serious, with so many self-reinforcing feedback loops already in play, that humans are in the process of causing our own extinction. August, September and October were each the hottest months ever recorded, respectively. Including this year, which is on track to become the hottest year ever recorded, 13 of the hottest years on record have all occurred in the last 16 years. Coal will likely overtake oil as the dominant energy source by 2017, and without a major shift away from coal, average global temperatures could rise by 6 degrees Celsius by 2050, leading to devastating climate change.
"Peak Water," Methane Blow Holes, And Ice-Free Arctic Cruises: The Climate Crisis Deepens, By Dahr Jamail
As has been mentioned in these dispatches previously, the planet is now in the early stages of its sixth mass extinction event, and humans are indeed responsible, according to yet another published study, this one in Science. According to the study, large vertebrate animals (megafauna), which include elephants and polar bears, face the steepest decline since they require large habitats and are targeted by human hunters. The loss of megafauna places ecosystems off balance and leads to consequences like massive rodent infestations that proceed to impact the well-being and stability of a large segment of species, including humans. The study highlights how the particularly steep decline of megafauna we are seeing now is characteristic of all the previous mass extinction events.
Yet, despite all the horrors we have created, we are still doing precisely what we know will be ultimately destructive. Denial! Denial! We are still accepting a cultural value that annihilates the Earth. If we don’t change, we are going to our own extinction. This is precisely what addicts do. Addicts—in other words most of our society—pretend there’s nothing wrong. As they laugh and talk and plan, they deny their dying souls. That’s what we’re doing to the planet. We fight about things that won’t matter if we are extinct.
What we see and what we cannot yet see, what we know and cannot yet know, become the edge places from which we create new ways for humanity to live as part of our Earth community, weaving from the frayed edges of what we leave behind a bridge to the potential and possibilities of what we can become. These qualities and abilities enable us to do a dance of co-creation, visioning and building the future out of and together with what exists today.
When I began writing this article, a friend of mine had recently entered hospice. While I was finishing the article, my friend died. She was not in the same town as I, but during the past month, we had been able to speak by phone several times a week. Given my friend’s decline and death and its impact on me, I was not taken aback by Daniel Drumright’s essay “The Irreconcilable Acceptance Of Near-Term Extinction,” posted last week on Guy McPherson’s Nature Bats Last blog.