The Sixth Great Extinction

6 10 2014

When I first read that in the past 40 years the world has lost over 50% its vertebrate wildlife (mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians and fish)….  I was dumbstruck.  What, already?  Isn’t this sixth extinction just starting?  Surely this has to be the moment at which any thinking person should stop and wonder what on Earth are we doing……?  If such news fail to inform us that everything we are doing is wrong, and that the way we live needs revolutionary change, it’s hard to imagine what else could….

The speed of destruction, George Monbiot recently wrote, “exceeds even that of the first settlement of the Americas, 14,000 years ago, when an entire hemisphere’s ecology was transformed through a firestorm of extinction within a few dozen generations, in which the majority of large vertebrate species disappeared.”  George then goes on to say:

Many people blame this process on human population growth, and there’s no doubt that it has been a factor. But two other trends have developed even faster and further. The first is the rise in consumption; the second is amplification by technology. Every year, new pesticides, new fishing technologies, new mining methods, new techniques for processing trees are developed. We are waging an increasingly asymmetric war against the living world.

But why are we at war? In the rich nations, which commission much of this destruction through imports, most of our consumption has nothing to do with meeting human needs.

This is what hits me harder than anything: the disproportion between what we lose and what we gain. Economic growth in a country whose primary and secondary needs have already been met means developing ever more useless stuff to meet ever fainter desires.

Rubbish dumped on the tundra outside llulissat in Greenland with icebergs behind from the Sermeq Kujullaq or llulissat Ice fjord. The Ilulissat ice fjord is a Unesco world heritage site

Greenland rubbish dump near the llulissat Ice fjord – a Unesco world heritage site

The whole consumption thing is like a funnel to landfill.  Input thousands of tonnes of steel, copper, aluminium, gold even, plastic, you name it, turn it into meaningless crap that’s used a few times, then toss it in the bin ready to be picked up by a diesel eating monster that takes it to the tip.  Hedonism at best.  Total insanity, for sure.  And we call it progress, and when I dare suggest that it must end, and surely, will end, I get comments like “were f*cked”!  Really……?  People believe that if their ability to drive their SUV to the corner shop to buy new batteries for their latest toys, their lives will end?  Is that not pure insanity?

Not even isolated places like Greenland are immune to this madness.  I’m starting to think that not one square inch of this planet has been altered by us.

George Monbiot describes this senseless way of life well with…:

What and whom is this growth for?

It’s for the people who run or own the banks, the hedge funds, the mining companies, the advertising firms, the lobbying companies, the weapons manufacturers, the buy-to-let portfolios, the office blocks, the country estates, the offshore accounts. The rest of us are induced to regard it as necessary and desirable through a system of marketing and framing so intensive and all-pervasive that it amounts to brainwashing.

A system that makes us less happy, less secure, that narrows and impoverishes our lives, is presented as the only possible answer to our problems. There is no alternative – we must keep marching over the cliff. Anyone who challenges it is either ignored or excoriated.

That’s us I suppose……  the fringe dwellers.

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2 responses

6 10 2014
bev

well you have had your head in the muck stuff of renewables, peak oil and fear hype. me I’ve been watching as you mates chop down all of our habitat.

eyes wide open please forge that other stuff stop habitat destruction for yuppy housing development, industry, agriculture, it is “enough already time” for 40 years ago.

6 10 2014
Murray Carew

Great summary of what is happening, and thanks for including some personal responses rather than just the facts.

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