Human-centric thought bothers me. Flipping through National Geographic (June 2011) I came across a brilliant piece on China's rapid, energy hungry growth and the steps many private and governmental organizations are taking to limit its environmental impact. China has relied on coal powered plants for a long time and it shows. With estimates nearly doubling the amount of power China will need to fuel itself over the coming decade, green energy is going to be very important. But the article overlooks something big, and it's something most people avoid like plague rats.
Human consumption is killing everything, except humans. And it's going to be curtains down for everything else a lot sooner than it will be for us.
It's not just CO2 or fossil fuels or people who use plastic bags at the grocery store we need to think about. It's our level of stuff, in general, that destroys this planet. And the biggest elephant in the room we all seem to ignore isn't even what this is doing to humans. No, humans are in no danger of extinction or even wide spread habitat loss. The issues we suffer from are results of overcrowding. War, disease, and famine are all normal responses in an overtaxed ecosystem for any living organism. We're getting close to carrying capacity. But that isn't even the point.
It's every other living thing on this planet that needs to worry and it doesn't seem like many people care at all.
"Sadly, the St. Lawrence belugas suffer from the highest rate of cancer of any wild mammal species -- comparable to the rate among human adults, in which cancer causes about 25 percent of deaths in the United States... The likely culprit is industrial pollution. Water from the Great Lakes watershed drains into the St. Lawrence River, bringing with it pollutants from the many industries that line the Great Lakes." - Beluga Whales Under Threat by Xenia Shih
In nearly every religion humanity is placed above the beasts. They are there for us to use as we see fit, and while just abusing them is repugnant to most people, the fact that humans are more important than animals is never questioned. This belief is as old and well ingrained as Judaism in western society. We are the epitome of evolution after all. We are thinking beings and thus we deserve our place.
Humanities problems are growing with our desire for things. But for every mile of human expansion, nearly every other species on the planet loses a mile of home. Even when a field is filled with solar panels or a human park, something else has been pushed back into a wilderness we are making smaller and less habitable all the time. Our garbage and waste is just as harmful to these species as it is to us, and they don't have the luxury of cancer treatments or poison control centers. What we do maims and kills them. That's it.
Why? Why do we passively assume we own the rights to the life of every other creature? They play hugely important parts in the health of the world. Every species has evolved with us to fill in a spot and act as glue in their ecosystems. Every single one of these creatures is just as alive as us. Many display at least basic emotions: fear and affection. Dolphins and many apes display the signs of self-awareness; they have complex social structures, use tools, grieve the deaths of their families, fight for resources and dominance.
If humans are not supreme by divine right, if life is valuable in of itself, if the world is more than just a resource for humans to use as we see fit, it's imperative we start looking beyond how our habits affect our species. We need to understand that a lack of resources and space is not the only reason we need to fix our lifestyle and breeding habits. We're rocking this planet like a meteor hit.
"Threats to biodiversity are numerous and human activity is responsible for most of them.
- Habitat loss and degradation affects 86% of all threatened birds, 86% of the threatened mammals assessed and 88% of the threatened amphibians.
- Introductions of Invasive Alien Species that establish and spread outside their normal distribution. Some of the most threatening invasive species include cats and rats, green crabs, zebra mussels, the African tulip tree and the brown tree snake. Introductions of alien species can happen deliberately or unintentionally, for example, by organisms “hitch-hiking” in containers, ships, cars or soil.
- Over-exploitation of natural resources. Resource extraction, hunting, and fishing for food, pets, and medicine.
- Pollution and diseases. For example, excessive fertilizer use leads to excessive levels of nutrients in soil and water.
- Human-induced climate change. For example, climate change is altering migratory species patterns, and increasing coral bleaching." - http://www.iucn.org/what/tpas/biodiversity/about/biodiversity_crisis/
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Extinction - General information on extinction, including the current rate of species loss.
National Geographic (June 2011) - "Can China Go Green?" pg. 116 - Article on China's growth and green movement.
http://www.iucn.org/what/tpas/biodiversity/ - Great resource for information on biodiversity, the current crisis, and multitudinous other related topics.
http://www.pbs.org/kqed/oceanadventures/episodes/seaghosts/indepth-... - Article dealing with industrial pollution and the 27% cancer rate for beluga whales in the St. Lawrence river.
http://news.discovery.com/animals/dolphins-smarter-brain-function.html - Dolphin intelligence and self awareness.