THE ANTHROPOCENE EXTINCTION CRISIS
By Dr. Michael W. Fox
Scientists have documented five prior mass-extinctions of life on planet Earth and are now ringing the alarm bells about the sixth extinction which is now gaining momentum. This is not alarmist eco-panic but a reality that is being reported worldwide and communities experiencing as they suffer increasingly severe, and frequent extreme climatic events.
This Anthropocene extinction crisis cannot be averted by the technofix brinkmanship of atmospheric geoengineering to shade the earth from sunlight to reduce global warming; by creating flood, drought, insect and salt-resistant varieties of genetically engineered crops along with more vaccines to protect us and factory farmed animals from pandemics which natural biodiversity help contain; and costly biopharmaceuticals to treat cancer and other diseases due largely to our contamination of the environment and our food, water and air.
The mythic quest for infinite economic growth and the reality of an ever-increasing population have combined to trigger and accelerate climate change and the annihilation of the Earth’s biodiversity and metabolic, ecologic and other natural systems and processes. Yet it is precisely and only upon the functional integrity and interdependence of these natural, organic systems and our consonance with them that the health of our economy and species are secured along with that of other animal and plant species.
My colleague the late Dr. Barry Commoner, who invited me to join his Center for the Biology of Natural Systems while I was at Washington University St. Louis as a tenured associate professor of psychology in the late 1960’s, sought to make this symbiotic consonance a reality. One of Commoner’s lasting legacies is his four laws of ecology, as written in The Closing Circle in 1971. The four laws are: 1. Everything is connected to everything else. There is one ecosphere for all living organisms and what affects one, affects all. 2. Everything must go somewhere. There is no “waste” in nature and there is no “away” to which things can be thrown. 3. Nature knows best. Humankind has fashioned technology to improve upon nature, but such change in a natural system is, says Commoner, “likely to be detrimental to that system” 4. There is no such thing as a free lunch. Exploitation of nature will inevitably involve the conversion of resources from useful to useless forms.
When our politics and economics, health care, education, agriculture and all other commercial and industrial activities are designed to be integrated mindfully in concord with natural organic systems, we may yet save us from ourselves and the nemesis of socio-economic and ecological collapse. Responsible self-governance in harmony with natural systems is a keystone bioethical (science-based ethics) principle for a viable future.
The climate and plant and animal extinction crises are a consequence of our collectively ignorant, harmful and destructive existence. The looming food, public health and economic security crises are also a consequence of our non-sustainable numbers and appetites. This must all change if we are to evolve rather than continue to devolve and possibly perish or see ever more millions die in wars, famines, pandemics, floods, fires, droughts and unlivable temperatures.
Here are some recent reports documenting the precipitous loss of biodiversity which involves many species who together make for a healthy environment and our own security and ultimate well-being:
The IPCC’s 2023 report (1) now indicates that we must prepare for the worst-extreme weather events, famines, pandemics and environmental/economic refugees- stop subsidizing the fossil fuel industry and eliminate carbon emissions by 2040. This report calls on all nations to phase out coal, oil, and gas responsible for more than three-quarters of global greenhouse gas emissions. To stop warming from crossing a dangerous threshold, industrialized nations will need to cut greenhouse-gas emissions in half by 2030 and achieve net zero by the early 2050s. Cost-effective ways of doing this, such as solar and wind energy, already exist. The report also suggests that large-scale carbon dioxide removal will be needed, which has raised doubt among some scientists because the technology still barely exists. In yet another ominous climate change warning, atmospheric levels of the three main greenhouse gases - carbon dioxide, methane, and nitrous oxide all reached new record highs in 2021, according to a report from the World Meteorological Organization (2).
If climate change is not quickly rectified, food security in ever more regions of the world will be in jeopardy according to one detailed assessment by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. (3).
According to the 2022 UN Global Land Outlook Report “Humans have transformed more than 70% of Earth’s land area from its natural state causing unparalleled environmental degradation.” (4). For details about the degradation of planetary ecosystems and loss of biodiversity, see the 2019 United Nations’ IPBES Global Assessment Report on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services. (5). This report finds that around 1 million animal and plant species are now threatened with extinction, many within decades, more than ever before in human history. Humans are the most invasive of all species. The U.N. Biodiversity Conference in Montreal December 2022 succeeded in securing non-binding agreements from close to 200 countries to protect 30% of terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems by 2030. The main environmentally destructive drivers identified reducing biodiversity and accelerating species extinction were agriculture, overfishing, logging, mining, climate change, invasive species, and pollution.
The Living Planet Report 2022 is a comprehensive study of trends in global biodiversity and the health of the planet. This report reveals an average decline of 69% in species populations since 1970. While conservation efforts are helping, urgent action is required if we are to reverse nature loss. Monitored freshwater populations have declined by an average of 83% since 1970, more than any other species groups. Habitat loss and barriers to migration routes account for around half the threats to these populations. (6).
Scientists have a once-in-a-generation opportunity to use their knowledge to support offshore conservation, according to a Nature journal editorial. “The United Nations high seas treaty will be the first international law to offer some protection to the nearly two-thirds of the ocean that have few environmental safeguards. But the treaty will not stop unsustainable fishing practices or deep-sea mining activities, nor will it prevent agrichemical farming run-off and plastic waste from flowing into the oceans. The international community, supported by the research community, must now work to remedy these gaping holes.” (7).
The crisis of plastic pollution which results in the disease called “plasticosis” in seabirds and other animals consuming plastic particles that tear into and scar their digestive tracts is adding to the extinction crisis. This global problem of ocean pollution has been documented by the 5 Gyres Institute (8). A growing plastic smog, now estimated to be over 170 trillion plastic particles afloat in the world’s oceans.—Urgent solutions required. PLoS ONE 18(3): e0281596. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0281596 For more details about plastics generated by the petrochemical industry, developing alternatives, recycling, and reducing public health risks, see postings by the Minderoo Foundation. (9).
Pollution from the “forever chemicals” known as PFAS contaminates polar bears, tigers, monkeys, pandas, dolphins and fish and has been documented in more than 330 other species of wildlife around the world, some endangered or threatened. Hundreds of studies have found PFAS chemicals in a wide variety of other wildlife species globally, including many types of fish, birds, reptiles, frogs and other amphibians, large mammals, like horses, and small mammals, such as cats, otters, and squirrels. These and other petrochemicals including phthalates used variously as lubricants, non-stick cooking ware, stain-repellants in upholstery and carpets and for beverage containers and food wrapping and inside canned goods contribute to obesity, cancer, lower IQs, lower sperm counts, neurological and immune problems, including hyperthyroidism in cats. (10).
Ocean acidification and ocean warming are predicted to have substantial impacts not only on marine biodiversity but also on ecosystem functioning and service provision. (11). The ocean’s chemistry is changing at an unprecedented rate. By the end of this century the ocean is expected to be 150% more acidic than it is now. Acidification is threatening marine life. It’s killing baby oysters, deep-sea coral reefs and pteropods, tiny creatures, known as the potato chips of the sea. Human livelihoods are also in jeopardy.
Acidification is sometimes called “climate change’s equally evil twin,” and for good reason: it’s a significant and harmful consequence of excess carbon dioxide in the atmosphere that we don’t see or feel because its effects are happening underwater. At least one-quarter of the carbon dioxide (CO2) released by burning coal, oil and gas doesn’t stay in the air, but instead dissolves into the ocean. According to the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute, “The question for policy-makers and society is “Will the ocean continue to take up anthropogenic CO2?” Our best evidence is that it will—but less effectively because of interactions between the ocean and the evolving climate. Several factors come into play. Global warming will inevitably cause seawater temperatures to rise. Warmer water holds less dissolved gas than colder water, so the ocean will not be able to store as much anthropogenic CO2.
A warmer climate will also melt ice and increase rainfall near the poles, adding fresh water to the ocean. Fresh water is more buoyant than saltier water and “floats” on top of it, stratifying the ocean and slowing the mixing and circulation that transports anthropogenic CO2 away from the surface and into reservoirs in the deep ocean. The net effect will be even higher atmospheric CO2 concentrations and a further acceleration of global warming . Warmer temperatures, weaker circulation, and different stratification of the ocean will have impacts on marine life and ecosystems, which in turn could affect the ocean’s ability to store carbon.” (12).
Also, warming fresh and sea waters coupled with eutrophication from polluting sewage and agrochemical fertilizer run-off facilitate algal blooming, many of which are toxic to humans and other animals.
The United Nations (UN) water conference in March 2023 taking place in New York was the first meeting in nearly half a century that focuses on access to safe water for the hundreds of millions of people that lack it. The water crisis is worst in low-income countries. In sub-Saharan Africa, it is estimated that 70% of the population does not have basic water services — and more people there lack water now than 20 years ago. A target set in 2015 to provide clean water and sanitation to all by 2030 is likely to be missed if the current slow rates of improvement continue. The conference will produce a water action agenda, although unlike the Paris climate agreement, it will not include binding commitments. (13).
It is estimated that 40% of all insect species are declining globally and that a third of them are endangered. (14). Bee populations have declined 62.5% over the past 15 years and butterfly populations have declined 57.6% in the Oconee National Forest, and the number of bee species has declined by 39%, according to a study in Current Biology. The forest in northern Georgia is relatively undisturbed and devoid of common invasive plants, and researchers suspect climate change and the presence of invasive insects may be to blame. (15).
Declines in populations of pollinators worldwide have caused 4.7% drops in fruit and nut yields and a 3.2% decline in vegetable yields, and the resulting loss of access to healthful foods results in around 500,000 early human deaths each year, according to a computer modeling study published in Environmental Health Perspectives. Solutions such as planting more flowers on farms, reducing the use of neonicotinoids and other pesticides, and preserving or restoring natural habitats would increase food production and pay for themselves. (16).
Chytridiomycosis is an emerging infectious disease affecting amphibians globally and it is caused by the fungal pathogen Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis (Bd). Chytridiomycosis has caused dramatic declines and even extinctions in wild amphibian populations in Europe, Australia, Central and North America. (17).
A new World Health Organization (WHO) report reveals high levels of antibiotic resistance in bacteria, causing life-threatening bloodstream infections, as well as increasing resistance to treatment in several bacteria causing common infections in the community based on data reported by 87 countries in 2020. (18).
The tropics lost 11.1 million hectares of tree cover in 2021, according to new data from the University of Maryland (19). Of particular concern are the 3.75 million hectares of loss that occurred within tropical primary rainforests — areas of critical importance for carbon storage and biodiversity — equivalent to a rate of 10 football pitches a minute. Tropical primary forest loss in 2021 resulted in 2.5 Gt of carbon dioxide emissions, equivalent to the annual fossil fuel emissions of India.
Huge wildfires that raged across Australia in 2019–20 unleashed chemicals that chewed through the ozone layer. The wildfire smoke combined with harmless remnants of now-banned chlorinated compounds, reactivating their ozone-eating form — a reaction that doesn’t usually happen in the warm air away from the poles. More-frequent wildfires resulting from climate change could expand and prolong the hole in the ozone layer, which protects Earth from harmful ultraviolet rays. When irradiated by ultraviolet light from the Sun, the photoreactive compounds produce chlorine radicals that catalytically destroy ozone, depleting its concentration in the stratosphere. (20).
A full 90 per cent of the Earth’s precious topsoil is likely to be at risk by 2050, according to the UN Food and Agriculture Organization. (21). Humans have now destroyed one fifth of the world’s inland wetlands. (22). A new threat to planetary life is the documented cellular damage caused by telecommunication’s non-ionizing radiation and electromagnetic fields. (23).
FINDING AND IMPLEMENTING SOLUTIONS
Some climate changes - warming and destructive weather - happen naturally from alterations in Earth’s solar orbit, and the extent of Earth’s axis tilt. But anthropogenic factors compound the severity and duration of such climatic events. Climate change deniers need a reality check and I commend all concerned to read the book by David Wallace-Wells, The Uninhabitable Earth: Life After Warming. The Dugan Books NY 2019. The existential, if not evolutionary call for global collaboration to address the climate crisis, as through a United Environmental Nations, is louder than ever. As Wallace-Wells asserts, “we have all the tools we need, today, to stop it all: a carbon tax and the political apparatus to phase out dirty energy; a new approach to agriculture and a shift away from beef and dairy (I would add pigs!) in the global diet; and public investment in green energy and carbon capture.”
While some strive to protect the status quo of business as usual and deny the reality of the Anthropocene extinction, analysts such as George Monbiot, recently interviewed by Stephen Sackur on BBC TV Hard Talk, support what I have long contended: Intensive animal farming is one of the greatest drivers of climate change. He contends that the global corporate hegemony of the agribusiness industry ( Henry Kissinger once quipping “If you want to control the people control the food”) is anti-democratic, supported by paid-off political shills. (24).
Four corporations now control the world’s grain trade, just as a handful of corporations control the pharmaceutical, beef and fossil fuel industries. There are sustainable alternatives that are in accord with social justice and eco-justice as well as food security, reducing carbon emissions contributing to global warming and climate change and with “rewilding”-restoring natural habitat. Organic horticulture and arboriculture, and protein and fat rich nutrient production from bio fermentation supplanting most animal farming systems, are taking hold. We should all change our diets for animals’ sakes and for our own well-being and the future of life on Earth!
Reducing our consumption of meat and other animal products and shifting to plant-based diets would enable us to return a strategic 30% of the world’s farmlands to nature as proposed in one global assessment of effective correctives for climate change and biodiversity loss. (25). Changing farming practices and consumer diets can help save the planet. (26) from the onslaught of a human population now over 8 billion.
Raising the issue of population control and family planning is countered by some countries as being racist, contrary to human freedom and liberty and against the interests of labor-force dependent economies.
An analysis of human deaths associated with antibiotic resistant bacteria published in The Lancet on 19 January 2022, estimates that in 2019, 4.95 million people died from illnesses in which bacterial antimicrobial resistance (AMR) played a part. Of those, 1.27 million deaths were the direct result of AMR — meaning that drug-resistant infections killed more people than HIV/AIDS (864,000 deaths) or malaria (643,000 deaths); and is the second biggest killer globally after coronary heart disease. (27).
The amount of antibiotics used in animal farming is underestimated in official reports. An estimated 107,500 tons of antibiotics will used in 2023 for farmed animals compared to 100,000 tons in 2020. China, Brazil, India, Australia, and USA are the top consumers of antibiotics for use in cattle, sheep, poultry and pigs. There are efforts to curtail agricultural antibiotics use, which could drive drug-resistant infections in humans. (28). Extensive use of antibiotics on livestock may restrict soil carbon by altering soil microbial ‘carbon use efficiency’ or the efficiency with which microorganisms convert absorbed carbon into their own biomass.( 29). “Antibiotics enter the soil through livestock and there they affect the microbial communities,” states co-author Sumanta Bagchi. “The altered microbial community is less efficient in storing carbon.
Overall, livestock-soil stores 30% less carbon than wildlife-soil (soil impacted by dietary habits of wild herbivores). Some of this difference could be due to antibiotics, but we don’t know how much of this arises from antibiotics.” The findings highlight the importance of continued conservation of native herbivores and new ideas to improve livestock management, the study concludes. They suggest that sequestering antibiotics, along with the restoration and rewilding of soil microbial communities may offer nature-based climate solutions by improving soil carbon storage in areas under livestock.
Protecting wildlife and ending the trapping and trophy hunting of carnivores will significantly contribute to helping reduce climate change by maximizing the sequestration of carbon. (30). As animals consume plants, promote growth of phytoplankton, control herbivore populations and otherwise influence the ecosystems they inhabit, they also influence carbon storage, and researchers say maintaining levels of key groups of animals while expanding the presence of three others could help capture 6.41 gigatons of carbon dioxide each year. That is just under the amount that must be removed from the atmosphere every year until 2100 to prevent average global temperatures from exceeding pre-industrial levels by more than 1.5 degrees Celsius, says Yale University researcher Oswald Schmitz. yield enormous sequestration — a whopping 5.5 GtCO2/yr.
• Conservation of 4 keystone species — wildebeest, sea otters, grey wolves, and reef sharks — can lead to additional sequestration of 0.3 GtCO2 per year. • Rewilding of 3 keystone species — African forest elephants, bison, and baleen whales — can lead to additional sequestration of 0.6 GtCO2 per year. • In addition, allowing fish stocks to replenish worldwide could potentially yield enormous sequestration — a whopping 5.5 GtCO2/yr.
The current global, fossil-fuel based economy, agriculture and other industries and their harmful carbon footprint, compounded by over-population, are not sustainable. People of all ages around the world are joining the Extinction Rebellion (31) and calling for a United Environmental Nations under the banners of Equalitarianism- justice for all peoples and all sentient beings- and of One Health, One Economy, and One Earth.
The Nature Conservancy is one of several organizations providing information to help assess and reduce our carbon footprint and to find out where and how one can help protect biodiversity. (32). To reason why bother to do anything to reduce one’s carbon footprint and harming other animals because one’s neighbors are doing nothing is like Nero fiddling while Rome burns.
The late James Morton, Dean of the Episcopal Cathedral of St. John the Divine in Harlem, NY, sees ecology “as the body of Christ, through which we of the earth community learn our sacred connections.” For Catholics, the June 18th 2015 environmental encyclical Laudato Si’ by Pope Francis is an antidote to what he calls “the tyranny of anthropocentrism,” ending with the closing payer “Awaken our praise and thankfulness for every being that you have made. Give us the grace to feel profoundly joined to everything that is,” In this encyclical letter, Pope Francis has incorporated much of the philosophy and terms of the animal liberation and “deep” ecology movements to which I and others contributed. He asserts: • “The misuse of creation begins when we no longer recognize any higher instance than ourselves, when we see nothing else but ourselves.” • “Because all creatures are connected, each must be cherished with love and respect, for all of us as living creatures are dependent on one another.” • “It is contrary to human dignity to cause animals to suffer or die needlessly.”
Through various religious, spiritual rituals, and our communion in Nature, we of the Earth community may gain the understanding needed to heal ourselves and the Earth, The wičháša wakȟáŋ (“medicine man, holy man”) and eccentric shaman/ heyoka, of the Oglala Lakota people, Chief Black Elk, put it this way: “It is from understanding that power comes; and the power in the ceremony was in understanding what it meant; for nothing can live well except in a manner that is suited to the way the sacred Power of the World lives and moves.” https://bookroo.com/quotes/black-elk-speaks.
As the late Albert Schweitzer, MD, advised, “Until he extends the circle of his compassion to all living things, man will not himself find peace.” Reverential respect for all life is the foundation of One Health in recognition of the interdependence of human and non-human, animal, plant and micro-orgasmic life; of a global democracy; of justice and rule of law; and of a viable and sustainable economy.
The Gaia Hypothesis proposed by British scientist, the late James Lovelock in 1972, is based on the fact that living organisms on the planet interact with their surrounding inorganic environment to form a synergetic and self-regulating system that created, and now maintains, the climate and biochemical conditions that make life on Earth possible. Respect for all life is therefore enlightened self-interest. My friend Thomas Berry famously put it this way: “The universe is a communion of subjects, not a collection of objects.”
Existentially, dystopian and dysbiotic conditions will only intensify until we adopt the Seventh Generation Principle based on an ancient Haudenosaunee (Iroquois) philosophy that the decisions we make today should result in a sustainable world seven generations into the future.
For humankind this wildlife extinction crisis is an ethical and spiritual one: How many species and healthy ecosystems we will have saved a generation from now will be the measure of our humanity and quality of life. We humans are like the fabled frogs who would jump out of a pot of hot water but relax and slowly cook to death if put in cold water that is being gradually heated. We have done this to planet Earth, and up adapting to new norms with each fraction of rising temperature, until we are stunned by one environmental, ecological shock-wave after another-floods, droughts, rising food and gas prices and the next pandemic. These are triggers for increasing anxiety, violence and addictions, evidence of how profoundly the warming pot of planet Earth affects human behavior and directly and indirectly our physical and mental health.
A New 5-Point Plan to Solve Climate Change
We know the “why” and the “what” of working to reduce greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere. But the “when,” “where,” and “how” have been largely a matter of guesswork—until now. With the launch of The Drawdown Roadmap, Project Drawdown is outlining a specific, actionable strategy for implementing solutions on a global scale in time to avoid the worst adverse effects of climate change. The reality of the associated extinction crisis has been underscored in another assessment: Populations of 48% of the world’s nonhuman species are declining, and fewer than 3% are increasing, according to a study in Biological Reviews.
Extinction is occurring 100 to 1,000 times faster than in the pre-industrial age, according to the UK’s Natural History Museum, and 33% of species considered stable by the International Union for Conservation of Nature are experiencing population declines, according to the new study. (33). Loss of biodiversity and climate change can lead to the proliferation of potential pathogens as with humans and more and more other species now succumbing to fungal infections. (34).
There is little time left to decide our future. Will we be singing or croaking? We have the evidence and the solutions, but do we have the will? With richer countries being increasingly challenged by the ravages of extreme weather events, coping with war- refugees and economic, political, and environmental migrants, and with failing health care systems, helping poorer nations under the banner of Climate Justice will be a stretch, and opposed by many citizens in dire need themselves. The rising incidence of birth defects, brain cognitive, affective and immune-system impairments in developed countries that have neglected environmental health and preventive medicine call for immediate attention to the issues raised in this review.
Without infrastructure development, family planning and food self-sufficiency, poor communities and nations have become the petri dishes for the spawning of epidemic and pandemic diseases in spite of food aid, vaccines and antibiotics provided by richer nations and philanthropists that tend to merely extend lives of interminable suffering.
Whatever political will can be mustered internationally should give equal priority to social justice, economic justice, and environmental justice; and the courts recognize crimes against nature as they do crimes against humanity, and the moral injury to those who care for animals and their habitats. These initiatives, facilitated by the utilization of Artificial Intelligence optimized by our emotional intelligence, empathy and bioethical sensibility, may put us closer to making the vision, science, and praxis of One Health a reality, linking public health with animal and environmental health.
FACING THE CLIMATE AND EXTINCTION CRISES IS MENTION OF OVERPOPULATION NOW TABOO?
This past June, 2023, France’s President Macron held a Summit for a New Global Financial Pact in Paris aimed at finding the financial solutions to the interlinked global goals of tackling poverty, curbing planet-heating emissions and protecting nature. The summit brought together more than 50 heads of state, world finance officials and activists. They discussed ways of reforming the global financial system and address the debt, climate change, and poverty crises.https://www.lemonde.fr/en/international/article/2023/06/22/paris-climate-summit-opens-with-macron-s-call-for-public-finance-shock_6035330_4.html
I was stunned that President Macron, in his interview on June 25th 2023 with Fareed Zakaria (www.cnn.com/shows/fareed-zakaria-gps) made no mention of curtailing population growth through more effective family planning. The expanding human and famed animal biomass is a major contributor to climate change, poverty, and loss of biodiversity. Clearly, for political and other reasons, overpopulation of people and farmed animals is off the agenda but should not be.
The article by Associated Press reporters Evylene Musambi and Desmond Tiro, ‘More lions killed by herders amid drought in Kenya’ (Star Tribune June 25th) documents the killing of six starving and endangered lions who took 12 goats from a farmer with a family of eight children, highlights growing human-wildlife conflict. All should look at the numbers:
The United Nations has projected that the world population, 8 billion as of 2023, would peak around the year 2086 at about 10.4 billion. (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Projections_of_population_growth).
According to Compassion in World Farming an estimated 70 billion farm animals are reared for food in the world each year. Approximately two out of every three farm animals in the world are reared on a factory farm. (https://www.animalmatters.org/facts/farm
There are some 900 million dogs across the world, almost 85% being free-range. (https://worldanimalfoundation.org/advocate/dog-statistics/)
As of 2021, the number of owned cats in the world is estimated to be 220 million, while the number of stray cats is estimated to be 480 million. ( https://a-z-animals.com/blog/how-many-cats-are-in-the-world). Free roaming and feral dogs and cats are a significant negative impact on wildlife.
The IUCN Red List tracks the number of described plant and animal species and updates this figure annually based on the latest work of taxonomists. In 2021 it listed 2.13 million species on the planet. Monitored populations of vertebrates (mammals, birds, amphibians, reptiles, and fish) have seen a devastating 69% drop on average since 1970, according to World Wildlife Fund’s (WWF) Living Planet Report 2022.
The growing human population is responsible for a massive decline in species, biodiversity, and ecosystems across the globe. ( Hogue, A. S., & Breon, K. (2022). The greatest threats to species. Conservation Science and Practice, 4(5), e12670. https://doi.org/10.1111/csp2.12670).
Larger families and expanding communities need more livestock and land for grazing and for food and cash-crops, further harming wildlife and reducing biodiversity now all imperiled by climate change. Decades before the burning of fossil fuels became a major factor in climate change I witnessed the devastating ecological consequences of livestock overgrazing, corporate plantations, and deforestation for firewood in Kenya, Tanzania, and India.
Whatever political will can be mustered internationally should give equal priority to social justice, economic justice, animals’ rights and environmental justice; and the courts recognize crimes against nature as they do crimes against humanity, and the moral injury to those who care for animals and their habitats.
It is evident that the Climate Crisis is awakening environmental awareness with ecocentrism transcending the anthropocentrism that has limited progress, which some might call a significant step in our evolution at both religious and secular levels and the influence on public policy and how we chose to live as our numbers and appetites increase on a planet of finite resources.
The late theoretical physicist Prof. Paul Hawken opined: “At present we are stealing the future, selling it in the present, and calling it gross domestic product. We can just as easily have an economy that is based on healing the future instead of stealing it. We can either create assets for the future or take the assets of the future. One is called restoration and the other exploitation. And whenever we exploit the earth, we exploit people and cause untold suffering. Working for the earth is not a way to get rich, it is a way to be rich.”
The fundamentally spiritual and ethical roots of this existential crisis need to be recognized. Until we have respect for all life and apply the Golden Rule to all our relationships, human and non-human, chaos, and suffering will continue and intensify. We might yet evolve into a more empathic and compassionate primate species and become worthy of the self-anointed title of Homo sapiens.
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