The Cumulative Footprints of Humans

I often hear people, who   appear to be  otherwise rational  human beings,  adamantly stating that anthropogenic global  warming doesn’t exist-if there is warming they  argue -it has to be some other source than man;  why?

Perhaps  partly because  they  cannot  comprehend that  their own small  actions in a big world could  have such  a huge  impact  on  the planet. Which   is in  fact   of course, correct.

It is our capacity  as a  social  species  to  collaborate and cooperate which  is destroying this planet. If James Watt  had invented the steam engine, but  no-one had helped him build the tracks, let alone design and build another-and then another  locomotive;  then  the planet  would  have much more of its natural   green cover on it and  far less carbon  dioxide in  the atmosphere!

It is our capacity to  firstly  manipulate our environment to  suit our immediate needs at  the expense of other species, which  has created what  is looking increasingly likely as  a dead-end street  for ourselves and  the multiple species that  live  with us on this little blue ball.

Secondly it is  our incapacity to  anticipate the cumulative impacts of our actions  on the planet ( one locomotive has no  impact;  100,000  locomotives do; tar-sealing one car-park has little impact on the planet, but 500, 000  mall  car-parks do.) .

Thirdly,  it  is the inherited  presumption that  homo sapiens have a God-given right to  hold domain over the world. A handy  but incredibly foolish assumption for any species to adhere to!- particularly when that  species doesn’t understand  what  it is doing as it manipulates its environment, other  than making  and distributing little shiny baubles  that its members  are attracted to.

And fourthly, it is our short-sightedness;  we do  not see how over time, humans have radically altered for the worse, the liveable bio-sphere on this planet. What  was once, for instance in New Zealand,  several islands almost entirely  covered with tall  trees  and dense vegetation, has been in less than  two hundred years, transformed into millions of acres of  grassland feeding  various animal species  imported from  Europe, for the purpose of slaughtering them and sending the dead bodies overseas or  to extract their milk.

Many many thousands of species have been  destroyed or pushed to  the brink  of extinction in this  process of ‘human progress’, and those ancient forest  trees  are forever gone, except in  a few national parks where humans can get  a small  glimpse of what  the world was like before humans devastated it. No  longer is the dawn chorus of birds deafening,  as it once was when Europeans first  arrived on  those New Zealand  shores 200  years ago: we may be  lucky in  our  urban environments to hear one European blackbird  or a sparrow call as the sun  rises.

Deforestation across the world has been pervasive- both for agricultural  farming and for industrial  exploitation.

In the image below you an see the inexorable deforestation (loss of green) of  Europe -only attenuated briefly by  the Black  Death. That  process of deforestation has been occurring all  over the word at various rates and stages, but is now nearing the point where only a few natural  national parks will  remain across the world. And while they  certainly act  as carbon  sinks, those forested areas were (once) far more than that; they  were areas of intense species  diversity that  vitally kept our planet  alive.

 

'The prehistoric and pre-industrial deforestation of Europe" -Jm Kaplan, KM Krumhardt, and N Zimmerman ( 2009)
‘The prehistoric and pre-industrial deforestation of Europe” -Jm Kaplan, KM Krumhardt, and N Zimmerman (2009)

We have as  a species, perhaps irremediably, lost our way- and sadly all  the other species on  this planet may be lost too as a result.


Postscript

And as Pete Dolack  writes at  Systemic Disorder, environmental  collapse is a major challenge to  the capitalistic system!  How dare our world disintegrate before our eyes when we have the greatest system of profiteering the world has ever seen!

 

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