Monday, August 9, 2021

Humans: Cancer of the Biosphere


The other day I watched a documentary by David Attenborough that came out last year that I missed.  Extinction: The Facts. Beyond interesting, it is the most important documentary I have watched.  Important for all life on earth, it needs to be seen. This post is a recommendation.


The star of this film is a family of facts. The problem is that large numbers of people everywhere, especially in America, suffer from a superstitious fear of facts. Unfortunately, what the facts portend is already killing the fact-deniers—for example, the present rampage of the Delta variant on unvaccinated people. . 


Facts, not persons, are the stars of this documentary.  One of these shocking facts is that humans are causing the extinctions of plants and animals at a rate one hundred times faster than occurred any time in the past. Meanwhile, another fact, the human population is exploding and pushing toward nine billion, causing the breakdown of ecosystems everywhere, and threatening to destroy the world-ecosystem. 


The human appetite for energy to make its idea of the world real has created a surplus of the wrong kind of gases in the atmosphere and overheating the planet, a process that is evolving toward global climate catastrophe.  And the process is accelerating. Floods in Europe in unexpected places and fires in the American Northwest are facts that remind us of the unpredictable course of what is happening.  Another fact—please note—is that barely enough time is left  to save us from complete disaster.


The facts are clear enough.  Humans along with their technology and economic systems have caused the current climate crisis as well as the mass extinctions.  Penetrating  every corner of the natural world, the plunder is for the sake of one thing: profit.   


Another fact is obvious: the human population is the cancer of the biosphere.   Cancer is the uncontrolled growth of cell systems in an organism that end by killing  the organism. The uncontrolled grown of human organisms and their relentless exploitation of planetary resources—water, air, soil, plant and animal species everywhere—is a new category of cancer.


In the news today, a massive UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) concludes with a call for  “total transformation. We need  change operating on processes and behaviors at all levels: individual, communities, business, institutions and governments. We must redefine our way of life and consumption.”


To redefine our way of life is a philosophical and spiritual challenge, especially to the people of the most advanced economies, who are driven by the ideals of capitalism and consumerism.  To see the scope of the challenge, we might recall a point central to Plato’s psychology, according to which there are three components to our inner nature, the intellectual, the emotional, and the appetitive or acquisitive. The higher element of our psychic life is supposed to be what balances the pulls and tugs of our emotions and appetites.   Without the higher element we become slaves of our emotions and appetites, and complicit with the destruction of our planet.


Another grim fact. The dominant culture is constructed to appeal to our worst instincts.  Our money-adoring and appetite-coddling  ethos is designed to stimulate without limit the lowest forces of our psychic life, so that our ideals are in fact feeding the fires of collective suicide.  Without redefining our way of life, we will certify our identity as the cancer of the biosphere.  Have a nice day.





Miguel Roig said...

Michael, the paragraph that begins with the line "Another fact is obvious: the human population is the cancer of the biosphere" echoes this scene from the film "The Matrix" in which an 'agent' (a computer program) is interrogating the character, Morpheus, (a human): Sadly, and unless there some drastic changes to the way we live, that is precisely what we seem to have become.

Cally said...

Thank you Michael. Having worked in the interests of Gaia for nearly 50 years, professionally and as a volunteer, I've all but given up on humanity's ability to do the right thing, to the extent that my activism has been reduced to a bumper sticker that says "Good Planets Are Hard to Find." The current surge in interest and implementation of renewable power, organic food, green business, real economics and equal rights is encouraging, but before I go on about the light I see, I want to make a comment that will, for me, be cathartic, because I've never before given voice to it, and I send you deep gratitude to you for providing a place of acceptance for this thought ....

Here goes: We often hear about "invasive species" in our stewardship of natural places, and we are encouraged to take up arms against them, with whatever tools are at hand, no matter how toxic. How blind can we be? Humans are the most invasive species EVER, and what thoughtless harm we do to ecosystems wherever we tread, is beyond forgivable. I could go on.

But to the light .... Have you heard of Kate Raworth, the first economist to understand the world "economy" since E.F. Schumacher? She's got a really wonderful TED talk, and has written a book on how we might make these deep changes for the good of all beings, sentient and otherwise. Revolutionary ideas. I'd like to see her in a world leadership position.

And Green Biz, though it is devoted to continuing profitability, is big on the circular economy and radical change in how business is conducted. Their email newsletters often give me some otherwise difficult-to-access hope for the planet.

Project Drawdown is also inspiring. Masterminded by Paul Hawken (a thinker almost as multi-faceted as you!), it's taking over university classrooms and might soon be appreciated in the larger world.

The climate crisis is a gigantic flywheel -- a juggernaut; it can't be turned on a dime on the day that the naysayers finally get it, and nothing will bring back the extinct creatures and plants. May we learn from our self-inflicted crisis before it's too late.

With gratitude for your tireless and thoughtful instigation of right thinking, your courage in researching and offering up that which most would not bother with for fear of criticism (like Joseph of Copertino and Miracles, just for example). But mostly for your faith in our true human potential and your work to awaken it.

Michael Grosso said...

Thank you, Cally, for your informative comments. I'm afraid that before people en masse wake up to what's happening, we'll have passed the tipping points that will drive us toward epochal ruin. "Juggernaut" is very good word to describe the climate crisis. After we reach bottom, it will probably take a millennium before anything like the rebirth of civilization will transpire.

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