Poised at the (Final) Tipping Point

A headline from yesterday helped confirm what I never doubted — they just do not get it and will not ever get it. The headline was to the effect that efforts to roll back climate change will have to give way to efforts to boost the economy. This is exactly why several years ago I proposed to the Wildlife Society that for our civilization to survive universal ecological education would have to be a prerequisite for a business licence, a business degree, or a high-profile job in business or finance. In fact, I would go on the record today as saying that any executive job in any Fortune 500 company or government or non-governmental agency (such as Dept. of the Treasury or Chairman of the Federal Reserve or any of the Federal Reserve banks) should have on their resume at minimum a Masters Degree in Business AND a PhD in Ecology or Ecological Economics.

What we are seeing is the all-out effort to preserve human institutions, such as banks and corporations, whose reason for existence is out of whack with human sustainability on the planet. The financial system exists to enhance wealth and profit and economic growth and usually at the expense of natural "institutions", such as ecosystems, species, and even whole planetary realms, such as the global climate. We think nothing of putting the polar bear at risk, but go all out to save Wachovia. We depauperize the Amazon and bail out AIG.

I heard Derrick Jensen on a radio interview recently as he discussed human impacts on the world over thousands of years. This hugely predates the industrial age.

Specifically, Jensen mentioned the vast forests of Northern Africa and Iraq and Lebanon that were desertified by an unsustainable pastoral lifestyle and deforestation programs to enhance militarism and commerce in the days when wood and timber were the equivalents of petroleum and steel today.

The famous "Cedars of Lebanon" exist only on the Lebanese flag nowadays. Early explorers of Arizona noted grama grass up to the bridles of their horses, rivers with loads of beaver and muskrat and waterfowl galore, and just a few decades later Aldo Leopole wrote his famous essay "Pioneers and Gullies" about how quickly pristine paradise could be undone and in many cases could recover only in geological time frames.

The Government and the Treasury STILL think it is about economic growth and facilitating the liquidation of natural capital (forests, minerals, watersheds, etc.). The accounting sheets are completely flawed and account for destruction as if it were progress, and so we are steadily progressing towards ruination as if it were a prize instead of a disaster. We’re so lucky now to have satellite global positioning system (GPS) programs that can lead our fishing fleets back to locations of prior over-harvest so we can take the few fish that were left over after our nets and freezers got full from the prior voyage of exploitation.

We want the institutions that facilitate all of this to thrive, while we stand by and watch the oceans die, the climate warm, the pika climb to the last peak to fry and die.

We seem mesmerized by the spectacle of it all as if we are cognitively disassociating ourselves from our own world and our own actions. It is as if we have taken one of those illegal drugs that dims pain and started testing its effectiveness by stabbing ourselves with sub-lethal wounds to demonstrate our numbness, while knowing that too many sub-lethal wounds make for a lethal injury.

This is the point in human history that I feel is truly the tipping point for us. We have plenty of knowledge as to what should be done to correct our mistakes. Our institutions are failing us in their initial goal, which already failed us. We are at the perfect time to re-negotiate our contracts with the planet and with the people. We are at the perfect time to rebuild and reprioritize and reflect on what could make us sustainable and happy. We could, for a change, look out several generations and think of them. if we really cared for our unborn.

Or, we can prop up the efficient killing machine that has done so much damage and let it finish its job.