Scientists Abandon Effort to Save the Biosphere

Promoting human values is more important

Joseph George Caldwell

12 January 2022

Copyright © 2022 Joseph George Caldwell. All rights reserved.

The September 2021 issue of BioScience includes the article, “World Scientists’ Warning of a Climate Emergency 2021,” which laments the destruction of Earth’s biosphere and outlines a plan for addressing the global ecological crisis. The article contains the following paragraph:

“To address this fundamental overexploitation, we echo the call made by Ripple and colleagues (2020) to change course in six areas: (1) energy, eliminating fossil fuels and shifting to renewables; (2) short-lived air pollutants, slashing black carbon (soot), methane, and hydrofluorocarbons; (3) nature, restoring and permanently protecting Earth’s ecosystems to store and accumulate carbon and restore biodiversity; (4) food, switching to mostly plant-based diets, reducing food waste, and improving cropping practices; (5) economy, moving from indefinite GDP growth and overconsumption by the wealthy to ecological economics and a circular economy, in which prices reflect the full environmental costs of goods and services; and (6) human population, stabilizing and gradually reducing the population by providing voluntary family planning and supporting education and rights for all girls and young women, which has been proven to lower fertility rates (Wolf et al. 2021). All transformative climate action should focus on social justice for all by prioritizing basic human needs and reducing inequality. As one prerequisite for this action, climate change education should be included in school core curriculums globally. Overall, this would result in higher awareness of the climate emergency while empowering learners to take action (see supplemental file S2).”

(The article is posted at https://academic.oup.com/bioscience/article/71/9/894/6325731), full citation: World Scientists’ Warning of a Climate Emergency 2021, William J Ripple, Christopher Wolf, Thomas M Newsome, Jillian W Gregg, Timothy M Lenton, Ignacio Palomo, Jasper A J Eikelboom, Beverly E Law, Saleemul Huq, Philip B Duffy, Johan Rockström, BioScience, Volume 71, Issue 9, September 2021, Pages 894–898, https://doi.org/10.1093/biosci/biab079 Published: 28 July 2021.)

The cause of the current global ecological crisis is the large human population and high level of industrial production. Much of the human population lives in poverty and deprivation, and all human political leaders are calling for more economic activity, not less. The high levels of human population and industrial activity have caused much environmental pollution, much destruction of the biosphere, and the extinction of many species. As long as human population and industrial activity continue at high levels, the pollution, destruction and extinction will continue. Calling for stabilization of human population, or a gradual reduction, will not solve the global ecological crisis at all, but continue to make it worse.

Unless there is a substantial reduction in human population, the global ecological crisis will not be resolved. The plan outlined in the BioScience article will not ameliorate the situation, but worsen it. The plan calls for voluntary family planning, education and rights for all girls and young women, and a focus on social justice for all by prioritizing basic human needs and reducing inequality. The inclusion of these requirements to promote human values in the plan shows that the authors of the article are not the least bit serious about resolving the global ecological crisis.

The BioScience article is but one more example of the arrogance of the human species. Asserting that the crisis should be resolved without compromising human values is tantamount to implying that the attitude of a single species is of greater importance than the welfare of all other species. This attitude, of course, is fundamental to the tenets of the Abrahamic religions, which assert that only man has a soul, that man is superior to all other species, that man should assert dominion over nature, and that man should use nature for his own benefit.

The January 9, 2022, Medium article by Berna Tural (posted at https://medium.com/the-environment/america-where-murder-is-legal-5926cc0b381c ), “America: Where Murder Is Legal,” laments the recent extermination of the Yellowstone Phantom Lake wolf pack. The rationale for the extermination is that since wolves cause the loss of .04% of livestock, then the extermination of ninety percent of the wolf population is justified.

There is a growing consensus that global industrial society is headed for an imminent collapse, not a stabilization or modest reduction (see, for example, Jared Diamond’s Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed (2005, 2nd ed. 2011), Joseph Tainter’s The Collapse of Complex Societies (1988), and Willam R. Catton Jr’s Overshoot: The Ecological Basis of Revolutionary Change (1982)).

The English astronomer Sir Fred Hoyle once speculated that mankind will have but one bite at the apple of large-scale technological civilization. He reasoned that once the current global industrial civilization has stripped the Earth’s surface of the easily extractable energy and mineral resources, it would be extremely difficult to rebuild another such society after the collapse of the current one.

The human species, as others, is programmed to grow in numbers to the limit imposed by its environment. The size of the human population that existed for thousands of years in harmony with the rest of the biosphere, before civilization arose, has been estimated to be on the order of five million people. In his 1966 novel, October the First Is Too Late, Hoyle envisions a series of human civilizations, each of which grows and then collapses. In the end, human society evolves to a size of about five million people — the same number that lived in harmony with the biosphere for thousands of years before industrial technology arose.

When the population exceeded this level by very much, massive environmental destruction ensued. Based on thousands of years of experience, it would appear that, in the long run, as Hoyle surmised, a stable human population size is on the order of five million people. That is about one thousandth the size of the current global population of about eight billion. Hard times are coming!

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