Environmental awareness must soon reach a critical mass, whereby massive societal resources are re-allocated to scale up solutions in a great ecological transition; before biosphere, social, and economic collapse become unavoidable. An approaching ecological inflection point reflects a narrow band of opportunity to repair fragmented, quivering nature, clearly at its breaking point, before it is too late...
“Only by leaving fossil fuels in the ground and returning humanity to a sea of nature can biosphere collapse be avoided, and a sustainable future for human and all life assured.” – Dr. Glen Barry
After 25 years of ecological advocacy, I can say with certainty that I have never seen as much genuine environmental concern as I do now. This has generally not led en masse to required action such as personal dramatic emission cuts and refusal to buy all products from old-growth forests. But for the first time ecological decline including climate change is visibly apparent to a degree that it is readily known by the educated and it can’t be denied by anyone of good faith and character.
Concurrently trend lines for atmospheric and ecosystem decline are more perilous than ever. Humanity is putting the biosphere at great risk, as rampant industrial pollution and clearing of natural vegetation results in abrupt climate change occurring far faster than envisioned, and natural ecosystems failing to provide the surrounding matrix of natural services which makes life possible.
The natural family’s only hope is that an ecological inflection point occurs, whereby the impacts of biosphere collapse become so evident – perhaps as millions die from extreme storms and other depredations – while there is still time to implement sufficient solutions. At that point the human family will howl for the necessary measures to be taken to protect and restore natural ecosystems, and end fossil fuels, on an accelerated emergency basis.
The only questions are whether as ecosystem collapse becoming apparent, will we squabble for what remains as we deny ecologism, or will we remain free as we begin in earnest a great transition to green liberty? And will we have identified and prototyped, and be ready with sufficient ecological solutions, to meet human needs while maintaining a living Earth? The ecological inflection point is a narrow band of opportunity to repair fragmented, quivering nature before it is too late. We must be ready with templates for ecological sustainability, which can employ billions, as a program of ecological restoration and energy conservation are rapidly scaled.
What hope remains for humanity and her habitat as ecological awareness and collapse converge in such a manner, is whether we are able to ramp up fast enough the plethora of ecological solutions we all know about but don’t support enough. These efforts may be abetted by deep wells of global ecological resilience of which we are unaware, as the Earth is a living organism that has self-regulated for 3.5 billion year, yet whose workings remain largely unknown to her peoples.
Clearly we are already in ecological overshoot, as planetary boundaries regarding species loss, terrestrial ecosystem destruction, and industrial emissions of carbon, phosphorous, and nitrogen have already been breached; and thresholds for safe levels of human population, ozone, ocean acidity, aerosols, freshwater, and chemicals draw near.
Yet as mayhem looms, if we all came together to harness all the resources at our disposal – including from conspicuous over-consumption by the rich, and the military-industrial complex’s lucrative war making – surely we could marshal a response that allows the land, air, water, and oceans to rest, recover, and flourish thereby ensuring global ecological sustainability.
Reaching the ecological inflection point that triggers the great ecological transition before it is too late is going to require an end to greenwashing, which means accepting the gravity of our situation and necessary personal and societal changes, and confronting those that continue to greenwash for personal benefit. Celebrity climate activists jetting around to tell us to cut emissions, and large foundation fed bureaucratic environmental groups enriching themselves from old-growth forest logging, will have to be rebuked and shamed until their behavior changes.
And the voices must be amplified of those personally creating lifestyles without cars, traveling less, eating little or no meat, having one child, and limiting their consumption; and coming together to remake a society that is peaceful, just, and equitable. Ecological leadership must walk the walk.
The poor and dispossessed, as well as those that opulently overconsume, can together learn the meaning of enough. Equity does not mean everyone is equal, but everyone’s basic needs must be met as hard workers have more, but not ridiculously so to the detriment of others and the Earth. As livelihoods of the rich and the poor converge to reasonable levels of disparity, the talents of each can be harnessed to power enterprise without fossil fuels, to scale up alternative energy, even as we conserve negawatts.
Vast resources can be put into reclaiming non-productive, depauperate land with the expansion of historically accurate natural ecosystems, built upon restoring and reconnecting ecologically neglected fragments, wherever remaining natural vegetation occurs; intermingled with organic permaculture, to once again ensconce the human species within nature’s nurturing embrace.
Only by leaving fossil fuels in the ground and returning humanity to a sea of nature can biosphere collapse be avoided, and a sustainable future for human and all life assured.
As ecosystems collapse, horrendous suffering is going to become apparent. When we as a collective consciousness understand the magnitude of the situation – basically as mass human and wildlife death can no longer be ignored – we must be ready to scale proven ecological solutions swiftly and prudently. The sooner the ecological inflection point is reached, the greater likelihood we will avert complete and total biosphere collapse, and the end of being. A few extremophiles, and dandelions and cockroaches, may hang on; but complex life may end, and there is no assurance it will reemerge.
We must maximize the probability that enough nature will remain to sustain Gaia, a living Earth, which can essentially go on forever.
It is vitally important that each and every one of us commit to the great ecological transition by continuing to build awareness. That each of us becomes a leader in living well but consuming simply and with great care. And that we engage with the global growth machine to alter the means of enterprise in our image. We must work for ecological change within society and its engine of production, as only by converting business and the rich to our cause of self and ecological survival can we all prevail.
Sadly, I believe the possibility of an ecological inflection point is fading. And that the mass migration, state of perma-war, and resurgence of authoritarian fascism which we are witnessing are the result of environmental decline and resource scarcity. The sooner this can be widely recognized, the sooner we can get on with a massive program to save Earth, all her life, and thus ourselves.
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Deep ecology essay by Dr. Glen Barry, EcoInternet, New York City
May 1, 2015