by Dr. Steve Best
Headline: July 12, 2011, The Independent: “Climate change could kill one in 10 species by end of the century”:
“Climate change,” writes Steve Conner, “is speeding up the rate at which animals and plants are becoming extinct. By the end of the century, one in 10 species could be on the verge of extinction because of the effects of global warming, a study has found. The findings support the view that the earth is currently experiencing a global mass extinction where the rate at which species are being lost is many times greater than the historical extinction rate. It is the sixth great mass extinction in the history of life on earth.”
So “Climate change could kill one in ten species by the end of the century.” Well, this sounds like an understatement and never forget it has already begun to kill thousands of humans and animals and already has precipitated a crisis of environmental refugees. But do be sure to make that read that Homo rapiens could be wiping out evolution at increasingly rapid rates as, of course, we caused climate change and brought about the sixth extinction crisis.
I have an odd hobby of following these reports. I have a five-foot high stack of articles I have collected in huge folders just over the last few years that I refer to as “reports from the apocalypse.” If you just poked through these files, and did nothing but look at the headlines and grasped the mounting evidence for extinction and collapse, you might not be one of the “happy shiny people” who joyously lead the charge each morning on Facebook, trumpeting the coming “Vegan Victory” against the Forces of Evil!
There is a massive global scientific consensus that ecological systems are dying and Gaia is unraveling (as glaciers melt, sea levels rise, temperatures climb, and so on), and that the quickening of change is happening more quickly than the most pessimistic feared might occur. For over twenty-five years at least, scientists have issued serious and credible “warnings to humanity” that have floated away into the winds of apathy and been clouded over with disinformation.
So lifestyle vegan passifists piss me off, on the one hand, as do the neoliberals, growth fetishists, and technoutopians who (1) minimize the reality that there are real limits to growth that we can yet reach without minimal problem, as they (2) praise the miracles of the “new green revolution” (the first one was doomed from the start and only exacerbated the solid and food crisis) or champion biotechnology, the genetic reconstruction of all existing life and cloning alleged “successful designs” (all abysmal failures so far), and (3) fail to consider that, for every one more human added to the Western elite or poverty-stricken of the undeveloped world, we will lose countless many more animals and steal even more habitat and resources necessary for the elephants, gorillas, and tigers, for instance, to live, and all are dying off before our eyes.
I look at this crisis theory shit every day, and here is a typical sampling of recent lines in scientific reports and credible journalism:
“Parched: Australia Faces Collapse as Climate Change Kicks In”
“Long Droughts, Rising Seas Predicted Despite Future CO2 Curbs”
“World Sea levels to Rise 1.5m by 2100”
“Number of Strong Hurricanes Doubles Over Past 35 Years”
“Riots, Instability Spread as Food Prices Skyrocket”
“Billions Could Go Hungry from Global Warming by 2100”
“Brazil Amazon Deforestation Soars”
“Over 15,000 Species Face Extinction”
“Apes ‘Extinct in a Generation’”
“THE SIXTH EXTINCTION: It Happened to Him. It’s Happening to You”
“Both Ends of Earth Are Melting”
“U.N. Warns of Rapid Decay of Environment”
“Panel Issues Bleak Report on Climate Change”
“Save the Planet? It’s Now or Never, Warns landmark UN report”
“Humans Living Far Beyond Planet’s Means”
“Earth Can’t Sustain Humans”
Every day, I confront two key psychologically troubling facts:
(1) Almost everyone in the world is in denial as to how serious the global social and ecological crisis has become, especially if they are Panglossian “happy, shiny” lifestyle vegan spreading their facile Gospel of Truth everyday on Facebook, assuring us that “We WILL win!!” and,
(2) We will die off soon enough, perhaps over a period of decades, perhaps the agony will be prolonged for centuries, but not before we can inflict considerably more killing, violence, and destruction on one another, other species, and the planet. We might remain alive long enough to play out a ruthless Mad Max struggle for survival, or even to transform this beautiful “pale blue dot” (Sagan) into the horrifying blood-red hues of the dead planet of Mars.
I have accepted the likely imminent demise of Homo rapiens. I just hope we go out with a bang not a whimper, so biodiversity and the earth have a chance to recover and revivify with us gone. In fact, so long as we remain alive and continue to inflate our population by billions more and colonize ever-more animal habitat, as the world’s most populous nations – India and China – clamor to live the “American lifestyle (and we all know that “the earth cannot afford another United States”), I do not see anything ahead but further devastation, destruction, and decimation of all life and nature.
I do not envision a “great leap forward” from a socialist or anarchist revolution, I am near abandoning the metaphysical hope of “revolution” altogether, and I certainly do not buy into the naive myth of “the coming vegan revolution”! I do think the world will soon shift toward a vegan diet, but not due to the “successful” efforts of the global vegan education movement (a dismal failure), but rather because nature, scarcity, and escalating economic and ecological costs will impose change on humanity out of necessity, not from conscious choices, spreading “enlightenment,” and the pathetically elitist, classist, consumerist, and racist nature of vegan education and “outreach” campaigns.
I’m sorry to say, but my hunch is that what activists, education groups, and social resistance movement are now doing is all too little, too late, and we continue to lose ground. But I am not excusing apathy, hedonism, or nihilism.
I will continue to fight. Indeed I will become as “extreme” as the crisis itself and chances for resistance demand. Despite the daunting magnitude of the problem, and the pathetically inadequate attempts to understand and resolve it, there is not a fait accompli dooming this great planet and there is still much to save and preserve for nature and animals.
If we cannot learn how to live harmoniously on this planet, then we do not deserve to live at all. This is now a fundamental axiom for me.
I have come to terms with the fact that Homo sapiens is likely to go down the same evolutionary cul-de-sac as did Homo habilis, Homo erectus, and Homo neanderthalensis.
I’ve been an activist for thirty years in countless causes and movements and had my share of disappointments in humanity. But I am a fighter, not a quitter. And so my tears, passion, anger, and the revolutionary fire that continues to rage, rage, rage against the dying of the light will never dim or die out. For while humans may be too stupid, apathetic, oppressed, fearful, and narcissistic to unite and fight, that’s no longer my principle worry or concern.
I do hope we can come together collectively, globally, and with a militant resolve, solidarity, and inclusivity (such as giving animal liberationists the respect and prominent role they deserve in all future struggles) that is as unprecedented as the task is daunting. I’m not placing any bets on the plausibility of this scenario for humans are power-oriented, violent primates and xenophobic tribalists for the most part. It’s hard enough to have a successful relationship with one person, or to run one small effective campaign, let alone to unite a myriad of competing (but ultimately common) interests in alliance, solidarity, and shared power, while fighting the real enemies in the outside world rather than one another!
And so, while I will ally with and fight for every social justice movement that merits support, I am fighting this war now principally for every animal in a cage, for every species not yet extinct, and for every ecosystem not yet poisoned, ruined, or unalterably destroyed. This way, so long as humans continue to speed down the path of self-destruction and extinction, I can take comfort in the fact that a tragedy for humans is a blessing for the planet, and that in a literally posthuman world my work, sacrifices, and struggles might have made some small, enduring difference.