For years we’ve been going about all this backwards, and as a result we’re stuck in all sorts of corporate denial, governmental conflict, and some people are swayed by each. For years we’ve been reciting the mantra “save the environment,” when in fact as long as there’s an Earth there will always be an environment. So don’t worry, our environment isn’t going away. It doesn’t need to be saved. But just as living things change in response to their environment (the process we call evolution), our environment changes in response to living things (the process we call climate change).
To be fair, a number of things contribute to the process we call climate change, and responses to living things such as humans is just one portion of the process. Humanity’s portion of responsibility for this process, or at the very least for its acceleration, is staggering, overwhelming, and scientifically undeniable.
So perhaps our mantra needs to be changed from “save the environment” to “save life as we know it.” But as we humans continue to change the environment, a variety of species unable to adapt to the changes will perish and face extinction. Extinction is a normal part of evolution; it happens in all species. Several questions come to mind then:
– Now that we know our actions are leading directly to the extinction of other species, how can we continue to pollute the environment?
– Because our population is growing at a record pace but our actions are making the world’s environment less stable, how are we going to grow the food we need to feed our increasingly huge population?
– Because extinction is a normal part of evolution, when will extinction come for humans? By slowly destroying our own environment and making it uninhabitable are we bringing extinction upon ourselves?
Maybe our mantra needs to be changed again. Because of human irresponsibility campaigns such as “save the whales,” “save the polar bears,” and “save the bees” became necessary long ago, and we have long heard well-meant if misdirected calls to “save the environment.” Starting immediately, our new calls to action will most appropriately need to be framed around “save us from ourselves.” We are greedily poisoning the only place in the known universe that can support life as we know it, arrogantly destroying our own home, blissfully spewing petroleum, chemicals, plastics, and myriad toxins in one place and living in another, as if all places aren’t connected by common soil, common water, and common air. Now the impacts of our actions are becoming clear, and the sooner we clearly connect our own actions with our own imminent demise the sooner we will begin to protect our own species.
Whether we realize it or not, we are endangered. A species qualifies for inclusion on the endangered species list when its numbers drop perilously low, and clearly we do not meet that criteria. But we ourselves are creating a variety of conditions that together can lead to population loss. It is a tragedy that we have not recognized the growth of such dangerous conditions affecting other animals and plants so that we could take steps to save them. It will also be a tragedy if our greed and arrogance prevent us from recognizing the growth of conditions dangerous to the continued existence of human life.
We don’t need to save the environment. It will always be there, in one form or another, even if we aren’t. Increasingly it seems as though our answer to human adaption to the changing environment is to shield ourselves from it. Rather than adapt we hide in air conditioned buildings, we wear plastic waterproof clothing, we pour toxic chemicals on genetically modified plants to force them to grow or to kill others. Hiding from the environment rather than adapting to it, and attempting to control nature rather than partnering with it, means that human beings will find the continuing changes in our environment increasingly intolerable. Inevitably, at some point, the weakest in our herd will fall. And then more.
So join the call to save us from ourselves. Be one of the early adapters. The environmental movement as we know it has only been around for about forty years. In evolutionary terms that’s nothing, and yet in evolutionary terms participation in the environmental movement means absolutely everything. It means saving from extinction entire species of plants and animals – including a certain genus known as Homo Sapiens.