“We are living on the planet as if we have another one to go to.” – Terry Swearingen
Today, the evidence is overwhelming. The Earth is in trouble. If the Earth is in trouble, then “we are all in trouble.” If that sounds ominous, it’s intended to. Learning about the true state of our planet is usually nothing short of shocking when one pulls back the thin veneer of reality and sees what we’re doing to the planet. The old adage, “out of sight out of mind” certainly applies here. Those of us in first world countries live a comfortable existence filled with a myriad of conveniences that others would only dream of. But sadly, those conveniences come at a staggering price to the planet.
In our comfortable, tranquil, little lives filled with endless avenues of entertainment, 1000 TV stations, satellite radio, chemically treated and manicured yards, clean drinking water, an endless array of stores to shop to our heart’s content at, garbage that just goes “AWAY,” (where, we know not), groceries that provide all our food, our perspective of the world rarely goes beyond our own self-interests. Shopping and entertainment have become the opiates of our time in a society where we are kept from ever feeling culpable in contributing to the decline of virtually every ecosystem on the planet. This is because mainstream media has no interest in the ecology of the planet and the viability of its life-sustaining aspects. All eyes are trained towards Wall Street and the “economy,” not the ecology of the planet. This is a dismally blind perspective that harkens a rude awakening when people finally wake up one day to realize, we can’t eat money or our possessions.
Though the “economics of commerce” in our ever advancing society have been understood for hundreds of years, it’s the “ecology of commerce” that has been poorly understood and the consequences of which that have been poorly anticipated. It is our failure as a global society, not only on the part of governments, industries, banks, and Wall Street, but by us as consumers, to fail and see that not money, but our natural resources are the only real commodity on Earth. This failure on our part has led to a profoundly misguided focus on maintaining the “economy” as opposed to the “ecology” of the planet. It is our blind ambition, coupled with our inability to truly understand our connection with the planet and what we are doing to it, that is pushing the human narrative into its final chapter.
It’s rather unfortunate, but we cannot separate our well being from the well-being of the planet we live on any more than a child developing in-utero can separate its well-being from the well-being of its mother that is providing for and nourishing it. In nature, everything strives for homeostasis or balance. Almost everything in nature exists in a symbiosis, a mutually beneficial relationship, where both nature and each species in it is the benefactor of what each contributes to the relationship. MANKIND and our civilization is the exception to that rule. Sustaining the planet is only possible when we imitate nature. Virtually every aspect of civilization is violating every law of nature that makes life possible. In other words, we are living in direct opposition to nature and life itself. One need look no further than the fact that we are witnessing today the fastest and largest scale die-off of species since the disappearance of the dinosaurs, all as a result of the growth of civilization.
By contrast to the rest of the planet and animal kingdom, man’s relationship with the planet has become nothing short of parasitic in nature. Similar to a virus feeding on its host, humanity is devouring the planet at an alarming rate and creating waste that cannot be recycled back into the Earth. The advancement of civilization represents the transformation of a once vibrant, living, thriving, organic, and homeostatic biosphere, into an inorganic, inanimate, non-living civilization built from unnatural materials and chemicals that cannot be digested by the planet. This is creating an imbalance that is slowly making a very large swath of the planet, inhospitable to life. As these materials weather, decay, and subsequently leach into the environment, the chemicals they consist of poison our air, soil, and waterways. No one in their right mind would ever contemplate going to a local stream, tributary, river, or lake and drinking from it without first filtering the water extensively and boiling it. It’s because deep down inside we all know that the world we’ve created is on some level, bio-toxic virtually everywhere. We now live in our own waste.
Understanding our delicate and often precarious relationship with the natural world is a story that our distant relatives possessed and passed down to each generation, but today this knowledge has been lost to all but a very small percentage of the population and perhaps some environmentally conscious groups. Each generation is more cut off from this knowledge than the one that came before it. Those that implore the masses to concern themselves with the preservation and sustainability of the natural world are often viewed as sensationalists over dramatizing our plundering of the Earth.
This is a very sad reflection of truly how blind we’ve become in understanding that the economic system we believe we are contributing to in a positive way is the very system that is bringing about our own demise and virtually every other species on the planet. It’s not yet popular to be environmentally conscious, but very soon it will be, as very soon we will have no choice.
Our current inability to see how we are all connected in this intricate web of life and see how “we’re all in it together” means that the fighting over diminishing natural resources, the continued neglect of the planet, and our inability to live as a unified global community, will continue to accelerate towards a future in which the health of the planet will continue its decline at a stupefying rate, if we don’t make sweeping changes soon. If we merely continue with our “business as usual” mentality we will continue our downward spiral, destroying the planet that sustains us.
And therein lies the problem. Sadly, there is no contingency plan for the human race if the planet is exploited to collapse. There is no life raft waiting for us to board and go drifting across the vast sea of darkness we call SPACE in hopes of finding another planet to inhabit and start over. There is no PLAN B or PLANET B. I believe this fact is very relevant.
Today, the legacy we are leaving for our children and our children’s children to inherit is a legacy in which, in our race to produce and sell things in the marketplace, we poisoned, polluted, and destroyed entire ecosystems, wildlife habitats, and the environment, to bring about the extinction of millions of species. Currently, it is estimated that approximately 20 more species go extinct every single day as a result of mankind’s destruction of habitats.
Countless natural resources, rainforests, river delta’s, and entire ecosystems both on the land and in the seas, that have been exploited to collapse, have been destroyed over the last one hundred years in order to feed a marketplace with only one aim, “profitability!” Through the destruction of these ecosystems and the species that inhabit them, the removal of each species from the planet only beckons our own removal from it. This is because nothing in nature is independent. All of nature and the species that reside on our planet are connected in a delicate, “inter-dependent” web of life. Remove enough threads from this web and like a house of cards, the Earth’s life support systems collapse and are no longer capable of sustaining life. Bees are a great example of this. If all the honey bees that pollinate our crops were to go extinct, humanity’s demise would take place within 4 years. It’s all connected.
Sustainability and preservation of the natural world until very recently simply has not been a consideration in an economic model built and predicated entirely on entertainment, consumerism, consumption, planned obsolescence, waste, and maintaining the illusion of value we assign to things. This neglect is the product of a dichotomy that exists between choosing to maintain the global economy instead of the global ecology. Many scientists believe it is pushing civilization to the point of no return.
The latest ecological trends now show that the environmental carrying capacity of our planet for our growing population is taxing the planet’s agricultural yields beyond capacity, and that by the year 2030 we could be facing catastrophic challenges even in first world countries, with respect to food and water shortages, fiscal deficits, and diminished resources, preventing the sustainability of a global economy, much less the world as a life-supporting planet. To maintain our current rate of consumption of resources beyond 2030 would require 1.7 Earths. In other words, we’re losing ground quickly. The growing population’s needs are outpacing the availability of resources and the Earth’s ability to keep providing for us.
It’s unfortunate that with each passing year, investigations into the health of ecosystems across the planet have continued to reveal only more and more dismal findings. In looking at the world and the issues we’re facing in long-term forecasts and projections, the most recent statistics in ecological evaluations regarding damage to the natural world paint a dim outlook. This slow demise of the planet’s natural resources is damage that we as a species are solely responsible for. Together we’ve created it, and now we have to collectively restore it and restore it quickly. It will take a concerted and monumental effort on the part of the masses to save the world’s ecosystems that we are so heavily dependent upon.
Like reading a child’s report card where we are failing in every category, for the first time in human history our security and continued survival as a species is truly at risk, where timelines predicting the collapse of civilization, as we know it, both economically and ecologically are now being plotted.
This is not a sensationalist statement to dramatize the need for becoming environmentally conscious, nor is it a reference to armed warfare or terrorism. They represent only a minor threat compared to the threat that all humanity is facing in a rapidly approaching future. But as resources become scarcer, as they are destined to, war is more than likely going to increase in frequency and duration.
Today we are rapidly approaching issues that are profoundly more ominous and will affect us all, irrespective of what country we may live in. There are a number of issues accumulating and reaching critical mass that are pushing us towards a tipping point that there is no coming back from, including:
- Global warming and the subsequent climate changes that will accompany a warmer world
- Rising sea levels and the tremendous loss of real estate along shorelines around the world, not to mention entire ports that will have to be moved further and further inland as oceans rise
- Effects of higher temperatures on photosynthesis and pollination diminishing crop yields such as wheat, barley, and rice dramatically
- Decrease in snowmelt volumes because of diminishing snowfall around the world which diminishes the agricultural yields in cities that rely on the snowmelt to provide water for irrigation throughout the growing season
- Deforestation and the removal of topsoil increasing soil erosion and water runoff rates, resulting in countries that will lose the ability to feed themselves, thereby economically collapsing, and subsequently become “failing states”
- Accelerating desertification of vast geographic stretches of terrain making agriculture impossible, which is now encroaching on massive populaces in China, India, Africa, and the Middle East, as well as cities in the Western United States
- Commercial over-fishing of the oceans with estimates depleting the oceans entirely of consumable fish by the year 2042
- Today we’re witnessing the greatest species die off since the disappearance of the dinosaurs 65 million years ago
- In the last 120 years, mankind has brought about the extinction of 54% of the world’s animal species and removed 69% of the world’s forests…
- 2/3rd of the world’s animals species will be extinct by 2020
- The destruction of ocean habitats due to increasing acidity in the ocean because of photo-degrading plastics and bio-degrading garbage.
- As much as 85% – 90% of the fertilizers used to support these agricultural crops end up in the water table eventually finding its way to streams, tributaries, rivers, and ultimately to the oceans where they are toxic to aquatic life. Currently, 250 “Dead Zones” in the ocean, where no life exists, have already been discovered
- Diminished rainfall in regions dependent on it for agriculture due to global warming
- Disappearing water tables and aquifers due to over drilling in the last 20 years
- Water shortages in countless regions around the globe which inevitably leads to massive food shortages and dramatically escalating food prices, which in turn creates “environmental refugees” migrating to countries with food, which has pronounced political and economic implications
- The inability to continue maintaining current agricultural yields which are already being pushed beyond a sustainable capacity to meet the needs of an exponentially growing population
- Plasticizing of the planet. Sobering facts about plastics:
- Over 1 trillion plastic bags are used and discarded every year worldwide, many of which find their way from landfills to waterway and subsequently, the ocean. Every year 4.7 million tons of plastic enters the oceans.
- Currently, 663 Species of sea animals have been identified as being adversely affected by the presence of plastic in our oceans, but in truth, every organism in the ocean is affected by the presence of this plastic, in every depth of the ocean. We are finding microplastic in krill and all the way up through the food chain in the bellies of fish, seals, whales, and seabirds.
- A single plastic bag can take up to 1,000 years to degrade. What’s scary about this fact is that once ingested, it does not break down. When the marine animal’s body decomposes, the bag is released, where it can then be consumed again, and the cycle repeats.
- More than 3.5 million tons of plastic bags, sacks and wraps were discarded in 2008.
- Only 1 in 200 plastic bags in the UK are recycled (BBC).
- The U.S. goes through 100 billion single-use plastic bags per year.
- Plastic bags are the second-most common type of ocean refuse, after cigarette butts (2008)
- Plastic bags remain toxic even after they break down, releasing dioxins, mercury, and bisphenols into the environment.
- Every square mile of ocean has about 46,000 pieces of plastic floating in it.
- The presence of dioxins (one of the, if not the most, biotoxic, carcinogenic chemicals on the planet) created by photo-degrading plastic in the ocean, has been found in every fish for consumption that now serves as a vector for ingestion by humans.
- 2011 Tsunami in Japan buried the Fukushima Nuclear under 90 ft. of water, following a 3 core nuclear reactor meltdown. 1,700 cooling rods (each with 140,000 times the radiation of the atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima) has been leaking 400 tons of radioactively polluted water into the Pacific every day since the event occurred.
- Increasing poverty, due to a massive loophole in capitalism that creates an ever-widening inequality in the distribution of wealth, even in first world countries, creating economic stress and civil unrest
- Insolvency of virtually every bank on Earth means a global economic collapse is imminent.
These are many but not all of the precipitating factors that will bring about challenges unlike anything we have ever faced before.
We have always believed that this was a scenario our great, great, grandchildren may face someday, but it is abundantly clear with the most recent projections regarding economic and ecological trends, along with the fact that an estimated 215,000 people are added to the planet every day, that our rapid consumption and subsequent destruction of the planet will have consequences felt in our own lifetimes. To continue meeting just our current needs of consumption would require 1.5 Earths as opposed to the one Earth we now inhabit. This is NOT a sustainable scenario.
There is not one scientific, peer-reviewed paper published in the last 30 years that contradicts one indisputable fact. Every living system on Earth is in decline. Every life support system on Earth is in decline.
Because sustaining resources as opposed to consuming them has not been a variable in the equations used to mathematically determine rising and falling stock values, our misguided focus has had us racing to gain market share in the ever-evolving economy while neglecting both the direct and indirect cost to the ecology of the very ecosystems that provide the raw materials needed to bring products to market. We are quite literally robbing Peter to pay Paul. As we continue to consume resources in a finite system, pretending the system will last forever is an absurdity that we can no longer afford to espouse.
This unfolding drama is one that is fed into by all of us with the choices we make every day. It has, in our most recent history, now extended beyond us harming one another as members of our human family, to harming and jeopardizing the well being of every other species on the planet and the planet itself on an unprecedented scale.
If this sounds pretty dismal, it probably should. This is a wake-up call. In considering my son and the world that I myself would be a contributing factor in shaping and leaving to him, I’m reminded of a beautiful and challenging quote by Mahatma Gandhi who said, “Be the change you want to see in the World.” Knowing that our children’s own future inheritance of a viable planet is being taken from them because of our blind ambitions as a society, what greater cause could each of us commit to than the sustainability of the natural world and its resources for our children to someday inherit?
We don’t all have to write a book, start a blog, or establish an environmental group to bring about change. Big changes come with lots of people doing little things every day that collectively bring about change. The way we contribute to sustaining and bettering the world is in the individual decisions we make each moment by choosing to recycle everything from glass, plastic, paper, and electronics, choosing to compost or simply throw our food in the garbage, choosing to have or create energy efficient homes or not, choosing to purchase from environmentally conscious companies with “green” products, safe for the environment, or not.
We vote and express our values every day with how and where we spend our money, and ultimately with WHAT WE BUY. It is the collective sum of all of our choices as individuals and as a society that determines the health and vitality of our planet.
Money is merely a form of energy that only expresses and magnifies what it is we value. The choices we make affect the whole of humanity, because our purchases, in ways that are invisible to most of us, are contributing to a marketplace predicated on its consumption of the natural world. Where we spend our money either contributes to or detracts from the sustainability of the planet.
Industry only manufactures what we demand of them, and our demands are made known by what it is we choose to purchase. We, not industry, determines what is made available for purchase by the masses and what isn’t. As long as it sells, they’ll keep making more of it, whatever “it” may be.
It is the hope of Shift Ethos, that individuals will begin connecting the dots in seeing the big picture of how intimately our well being is determined by the health and vitality of the planet, so that we can all make more educated and environmentally conscious decisions, as opposed to decisions made from a lack of understanding how our individual actions affect the whole of humanity.
Raising awareness will become paramount to humanity’s continued survival as we write the next chapter in our narrative. This will require quite a shift in our current way of thinking and way of approaching life. It is my sincere hope that the decisions we make moving forward will be weighed out against the backdrop of knowing what kind of a world we are inextricably destined to leave future generations unless we start asking every day how what we are doing right now will affect those who come behind us.
Love and Light,