Sunday, October 09, 2005

Environment takes a back seat - again and again

The Republican party is at it again, with House of Representatives voting to gut the Endangered Species Act in a ballot that followed party lines in the Republican-led House. According to the Center for Biological Diversity, key elements of the bill undermine species recovery, eliminate habitat protection (the single greatest threat to endangered species is habitat destruction), exempts pesticides from Environmental review (!!!), and allows corporations to collect millions of dollars in damages by asserting that they have been haremd by endangered species protections.

Words cannot describe how disgusting this bill is, especially in eliminating environmental review of pesticides and sacrificing plant and animal life in favor of corporate profits.

Closer to home, a similar story takes place in Brunswick, where the town council
rejected a "rural smart growth" ordinance that would have required developers to consider the impact that developments would have on wildlife habitat. According to the Times Record's op-ed piece, "the four councilors voting against the plan essentially took the position that the proposal infringes too much on landowners' property rights. They are simply affirming our society's norm, which asserts that human needs take priority above all else."

It saddens me that in this day and age, not only do we routinely reject the need for environmental consideration in the world of business, but we are rolling back existing protections for the environment. I believe that profit which comes at the expense of the enviromenent and other living beings needs to be curtailed, taxed heavily, or eliminated.

It is impossible to imagine a world in which humans have no impact on the environment, where we live in complete harmony with other living things. However, that is no justification for not making every effort to minimize our impact. Capitalism and the pursuit of profit are an artificially constructed value that has taken hold in this country and is seen as the guiding motiviation for everything that people do. We seek out profit at the expense of our fellow humans, so it comes as no surprise that animals and plants should also get little consideration if they get in the way of additional dollars.

The "profit is primary" value is not universally held in this country, however, and certainly not across the planet. Some of us get much more satisfaction from coexisting harmoniously with nature. My attempts to live a sustaining lifestyle bring me much more spiritual satisfaction than the pursuit of dollars ever has, or ever will have. But my opinion is in the minority in this country, and I don't believe that this moral obligation that I feel is sufficient reason to protect the environment. (As much as I wish it were true, I know that most Americans are not "environmentalists".) I do believe, however, that these threats to the environment and to other species threaten the very existence of humankind.

We know, for example, how pollution can adversely affect our health, and how wetlands destruction eliminates natural barriers against flooding. But, as I wrote in my
Ecosystems at the Millenium post, "we don't know what we don't know." Other than the nebulous "lack of biological diversity" argument, we don't really know what will happen as more species become extinct. We are all familiar with the concept of the "circle of life", where the existence of one species (plant or animal) sustains the existence of another species, and so on. What happens when too many species are eliminated, however? Is there some sort of "critical (lack of) mass" point that we might reach whereby we have eliminated enough species that human life can't be sustained?

I'm certain that there are plenty of skeptics out there who will dispute the potential of this ever happening. However, I'm pretty sure that human population has already exceeded a level that can be supported by the Earth over the long term. (Baumer told something to me last night, stating that the planet can't sustain more than 6 million humans, but I can't remember the citation. Help me out, Jim?) We may not be on the track to human extinction, but I'm convinced that we are on a track toward a massive reduction in human population over the next few generations. I find it repugnant that people who have children, or who hope to have children, continue to make choices that will have negative repurcussions for perhaps centuries to come.

The choices we are making today could change what happens in the future. That the Town of Brunswick has not chosen to take a stand asking landowners to make sacrifices today for the long-term benefit of the planet is disappointing. That House Republicans have chosen to reverse long-standing protections in the name of greater corportate profitability is disgusting.


Blogger Jim said...

Joe, my numbers are way off. I thought I'd read 6 billion as being the number that was sustainable. There is a Cornell professor, David Pimental, who wrote in 1996, that the earth could sustain (carrying capacity) 2 billion people comfortably, guaranteeing them a reasonable standard of living (we are at 6.5 billion and growing as I write). Predictions in 50 years are for this to double!!

Obviously, there is an issue with overpopulation.

check out this site for more info:

Obviously, the end of cheap oil would precipitate a "die off" of some kind, as the petroleum-based food production that we rely on, would be no more. Pretty sobering when one faces the possibility of this happening.

Great post!

11:37 AM  
Blogger Joe said...

Thanks for the update, Jim. Two Billion! Holy crap! I guess it's not a surprise, then, that we are using up resources and so many of the people on earth live in such dire poverty.

I'm sad for our children.

8:05 PM  
Anonymous Demosthenes said...

So I have to ask...

Did you contact the members of your Town Council before they voted to give your support to the ordinance?

Did you write a letter to the editor or similar to the Times record in support of the ordinance?

Have you considered running against one of the four councilors who voted against your choice?

Or are you just sharing your thoughts with Jim, Weasel and I?

In order to win these fights you have to be willing to roll up your sleeves and get dirty.

4:28 PM  

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