A Bloomberg story published on July 25, 2012 delivered more bad news for the Earth's plant and animal species. Justin Doom's headline read Forest ‘Disruption’ Greater Threat Than Climate Change. I'm sorry. I can't just let that moniker go unremarked. His name is Justin Doom?
Deforestation of protected areas and illegal hunting of endangered species that live there has a greater impact on biodiversity than climate change, overfishing and the degradation of coral reefs, according to a researcher.
The “rapid disruption” of protected tropical forests is the greatest threat to wildlife, Bill Laurence, a professor at James Cook University in Cairns, Australia, said in an e-mail. He studied 60 protected areas in tropical regions around the world and is the lead author of an article that will be published in tomorrow’s issue of Nature.
Tropical forests are the most diverse ecosystems on Earth, and failing to maintain them may drive more species to extinction, he said. To serve as a sanctuary for wildlife, the areas must also be protected from nearby development and other activities in adjacent lands that will have impact on designated preserves.
“We can’t just draw lines on the map to designate a protected area,” Laurance said. “We also have to protect reserves against encroachment, illegal hunting and other pressures that can infiltrate from outside.”
About half of the areas studied “are doing reasonably well,” while Laurance classified the others as “suffering.” Many of the hardest-hit protected areas receive little, if any, on-the-ground support, he said. The degraded areas are still valuable because of their potential to capture carbon or provide watershed protection.
“It’s a mistake to preach despair,” he said. “We have to make protected areas work in the tropics — we just don’t have a choice.”
You can get more details from the Nature Letter Averting biodiversity collapse in tropical forest protected areas and the accompanying editorial Protect And Serve. I don't want talk about this particular Nature study today. I've got bigger fish to fry.
It's a mistake to preach despair, says lead study author Bill Laurence, because we don't have a choice. At least I can agree with the second part, though not in the sense Bill meant it.
Given the way humans typically behave, given what our species Homo sapiens is, we don't have a choice because there are no choices—there is only what our species does and that's all there is. What will be will be. I am talking about Necessity.
A very, very small portion of humanity consisting of people like Bill Laurence, which probably amounts altogether to no more than 0.1% of a growing population which has now reached 7,000,000,000, is fighting a futile, uphill battle to preserve the Earth's plant and animal species. By and large, the other humans are actively or passively engaged in destroying that same biodiversity. I don't like those odds, never have.
Preaching despair? I arrived at my own despair, my emotional response to this gigantic mess, through a very long process of reading, observing and thinking about what goes on. Speaking for myself, I am not preaching despair. I am simply despairing, or at least I used to be. We certainly can't change the Human Condition as Bill Laurence is trying to do.
Over time, we must accept the truth about things. If we don't accept it, we suffer unnecessarily. And clarity has its rewards (and pitfalls).
That may strike you as a strangely passive stance, or even a cop-out. Is humanity worth preserving? That's an abstract question which has no ready answer. People with children will almost always say Yes, but I have no children. In that sense, I am not committed to the human future the way parents are. But my stance does not hinge upon an answer to the question of whether humanity is worth fighting for. The humans who do fight to preserve biodiversity only do so because they see that struggle as being in their own best interest or that of their children.
I simply refuse to play these human games. How do these games work? The way it typically goes in this biodiversity case, we see some "bad" guys over there (in Indonesia, in Africa, in South America) destroying tropical wildlife habitats and endangering species and by God it's our job to stop them from doing that because we're the "good" guys.
Sorry, I won't play that human game. That losing game just goes on and on until it doesn't. It goes on right up until that point in the not-so-distant future—it's only a matter of decades now—when the biosphere is mostly destroyed and the ecological game is lost. If it's not biodiversity, it's something else (e.g. various political battles about taxes, climate, oil, debt, wealth inequality, whatever.) These are the Games People Play.
Why do I exist? What's the point of life? I don't know the answers to those questions, but I can tell you with some confidence that my life is not given Meaning & Purpose by playing some duly appointed role on the losing side of a game that can't be won. If you're one of the "good" guys, and you're still playing these games, and you still think these games can be won, you're simply deluding yourself.
As George Carlin said in the video below, and I feel the same way now, he no longer had a stake in the outcome of these endless human games. I am increasingly separated from them just as he was. Perhaps that's a form of self-protection, a psychological defense, but so what? Carlin called the ecological game Circling The Drain. And of course that's the biggest game there is.
Perhaps the best we can do with the Human Condition is to stop playing these games so we might escape them.