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It's later than you think


{Nature_and_Environment.114.60}: Jay Hoffman {resist} Fri, 22 Jan 2021 20:50:51 CST (94 lines)

Complex Life Threatened
by Robert Hunziker

Throughout the world, scientists are speaking out like never before.
They’re talking about an emergency situation of the health of the
planet threatening “complex life,” including, by default, human life.

A recent fundamental study discusses the all-important issue of
failing support of complex life: “Humanity is causing a rapid loss of
biodiversity and, with it, Earth’s ability to support complex life.”
(Source: Corey J.A. Bradshaw, et al, Underestimating the Challenges of
Avoiding a Ghastly Future, Frontiers in Conservation Science, January
13, 2021)

The ramifications are unnerving. Accordingly, Earth’s ability to
support complex life is officially at risk. An armchair description of
a ghastly future is a planet wheezing, coughing, and gasping for air,
searching for non-toxic water, as biodiversity dwindles to nothingness
alongside excessive levels of atmospheric CO2-e, bringing on too much
heat for complex life to survive. Sound familiar? In part, it is.

Along the way, the irretrievable loss of vertebrates, or complex life
forms like wild mammals, birds, reptiles, and amphibians have reduced
to 5% of the planet’s total biomass. The remaining 95%: (1) livestock
(59%) and (2) humans (36%). (Bradshaw, et al) How long does that cozy
relationship last? Meanwhile, the human version of complex life
resides in comfortable artificial lifestyles framed by cement, steel,
glass, wood, and plastic, and surrounded by harmful fertilizers, toxic
insecticides, and tons of untested chemicals. There are more than
80,000 chemicals registered for use in the U.S., most of which have
not been studied for safety or toxicity to humans.

Already, it is mind-blowing that two-thirds of wild vertebrate species
have disappeared from the face of the planet within only 50 years, a
world-class speed record for extinction events. At that rate, the
infamous Anthropocene will usher in the bleakest century since
commencement of the Holocene Epoch of the past 10,000-plus years,
especially in consideration of the remorseful fact that, over the past
300 years, global wetlands have been reduced to 15% of their original

Once wetlands are gone, there’s no hope for complex life support
systems. And, how will aquifers be recharged? Aquifers are the world’s
most important water supply. Yet, NASA says 13 of the planet’s 37
largest aquifers are classified as overstressed because they have
almost no new water flowing in to offset usage.

Meanwhile, dying crumbling ecosystems all across the world are
dropping like flies with kelp forests down >40%, coral reefs down
>50%, and 40% of all plant life endangered, as well as massive insect
losses of 70% to 90% in some regions approaching wholesale

Alas, the loss of biodiversity brings a plethora of reductions in
associated benefits of a healthy planet: (1) reduced carbon
sequestration (CO2-e already at all-time highs), (2) reduced
pollination (insect wipe-out), (3) degraded soil (especially Africa),
(4) foul air, bad water (especially India), (5) intense flooding
(especially America’s Midwest), (6) colossal wildfires (Siberia,
California, Amazon, Australia), (7) compromised health (rampaging
viruses and 140 million Americans with at least one chronic disease,
likely caused, in part, by environmental degradation and too much

One of the most telling statistics within the Bradshaw report states:
“Simultaneous with population growth, humanity’s consumption as a
fraction of Earth’s regenerative capacity has grown from ~ 73% in 1960
to 170% in 2016.” Ipso facto, humans are consuming more than one
Earth. How long does that last?

Ecological overshoot is a centerpiece of the loss of biodiversity:
“This massive ecological overshoot is largely enabled by the
increasing use of fossil fuels. These convenient fuels have allowed us
to decouple human demand from biological regeneration: 85% of
commercial energy, 65% of fibers, and most plastics are now produced
from fossil fuels. Also, food production depends on fossil-fuel input,
with every unit of food energy produced requiring a multiple in
fossil-fuel energy (e.g., 3 × for high-consuming countries like
Canada, Australia, USA, and China.”

So, where, when, and how are solutions to be found? As stated above,
there’s no shortage of ideas, but nobody does the work because
solutions are overwhelming, too expensive, too complicated.

Meanwhile, the irrepressible global warming fiasco is subject of a
spaghetti-type formula of voluntary commitments by nations of the
world (Paris 2015) to contain the CO2-e villain, all of which has
proven to be nightmarishly inadequate. Human-induced greenhouse gases
continue hitting record levels year-over-year. That’s the antithesis
of success. According to the Bradshaw report: “Without such
commitments, the projected rise of Earth’s temperature will be
catastrophic for biodiversity.” Hmm- maybe declare one more emergency,
yes, no?


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