Nature is not some distant, isolated place you have to hike to, filled with trees and mountains and sparking springs of serenity. It is the sum of all living things, all of the processes, and all of the interactions between them, everywhere.
Now, this real-nature is actually quite robust and resilient thanks to a characteristic we call biodiversity. It refers to the diversity of biology, or amount of variety of living things, and is a critical concept for life on earth.
According to National Geographic, "Scientists have estimated that there are around 8.7 million species of plants and animals in existence..." This enormous variety of creatures and the relationships between them creates tremendous stability within an ecosystem because it allows shifts in conditions to be spread out and absorbed by the creatures that are better adapted to the changes. They in turn, support the rest of the creatures in the system, mostly in the form of a reliable food-chain and population stability within each species.
This concept of diversity-stability is already well known in our daily lives.
In finance it's a "diversified portfolio" and the principle is exactly the same: if one account performs poorly, your are not ruined because your other accounts performed stably or even increased.
We use the expression "Don't put all your eggs in one basket".
In dietary health we hear "Eat the rainbow", meaning a wide rage of fruits and vegetables because they will contain a greater diversity of nutrients which we need.
While nature is quite robust, it is not invincible. When significant changes push parts of an ecosystem to an extreme, the effects ripple out to all the other parts of the system that depend on them. We are seeing cases of this increasing everywhere.
An iconic example is the wolf population in North America, particularly in Yellowstone National Park, who published this exemplary 2020 article on the topic.
As it stands right now, the 2019 IPBES Global Assessment Report shows that:
- "Human actions have already driven at least 680 vertebrate species to extinction since 1500" (Background #6, pg 24)
- "An average of around 25% of species in assessed animal and plant groups are threatened ... suggesting that around 1 million species already face extinction, many within decades, unless action is taken to reduce the intensity of drivers of biodiversity loss" (Key Message A5, pg 11)
Nature is like a giant Jenga tower. We have been pulling out pieces over centuries and the tower has continued standing but has gotten less and less stable. Now, we are approaching the end game- we don't know exactly how many more pieces can be pulled, or exactly which piece will be the last one, but we do know that if we keep going, the tower will fall.
Nature and biodiversity are not just 'nice to have'. Even if you care nothing about what you've considered to be 'nature' or read about 'biodiversity', the undeniable reality is that you cannot live without them. They are what we eat, what we breath, what we live in, and are part of.
We seem to have developed this notion over the last 100 or even 50 years that we are separate spheres of 'man' and 'nature'. The more man progresses, the less it needs nature because it can do everything on its own with technology. While that may have appeared true for several decades of many incredible achievements, it is now overwhelmingly clear and uncontested in the scientific community that it is simply not the case. We are instead getting very close to exhausting the cushion of support that life on this planet can provide us, and while many of us don't see the fallout yet in our daily lives, once it arrives it will be too late to correct.
The Cost Of Inaction
The course that we are currently on is nothing short of catastrophic, and imminent. The consequences of continuing are widespread extinctions and a destabilized climate, both of which are irreversible and impact every organism's ability to survive. They are creating a world where regular weather extremes will kill the entire season's yield, regular drought years will kill decades and centuries of forest growth, and each species collapse will cascade into the collapse of all those it supported.
The single overriding question that we need to start asking ourselves with every action we take and decision we make is:
"At what cost".
Yes, driving a car is fantastic, but at what cost? Do we keep doing it until we can't breath the air around us or grow food anymore? Is that worth it?
Tech gadgets are definitely fun, but how much mining, transportation, pollution, and exploitation is ok? Is it worth running out of drinking water?
Sure, single use plastic products are really convenient, but can you justify using a fork, knife, cup, containers, and bag that never decompose just for a single meal?
Our modern methods of acquiring, processing, and distributing goods has separated us from the origins and destinations of almost everything that we use so we rarely see the impacts of our decisions directly. It has been easy to remain detached and unaware of what's been unfolding, but we now have an abundance of information from an entire scientific community saying louder and more clearly for decades exactly how what we do wreaks devastation. We need to use our brains to account for what we cannot see and change our behavior radically. I can say with confidence that if you truly understand what is taking place and how the activities of our daily lives causes it, you will see just how high the cost of continuing really is and what we must do to avoid it.
If we don't start acting as smart as we are capable of, we will end up like bacteria in a petri dish, consuming everything exponentially until there's none, then dying off.
Except in our case, everything else dies along with us.
On Board ?
Check out WHAT WE CAN DO and start making changes to slow this disaster.