We can see well enough, and generally agree about, what is happening on Earth. Can we focus for a moment on, “Why these things are happening with such a vengeance on our watch?”
Under no circumstances can it ever be correct for scientists to consciously censor naturally persuasive scientific research with extraordinary explanatory power just because the new evidence is unforeseen and unwelcome.
Our unwillingness to accept what science discloses to us about our distinctly human creatureliness, the placement of the human species within the order of living things, and how the world we inhabit actually works, makes our efforts to adapt to the “rules of the house” in our planetary home a protean challenge. As Carl Sagan reminded all of us, “The suppression of uncomfortable ideas may be common in religion or in politics, but it is not the path to knowledge, and there is no place for it in the endeavor of science.”
We possess so much knowledge and know-how, thanks to science, and know enough to recognize and understand that humankind is precipitating a planetary emergency on Earth.
And what is our collective response? An inexcusable, unconscionable lack of urgency as well as a deliberate refusal to examine and report findings of extant scientific research. Why not ask a vital science question to which we appear to already have an answer, but of which scientists willfully refuse to speak? Why not ask about the ecological science of human population dynamics/overpopulation?
If human beings are primary drivers of dissipating natural resources, dying oceans, degrading environs and destabilizing climate, then let us carefully and skillfully examine extant scientific research that simply and persuasively explains why absolute global human population numbers continue to grow so rapidly and, by so doing, to ravage so radically the prospects for the future of life as we know it in our planetary home?
If the human community can share a good enough understanding of what it is that ails us and threatens life as we know it, then perhaps momentum can be gathered rather than thwarted to initiate an able collective response to the problems we appear to have induced for ourselves and other living things on the planet.
Another question naturally comes to mind. What are we to do? Let me suggest the following.
We need to “think globally and act locally,” so says the United Nations; but what does that mean? We consume less, recycle more, share resources rather than hoard them and live simply on a human scale. Activities such as hand crafting, tool making, home building and farming need to be localized not corporatized. Families and communities need gardens and food markets. Increases only in the size of the human population, locally and globally, must be limited humanely.
Another way of living in the world we inhabit is already visible on the far horizon.
Steve Salmony lives in Chapel Hill.