The Sheer Terror of Looming Biosphere Collapse

Ecosystem loss is biosphere collapse

Ecosystem loss is biosphere collapse

The global ecological system is collapsing and dying as humanity overruns natural ecosystems and the climate. We are entering an age of unrelenting violence and suffering, prior to biosphere collapse and the end of being, unless dramatic social change based upon a global ecology ethic arises quickly.

Earth Meanders, by Dr. Glen Barry

Humans evolved within a lush and vibrant Eden teaming with life, which until just a few generations ago provided for natural abundance and the prospect of perpetual human existence. We are one of many species utterly dependent upon natural ecosystems for all needs including air, water, food, and shelter.

The rise of ecological colonialism and the industrial revolution changed all that, as million year old naturally evolved ecosystems became fodder to be liquidated and consumed for accumulation of paper wealth. The disambiguation of buying our needs with money has led us to deny our ecological nature.

For two centuries humanity has waged an unrelenting war upon nature. Ecological habitats and their wildlife residents have been slaughtered incessantly. Entire species have been wiped out, as their members have been burnt, shot, tortured, and left to starve. Whole ecosystems have been dismantled to create consumer crap that is quickly thrown away.

At the same time Western science has learned what indigenous peoples have long known, that we are but one species in a web of life. That all is one, intertwined in a miraculous system whereby life creates the conditions for life. And that as goes nature befalls us. Those in touch with nature realize ecology is the meaning of life. And that without ecology there can be no economy.

It has become increasingly obvious to experts and astute lay persons that the ecological fabric of being is fraying. We now know that ecological boundaries exist, and that the human endeavor has overshot them. Old-growth forests remain as tawdry remnants, soil has become lifeless and sterile, oceans are dying, and water and food are scarce for humanity and kindred species.

Ever expanding human numbers have lost sight of our place within ecology, and have little knowledge of the natural world. Instead well-being is defined by mobile apps and expensive play-things that soon grow old and are discarded. For many life is a vacuous search for status and stuff, utterly detached from the condition of natural capital that makes their and all life possible. And for the rest – the large percentage of people living in abject poverty – life is a squalid struggle to meet basic needs amidst Disneyfied conspicuous over-consumption by celebrities and bankers.

Long a war-prone species, humans have concurrent with ecocide – nonetheless undergone remarkable social evolution whereby slavery’s prohibition, women’s rights, freedom of thought, and representative democracy (with some progress on racial equality) have largely been achieved. Nonetheless attempts last century to eliminate war have failed miserably. Over-populated inequity in an age of resource scarcity – stoked by grotesquely wasteful over-consumption by the few – fuels a rise of authoritarian fascism and conflict between the haves, have-lesses, and have-nots.

Few diagnose the state of perma-war waged by lone terrorists and drones as the result of environmental decline. Yet the coming anarchy can be seen all around us, by those who wish to see.

Streams of refugees flee collapsing ecosystems and abrupt climate change. Traditional food stocks from the oceans and forests are virtually exhausted. Saving seeds has become a radical act of resistance as all that is natural is commodified, homogenized, and toxified. Basic seasonality fails as abrupt climate change takes over. And what remains of natural vegetation is sickly and fragmented, no longer connected to provide the matrix of ecological services upon which all life depends.

All around are well-meaning people pursuing pieces of the solution. Organic permaculture, reducing fossil fuels, protecting and restoring natural ecosystems, consuming less, and other acts of righteous ecological living are occurring. But it is too little, too late, by orders of magnitude as the sheer inertia of ecocide found in mass over-population and consumption prepares its final assault upon the natural world.

Already societies and economies are collapsing, from Syria to Haiti, and including the downturn in economic aspirations for the petty-bourgeoisie. The Earth’s capacity to provide for human well-being is collapsing. Every last natural ecosystem is to be mopped up for chopsticks and the last drop of oil. Not only will your children not have more than you have, they may die in an unimaginably horrendous ecological apocalypse.

Every month without the rise of an ecology ethic, we fall deeper into nothingness, as the signs of progressive worsening of sick ecosystems and dysfunctional climate are written off by the ecologically challenged. Soon as the pillages of war and ecocide come to your neighborhood you can expect to know hunger, disease, and the bad kind of anarchy.

Expect to face firsthand the terror of biosphere collapse – where as social order disintegrates your mothers, wives, and daughters are raped, along with your sons sold into  slavery, before they and you die like famished stray dogs; filthy, hot, and hungry, as your local bioregion fails.

The global ecological system is collapsing and dying.

We are a clever species, with opposable thumbs and relatively large brains. Perhaps the Internet community and the sense of the human family it engenders can help us realize there is no god but Earth, that we are one people, and that we are one species of animal amongst many. And that we can choose to return to nature’s fold.

All that is green and natural must be protected and restored in earnest and urgency with all our might or the biological foundation of being ends. Start with growing your food and regenerating the land, reject personal cars and large families, ruthlessly cut your emissions, and work outward to reconnect your community to a peaceful and healthy bioregion.

Work to live and grow a global ecology ethic. Otherwise the hairless ape shows all intentions of pulling down the biosphere as we frantically seek more not understanding there is no more to be had. The sky is falling. Earth is nearly dead. The end of being looms.

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17 Responses

  1. Geoff Mosley says:

    This report on our situation is very important because it can provide the essential motivation for change but equally important is ‘a way out’. That is where groups like CASSE and the Simpler Way should come into focus. We desperately need a major alternative. John Stuart Mill gave us one in 1848 in his book ‘Principles of Political Economy’. This became ‘The Steady State Economy’. We desperately need your support for this since our political leaders are addicted to endless economic growth. For more information go to http://www.steadystate.org

  2. Shodo Spring says:

    Eloquent. My own response is to cast my lot with the very beings we have been destroying – asking for help from trees, oceans, mycelia. If we immediately quit destroying, we would not be able to heal. What if we quit (repented) and asked for help as well? The religious would understand this concept, First Nations are acting on it (restoring traditional ways as part of resisting pipelines etc), and what if “civilized” people abandoned hubris and turned back to the ways of the Earth? I recall the term “Hail Mary pass” – but we have nothing else.

  3. Greg says:

    Dr. Barry:

    I would agree that there is obvious signs of ecological collapse from all quarters.

    I am however not quite as gloomy about the biosphere. There have been any number of ecological collapse events in the history of our planet. Some of these we know about from fossils, layers of sediment, changes in gas in ice cores or other methods of science that record ancient events. There are also likely events that we don’t currently know or understand.

    That being the case, life has found a way. Even during the worse of events, where there was near total ecological collapse, we still evolved after those events and came to where we are now. While we are currently in the midst of another ecological collapse, and largely to blame for the complexity and extent of that collapse, there are also some reasons for hope.

    The energy revolution happened while almost nobody was paying attention. While people like Sarah Pallin were running around screaming drill baby drill, big oil, coal and nukes for that matter died. Even in the face of the lowest prices for oil and natural gas seen in years, solar and wind are cost competitive. Most people have not yet realized what this means, but simply put oil and coal as fuel sources are in a position where the cheapest reserves have already been exploited, and while still abundant are getting increasingly expensive to extract. This means to make a profit, the price for oil, gas and nukes (uranium and price of electricity) has to go up for these sources to compete in the market. In spite of this, oil, coal, gas and uranium are at historic low points, and are still being out competed in both price point, and new total capacity power generated. In fact these trends will generally continue to depress the price of fuel based power sources.

    What the main holders of these resources have already realized, which is why organizations such as ALEC are pressing in the US for legislation to essential wipe out renewable subsidies and curtail the ability of people to go renewable, is that fuel based power sources simply can not compete with technology based power sources.

    The other trend that is sealing the deal, and again most people are not aware of, is that the price point for power storage is also dropping at an amazing rate. There have been breakthroughs on batteries, fuel cells, ultra-capacitors etc. Even just looking at what is currently dominating in the market (no Bill Gates miracles need apply), the lithium battery packs being built for electric cars have already developed a subsidiary market for when they can no longer be used for cars (from what I hear 80% capacity is the break point), but can be used for either home power storage, or for commercial power storage. Tesla alone is planning on building 500,000 electric vehicles, and given the money they raised in pre-orders that has been more than enough incentive for others in the auto industry to follow suit, which in fact is already happening. In practical terms this means there will be a huge upsurge in the amount of batteries available for power storage, and power conditioning (just to mention a couple uses). This will allow intermittent sources of power like wind and solar to be stored and metered to meet both base load and peaking needs. It will also create a new energy production and supply model (which is already happening) of multiple income streams being leveraged around the production, storage and distribution of power. This in turn will destroy the economic model used in the past, where power companies were able to blackmail utilities and the public into committing to large scale centralized base load power sources like big coal and big nuke plants, to provide base load power to meet peak load needs. There are a few states and corrupt politicians in this country still pushing subsidies, allowing utilities to charge customers for power not yet built and other models for allowing dinosaur power to continue to dominate the market, but like the collapse of WPPSS in Washington state, this model is collapsing in the US, and is already obviously failing in multiple other countries around the globe. Amory Lovins dealt with this issue in detail decades ago, but was a bit ahead of his time.

    So the only traditional source of power currently competitive is natural gas, but even that is finding it hard to compete against solar and wind which can be put on line quickly as compared to traditional base load facilities from traditional fuel sources. With additional gains being made in efficiency, which will drop demand, or at the very least help create some level of stability in demand, the non-carbon revolution is poised to happen and in fact though largely not noticed is already well underway.

    Needless to say, there are some flies in the ointment, but the point being that your message could really use some glass half full lets pull this together, as well as the unrelenting it is all going to hell.

    Many environmentalists have used the doom and gloom model to try and both convert and justify their message and existence (not to mention fund raising). This still though runs at odds with a fundamental principle of human nature, which is that there has to be something worth fighting for.

    So yes, the signs of imminent collapse are in fact there for all to see. Not the end of the earth, but could well be the end, or at least the eradication of the majority of the human population on the planet, which will likely take a huge number of species with us, but life is a bit more resilient than that.

    The truth of the matter though is that even the most logical, most atheist, and most humanist of us generally buys into a human centric model that has to result in the end of all things. Michelle Bachman and others of her ilk predict this, and you can look at any number of human myth systems which predict this as well. Seems kind of like the if I’m going to go I’m taking everyone with me model of greed and lack of empathy that is largely driving our modern culture.

    My own thoughts on this is that an end to creation as multiple religious tenants have predicted is in fact perfectly possible. The other side of the coin is that idiots to blind to work together to take, share and implement the best of options available are the most likely path to that end. We certainly can do better, and in my view better is demanded of us.

    Given I have been reading your work for a while, thought I would send a response. I like your call to make a difference and stand against those of the environmental persuasion who are giving in on things like certification of old growth forest harvest. On the other hand all depression and little hope sucks.

    For a better future.

    • Hi Greg,
      Doom and gloom is a dumb expression. I prefer blunt and truthful. I have spent much of my life studying the biosphere. There is much science known as planetary boundaries which indicates in fact the state of the biosphere is not secure under unrelenting human pressure. This includes my own peer reviewed science at: http://www.ecointernet.org/2014/08/04/biosphere_collapse/ . Technology is of little use if large scale ecosystem failure sets in, and a biosphere cannot be engineered.
      Regards,
      Glen

    • Philip van Niekerk says:

      Hi there Greg. Well thought out and written response. I agree with both of you. The doom and gloom is a bit much sometimes. Makes me depressed and yes the wind and solar technology is increasing and becoming more prevalent.

      I think the main problem we all have is, and I quote you: “So yes, the signs of imminent collapse are in fact there for all to see. Not the end of the earth, but could well be the end, or at least the eradication of the majority of the human population on the planet, which will likely take a huge number of species with us”

      That’s the problem. That’s the problem we all face and no amount of solar and wind power can stop that. I’m from South Africa and what’s happening here is happening to a lot places around the world. Venezuela, Syria, Zimbabwe, Thailand. The big G8 countries are starting to collapse small developing countries’ economies. The price of living here in SA is getting ridiculous and food, shelter, water and electricity are all now more expensive than in the US. And we’re going through a 5 year drought. We have 27% unemployment and getting worse, a stagnant economy and on of the most corrupt governments in the world.

      There are numerous laws here that ban private utility companies (fossil or renewable) from starting.

      The problem is that there are more bad news than good. How can you be optimistic when you yourself say that the majority of human beings will die and the bulk of our ecology is doomed?

  4. Michael says:

    convoluted.

  5. Phillip J Crabill says:

    Back in the late 1950’s I worked in a hospital medical lab doing blood and urinalysis. However on the weekends the bacteriologist was not there and I did put some surgical swabs into a tube of liquid to allow the bacteria on the swab to grow so the bacteriologist could examine them when she came in. In a few hours there would be thin thread of white in the center of the tube. Several hours later the white thread would be a cloud of white filling the tube. But hours after that ‘bloom’ the tube liquid would be clear and there would be a small amount of white dusk like particles on the bottom of the tube. The bacteria had consume all the available food in the solution and had died!!!!
    That is what we are doing to our planet — consuming all available food with no chance of growing more!!!!!

  6. David Fiske says:

    Blunt and truthful indeed. I grow most of my own vegetables in the summer and try to live in balance on my spot on earth. Too many people and too much greed. Maybe it is time for a cleansing. If we all meditated we’d get a different perspective in time. I am hoping to vanish into the All. See some of you there.

  7. Rudy Haugeneder says:

    Isaac Asimov, in the 10th paragraph prologue of his 1989 novel NEMESIS wrote: “Why was it he felt no sorrow? Humanity could not continue as it was. It was dying slowly through its own misdeeds. If it exchanged a slow exruciating death for a much faster one, was that a cause for sorrow?”

  8. I will be featuring this on my sites tomorrow in the lead. The amount of news coming out is incredible and bad of course. I highly doubt the genie can be put back in the bottle at this point. I fear the methane tipping point has been crossed. Dr. Barry, you are, I am sure up to date on the new information. I have several things listed on my fb page for those who want to catch up, you can look it up.

  9. Bill Boteler says:

    This may contain a lot of truth. I work on marketing of conservation. I’m not making money from it. I think most people just can’t deal with this and will shut down. If I were trying to convey the same information I’d be wary of causing people to get depressed and try to some hopeful news to mix into it. It’s hard but this is how people are wired – at least what I think.

    • Hi Bill,
      If I had cancer, I would want the whole truth presented to me in order to have the best prognosis. If we really want to turn this around, there is nothing to be gained by pulling punches. We need to understand what is at stake. And those that can’t handle it are the problem. This should only increase your zeal for the lifelong lover affair I know you have had with Earth and all the good works you continue to do. And as you know in other essays we try to accentuate the positive if possible. In this one we chose not too. I guess that is what is called poetic license 😉
      Regards,
      Glen

  10. Kevin Hester says:

    Great blog post that covers most of the coming collapse with the omission that the imminent collapse of industrial civilisation will include the melt down of 450 odd nuclear plants and their 1200 spent fuel pool fires which will leave the planet bathing in ionising radiation for eternity in some form or other.
    Lets not forget the thousands of nuclear warheads which if not used in the final battle for habitat will simply decompose in their silos creating nuclear micro-systems pulsing radionuclides into the atmosphere.
    Dystopia is coming no matter how we look at it.

  11. William says:

    The World is not Dead. I have practiced Natural Resource Management and single tree selection harvesting. I have noticed somethings. Old abandon homes, are overtaken by nature. Areas that were once a yard, are slowly converted into a forest, fields of hay not maintain return to forest lands. Succession is occuring everywhere in this world. It does not stop, nature finds a while to recover and heal itself. Gloom and doom that is preached by alot of people here on the internet, have not idea. Nature is vibrant, we may not have the same diversity and richness in our ecosystem, but nature does recover. Succession is apart of the life cycle of this plant, just like the rock cycle is apart of this plant. Don’t believe me, take picture of any abandoned place and then come back 5, 10, 15, 20, 25, 30 years and see the progression. We do as stewards of our lands should take better care of our lands.

  12. Free Spirit says:

    Spiritual Master Free Spirit shares a message to the Human Race as an Emissary of Source. The Truth about Biosphere Collapse, ETs, climate change and imminent ecological catastrophe. Why Planet Earth is dying and the human race is in existential crisis. The role of ETs in enabling some to leave the Earth prior to these events.

    Biosphere Collapse is coming 2017/2018 with Human Extinction at point 2022-2025. Runaway climate change has already begun resulting in a planetwide continental cleansing and the end of all human life on Earth. Why the process cannot be stopped and the spiritual implications of being incarnated on a dying world.

    The matter of ETs appearing in the Earth Plane and what happens to a planetary civilization such as humanity at the point of collapse.

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