Ebola Is Ecosystem Collapse

Ebola Is Ecosystem Collapse

The global environment is collapsing and dying under the weight of inequitable over-population and ecosystem loss.

“We learn the meaning of enough and how to share or it is the end of being.” ― Dr. Glen Barry

Deep ecology essay by Dr. Glen Barry, EcoInternet | MORE: Read about Love in the Time of Ebola
The surging Ebola epidemic is the result of broad-based ecological and social collapse including rainforest loss, over-population, poverty and war. This preventable environmental and human tragedy demonstrates the extent to which the world has gone dramatically wrong as ecosystem collapse, inequity, grotesque injustice, religious extremism, nationalistic militarism, and resurgent authoritarianism threaten our species and planet’s very being.
Any humane person is appalled by the escalating Ebola crisis, and let’s be clear expressing these concerns regarding causation is NOT an attempt to hijack a tragedy. Things happen for a reason, and Ebola was preventable, and future catastrophes of potentially greater magnitude can be foreseen and avoided by the truth.
The single greatest truth underlying the Ebola tragedy is that humanity is systematically dismantling the ecosystems that make Earth habitable. In particular, the potential for Ebola outbreaks and threats from other emergent diseases is made worse by cutting down forests [1]. Exponentially growing human populations and consumption – be it subsistence agriculture or mining for luxury consumer items – are pushing deeper into African old-growth forests where Ebola circulated before spillover into humans.
Poverty stricken communities in West Africa are increasingly desperate, and are eating infected “bushmeat” such as bats and gorilla, bringing them into contact with infected wildlife blood. Increasingly fragmented forests, further diminished by climate change, are forcing bats to find other places to live that are often amongst human communities.
Some 90% of West Africa’s original forests have already been lost. Over half of Liberia’s old-growth forests have recently been sold for industrial logging by President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf’s post-war government. Only 4% of Sierra Leone’s forest cover remains and they are expected to totally disappear soon under the pressure of logging, agriculture, and mining.
My recently published peer-reviewed scientific research [2] on ecosystem loss and biosphere collapse indicates more natural ecosystems have been lost than the global environment can handle without collapsing. Recently published science reports that 50% of Earth’s wildlife has died (in fact been murdered) in the last 40 years [3].
Loss of natural life-giving habitats has consequences. We are each witnesses to and participants in global ecosystem collapse.
There are other major social ills which potentially foster global pandemics. Rising inequity, abject poverty, and lack of justice threaten Earth’s and humanity’s very being. These ills and global ecosystem collapse are causing increased nationalistic war, migration and rise of authoritarian corporatism. West Africa has been ravaged by war and poverty for decades, which shows little signs of abating, particularly since natural habitats for community based sustainable development are nearly gone.
War breeds disease. It is no coincidence that the 1918 flu pandemic – the last great global disease outbreak that killed an estimated 50-100 million – occurred just as the ravages of World War I were ending. Conditions after ecosystems are stripped by over-population and poverty are not that different – each providing ravaged landscapes that are prime habitat for disease organisms.
West Africa’s ecological collapse has brought people into contact with blood from infected animals causing the Ebola epidemic. Once human infection occurs, ecologically denuded, conflict ridden, over-populated, and squalid impoverished communities are ripe for a pandemic. As the Ebola virus threatens to become endemic to the region, it potentially offers a permanent base from which infections can indefinitely continue to spread globally.
Since 911 America has slashed all other spending as it militarizes, viewing all sources of conflict as resolvable by waging perma-war. Africa needs doctors and the U.S. sends the military. Both terrorism and infectious disease are best prevented by long-term investments in equitably reducing poverty and meeting human needs – including universal health-care, living wage jobs, education, family planning, and establishment of greater global medical rapid response capabilities.
We are all in this together. Our over-populated, over-consuming, inequitable human dominated Earth continues to wildly careen toward biosphere collapse as sheer sum consumption overwhelms nature. West Africa’s 2010 population of 317 million people is still growing at 2.35%, and is expected to nearly double in 25 years, even as squalor, lack of basic needs, ecosystem loss, and pestilence increase. This can never, ever be ecologically or socially sustainable, and can only end in ruin.
Equity, education, condoms, and lower taxes and other incentives to stabilize and then reduce human population are a huge part of the solution for a just, equitable, and sustainable future. Otherwise Earth will limit human numbers with Ebola and worse. It may be happening already.
We are one human family and in a globalized world no nation is an island unto itself. By failing to invest in reducing poverty and in meeting basic human needs in Africa and globally (even as we temporarily enrich ourselves by gorging upon the destruction of their natural ecosystems), we in the over-developed world ensure that much of the world is fertile ground for disease and war. There is no way to keep Ebola and other social and ecological scourges out of Europe and America if they overwhelm the rest of humanity.
Ebola is what happens when the rich ignore poverty, as well as environmental and social decline, falsely believing they are not their concern. There can be no security ever again for anybody as long as billions live in abject poverty on a couple dollars a day as a few hundred people control half of Earth’s wealth.
We learn the meaning of enough and how to share or it is the end of being.
Walmart parking lots and iPads don’t sustain or feed you. Healthy ecosystems and land do. The hairless ape with opposable thumbs – that once showed so much potential – has instead become an out of control, barbaric and ecocidal beast with barely more sentience of its environmental constraints than yeast on sugar.
Ebola is very, very serious but can be beat with public health investments, coming together and showing courage, and by dealing with underlying causes. In the short-term, it is absolutely vital that the world organizes a massive infusion of doctors and quarantined hospital beds into West Africa immediately, even as we work on the long-term solutions highlighted here.
Ultimately commitments to sustainable community development, universal health care and education, free family planning, global demilitarization, equity, and ecosystem protection and restoration are the only means to minimize the risk of emergent disease. Unless we come together now as one human family and change fast – by cutting emissions, protecting ecosystems, having fewer kids, ending war, investing in ending abject poverty, and embracing agro-ecology – we face biosphere collapse and the end of being.
A pathway exists to global ecological sustainability; yet it requires shared sacrifice and for us all to be strong, as we come together to vigorously resist all sources of ecocide. It is up to each and every one of us to commit our full being to sustaining ecology and living gently upon Earth… or our ONE SHARED BIOSPHERE collapses and being ends
I desperately hope that Ebola does not become a global pandemic killing hundreds of millions or even billions. But if it does, it is a natural response from an Earth under siege defending herself from our own ignorant yet willful actions. We have some urgent changes to make as a species, let’s get going today before it is too late.
[1] We Are Making Ebola Outbreaks Worse by Cutting Down Forests: Mother Jones
[2] Barry, G. (2014), “Terrestrial ecosystem loss and biosphere collapse”, Management of Environmental Quality, Vol. 25 No. 5, pp. 542-563. Read online for personal use only: http://bit.ly/MEQ_Biosphere
[3] Living Planet Index: Zoological Society of London and WWF


  1. Africa’s population has doubled since 1950, putting massive strain on the ecosystem by people who show little ability to live within their means unless constrained by high mortality rates. Good luck Ebola, you have much work to do.

    1. Can hardly blame Africa when they are under the thumb of nations like China and France. They are only slaves fuelling corporate greed which in turn falls down onto consumers like ourselves craving gold and rare earth metals for the next meaningless fashion accessory. These puppet govt.s or dictators we prop up in return for access to national assets or resources feeding our false green electricty generation that allows global forests in addition to be turned into fuel pellets to power our decadent lifestyles. It is the western shadow banking industry that allows all of this stolen wealth to be hidden away and reinvested within acceptable society. It is modern capitalism that puts a price on everything, even that which is sacred and has no price because its very worth lies in it existing and living. It is not Africa it is all of us.

  2. Words of wisdom, I fully agree.
    Overpopulation has always concerned me, I remember being puzzled and worried about it already as a child (back in the 80’s) and the numbers now -compared to 30 years ago- are staggering.
    Add to that the fact that life span has also increased in most parts of the world, which also adds to the equation.
    Sadly, we have completely lost contact with Nature, our primary Mother and only Home. As if the Earth was disposable and we could just fly off to another planet as soon as the trash can is full and the fridge empty.
    It always surprises me how so many people believe there is a heaven after life (and I don’t mean to criticize any religious beliefs here). Just watch an astronomy documentary and you’ll soon realize that heaven is RIGHT HERE, it’s our beautiful planet itself. So colorful, so rich, so diverse, so full of life (well, a little too full of the species “Humans”, a dangerous parassite). Whereas our neighbouring planets are mute, frozen or boiling, lifeless, monotonous, boring, sad.
    My message to those reading here and to the author of this essay is to stress one important, major and feasible step into (trying) to reverse this destructive process: to switch to a vegan diet. For many good reasons:
    A major variable in the pollution equation is meat consumption and dairy: they are key factors to deforestation, water consumption, green-house effect, third-world starvation, antibiotics’ resistance… Need I say more?
    One pound of meat (which needs 13 pounds of grain to be produced), will feed 1 person for 1 day, whereas those same 13 pounds of grain can feed that person for several weeks. And that’s without even considering the ethical aspect (that an animal, with the same desire to live that you have, has been exploited and killed to become your food).
    As to water, just think that nearly half of all the water used in the United States goes to raising animals for food… It takes more than 2,400 gallons of water to produce 1 pound of meat, while growing 1 pound of wheat only requires 25 gallons. You save more water by not eating a pound of meat than you do by not showering for six months!
    And even antibiotics resistances (as in antibiotic medicines that have become ineffective): it’s not so much the GP who too easily prescribes an antibiotic to his patients, it’s the MEAT and DAIRY industries who, by default, feed literally tons of antibiotics to their animals to make sure each and every one of them can turn into a sausage or burger and not make them lose any profit.
    The reason why so many VITAL antibiotics, medicines that could save your own or your child’s life from meningitis or major bacterial infections, are becoming inefficient is because of the excessive and irrational use of antibiotics by the meat and dairy industry.
    Last but not least: a compassionate and humane way of life makes for kinder, more gentle and attentive human beings.
    Like stated in the essay, we are all interconnected (beyond species, genders, religions, nationalities…) and it is time that we start disconnecting our smartphones and try reconnecting a bit with the real world, with other people, with our beautiful Mother Earth, with all earthlings. It has been like that for the greatest part of our history, we can’t ignore it. And if we do, Ebola or some other deadly disease or a major war will take care of it, as done in the past.
    Because rude guests, sooner or later, are always shown the way out.

  3. The responsibility of the Earth is in all our hands. God gave us the responsibility of caring and taking care of the earths animals and the forests, but greed has lead us to keep taking from it and giving nothing back, we are led by ignorance. The male population especially needs to learn to stop making babies and stop destroying the animal kingdom. And when I say that everyone is up in arms about being sexist, it’s not all men I know, but it’s not the women that are raping and pillaging and committing crime and mayhem it’s the men. Give up eating meat, it’s archaic, humans don’t need to keep killing and eating the animals. Get rid of the guns and start implementing ways to harness the earths resources. We as humanity have been given the power to either create or destroy. It’s all up to US the Universal Self. We are ONE. God is waiting on the side lines watching to see when we’ll wake up and start listening. Put the Love back into Earth. <3

    1. Amen yes time to stop the madness,if not God will use the earth to destroy mankind it happened in the past many times that is why Rome.Egypt,Greece and many other nations on this earth was destroyed look at easter island they cut down the trees only statutes on the Island also let’s get women to be educated uneducated women have too many babies no control of sexuality. Having children outside of wedlock everything is wrong on this earth.

  4. Mess with Mother Earth and She messes back. Mother Earth wins. Hope I won’t be around to see it. It will be UGLY but not undeserved. We have been asking for it for a long long time.

  5. I understand and agree the gist of this article as a general sweeping statement about the predicament we humans find ourselves in. However, to link ebola directly to the very real deforestation etc, is stretching it a bit. Many plagues have turned up since humans formed larger groups, so since the start of cities maybe 8000 years ago. Bush meat has been consumed since times immemorial. Black swan events will happen that will speed up the collapse of human civilization in the decades to come, but I doubt it will be Ebola as long as the spread is not airborne. Despite the personal local tragedy of those caught in the plague, I even doubt if ebola till date has even made a dent in the growth of the local population.

  6. One of the most important things to counter uncontrolled population growth is the empowerment of women in the 3rd world.

  7. Holistic sense- our push for regenerative agro-ecological technologies are being overwhelmed by cynical multinational interests out to indenture producers and land managers – for a quick buck . The west must set a better example for the rest to follow.

  8. The only real solution, as I see it, is population reduction. We need an all-out campaign, not just in places like India, Indonesia, Africa but in the USA and Europe…even Canada, to focus on quality of human live, not quantity. People need to adopt a practice of not producing additional people ie. a couple (2 persons) should not have more than 2 children. We can also promote the option of NOT HAVING CHILDREN at all.
    Otherwise, all these children are doomed.

  9. stop the overpopulation nonsense. Places like the Netherlands and Singapore do fine – even though the number of people per sq km are many, many times that of Africa – even for the States affected. High population growth rates are reduced by education, especially the education of women and not by spreading Ebola. I am disgusted to read comments about population control through Ebola – please try that only on your own families.

    1. Those countries derive resources and food from far afield and have an oversized impact upon ecosystems. You are ecologically ignorant if you believe we can go from 1 billion to 7 billion+ in 130 years – losing 50% of topsoil, 90% of large fish, 80% of old-growth forests – and not impact the environment. I suggest educating yourself.

  10. Robert is SO right. We will not reduce our numbers and so Nature has to do it. Three cheers for Mother Nature. Ebola – bring it on.

  11. This is a great text, but how can one talk about corporate control, about ebola (if this was a disease on a rich continent a remedy would exist since a long time), about movements as Occupy without speaking about Capitalism. Stop accumulation, organise production and consumption based on the real needs of planet and people, and we’ll get a whole way.

    1. Dr. Glen’s comments are so true. Overpopulation is THE world problem and as we do not control our numbers Nature will. I was hoping ebola would have greatly reduced our numbers but, sadly, this is not the case.

  12. We humans are the plague on this planet unless we all do our bit to get back to nature. I agree with what you are saying Dr Barry. Unfortunately, I believe that people are too selfish to change and that we as a species are heading for extinction.

  13. Your nightmare prophesy that “Earth may die” is a sad joke to me. It points to the insane notion that people are special and at the center of the universe.
    I agree we are currently running toward the edge of a cliff but… It is We The Super Shopper Sheeple running towards the cliff.
    After we over the cliff the earth will renew and repair and go on. Perhaps the next “intelligent” species will get it right.
    The assumption of an over populated earth is also false.
    We definitely have a HUGE problem with over consumption of bull shit.
    The statements – “overwhelming forces of seven billion super predators having overgrazed their habitat” and “more over-consumption by all” are totally false.
    Most of the people in the world don’t have basic needs. It is a tiny fraction of western style consumer idiots that are doing ALL of the damage.
    Happily it is these idiots that are most at risk.
    Many of the people in isolated places with no connection to the consumer society probably will survive and be the seed for the next attempt at a rational society.
    Your dismissal of technology as being a solution is also way out in left field to me.
    This is all about evolution.
    We have gone through wood, coal, fossil fuel, nuclear, bio-fuel, etc. as energy sources. None of which are sustainable or green.
    When we pull our heads out and phase into really sustainable sources of energy we will take off and soar into a heaven on earth.
    Hey – You Gotta Dream!

    1. We are all doing environmental damage, though the elites is more far ranging and greater in magnitude, those living in crippling poverty also greatly damage ecosystems. There is a large amount of science pointing to how planetary boundaries have been exceeded which you may want to read before discounting the assertions here including http://bit.ly/MEQ_Biosphere

  14. It is SO sad that short sighted people like Nicolaas does not see that the world is hideously overpopulated. We can all dream but some of us face reality. There is no hope for his type.

  15. Adrian – I suggest as a good will gesture you commit suicide and start the ball rolling.
    What an insane crock of shit in here on this important subject. Nicolaas hit the nail on the head.
    I agree we are currently running toward the edge of a cliff but…
    It is We The Super Shopper Sheeple running towards the cliff.
    It is a tiny fraction of western style consumer idiots that are doing ALL of the damage.
    Happily it is these idiots that are most at risk.
    After we go over the cliff the earth will renew and repair and go on.
    Perhaps the next “intelligent” species will get it right.
    The assumption of an over populated earth is totally false.
    We definitely have a HUGE problem with our over consumption of bull shit and using crazy amounts of polluting energy but…
    Most of the people in the world don’t have basic needs.
    Many of the people in isolated places with no connection to the consumer society probably will survive and be the seed for the next attempt at a rational society.
    I don’t hear much of that in here.

  16. Paul, As a genuine environmentalist who has never reproduced and never will , why should I not be allowed to TRY and educated blind-folded people like you who choose to not see how overpopulated the world is ?. One air borne virus will solve the problem. Watch this space.

    1. Adrian – Glad to hear you never re-produced. You (of course) are allowed to spout your bull shit to any one who will listen. If you all heed the call of too many folks on the planet and commit suicide to point the way it will be a win win situation.
      The rest of us will be able to deal with the evolving situation in a rational and sane way.

      1. Not sure why you seem to be so wound up about this Paul? Overpopulation is a fact and the “rest of us” have NOT dealt with the situation in a rational and sane way. We are even now killing the oceans with our pollution and global warming. What is rational and sane about that? There have always been to many people like you who prefer to pretend that all is well and we need to do nothing. I think we need to start focussing on the quality of human life, not the quantity.

  17. Recent weeks had been characterised by attacks which “indiscriminately” targeted civilians, including one which resulted in the deaths of at least 21 people.”
    To complicate matters, a period of mourning had forced the temporary shutdown of WHO operations in the area.
    Problems were being made worse by ignorance about the illness in some areas.
    Dr Salama said most of the community was engaging with health workers but said: “We do see really difficult pockets of community reluctance, refusal and resistance.

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