Time of Great Dying: Population Bomb Bursts, the End of Old-Growth Forests, and the Great Awakening

Exponential human population growth can only end in collapse (courtesy of Population Matters)
Gaia, the living biosphere, is infested with humans. Not just any humans, but the type that grow fat and reproduce exponentially by liquidating natural ecosystems. The population bomb has burst and we are seeing daily the predicted consequences of collapse and death in the climate, water, oceans, and on the land. Having spent much of my life working to protect Earth’s last naturally evolved primary forests from logging for inequitable over-consumption, I am today ready to declare defeat. Preserving Earth’s last large old-growth forests is a lost cause as there are simply too many people. This Time of Great Dying is unlikely to end well unless a global ecology ethic – including a sense of ENOUGHNESS, just population reductions, ending fossil fuels, and massive ecological restoration – is widely embraced with all haste in an unprecedented and overdue Great Awakening.
By Dr. Glen Barry, EcoInternet

“The idea that we can just keep growing forever on a finite planet is totally imbecilic…” – Paul Ehrlich, Author of The Population Bomb
“Over-population has destroyed Earth’s last large natural old-growth forest ecosystems, aided and abetted by traitors to the cause… It is up to each of us to develop a keen sense of enoughness, which among other things means no old-growth forest products.” – Dr. Glen Barry

Inequitable over-population will kill us all
In 90 years – a blink of an eye in ecological and geological time – the human population has gone from two billion to over seven billion. Another one billion people are added every 12-15 years, such exponential growth in human population can only end in collapse. Of these, a billion extravagantly over-consume (including a few hundred individuals who have amassed half of Earth’s wealth) as another billion live in abject poverty on less than $1.50 a day.
Concurrently capitalism has manufactured all types of artificial needs for consumption to which the vast majority aspire, and which can never be universalized at current population densities. Thus globally devastating inequity is assured. Each of these manufactured desires is fulfilled through apocalyptic polluting of the atmosphere and liquidating of natural ecosystems that have evolved over eons and make Earth habitable.
Over-populated, inequitable over-consumption literally dismembers Gaia – the living Earth – to gorge upon her ill-gotten limbs.
As long anticipated, the population bomb has burst, and we are witnessing the impact upon the natural world. The result of such democratic consumption has been our current Time of Great Dying – an epic cataclysm of death and destruction rained down by humanity upon all non-human life and their assemblages into natural wildlife populations, plant communities, ecosystems, and landscapes. Humans, after all, are animals too. It is not normal for populations of an organism to grow so rapidly, or for an organism to so quickly destroy its own habitat. When this does occur in nature, the result is always mass death and system collapse.
Earth is being killed and eaten
Everywhere a trained eye looks, one can see the tawdry, traumatized remains of much diminished organic biological life upon an immense ecocidal battlefield. Oceans are plagued by overfishing and dead-zones, the climate is failing before our very eyes, wetlands and soils are much diminished, natural sources of water are increasingly scarce, wildlife has been decimated in a reign of terror, and natural terrestrial ecosystems have virtually disappeared. And the murder of remnant bits of nature that still exist continues unabated.
Over the past century throughout much of the world naturally evolved millions of year old old-growth forests have in short order simply been mowed to be replaced by farms, homes, and strip malls for the ever burgeoning bourgeois population of over-consumers. We poorly measure human advancement by the speed whereby this growth machine dismembers our ecological habitat.
As long predicted in the ecological classic The Population Bomb, Earth’s natural ecosystems have been overrun. Not unlike bacteria in a petri dish, industrial humans are reproducing (and many over-consuming) uncontrollably, on track to quickly surpass their ecological base. Such a nefarious enterprise is already leading to collapse and mass death.
Earth is finite. There are biogeochemical limits to the amount of energy produced on Earth, to the number of any given organism that can be supported by a unit of land, and to natural ecosystems’ absorptive capacity for waste. Numerous planetary boundaries – including climate change and terrestrial ecosystem loss – have already been surpassed as Earth spirals out of control in a state of profound ecological overshoot.
We are in the Time of Great Dying.
Fully protecting Earth’s last large old-growth forests is a lost cause
Having spent much of my life working to protect Earth’s last naturally evolved primary forests from being logged for inequitable over-consumption, I am ready today to declare defeat.
The campaign to maintain large old-growth forests is lost. What old forests remain are emasculated fragments of their former ecological and evolutionary brilliance. Earth’s old-growth forest heritage has been dismembered through logging, saturated in nitrogen, cleansed of large wildlife, and have become sources rather than sinks of carbon pollution.
How could it have ended any other way when the organizations self-tasked decades ago with maintaining ancient forests instead started spouting nonsense regarding how they should be “sustainably” logged and creating “certified” markets for doing so? No large, natural forest can long withstand the demands of 7 billion super predators bent upon their destruction for lawn furniture and toilet paper, particularly when billions over-consume opulently as billions lack basic needs.
More old-growth forests and other natural ecosystems have been lost than the biosphere can bear. Over-population has destroyed Earth’s last natural forest ecosystems, aided and abetted by traitors to the cause. You know who you are and may you live your final days in shame and despair for your old-growth logging treachery.
It is pure ecocidal madness to individually and societally continue to live in a manner that it known with certainty will kill us all. Despite vast strides in knowledge and understanding of ecological science truths by specialists, most of the world and its leaders wallow in willful ignorance. Many are too concerned with the comfort of their individual nerve endings to understand that their ecological context of being, which they as organic beings utterly depend upon for everything, is collapsing and dying.
Slews of technologies are developed and then misused to exacerbate over-population and over-consumption. Inordinate amounts of energy are put into techno-optimist schemes that far from obviating ecological limits, simply postpone them as ecosystems are driven even further beyond sustainability. There is no technology that can safe us.
There is one last hope. We must now embrace an age of ecological restoration, to allow what fragments of natural ecosystem still exist to age, recover, and expand. Of course this would presuppose that we stop logging the last old-growth forest fragments, instead maintaining all old forests as genetic seed stocks and ecological models. We must return to the garden even as we learn to live with the sadness (for however long we have) that we willfully destroyed the ancient ecological tapestry of being from which humanity and all life evolved and have been forever sustained.
We best help old forests grow back fast from what remains of native old-growth forests or we are toast. Much potential exists for agro-forestry and perma-culture enmeshed within regenerating natural ecosystems. Only returning to the land to tend our gardens and rebuild ecosystems can prolong and possibly sustain human being.
Earth is Everything
The answer is less.
Less people. Less stuff. Less inequity. Less technology. Less industry. Less emissions. Less toxics. Less hate. Less war. Less religion. Less ignorance. And fast.
We need less of everything; except for far more natural ecosystems, sharing, truth, justice, and love.
Only by limiting our own fertility and consumption can the human family avoid biosphere collapse and the end of being. It is up to each of us to develop a keen sense of enoughness, which among other things means no old-growth forest products.
A mammoth coordinated program of population control, ecosystem restoration, renewable energy, industrial degrowth, and total disarmament are our only chance to avoid utter ruin. We must hold onto our humanity as massive extreme weather, authoritarian demagoguery, thirst, and famine of our own making ravage an ill-treated Earth.
Only then can the human family together make its way back to the garden.
Reducing population growth and inequity, and then absolute human numbers, is deviously simple: educate all girls too, free birth control and a universal basic income, provide meaningful work (including restoring ecosystems) and human services with funds realized by demilitarization, and tax the birth of children. And learning to share with and love one another. Seems like a small price to avoid an apocalyptic end of being.
Believe in a better world and make it so.
Only by getting back to the land and making a righteous living which creates more ecology than it consumes can you overcome post-modern humanity’s bacteria like destructive instincts. We each choose every day whether we are part of the Great Dying, or its antithesis, the Great Awakening. Time for each of us to decide, are you part of the disease afflicting the Earth, or the cure?


  1. Yes, I, too have been feeling, seeing and crying out against our collision course with a dead, impoverished planet of our own making. I have defended endangered species and places, biodiversity, forests and open green spaces – To no avail. Shared your post – Also thought you might be interested in this, assuming you haven’t already read this – Peace, and thank you. http://www.filmsforaction.org/articles/have-you-heard-of-the-great-forgetting/

  2. Dear Glen,
    I think it’s too late to stop the Great Dying. It must come.
    Like the previous 5 Dying offs. As you say, we’re overpopulated.
    I love your voice.
    I wish we could save ourselves—I believed until recently that we could—but now I don’t think so. It’s the natural order for the pendulum to swing. It will swing with equal & opposite force.
    I still read your essays.
    Thank you for writing them.
    With love & admiration, Maite

  3. Dear Glen,
    If you won’t keep fighting for the old growth gorests that remain you are saying to give up on millions of species. I cannot support that. It’s my main cause in life now. I stick with this impossible cateer and I’m now in it and can’t just give up

    1. Hi Bill,
      What I wrote was highly nuanced. I have acknowledged that large primary forests are not going to remain intact. Even as I called for continuing to protect them as seed and models for restoration. No one is giving up, just being realistic.

  4. Dear Glen Barry,
    I have been campaigning for World Peace for seven years, via Facebook groups, pages, petitions, posts, shared articles (EcoInternet included with a link in my web site) and I know how you feel about the mission impossible. I have a small group of people who have backed my project which includes ecosystem, wildlife, humanity and domestic animals issues for 7 years, and every time I tell them I’m going to throw it in by so and so date they tell me I can’t throw it in. The internet could have done so much good, but I have come see it as a crime infested hub where people with genuine care about this Planet and the Life it carries have no hope of getting their message across. You’re doing a great job, just keep doing it if you can, but don’t stress sir, maybe you have something to fall back on for your own well being – in my case for instance that is a classical guitar, I go out and play music for people to get away from that computer.

  5. Dear Glen,
    You are absolutery right, but who will hear you? Only some individuals, because people as a mass do not govern themselves by charity and reason: concupiscence is the main driver. The remedies that you suggest could be efficient, but adopting them would need some type of moral revolution. The forces of money and political power are probaly aware of that an making their best to avoid such a revolution.

  6. Rather than focusing on what we don’t want we should embrace a more spiritual existence, returning to our natural being of peace, love and connection and accessing our innate wisdom, creativity and compassion. Then our wanton destruction of our home will cease almost miraculously.

  7. Hi Glen, never give up! If we are going to lose this war, then we must all go down fighting to the last. While the forests are still standing, it’s not too late to save them. We have to campaign for large core areas of primary forest to be given total protection and your voice should keep on coming!

  8. This comment is made before reading Glenn’s article, and is intended to add circumstantial evidence.
    Cities by their nature are imperial hubs, necessarily colonizing areas outside their own. The latest manifestation of overpopulation, originally espoused by some anthropocentric ecologists and other scientists unwilling to face the truth of human overdensity, overpopulation, overmanagement, overexploitation, is the sociopolitical movement called yimby (short for yes in my backyard. Please look it up, rather than presume anything about this comme ntor or the word).
    As has been shown any system based on exogenous inputs must either continue to exploit those inputs, or collapse.
    Even the caged rodent experiments of the 20th century have shown cognitive/behavioral responses to excessive densities even when basic needs such as food and waste removal are met. What most may see as social and political dispute, is in actuality demonstration of the same breakdown as experienced by those unfortunate laboratory rodentiae. Remove the obfuscation of symbolic verbal rhetoric, and the same problems are naked before you.
    I will not mention most by name, as a sitstorm of rhetoric by those aligned with those epigenetically and otherwise changed by relentless overdensity and dissociation from the real world to which we are adapted, would ensue. I already disguise my own appellations, as I’ve had to reject the course of human society and the deceitful self-aggrandizement upon which it is based.
    This is not a war, but merely attempts by members of a coalition-making primate to preserve their perceived ingroup(s).
    It will not be resolved by compassion, although in exploring the cognition and behaviors of many animals, I do feel that laissez-faire compassion is the only natural course and cognition. I have had discussion in depth with MD’s and some engineers who believe that tey can somehow extract this massive population overshoot from its natural fate.
    The situation is not in the least catastrophic for Homo sapiens – they will fish down the food chain, straining krill (it’s already on the market in varying forms) while continuing argument, violence, internecine war, until their populations are sufficiently fragmented so as to cease impinging upon one another’s exploited “resources.”
    It will take several catastrophic and demographic events to bring the species into the undulating ecological balance tat can afford a slow ecological successional return of diversity.
    The AAAS periodically emails to renew my membership, when that organization is actually largely composed of and led by engineers, who like economists, consistently attempt to exclude variables unadvantageous to their simplistic goals.
    Nations and entrepreneurs increasingly mine (both toxifying the earth and the minds of the young) with the idea taty they will somehow colonize and occupy other planets. This, even as relatively minor irruptions of tiny portions of their individual biomes and immune systems strike down individuals who remain too isolated from their natural environment. Without going further into this fantasy, it is already known that simple systems oscillate in ways leading to fast collapse, and that unshielded by atmosphere, and gravity, bodies have highly increased vulnerability to similar chaotic oscillation. Neither can the earth be further mined to support human colonies.
    Some here understand population viability analysis; I would suggest that to estimate a viable number of humans (yes, I understand positive and negative density dependence etc.), you extend thhat World Population Growth graph backward for the 350 or so thousand years of our exact species time. You will see that ecologically functional populations belong along te long undulating level part of populations graphs, NOT at any point were a single massive expansion occurs.
    Yes, there appears to have been a bottleneck or two perhaps around 100,000 and 160-200,000 ya.
    We are a species tat can live in numerous tropical and subtropical habitats, along withh a diminishing number in temperate and even rather arctic habitats.
    But thhe likely sustainable population is one probaly exceeded during the North American megafauna extinction crisis, and certainly not later.
    THere are estimations of the utility of hybridizing indian elephants with en gineered mammoth DNA, in order to repopulate the Tundra and taiga with animals whose activities might prevent highly accelerated methane release on land. There are numerous other fixes, but te problem remains – Homo sapiens is a highly decpetive and self-deceptive organism, and even should it serendipitously fall back to 5 millionor so, it will again experience exponential growth, due to retention of inn ovative technology. We will still graph like rabbits without predators.
    Top-down societies like the perhaps 10 millennia Chinese agriculturalist may grow in relative peace, but they will STILL effect the same exclusion, wiping out natural wild species, seek to exploit extraterritorial systems, and repeat the explosive growth.
    It is admirable to me that some seek rewilding, as do I, the creation of no-go/no-exploit connected naturally-evolving systems. The present ease of creating distance-killing weapons (firearms) obviates success, though. The greedy omnivore, released from predation and its limited place in the biosphere, is fortunately also causing accelerated microbial evolution, and even some of the offensive policies voiced in several nations may assist in bringing our population under control.
    I have seen death closeup and personal, and predatino which cause my natural ingroup-promoting mind to improve into that laissez-faire compassion. I ave just e experienced even the loss of the best male parent I’ve ever known, a 31 year-old, well-placed engineer. I do not vilify that which took him, and have endless compassion for those he has left. But the wolf taught me that ALL is change, and that there are brilliant beings born altricial, who develop blazingly fast into better caretakers and balancers of the earth than ever our kind has been or could be.
    We with our technology have been too quick to elevate ourselves in number and in value. Our place is small.

  9. Oh Glenn,
    Another million humans are introduced every 4 1/2 DAYS.
    THese numbers are far too large for anyone ot comprehend. We can cognitively handle only 150 or so, before falling into sterotyping, dehumanizing, generalizing about those least related or least personally acquainted.
    This number will not and cannot change, because the very brain that evolved with local populations never successfully inhabiting a local territory due to clear reasons of carrying capacity, developed those exclusionary heuristics in response to ecological limits.
    Any organism able to avoid those heuristics that serve a vital purpose – using what we may term negative emotions to help us fission, would be far different than we in many ways, including an ethical inability to do significant violence to one another (i strongly suspect, although this is speculation). It would also, concurrently have to remain at sufficiently low numbers and densitites to evolve a far less exploitative use of its habitats.
    It could not clear land, poison its local water (look to the habits of dense unmanaged human populations to recognize what we are like!), poison or explode other organisms (if it did follow these human practices, it would soon require other habitats and/or niches).
    Predators rise and fall following their prey. Herbivores either settle or migrate, with migratory populations able to exceed the sedentary. This is due to the same constraining effect of microorganisms and other parasites and predators. Omnivores can migrate, which means that they tend to be pugnaciously homicidal. Whenever a local population destroys its habitat, it will upon emigration/dispersal, sooner or later run into its conspecifics already dispersed.
    We cannot manage habitats maintaining diversity. Some cultures have to some extent managed their own populations, but that appears to break down wen competing with conspecifics – Elevated birthrates are natural for species in which we have studied mortality pressure variations. We are one.
    We are at last discovering tat we cannot successfully manage except through extinguishing. I do not see an organism using this SARS/Marburg strategy as to be prized. One has to cancel their subscription to the resurrection of this violent primate.
    (Excuse my dysfunctional H key and other typos)

  10. So do we not need to look for any answers we can find to this terrible situation that is developing? We have to change our behavior, worldwide. But what is going to change our behavior? Will it simply be fear? I believe it will have to include, and in fact primarily be, a change in our ethics (beliefs about what we should do and motivation to do what we believe we should do). It should be apparent that we are extremely fragmented, disorganized, and ineffectual with regard to a basic ethical philosophy. What do we all agree is our basic set of ethical principles? Is this not the most important, comprehensive effort that our species must undertake to reverse our course on this planet, namely, to work on increasing agreement with regard to a basic ethical philosophy for us all, as a species, and to do that continually, recognizing that we will always have to adapt to events related to changes over time?
    I am requesting that anyone taking seriously this set of problems study the humanianity.com website, to see if it makes sense, and then especially to check out the Humanian Belief Manual, and if it seems to make sense, register within it and participate in the use of that new, worldwide tool. As more and more people participate, more and more will consider doing so. This will be an exponential movement, if it is actually successful. There is no guarantee of success, and in fact the odds may be low. But they are not zero, and at least I want to be one of those who tried. Please let me know if you find anything that is non-optimal about the Humanian Belief Manual, or have any suggestions for its further development.

  11. I realize that it’s not sufficient to shrink my carbon footprint, by driving less, flying less, supporting local farmers, having only two kids, etc. ; we need people to get more involved politically because that’s the only way we’ll take deep action to reduce greenhouse emissions, transition faster to renewable energy, and prepare for the difficult days ahead. What bothers me about your message is that it’s filled with hopelessness and despair. You ignore the people who have put their bodies on the line to stop tar sands oil pipelines. You ignore efforts by NYS citizens who were able to get Gov. Cuomo to ban fracking. We need words of encouragement, especially now, given the farce that is Washington, D.C. and rampant political apathy. I know we’re running out of time to do something about runaway climate change, but don’t beat on us every time you write an essay. There are good things happening out there and remember Gandhi’s words: It doesn’t matter how small an action you take; you must do that.”

  12. True and sadly so. I look out over trees to the horizon so I am fortunate. I do Tai Chi, Lok Hup etc outside most days even if I have to clear the snow away off my drive. I gardened organically for 25 years here. My golden cherry tomatoes were so sweet. See deer, sometimes black bear, hear coyotes. I have had a terrific life and so glad for that. At 78 now ready to drop the body any time. You can have the future with Trump, greed etc
    See: http://esotericarts.org/Essays.html#Movement amongst many other essays there.

  13. Before I begin, I’d like to state for the record that I agree that there are too many humans, and that our resource base on Earth is far too small to allow the entire human population living on Earth to day to live in the manner that First World humans do.
    But I beg to differ with your conclusion, that humans must abandon the pursuit of improving our lifestyles, improving our standards of living, instead returning to a primitive agrarian culture.
    Have you ever actually worked on a farm? Even modern farming methods cannot prevent farming from being labour intensive, but what you’re advocating for, that we go back to 1800s farming technology, is insane – there’s a reason that life-expectancis were so short even 100 years ago, FARMING WITH PRIMITIVE METHODS IS BACKBREAKING WORK!!!
    Your message is the same message that environmental activists have been preaching for decades, that “we have only 1 Earth, and we cannot want better for our children, we cannot allow a larger percentage of humans to improve their lives in the manner that the First World countries have already done”.
    You, and those like you, want to condemn the billions of people living in Third World countries to unending poverty, backbreaking labour, and to losing any hope for a better existence for themselves, and for their children’s children.
    When you talk about overpopulation, you’re talking about Third World countries, because First World countries already have declining populations. Without immigration, the population of Canada would decline, as would the populations of the US and most of Europe.
    So, not only are you condemning Third World countries to unending poverty, you also want to limit their right to have children?
    That’s why environmental organizations keep failing to make significant strides towards “healing our planet”, because they ignore the needs of people in the Third World!
    And you paint yourself as a bastion of morality?
    We do NOT live on “only one Earth”, we live in a solar system that has 8 major planets, dozens of dwarf planets, tens of thousands of asteroids and comets hundreds of large moons, all orbiting a natural fusion reactor that puts out more energy than a society 10,000 times larger than ours, using 100 times as much energy as our most energy hungry countries could ever use.
    There are moon’s that have surfaces made of frozen Methane, gas giant planets MADE of hydrogen, asteroids containing more metals than First World countries use in 5 years, and enough energy to power the entire Earth provided by our Sun every day!
    And you preach doom and gloom?
    Tell us that “there’s no choice, we must go back to nature” despite what such a change would mean, not only for us, but for our children’s children’s children?
    Environmentalists should be the biggest proponents of the Space Programs, ffs!
    Move polluting industries into orbit!
    Mine the Asteroid belt for metals!
    Put solar power satelites in orbit, beaming clean, safe energy down to Earth without causing ANY pollution!
    All of these things have been possible for DECADES!
    We could start doing these things TOMORROW, there’s no need for new technologies, ONLY THE WILL TO BEGIN TO SAVE OUR SPECIES, TO PROVIDE A BETTER LIFE FOR US ALL!
    “Only one Earth”, my ass!!!

    1. And there will be NO negative ramifications to changing the mass/gravitation and movements of all these astronomical elements interacting with our Earth, through our mining/removal and transporting of metals etc? Remember, everything is interconnected.
      I don’ believe anyone is wanting to leave struggling nations doomed, nor do I think cultivating a simpler, more meaningful life, with stronger COMMUNITY and family connections (and social protections), would be a bad thing. Right now we are easily mesmerized by shiny objects. Much to our detriment.
      Here is something to consider – Life was good enough and worthwhile enough, from our earliest beginnings, that humans not only thrived but felt moved to make music and create art and dance. All without the ‘leisure’ that the so-called Agricultural Revolution is claimed to have provided. Perhaps they were actually more deeply satisfied and happy than we are now.
      Do read this article at the link below, and then think on it before replying. http://www.filmsforaction.org/articles/the-great-forgetting/
      Thank you.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *