EARTH MEANDERS ESSAY
Key bio-geochemical patterns and processes that sustain the biosphere, and thus societies and wildlife populations, are failing. Only love, science, and nature can keep us safe and well. Or disease, ecological collapse, and despair rage until being ends. That is the truth, like it or not.
“What is all your studying worth, all your learning, all your knowledge, if it doesn’t lead to wisdom? And what’s wisdom but knowing what is right, and what is the right thing to do?” – Iain Banks
“Science informed and strengthened by love is our best bet to remain healthy and prosperous in these troubled times… Looming global ecological collapse including abrupt climate change is going to make the coronavirus pandemic look like a picnic in the park.” – Dr. Glen Barry
Love and Science
Anti-science sentiment and hateful rhetoric are in vogue in certain quarters. In a disturbingly relativistic age, we have lost track of profound truths upon which our shared well-being intimately depends. Many people live their lives as if scientific truths, the natural world, and empathy for those other than themselves and close loved ones, have no importance.
Much of humanity enjoys the material comforts of products and other advances derived through scientific processes. Ironically their inventors, who are experts in their fields, and have spent a lifetime mastering and contributing to all that is known about a topic, like scientific experts of all types, are often disregarded and even vilified. Anti-intellectualism is rife at great risk.
Response to the COVID-19 pandemic roiling America and the world has been profoundly disappointing. All of the above strands of thought come to mind. Yet in particular, I am horrified by the lack of focus upon the one hundred thousand Americans that have died and over a million sickened. This is more than thirty times the tragic horrific losses of 911.
Where is the empathy and outpouring of support for these equally innocent victims? America has become a hardened, soulless place where we don’t mourn our dead but instead focus upon how continuing mass death impacts our own conveniences. Even as the coronavirus is not yet contained.
It makes one wonder whether looming potentially catastrophic ecological crises can be responded to while maintaining our humanity.
Casual neglect of traditional wisdom, emerging knowledge, and traditional norms of civility threatens our very existence. We are constantly conditioned to hate all that is different or natural.
Let me share some objective, observable truths with you, that we disregard and fail to acknowledge at our own risk.
Biological life requires maintaining a narrow range of conditions. All living things require water. Economies are utterly dependent upon ecology.
Encroachment upon and destruction of natural ecosystems and wildlife result in emergent disease vectors. Stopping a pandemic requires reducing and eliminating pathways for disease transmission.
Earth is warmed as heat is trapped by atmospheric gases, an increase of which results in further warming. A given piece of land has a finite carrying capacity. Given their role in powering ecosystems, naturally evolved old-growth rainforests are worth more standing than logged.
Chemistry and physics are sufficient to fully understand and explain biological processes and the cosmos (even if we do not yet know everything). Evolution explains the diversity of life. Exponential growth leads to feedback that tears apart systems.
There is no scientific evidence that an invisible Abrahamic god sits in judgment of our actions, or that we are destined for any life other than in the here and now.
And the penultimate truths of our times: Earth is alive and dying. Even as true love continues to have transformative powers to motivate you to do what is right, including making you more selfless.
Science is but one, albeit important, pathway to a love of observable truth. The scientific method of posing hypotheses and seeking repeatable methods to gather evidence for their testing has proven remarkably effective.
Other routes to know and serve truth may include carefully and reflectively listening to tribal leaders, trained naturalists, sage women, and philosophers. All who have honed their skills of observation. And seeking through reading, pedagogy, and reflection to become a student and teacher of truth yourself.
Nothing overcomes ignorance like a life-long commitment to self-education. Until such time as you become an expert yourself, act in service to the truth by critically listening to the advice of experts on important matters of life and death. And by not repeating every junky, titillating, yet unproven meme.
Science and education have allowed much of humanity to overcome superstitions that impede societal progress. Yet reactionary, revisionist ignorance continues to pose a risk of collapse back into medieval illness, servitude, and perma-war. Religious self-fulfilling prophecies of a rapture like end of the world continue to foul our thinking of what is possible with love, science, and nature.
Love and Science in the Time of Coronavirus
Now Earth and her humanity find ourselves in a time of pandemic. Scientific experts have long known that the world was vulnerable to new infectious disease. It has been firmly established and documented that microbes can evolve and emerge from animals and habitats, particularly when encroached upon.
It is truthfully self-evident that in recent decades there has been a reduction in public health expenditures. That China has a pattern of suppressing information about new disease outbreaks. And that deeply divided democratic societies are ill-equipped to mobilize quickly to organize the necessary social distancing and other requirements to stop a plague.
I remain stunned and saddened by the amount of anti-science conspiracy theories circulating that are undermining the science-based medical response to a global pandemic. One can honestly differ in opinion regarding how to balance health and economic aspects of pandemic. The required steps to stop the coronavirus pandemic are unnecessarily made so much more difficult by anti-science, hate-filled sentiment by ignorant people amplified through social networks.
Don’t let your perhaps well-intentioned but poorly informed political beliefs become a death wish for yourself and others. If you are sharing kooky conspiracy memes on the Internet you are part of the anti-science dumbing down of America that has allowed the virus to kill almost one hundred thousands Americans and a third of a million globally.
Science doesn’t care what you believe. There is nothing conservative (or liberal) about being untruthful, belligerent, and loud. Science and her truths are apolitical. If you refuse to social distance and wear a mask, and spread unfounded misinformation on Facebook during these tragic times, you may well be killing your neighbors, loved ones, or even your own parents. Do not let your beliefs make you a member of a conspiracy death cult.
Shame on you, stop it now. Or this coronavirus pandemic – which is far from done – can and will get much worse.
Loving Ecological Science
There exists a plethora of other unpleasant scientific truths that threaten mass human suffering, a rise of authoritarian fascism in response, and ultimately societal and biological collapse. And the death of billions of humans, and possibly biosphere collapse.
In past centuries, a wave of ecological imperialism spilt forth from Europe that has globally decimated indigenous cultures and ecosystems. The apocryphal worldview proliferated that natural ecosystems only existed to be destroyed for growth in economies and population. The massive illusory increase in material consumption has been inequitably distributed and is not sustainable.
Key bio-geochemical patterns and processes that sustain the biosphere, and thus societies and wildlife populations, are failing.
The list of ecological scientific risks is long and expanding, but includes: 1) soil loss and infertility, 2) ocean dead zones, 3) water scarcity, 4) abrupt climate weirding, 5) nitrogen and phosphorous inundation, 6) declines in biodiversity, particularly keystone wildlife and plant species 7) and loss and fragmentation of naturally evolved ecosystems including critical old-growth forests and wetlands.
There are science based policy prescriptions which will solve each of these ecological crises. But it requires wisdom to know and trust in the right course of action, and sacrifice and empathy based upon understanding and commitment to the scientific imperative. Yet if we don’t try, any one of these ecology truths left without a response could cause mass disruption and death. Together they may well collapse the biosphere and end being.
Looming global ecological collapse is going to make the coronavirus pandemic look like a picnic in the park.
Climate change and ecosystem collapse are the response expected by science to inequitable overpopulation that consumes nature, it could not be otherwise. These observations and others have led me to hypothesize that Ecology is the meaning of life. The test of this hypothesis is ongoing as humanity systematically murders species, dismantles ecological systems, and fouls the climate.
Love Science Truth
Scientific truths matter, willful ignorance kills. Believe in love, science, and nature as transformative forces for good.
We will only protect and change for what we love and have empathy. Shared survival depends upon each of us listening to and supporting science and other ways of knowing, or we willfully choose to lose our and our loved ones’ lives as being ends. Global ecological sustainability requires expanding the scope of your love to include others that are different than you (including both other cultures and species), natural ecosystems, and Earth as a whole. Revel in self-expression of your truths making sure they are defensible.
Though science has not always been channeled for social good, in sum it has provided amazing levels of social benefit as we better understand and adapt to observable reality. Yet even science must work to improve itself by committing to its appropriate application. We are beyond the point where we can return to a pre-science era.
Science informed and strengthened by love is our best bet to remain healthy and prosperous in these troubled times.
Reducing risk to you and your family’s well-being means, out of love for others and Earth, staying home and wearing masks when you go out. At the same time work on reducing your ecological footprint, while working to be able to meet as many of your subsistence needs as possible. Be open to and critically review information that comes your way, with a commitment to truth and self-improvement.
Only from the transformative nature of love of science and truth can we avoid a massive second wave of coronavirus in the short-term, and the next pandemic and impending ecological collapse in the mid-term.
Only love, science, and nature can keep us safe and well. Or disease, ecological collapse, and despair rage until being ends. That is the truth, like it or not.