by Max Barry

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Nation of Ecologists wrote:What we need to focus on is saving our planet. Saving it for the trillions and trillions of things living on it, for the millions and millions of years that went into its current state. We just simply cant let Earth become devoid of life, especially when we could have saved it. Because, even though it seems impossible right now, that we seem doomed and such, we can turn it around. There is still time. As you said, there is no "natural mechanism that can keep us in check", but we as a species can keep ourselves in check. And Earth cannot, and will not, survive a 6th mass extinction. It will be too destructive, and there will be no going back.

I totally sympathize with you pessimism, Nation of Ecologists. In a certain respect, you're right: many, many things (including us) will not survive the 6th extinction, which will take thousands of years to play out in full. There will be echo extinctions of things that were brought to the brink and then continued to decline or disappear altogether hundreds of years after we are all gone, since the systems take a long time to catch up, loss of genetic diversity can cause future disaster, etc. So yes, WE (i.e. the humans and many of our own charismatic, beautiful plants and animals that we have around now) will be gone, and there will be no going back, but:

Verdant Haven wrote:The Earth will heal. It won't heal to be the same as it is now, but it will heal. Humans aren't destroying the planet - they're destroying its human habitability. The danger we perceive to the environment is that the changes we're causing will wipe us out. The planet doesn't have the ability to care, and will continue on without us just as it did for billions of years before us.
...the entire existence of humanity will be nothing more than an anomalous chemical signature in a rock layer...

This is some of the most comforting stuff, honestly. Not that dislike people per se, but it is extremely comforting to me to think that even all of our damage, all of my damage, will eventually be ground down into almost nothing, and that millions of years from now, the Earth will once again be crawling with abundant life and luxurious ecosystems. I won't live to see it, but the same carbon that is now tickled pink by the music coming through the AirPods will eventually and unknowingly be scattered across the world, and someday I'll be part of plants and animals. I'll be in the sediment on the ocean floor, and in the atmosphere, swirling and the planet. Embrace the deeper times.

Cameroi wrote:it is our sheer numbers that are crowding everything else out. the one choice about that is to reduce our birth rate. using combustion for things we don't need to use it for, because we have better and other technologies compounds the problem.

In practical terms, this hits the nail on the head. Do YOU want to "do something" about climate change, about the destruction of nature, and about the human effluvia covering the earth? Don't. Have. Children. Or have one child. Compared with any type of lifestyle change one might make, there is no comparison (as I have typed in more detail on here in past years, many times) with how efficacious the decision is to not reproduce oneself, thus breaking the trend of more-more-more. We might not be totally fvcked, but it would depend on us not only cleaning up our per capita act and collective act, but to add many fewer people for some time, and to therefore let the capita themselves be reduced, thus taking multiplicative weight off of whatever we do and however we live. 8 billion is FAR too many. Hell, 4 billion is far too many. Imagine one billion, which would still put us back only to the early 1800s, which is like a few seconds ago. But that's 1/8th the size and scope of the total operation that has to be run in order to fuel our species.

If you had a five-pound box of survival food, you'd better hope that it's for a gerbil or a mouse, not an elephant or a hippopotamus. Yet we are clearly the elephants, to the misfortune of literally everything else, everywhere.

But the end approacheth, in the decades and centuries to come. Hence the need to "lust for" or to desire the ruins. Once we're gone, it will lead to something new, in the far future. And even sooner, too. I'd bet that in a world where humans just magically went "poof" (as The Un-History and Non-Discovery Channels have explored in cinematic ridiculousness for shallow American audiences), the natural world would almost immediately surge back, and fill up our human deserts with life again. So it will be, fear not.

Uan aa Boa wrote:But what if this isn't true? Imagine a hypothetical world in which humans are not fundamentally different to any other species, multiplying when the circumstances permit purely as a function of the situation now without reference to what the situation will be later. In this scenario consciousness, free will and morality might be interesting characteristics that humans possess, but like the quirks and peculiarities of many species they aren't fundamental game changers. Wouldn't this hypothetical world look very much like the world we actually find ourselves in?

The thing is (in my opinion) you hid the nail right on the head....the human race keeps multiplying as the circumstances allow it.....our biological instinct is still telling us that that is the "right" thing to do although it is objectively observable that this way of life with this many people is not sustainable and will actually reduce the chances of survival as a species in the long run......our economical (and cultural) system doesn't help either. However no politician (in a democratic country) with any hope to get elected will ever touch the worldwide "overpopulation"-issue with a ten foot pole. So I believe that "humanity and our way of life as we know it" is fvcked. We as a species and the planet will probably adapt but our "quality of life" will most likely take some severe hits along the way.

Uan aa Boa wrote:But what if this isn't true? Imagine a hypothetical world in which humans are not fundamentally different to any other species, multiplying when the circumstances permit purely as a function of the situation now without reference to what the situation will be later. In this scenario consciousness, free will and morality might be interesting characteristics that humans possess, but like the quirks and peculiarities of many species they aren't fundamental game changers. Wouldn't this hypothetical world look very much like the world we actually find ourselves in?

There's a lot of truth to what you're saying, and to the unchanged evolutionary instinct to pass on our genes. There is, however, a single fundamental difference that breaks this model, and which makes the raw evolutionary drive a drive towards oblivion. Alone among species, humans have developed the ability to modify the carrying capacity of their environment on a global scale. We no longer face population limits in inhospitable regions due to shortages of food or water - we bring those products from hospitable parts. We no longer face migratory environmental pressures due to heat and cold - we bring HVAC to the remotest reaches. We no longer face selection pressure where eyesight or tooth decay or limb injury means culling the herd - we deploy glasses and dentures and splints along with a powerful medical support network to ensure we thrive.

It is an absolutely brilliant evolutionary strategy - we evolved to a point where we could recognize evolution (even if it took a few millennia to put a name on it), and then eliminate the evolutionary pressures that limited us. We've broken the system from within the system, and are currently unbound by any limitation that has previously been relevant to a species in the history of the world. The occasional natural disaster or war, even on a scale we would consider an unimaginable tragedy, is unlikely to be more than background noise for us as a species. If you took every casualty of WW2, civilian, military, violence, disease, etc, and added them all to a single year on top of the natural death rate, the Earth's human population would still grow. The only checks and balances we now have are global in nature.

These global checks are, of course, entirely natural as well. If we run ourselves out of food, out of clean water, out of breathable air, etc, we'll start dying off just as we would if that happened in a smaller area to a species that didn't have the luxury of seeing it coming. Our blessing is that we can indeed see it coming, and our curse is that we understand it well enough to fear it. As far as we know, we're the only species on Earth that can recognize an evolutionary pressure before it asserts itself, and can try to voluntarily restrict ourselves in an acceptable way in order to avoid an involuntary and traumatic institution of new limits by a tapped-out planet down the road. That ability to exist in more than the now is in fact the one very specific thing that makes humans what we are, and which gave us the success we have. Without the ability to process and act to better our futures, we would never have expanded as we have, nor become dominant like we have. Exploration, colonization, technology, medicine, art, science... all of these are about the future. The future is what defines humanity.

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