EARTH MEANDERS: Earth Is Dying, Yet Climate and Forest Movements Lack Urgency and Substance
Human industrial growth is systematically liquidating the natural ecosystems that are the habitat for humans and for all life. Earth is dying, one logged old-growth tree and tank of gasoline at a time, yet most environmental groups are shilling solutions that are inadequate and ill-conceived – such as logging old-growth forests to protect them. Nothing shows this better than Greenpeace and the Rainforest Action Network – in an age of mass extinction, abrupt climate change, and ecosystem collapse – wanting us to wipe our asses with toilet paper from "certified" old-growth forest pulp.
A profound lack of understanding exists, even amid the supposedly radical environmental movement, of the seriousness of merging ecological crises. If Gaia – the Earth System or biosphere – is alive, as science has come to understand, then clearly she can die as key ecosystems are destroyed and biogeochemical processes fail. To survive, much less thrive, humanity must stop scraping Earth's land of life, spewing waste into our air and water, and claiming it can all be certified as sustainably done, while calling it "development."
Industrial growth's destruction of ecosystems is undermining the habitability of the planet, threatening the maintenance of conditions necessary for life, by destroying the ecosystems required for a living planet. As key ecosystems are lost, indications are humanity will soon be going extinct, quite possibly taking the biosphere and all life with us.
Life begets life. It is a miracle of nature that life, together in ecosystems, creates conditions necessary for life. Yet multidimensional ecological crises – climate, forests, water, food, overpopulation and inequitable consumption, and others – are undermining life. A time of great dying looms as humans are destroying their habitat, all life, and the Earth System.
Together either we end fracking, tar sands, coal, old-growth logging, overpopulation, and inequitable overconsumption all at once or our one shared biosphere collapses. Not only do we need to protest, but we need the right solutions. These must be derived from the best ecological minds in broad consultation, not by hipster, non-ecologists who in isolation and secrecy have tapped into celebrity and foundation money, and think logging old-growth is protection.
With their loss accounting for at least 18% of global carbon emissions, protection of old-growth forests is a vital climate solution being given short thrift by the self-appointed, often underqualified environmental movement elite. Rainforest Action Network and Greenpeace USA's obstinate support for Forest Stewardship Council's (FSC) massive old-growth logging – across an area twice the size of Texas – for throwaway consumer products is a major obstacle to going forward on climate. I have written at length, including at http://bit.ly/rainforest_heist, how virtually every major NGO greenwashes old-growth forest logging in what I have termed the "Great Rainforest Heist."
In 2009 Lindsey Allen (now Rainforest Action Network's new acting director, then with Greenpeace Canada) claimed victory and ended a campaign against Kleenex because they agreed to have their old-growth boreal forest clearcuts for toilet paper certified by FSC as being sustainable. Ms. Allen has gone on to greenwash old-growth Gucci shopping bags and Disney books with RAN. Before her, Michael Brune, now chief accountant for Sierra Club, did similarly.
Greenpeace and RAN want us to wipe our asses with old-growth forests. Old-growth forest logging and its terrible impacts upon species, climate, and the biosphere will never end as long they – as members of FSC – falsely certify it as sustainable.
I recently presented a scientific paper in Kerala, India, now being prepared for publication at http://bit.ly/EIBiosphere, which seeks to quantify how many terrestrial ecosystems – including old-growth forests – can be lost without biosphere collapse. This is an attempt to set an easily understood threshold for old-growth forest and other intact terrestrial ecosystem loss, like the 350ppm limit on carbon to avoid abrupt climate change.
Based upon an amazing landscape metric called "percolation," I hypothesize that a loss of more than 40 percent of terrestrial ecosystems long-term – including old-growth forests – collapses the biosphere. This is the point where critical deterioration in ecosystem connectivity occurs across scale, from landscapes to bioregions and continents, and on to the biosphere. Instead of humanity existing within a context of nature, ecosystems become fragmented, disconnected, and surrounded by humanity.
We are now at 50 percent natural ecosystem loss globally. I conclude that Earth needs to maintain some two-thirds of its land area as natural and seminatural ecosystems to meet local needs and to maintain local and global ecological sustainability. Along with a number of other planetary boundaries, including climate change and biodiversity loss, Earth is already in ecological overshoot and will collapse unless we pull back from the brink.
It is clear that global ecological sustainability and universal well-being depend critically upon protecting old-growth forests and ending fossil fuel emissions. Large, intact, and connected standing old-growth forests are required for local prosperity and ecosystem service continuity – and for an enduring, naturally evolving, global biosphere.
It is still possible to avoid abrupt climate change and global ecosystem collapse – but only if we both dramatically cut fossil fuel emissions AND protect and restore natural ecosystems immediately.
I understand the symbolism of stopping tar sands - currently under 1% of global greenhouse gas emissions, but with huge potential to grow - yet the climate and forest movements avoiding of terrestrial ecosystems as a campaign issue, which account for nearly one-fifth of global emissions, is simply unforgivable. Based upon ecological science, an end to industrial destruction of old-growth forests is vital to limiting abrupt climate change.
It is time for the climate movement, led by 350.org, to call for protection of all old-growth forests. And for Greenpeace, RAN and other NGOs supporting their logging to re-examine their position and resign from FSC.
Ending poverty doesn't justify endless ecocidal growth, at the ever-advancing cost of liquidating old-growth ecosystems and fouling our atmosphere, an impossible path on a finite planet. Rather the focus for ecologically and socially sustainable development should be meeting basic needs with some of life's luxuries for all, with a reasonable bit more for those who work hard and are gifted.
Earth's people want universal democracy, freedom, economic justice, and sustained ecology for everyone, for the whole world, and they want it now. And governments and corrupt NGOs had better get out of the way.
Your biosphere, old-growth forests, human family, and kindred species need you. Go to them now.
Dr. Glen Barry is an internationally recognized political ecologist, environmental advocate, writer, and technology expert. He is well-known within the environmental community as a leading global ecological visionary, public intellectual, and environmental policy critic. Dr. Barry's work as the President and Founder of Ecological Internet - the Earth's largest biocentric ecological advocacy web portals - was recently recognized as one of "25 Visionaries Who Are Changing Your World" by the Utne Reader. More: http://forests.org/staff/glen.asp