Extinctions, Over-Population and the Profit Paradigm

The six great extinction spasms, with projection thru 2100. From http://bit.ly/7Eaq5Q

By Rady Ananda

Human activities are blamed for what may be Earth’s greatest extinction spasm. Of the five categories of these activities, the world’s wealthy focus on over-population, ignoring their own environmentally destructive actions from which they wrought their wealth. 

“Why do you see the speck in your brother’s eye, but fail to notice the beam in your own eye?” Mathew 7:3

Mass Extinction Events

In 1992, Harvard entomologist Edward O. Wilson published The Diversity of Life. That was my first exposure to any chronicle of mass extinctions on Planet Earth. The book rocked my world, changed my consciousness and inspired me to finish college. The most shocking statistic in Diversity is the estimation that three species an hour are going extinct, and that was written 17 years ago. In a 2007 TED Talk, Wilson projects that Earth will lose half of all species by 2100.

Seven out of ten biologists believe that human activity is the cause of this latest – and greatest – extinction spasm. Wilson uses the acronym, HIPPO, to categorize these causes:

H – Habitat destruction, including climate change from greenhouse gases
 I  – Invasive species (thru global trade)
P – Pollution
P – Human population expansion
O – Over-harvesting (hunting and fishing)

Just as death is the fate of all living creatures, extinction is the fate of all species (except, maybe, archaea, single-celled organisms lacking a nucleus or other organelles). The distinction is that our species seems to be rushing others to their fate. It may not be misanthropic for Wilson to characterize humans as a “juggernaut,” – a massive inexorable force that seems to crush everything in its way.

Of the five general causes of the latest mass extinction event, the current crop of the world’s richest philanthropists focuses its attention on over-population as the problem to be solved. But, are there too many people?  Is this the most significant problem facing the biosphere, requiring massive philanthropic funding?

Human Population and Arable Land

Researchers David Pimental and Anne Wilson suggest that “the minimum area considered essential for the production of a diverse, healthy, nutritious diet of plant and animal products like that enjoyed widely in the United States and Europe” is a half hectare (1.2355 acres) per person.

Somewhere between 12 and 18 billion acres of human-habitable land (i.e., arable, or, capable of producing crops) cover the globe. Even at the low end estimate of 12 billion acres, we have more than enough arable land. With a global population of nearly 6.8 billion, to provide “a diverse, healthy, nutritious diet of plant and animal products,” 8.4 billion acres is needed.

Soil Degradation – Too Many People or Too Much Pollution?

The amount of arable land decreases annually. Encroaching deserts and rising seas reduce this acreage, while technology can increase it. Overall, however, many scientists from varying fields agree that the amount of arable land is decreasing. None of the reasons given for this loss is over-population. Instead, agricultural practices, over-grazing, development and deforestation are blamed. 

Agricultural practices not suited to local conditions cause nutrient loss and soil erosion, destroying arable land. Massive chemical inputs pollute the soil and groundwater. Biovision explains: “Soil toxicity can be brought about in a number of ways, but typical examples are from municipal or industrial wastes, oil spills, the excessive use of fertilizer, herbicides and insecticides, or the release of radioactive materials and acidification by airborne pollutants.”

In Soil degradation in the United States: Extent, severity and trends (CRC Press, 2004), Rattan Lal, et al., write: “Soil degradation is a biophysical process, driven by socioeconomic and political causes.” On page 5, they produce this chart:

Lal, et al. (2004)

The increasing loss of arable acreage is attributed to agricultural practices, not over population.

Misdirected Focus in Protecting Biodiversity

Global elites continue to perceive and amplify the notion that over-population is the greatest threat to biodiversity. This group amassed their wealth thru global trade, habitat destruction, pollution, and over-harvesting. (They also amassed wealth by exploiting human workers and taxpayers, but that’s outside the scope of this discussion.)

Indisputably, mining and war comprise the most environmentally destructive of all human activities. Bill Gates would be unknown if not for coltan, a mineral used in computers and the cause for Congo’s resource wars. General Electric would not top Forbes’ 2009 list of richest corporations, if not for war. Where would Rockefeller be without oil?

Today’s wealthiest corporations have seized control of regulatory bodies, originally created to protect people and the environment. The “captive agency” phenomenon is so widespread that scholars have coined the term “corporatism” to describe modern government. For clarity, let’s call it corpogov.

Through immunity, deregulation and bureaucratic layering, they have thus ensured they will not pay the environmental cost of amassing wealth. They term these costs ‘externalities,’ exposing their unwillingness to take responsibility for their destructive means of amassing wealth. 

  • The environmental and social costs of producing this laptop are not borne by the companies involved in making or delivering it to me. They “externalize” those costs onto the public;
  • Illegally selling drugs, when done by a corporation, is fined a percentage of its profits. No one goes to jail;
  • Corpogov uses public funds to pay for unnecessary vaccines and grants legal immunity for harm done by those vaccines; and
  • Earth’s greatest enemies fill key positions in government to rewrite laws and rules that will enable monopoly control for the host corporation while decriminalizing their eco-destructive practices.

It is no surprise, then, that in addressing anthropogenic mass extinction, today’s crop of rulers would choose to address the sole debatable issue that would not impinge on further concentrating their wealth: human population. 

In Towards an Alternative to Globalization, Sergey Stroev writes:

“The domination of the present-day capitalocratic principle leads to the overexploitation of unique and irreplaceable objects of nature and culture, wherever the possibility of their utilization gives hope for profit…. Everything is subjected to the paradigm of consumption, formed by advertising for the sake of the increase of business profits.”

He joins the anti-globalists who reject subordinating life to profits. By focusing on curbing human population, elites ignore their own responsibility for the destruction of vast ecosystems.  They point their finger at us, while three fingers point back at them.

Some Better Ideas

What about habitat destruction? Why not reduce land development?  Why not build wisely, in locales that don’t drain scarce resources, like water for Las Vegas?  How about one abode for each nuclear family, rather than one child per couple?

What about pollution?  Why not address mining, which renders soils toxic for generations?  Why not fund mass transportation instead of forcing the public to bailout automakers that refuse to build eco-friendly vehicles

(Incidentally, at the end of Wilson’s TED Talk addressing the loss of biodiversity partly caused by pollution and habitat destruction, viewers are treated to magnificent feel-good views of nature. This is utterly destroyed when the sponsor then films a car – a car! – emerging from behind a waterfall. It’s a horrifying study in contrasts.)

How about stopping wars? Talk about eco-destruction and loss of biodiversity.  My tenth grade history teacher once penetrated my ennui when he said, “There is only one reason for all wars.” He then leaned over his podium with a look of utter contempt, drawing out the word, “Greeeed.” 

How about criminalizing factory farming, with its monoculture, genetic engineering, and massive chemical inputs that destroy the environment?  Let’s criminalize CAFOs – concentrated animal feeding operations – that destroy the environment, render our food unsafe and promote the emergence of super bugs and super viruses for which we have no natural immunity.  Too big is too bad for Mother Earth.

How about funding local, small-scale farms and businesses to reduce global trade? That would go a long way toward reducing the introduction of invasive species. It would certainly help local economies much more than any corporate bailout forced on innocent taxpayers.

Maybe Bill Gates and David Rockefeller could coordinate wealth redistribution along more equitable lines.  Maybe they could develop educational therapy for their peers to learn how to become contributing citizens instead of destructive, pathologically selfish ones. Maybe they could insist we prosecute homegrown war criminals, to discourage others from that environmentally destructive evil.

It might be argued that the reason elites have focused on human population is not because they are concerned about the environment. Instead, perhaps, too many of us recognize and suffer from the evils wrought by profit seekers, and the attendant income disparity. The global resistance movement is only growing; and in some places it is armed.

Of the five categories of causes for loss of biodiversity, by choosing to address human population, the current crop of elites reveal themselves to be entirely incompetent for the task they set upon themselves.  The world would be a far better place, far safer, far healthier, and far more biologically diverse without transnational corporations that support war, mining, chemically-intensive, monoculture farms, CAFOs, and deforestation.

It’s really not “too many people causing too many problems.”  Profit-driven industry is the greatest threat to life on Planet Earth.

Rady Ananda graduated from The Ohio State University’s School of Agriculture with a B.S. in Natural Resources.

18 responses to “Extinctions, Over-Population and the Profit Paradigm

  1. I have no doubt we are a malignant species, consuming our biosphere to little purpose. But I prefer family planning and contraception to draconian, elitist population solutions. Actually, Mother Nature will probably beat everyone to the punch anyway.

    • Elites are hypocrites. They sweat about the impact of 7 billion humans while ignoring their own environmentally destructive practices in pursuit of profit.

  2. Excellent article Rady. I appreciate you pointing out the population – land requirements and the fact that we’re not slammed yet in physical terms. You’re right, it’s the waste and assault on the population and the earth. War is simply not acceptable any longer. It’s become a pathetic diversion from our most important tasks which lead to a higher quality of life for all people.

    The solutions you present are all sensible and would have an impact, no doubt. Some realities have to be faced right now. Beef simply cannot be a mainstay of our diet, not any longer. There’s way too much waste of land involved and the returns are not even necessary – there are plenty of alternative sources of protein.

    Another alternative that should be considered is urban, vertical farming. A lot of land is required and a great deal of energy used in remote farming. The closer to population centers, the better. Within the population area is best. Urban farming can take place on abandoned land but also in adapted or specially constructed high rises that are highly efficient if they use hydroponic farming. All it takes is one successful example of that and we’ve saved a lot of land and energy.

    Lots here to think about.

    • thoughtful comment, Mike; thank you. btw, as you can see I finally broke thru my writer’s block 🙂

      I post a lot of material on urban gardening, guerilla gardening and rooftop gardening at my other website, Food Freedom. It’s very exciting… I do believe we can defeat the NWO by learning how to take care of ourselves.

      “Going back to the land; set my soul free.”

      oh yeah… about beef. Since starting that Food Freedom website – with all that I’ve learned – I have seriously cut back on my meat intake. You are dead-on accurate about the meat issue being far too costly for the benefits meat provides. The more plants we eat, the better for our health and the environment.

  3. hmm, as someone who has worked in menial cleaning jobs for big hotel chains, 20 mins to do a room expected, for 10.50 an hour, some years back .thats 3 rooms done for 10.50 a set of sheets done in our laundry didnt cost the average fee in a pay for laundry, and some nasty elcrappo toiletries few sheets of paper etc.
    yet the chain would claim that it cost a min of 50$ for maintenance per room. and charge $200+ per night.
    making circuit boards at 25 a day for $80, flat out, i got less, after study courses for that, than cleaning,! 10 an hour, the product costs were less than $15 a unit, yet they sold for $500 each.I asked for a 50c an hour rise and you’d have thought the world would end..
    the shitkickers who are abused underpaid and unvalued except as useful idiots, are what holds it together,
    same goes for farm labour, but in reverse..Weird this!
    the cost of labour feed machinery seed fuel and fencing for eg is rarely met by big companies prices for raw materials, paid to small producers. when in reality the profit is almost as obscene as the pharmas is. dairy paid 28c a litre for milk yet retail is 2.50 a litre.
    it isnt that the farms are inefficient of wasteful in the Small producer world, its the middleman and final retail that makes it inefficient.Finest Aussie honey is wholesale at round 2.50 a kg now, fuel is 1.40 a litre. gas for melting is 120 for 100kg. not taking the hard labour and time into it, retailers make 20$ a kg.
    The apiarist may break even..and this in a time of world shortage???
    there IS a LOT wrong, but it isnt at the grass roots small producer end.
    Carbon Fraud will kill those that are struggling now.
    we really do need to assess our “society”. or lack of.
    greed is NOT good.
    big agri and cafo in tandem with big GM, assures a complete rip off and ill animals and sick humans.
    fait almost accompli!

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  5. Vertical farming is really a joke proposal. It would require massive amounts of energy to build a vertical farm, and even the daily operation would use more energy than you would save from transporting food shorter distances. This means a vertical farm would generate large amount of net carbon and contribute to global warming. It would also be much less resilient in the face of energy shortages or peak oil. However, that’s not to say that growing more food in urban areas isn’t a good idea. Growing food on lawns and building community gardens are both great idea.


  6. Very informative post. I’ve found your site via Yahoo and I’m really happy about the information you provide in your articles. Btw your sites layout is really messed up on the Chrome browser. Would be great if you could fix that. Anyhow keep up the great work!

  7. on the subject of the oft touted extinctions I came across a well researched item, I am off to find it and will add the link shortly,
    very enlightening.

  8. http://wattsupwiththat.com/2010/01/04/where-are-the-corpses/

    the guy makes a pretty good point
    and after the WWF and other proven fraudulent scare tactics used lately and Outed, I am willing to give it credit for being more truthful than they.
    he doesnt have a funding agenda, the work is his own- for his interest- in his time.

  9. ok..he may need to add bats. and again I suspect its similar to the disease researchers and others GAVE to frogs they were breeding to save. sad twist~

  10. someone tipped me off about this PDF of an older book, it supposed its the first.
    well Albrecht -Andre voisin and Charles walters were ahead of him, but this version is more immediate for many to see.

    Click to access Weeds%20guardians%20of%20the%20Soil%20%283%29.pdf

    its 109 pages and worth your time.

    • okay, I’ll look into this.

      AS to where are the bodies… extinction also occurs via lack of reproduction. When you look at the breadth of habitat destruction in the US, so we can build malls, residential communities and big box stores, you have no doubt that species are losing their habitat to human intervention. (Land grab).

      Any of us older folks knows this is true – all our old haunts no longer exist. Trees are cut down, wetlands are filled in and lakes are dammed for “progress.”

      Without habitat, species won’t mate, ergo, no bodies.

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  12. I have kind of a diffrent outlooks on this article. I agree with the author but some points I have diffrent views on.

  13. Not long ago I started a blog, and the information you provide on this site has helped me tremendously. Thank you for all of your time & work. cheers!

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