Tag Archives: ecocide

is nature doing fine?

A new book by Chris D. Thomas, Inheritors of the Earth: How Nature Is Thriving in an Age of Extinction (the link is to the New York Times review), argues that ecosystems are adapting to human-induced change. The argument seems to be that there are winners and losers in terms of species, and the Earth is headed for a future dominated by less diverse, more tolerant species. It may be true that rats, pigeons, cockroaches and jellyfish see a bright future for themselves, but I still have an ethical problem and a practical problem. The ethical problem is that humans are knowingly destroying species and ecosystems that have existed more or less throughout the 10,000 year or so modern history of our species. Sure, in another 100,000 or million years it will all have changed with or without our intervention, but if you believe these ecosystems have any intrinsic value, then what we are doing is wrong. The practical problem has to do with ecosystem service. Our standard of living depends on a lot of free and low cost help from nature – to name just a few, pollination, fertile soil, rainfall, groundwater, fisheries, breathable air and reasonable temperatures. If these were taken away suddenly, the rats and pigeons might be fine but we might find that we are not among the more adaptable species.