Columbia, South Carolina -- Escaping the hammering yammering of television’s incessant talking heads, who hype out-of-control war and weather, and blather on about Armageddon, I find refuge on our backyard deck where the mating songs of birds and cicadas and the flickering of fireflies soothe my soul on sultry summer evenings. Last evening at twilight, I gazed upon my vegetable garden adorned with reddening tomatoes, butternut squash turning from green to orange, and bright yellow okra blossoms becoming green okra pods. Suddenly, a bold little hummingbird darted up to within three feet of my face, hung still in midair and looked directly at me before deftly inserting its long, slender beak into several nectar laden flowers in a pot on our deck, then flitted away into the woods beyond our yard. Those woods appear just as they have for hundreds of years—long before European colonials first came. About twenty feet away, our rustic bird feeders hang from a large oak tree attracting a variety of colorful birds to watch. An appreciative cardinal flew up within 5 or 6 feet of me. A small squirrel scampered up on the deck, as if to say hello to me, before being chased away by our cat, Muck.
I know the birds and squirrels sense that I’m an ecologically kindred spirit who wants to share our common habitat. It sounds simple in our hectic high-tech culture but connecting with the natural world could be our last best hope to avert an eco-catastrophe caused by our pernicious propensity for greed and violence. The bane of our very existence is the more-you-have-the-better-you-are credo along with the worship of a God who says we should kick-ass to get it and dominate nature.
According to 19 of the world's most eminent biodiversity specialists, human activity is causing thousands of species to be threatened with imminent extinction. These scientists are calling on governments to take action to save our planet in this global emergency that imperils life on earth. Writing in the Independent / UK on July 20, 2006, Steve Connor reported, “The planet is losing species faster than at any time since 65 million years ago, when the earth was hit by an enormous asteroid that wiped out thousands of animals and plants, including the dinosaurs. Scientists estimate that the current rate at which species are becoming extinct is between 100 and 1,000 times greater than the normal "background" extinction rate”.
In the July 20 edition of the journal Nature those scientists say that the earth is on the verge of a biodiversity catastrophe and that only a global political initiative stands a chance of stemming the loss. "There is growing recognition that the diversity of life on earth, including the variety of genes, species and ecosystems, is an irreplaceable natural heritage crucial to human well-being and sustainable development. There is also clear scientific evidence that we are on the verge of a major biodiversity crisis. Virtually all aspects of biodiversity are in steep decline and a large number of populations and species are likely to become extinct this century.
"Despite this evidence, biodiversity is still consistently undervalued and given inadequate weight in both private and public decisions. There is an urgent need to bridge the gap between science and policy by creating an international body of biodiversity experts," they say.
Robert Watson, chief scientist at the World Bank, says, "For the sake of the planet, the biodiversity science community had to create a way to get organized, to co-ordinate its work across disciplines and together, with one clear voice, advise governments on steps to halt the potentially catastrophic loss of species already occurring,"
23 per cent of mammals, 12 per cent of all birds, a quarter of conifers, a third of amphibians and more than half of all palm trees are threatened with imminent extinction, according to the scientists’ estimate. The further extinction of between 15 and 37 per cent of all species by the end of the century could be caused by climate change alone. The scientists say, "Because biodiversity loss is essentially irreversible, it poses serious threats to sustainable development and the quality of life of future generations."
The entrenched political power of the U.S. energy companies and their corporate allies deters research and development of clean, renewable energy resources like wind, water, the sun and biomass which are eco-friendly and economically sustainable. Supplies of fossil fuels are peaking, global population and consumption of CO2 producing hydrocarbons is rapidly expanding, causing warming and extreme climate changes.
We should facilitate renewable energy with research and development incentives and subsidies like we have given to fossil fuel and nuclear energy producers; strengthen motor vehicle fuel economy standards; offer rebates to purchasers of hybrid autos; and mandate U.S. compliance with Kyoto.
Meanwhile, the Associated Press reported this week that another human activity was victimizing not only innocent humans but our natural world as well. The environment is also a war victim in the Israel/Hezbollah hostilities with oil spills from Israeli bombing killing fish, turtles and other wildlife and Hezbollah rocket fire burning up forests and killing gazelles, coyotes, jackals, rabbits and snakes.
We must make peace with our fellow humans and all the other critters of our natural world. Our aspiration should be the global pursuit of Eden, not just in our own backyard.
Tom Turnipseed is an attorney, writer and political activist in Columbia, South Carolina. www.turnipseed.net