YES! And that’s why we MUST learn from what happened there.
A few weeks ago, I posted a blog entitled Are humans the “infestation” of planet Earth? (see link below). Just before writing that blog, I learned about a Microsoft scientist in the UK who had been writing and speaking about what lies ahead for our species if we don’t make some seriously radical changes in the VERY near future.
Dr. Emmott lays the blame for all of our problems on the behavior of just one species of animal—the human being. He writes in his about-to-be-published book, Ten Billion:
Earth is home to millions of species. Just one dominates it. Us. Our cleverness, our inventiveness and our activities have modified almost every part of our planet. In fact, we are having a profound impact on it. Indeed, our cleverness, our inventiveness and our activities are now the drivers of every global problem we face.
And every one of these problems is accelerating as we continue to grow towards a global population of 10 billion. In fact, I believe we can rightly call the situation we’re in right now an emergency – an unprecedented planetary emergency.
While scary, I actually found Dr. Emmott’s views refreshing from the standpoint of CLARITY. Many of our scientific experts write about the human-driven problems on our planet, but few ever get real clear about the urgently needed solution. But Emmott pulls no punches; boldly stating:
The only solution left to us is to change our behaviour, radically and globally, on every level. In short, we urgently need to consume less. A lot less. Radically less. And we need to conserve more. A lot more.
In my earlier blog, I concluded that Dr. Emmott would agree with me that humans are indeed the infestation of planet Earth. We have clearly created all the problems that will ultimately threaten our very existence as a species. But, the planet is going to be just fine; what’s at stake is her ability to sustain us as a species.
As for the word infestation, I am not the first person to use that word to describe our species. Mark Twain may have been first. Just now, I found this short animated video on YouTube today that was launched in 2006:
Human Infestation—one minute worth watching
The YouTube description of the above cartoon, “A wonderfully crafted animation depicting the infestation of Earth by the parasites known as “Humans.” They mentioned that humans work fast; how fast? If the 4 billion years of life on Earth were crammed into one year, humans have been around for only 26 minutes and we have inflicted the vast majority of the damage in just the last one second.
Objection from reader. Earlier this week, “Veggie Mom” posted this comment below my blog:
You lost me at “infestation”….. Hope you rethink your terminology before you go forward with this.
Hi Veggie Mom,
You’re right. “Infestation” is not a very pretty word, but I do believe in calling a spade a spade. Trained as an industrial engineer, I know that before any problem can be solved, we must first understand exactly what the problem is—and what caused it.
Only then can we map out a viable solution along with a plan for execution. Infestation? Consider these facts:
- Do you realize that we’re the only species (of millions) in the history of the world that has not lived in harmony with Nature?
- Also consider that we’ve now taken over every square inch of the Earth to feed ourselves and we simply burn down another rainforest when more land is needed. Philosopher E.O. Wilson had this to say about that insane practice:
Destroying rainforest for economic gain is like burning a Renaissance painting to cook a meal.
How many humans can our planet support? We’ve grown seven-fold since 1804, from one billion to seven billion and are exhausting our precious resources at the speed of light. Imagine that you were among a group of highly intelligent alien beings looking down at Earth from outer space. Your group might be saying:
Look at those ignorant creatures down there using up all their finite resources. Didn’t they learn anything from the collapse of civilization on Easter Island?
They spend far more time talking about one silly ballplayer (someone called A-Rod?) than the fact that they will soon not have enough land, water and energy to feed their exploding population. What a stupid bunch they are!
Know what happened on Easter Island? Find out in 7 minutes
When I talk about Easter Island in my presentations, I have two slides. The first shows a lush tropical island that it took nature 4 billion years to create. The second one shows how it looked after just 1,000 years of human occupation. Consider this: If the 4 billion years of life on Earth were crammed into just one year, the human occupation of Easter Island lasted just the last ten seconds of that year.
So Veggie Mom, can you think of a better word to describe the mess we’ve made? I suggest you read Lester Brown’s book if you need more information. “Full Planet, Empty Plates.”
In his book, he talks about how the French use a simple riddle to explain exponential growth to children. They’re told about the rapid growth of lily pads in a huge pond. There is one on the first day, two on the second day, four on the third day, and so forth—doubling every day. After thirty days, the pond is full. Then the children are asked “If the pond is full on the 30th day, at what point is it half full?” ANSWER: On the 29th day.
Lester Brown says we seven billion humans are in our 30th (and final) day now. And we’ve already far exceeded the sustainable carrying capacity of our planet. Dr. Emmott nailed the problem precisely—but he offered no workable solution; concluding instead that we’re doomed to go the way of Easter Island.
But Dr. Campbell and I are more optimistic. And we’re working now on the organization of a high-level, well-funded task force to get started on the urgent process of radical, global change described by Dr. Emmott.
Since our food choices determine how most of our planet is used, we see how an improvement in those choices could be our salvation. Once our brightest scholars and scientists fully grasp the fact that we don’t ever NEED any animal foods, they will quickly see how we can produce the same number of food calories with 90% less land, 90% less water and 90% less energy.
The improvement potential is staggering and I believe that a well-conceived, properly led and urgently executed plan to shift our food from animals to plants will take us over halfway to the goal expressed by Dr. Emmott. Not only do we save our planet and our species—we all get much healthier in the process. Win-Win-Win for sure.
The following three quotes sum up our dilemma and our hope for the future—the second and third referring to the “high level, well-funded task force” mentioned earlier.
In short, we urgently need to consume less. A lot less. Radically less. And we need to conserve more. A lot more. — Stephen Emmott, PhD
Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed, citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has. — Margaret Mead
People who are crazy enough to think that they can change the world—are the ones who do. — Steve Jobs
- According to one researcher, what happened on Easter Island?
- My earlier blog featuring Dr. Emmott. Are humans the “infestation” of planet Earth?
- Source article by Dr. Emmott. Humans – the real threat to life on Earth
- Order Dr. Emmott’s book, “Ten Billion” on Amazon.
- Stephen Emmott Bio. He is professor of computational science at the University of Oxford, and head of computational science at Microsoft
- Earlier blog, Oct. 2012. Too many people, wasting resources, eating the wrong food
- Q & A with Stephen Emmott
- Stephen Emmott. Forbes article from August 2012.
- Philosophers worth listening to. “Harmony” for the ages—from E. O. Wilson and Wendell Berry
The following five books and one DVD can be purchased on Amazon for a grand total of less than $60—and will enable you to understand the overwhelming challenges we face—along with the single most-powerful solution of all.
Six-Pack from Hicks—for health, hope & harmony on planet Earth
- Healthy Eating, Healthy World, The “big picture” about food (our book)
- A life changer for millions, including James Cameron. Forks Over Knives DVD
- An essential scientific resource: The China Study by Dr. T. Colin Campbell; the primary book that influenced Bill Clinton to adopt a whole food, plant-based diet.
- What have we done to our planet? Full Planet, Empty Plates by Lester Brown
- A horrifying wake-up call for leaders. TEN BILLION by Dr. Stephen Emmott
- Food choices are the primary cause of our environmental problems, yet our world leaders, scientists & experts are Comfortably Unaware, by Richard Oppenlander.
Why should we be eating mostly plants? The “big picture” in 4 minutes.
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People who choose to believe that Earth is “a gigantic, nearly infinite ball of resources” are living in a dream world. Wake up. Wanting it to be true, does not make it true.
Jim, I’m with you on your terminology… when we get to the point where we are of essentially mindless, ignorant, unsustainable reproduction, expansion (“growth”), destruction and waste… I don’t think there’s many other terms that strike to the heart of the situation. Here’s a great little clip from one of my favorite sci-fi movies that you’ll get a kick out of: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-Na9-jV_OJI
Thanks as always for the introduction to Lester Brown’s work, I’m still reading “Plan B 4.0” and it’s pretty amazing work.. we all know Plan A is not working for sure given our predicament, and reading Plan B should be a wake up to everyone as well. “Full Planet” is definitely on the reading list as well. Just fyi to readers that Plan B can be downloaded for free in PDF here at Lester’s website: http://www.earth-policy.org/books/pb4 Also, a great documentary with these concepts was presented a couple years ago by PBS in its excellent “Journey to Planet Earth” series. Mr. Brown and other important thinkers of the day contribute to the “Plan B: Mobilizing to Save Civilization” episode. Full show here: http://video.pbs.org/video/1864227276/ It’s really excellent.
Finally, I had to check out Joanne’s book reccomendation by Jerry Mander and found this interesting video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=m3NBEurnIqY Mander talks to the challenges of our situation with the media, and also the challenges of environment, our loss of connection to it, and corporate control of media. I’ve always been concerned about this aspect and how we do not as a society have access to helpful information to deal with our life. Separated from the natural world, access to alternative information, etc., we have continued huge challenges.
Jim, I wish you and your task force team much success in your endeavors to create positive change for our future.
We are simply NOT “exhausting our precious resources at the speed of light.” The earth is a gigantic, nearly infinite ball of resources. What resources can you actually say we’re exhausting or have exhausted? Resources do not get exhausted: They get invented, then extracted, and if the economically obtainable amounts decline (not the amounts existing, since those amounts are far greater than we ever extract), they get substituted for, or more efficient extraction technologies are developed–usually both.
Your example of an alien species that has come to earth and looks down on us and notes our stupidity is particularly inapt: Such a species would have to have gone through enormous technological development and have “exhausted”–used–far more precious resources, to get to the point of developing the ability to travel interstellar space, than we have used. If you find intelligent technologically advanced creatures on other planets, you’ll be finding creatures that are, with respect to the use of the resources of their planet, pretty much just like us.
If you think humans are an infestation, you are saying you yourself are an infesting creature. Do you really see yourself that way? Will you treat yourself as you would something infesting your house?
D1Stewart – Get the head out of the sand and note the destruction of the rain forest, the degradation of the land and the water, the poverty in most countries — including ours — the pollution from us and animals, etc. “INFESTATION” IS THE CORRECT WORD!
A must read – “The Absence of the Sacred” by Gerry Mander. Written in 1991, this masterful work has remained in my psyche since that time. Poigant, prophetic, and from a wisdom perspective, Mander outlines what happens when the sacred is omitted from any technological advancement, as well as the results of decisions and actions based on power, greed and ego. Frances Moore Lappe, author of “Diet for a Small Planet” says this about Mander’s work, “Inspiring, sometimes gripping….Through Mander’s eyes,native peoples are not quaint relics; they become sources of precisely the practical wisdom our species needs not only for survival but for renewal.”
Transformation and renewal is there for the taking. We, humans, have the power and potential to reverse the ‘infestation’ caused by that ongoing power, greed, and ego. If we see ourselves as co-Creators with the Divine, we will make decisions to safeguard this beautiful, precious planet in peril. ‘Infestation’ is a strong word, but the right word. Far too many actions by us, humans, have initiated a malignancy throughout our planet. Infestation is the result!
Jim – A heads-up — Dr. Fuhrman’s email Aug. 9 (no link given in it) is worth publicizing on Pres. Bush # 2 probably should not have had that stent placed! I posted the article here: