Tuesday, February 24, 2004

The battle for the plannet - NS Essay - Mark Lynas

We are now in the early-to-middle stages of the sixth mass extinction to hit the plannet since complex life began 2.1 billion years ago. Species are disappearing at between 1000 and 10000 times the natural bakcground rate.

We are all deeply dependant on the "ecosystem services" provided free by the natural world. These include purification and retention of fresh water (and flood control); the formation and enrichment of soil; the detoxification and recirculation of waste; the pollination of crops; the production of lumber, fodder and biomass fuel; and the regulation of the atmosphere and climate.

The destruction of the natural world... is a consequence of...[our] evolutionary success.

The "contraction and convergence" proposal for tackling climate change knits both human equality and ecological survival into an elegant equation. Similary, we can protect biodiversity by stopping habitat destruction and countering the spread of alien species around the world, especially in highly biodivrse areas. And increasing women's control over their fertility is a straightforward way to reduce population growth.

Yet these proposals are so vast and all-consuming as to require a strong and durable consessus before they can be agreed or implemented. Biodiversity protection cannot be bolted on to existing growth-orientated economics. Contraction and convergence would require enormous resource transfers fro rich to poor countries, as teh developed world pays the developing nations not to follow in its own dirty footsteps.

The much-vaunted "clash of civilisations" is at best a distraction, at worst a racist fiction. Preventing the clash between human civilisation and nature is the battle we ought to be fighting.