Nature Deficit Disaster: Vanishing Species

There was a time when we could pretend to not know it was short-sighted to let tongueless buffalo carcasses rot by the millions. Or shoot passenger pigeons for sport. Or wipe out all top predators because we had the notion the world would be a better place without them.

There was a time when humankind could depend on business, more or less, as usual, over the long term of our short history. That long calm was called the Holocene–the term that geologists use for that period of 15 to 20 thousand years after the last Ice Age ended. The biology of the planet is no longer more-or-less stable.

And now there is the Anthropocene, when we know that our numbers and our urges and the two-century toiling of our carbon slaves have displaced or extinguished not mere populations of plants and animals but entire species; even higher taxa are imperiled. And as each of them winks out, the landscape changes in ways often not visible in a single blink of a human lifetime.

This Great Decline–the Sixth Great Extinction–goes barely noticed by too many that think this place and this time is all about them. To any of those types, I urge you to watch this very simple explanatory movie from Smithsonian on for why you should care about loss of biodiversity. The filmmakers explain  it with their tagline: humans don’t just impact the interconnected web of life. We depend on it. Do you get that? Do you?

Most cases are not as clearly demonstrative of this truth as the wolves’ visible impact on ecosystems. To truly comprehend the magnitude of lost species, we have to be, on average, much better informed about the science of life that we share in common with those vanishing fellow creatures.

Meanwhile, science-challenged Americans are so distanced from the living world that nature has become an irrelevant abstraction that exists in zoos, museums and on certain television channels.

Richard Louv coined the term “nature deficit disorder” a decade ago. Today, the phrase describes not just the de-natured plight of our children but a nation-wide root cause–especially at the highest levels of corporate and political power–of many of our most critical threats to the integrity of what must be, for those who come after us, a house in order.

We can perhaps yet slow the precipitous rate of biodiversity loss, even in an era we have allowed to overtake us where atmospheric chaos will be sufficient challenge to the human future on Earth.

From former Fragments…

End of the Age: A Splendidly Disturbing Time
Nature Deficit and the Anthropocene
Economics as an Environmental Discipline?

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Fred First holds masters degrees in Vertebrate Zoology and physical therapy, and has been a biology teacher and physical therapist by profession. He moved to southwest Virginia in 1975 and to Floyd County in 1997. He maintains a daily photo-blog, broadcasts essays on the Roanoke NPR station, and contributes regular columns for the Floyd Press and Roanoke's Star Sentinel. His two non-fiction books, Slow Road Home and his recent What We Hold in Our Hands, celebrate the riches that we possess in our families and communities, our natural bounty, social capital and Appalachian cultures old and new. He has served on the Jacksonville Center Board of Directors and is newly active in the Sustain Floyd organization. He lives in northeastern Floyd County on the headwaters of the Roanoke River.

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  1. Please don’t think you are a lone voice. There are others out there who share your concerns, but few who can state them so eloquently. Thank you for writing these startlingly true posts! Millennials are worried, and very aware …your postings on Facebook reach them. Your faithful readers (us) need to re-post them on Twitter. I’m not familiar with other programs like Instagram, which young people use. You are right, Fred, this issue has moved beyond the need for mild interest!

  2. Only when human kind deign to control their proliferation (and that of their “pets”) will the other sharers of the biosphere have a chance.

  3. Oh! The P word. It is bad matters of the worst sort to suggest we should control our population. And yet, if we don’t, even if we develope free energy and solve climate chaos or feed the masses for a short duration at some given point in time, it’s still game over. The carrying capacity of Earth at some reasonable standard of living has been projected at one billion, maybe two. Would that we could get down to that population by choice. I am not putting my money on that pony.