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Human Exploitation of Nature Has Driven Planetary Health to the Edge


Human Exploitation of Nature Has Driven Planetary Health to the Edge

Andrea Germanos, staff writer

To put it bluntly, humanity has been trashing the planet like never before. And unless immediate changes take place, the prognosis for global health and the natural systems on which civilization depends is bleak.

So finds a new report from The Rockefeller Foundation-Lancet Commission on Planetary Health, written by 15 leading academics and policymakers.


If any animal or plant population is left unchecked by natural causes, it will trash its environment.

Death control without birth control and resource hoarding without resource sharing are recipes for disaster.

Why is it taking people so long to figure that out?


The problem is well stated but the answer is something else again. The question becomes how do we get from A to B.

A: Our usual capitalistic way of doing things is wrecking our planet and making the story of the Golden Goose uncomfortable to hear. That story didn’t have a happy ending.

B: We create a sustainable future without having to first endure the decades of misery, scarcity and strife that seem to be just around the corner.

How do you stop a greedy person from being greedy? They know what they are and they don’t care. So how do you change their behavior?

You can sit back and let the world as we know it (and have always known it before now i.e. the beautiful bountiful potential paradise) turn into an unremitting hell of heat, drought, famine and God almighty (Amorphous asskicking) storms that are going to scare everybody … forever and forever … in the future!

It really is up to the sane, the environmentally aware, the progressive and the intelligent who see what is in store for our future to make the powers that be deal with the problem.

But I think you will find (believe it or not) that they will become willing to do something … but won’t actually know what to do.

“Get rid of capitalism!” Someone yells. Hey you back there in the papal tiara behave yourself! Okay… so how do we oust capitalism in time? Oh right… there’s that thing about time. Everyday we wait the closer is the day when the only thing left to do is some crazy geoengineering move out of desperation.

How about change capitalism? Okay - how? In what way? Will people still go to work/pay their bills/get paid like in a capitalist system? Who does what to whom when and who said so?

People we either get the politicians to stop throwing snowballs of idiocy in the senate and blabbering nonsense on Fox News real soon or …

We enter the Twilight Zone where everybody saw the catastrophe coming but did nothing to stop it. That episode didn’t end well either.

And to all the billionaire super greedy…

You can’t take it with you when there is no place else to go!"


natureboy -

The ones who know already don’t do it and the ones who are doing it now simply don’t care.

We actually could ‘fix’ everything. There is still plenty to go around and take care of everybody but we are stuck in a capitalist fatalism.

Capitalism inspires innovation which is true but capitalism is inefficient when dealing with large orders of scale. in other words being a billionaire is good for Pharaoh but lousy for the starving peasants.

We could cover every house in the southwest USA with solar panels on the roofs but that wouldn’t be capitalistic to just do it. The time we could have had we wasted these last two decades. We squeezed the Golden Goose for every golden egg until now she isn’t looking so good health wise.

We could give all of Africa electricity in abundance and transform the continent into a modern technology society through solar but… that wouldn’t be capitalistic.

So it isn’t that people haven’t figured ‘that’ out yet… it is that people haven’t figured out how to get a different result by doing the same thing over and over again even though it won’t work.

We want to stay the same as always…um… and do the same things in the same way as we always do them …

…but differently. That is what is hard to figure out.

Doing the same thing… differently. Homo Sappy Sapiens!


I’m sorry, but many species of amphibians and bats are going to be gone within 10 years. Trees are long-lived between generations and so they will be unable to adapt quickly, so most trees on earth will be dead and burned in about 25 years. The ocean will be a gigantic kill zone in 100 years.

As currently practiced, modern capitalism is horrible about long-range renewables innovation or about developing any technology that helps our common wealth. We could fix capitalism a bit, but certain billionaires would yowl like a cat on the losing end of a cat fight.

Would that be bad?


PaulK -

I was saying much the same except that I don’t think the means of changing the economic system exists. At best we can moderate the excesses better. Billionaires could pay a far more proportion of their wealth in taxes without stopping being billionaires. Once the tax rate was 90% in my lifetime. We could create jobs like FDR in installing solar roofing and other alternative energy projects etc. We could manage our fisheries for sustainability even if it meant five or ten year moratoriums on fishing to restore fish stocks etc.

We could

but will we?

If you are young… I’d start to worry. Greed is real hard to detox from the human system. Once you’ve developed a habit for greed… less is never an option and only having more and more will do.


If you eat meat, you are supporting the meat industry which is the largest industry ever produced by capitalism. It is hypocritical to condemn capitalism while supporting it.


Easter Island writ large.


Yeah like you don’t use plastic and don’t use fossil fuels and don’t do lots of negative things. I agree the meat industry is problematical and vast but you can’t change something that you are a part of (capitalism) simply by pointing a finger with one hand yet getting your other fingers dirty in other ways.


Greed is like one of those obsessive psychological diseases where someone fixates about something to the point of excess. Girls will become anorexic obsessing about being thinner and thinner to the point of death. Men will take steroids and pump up to the point of physical deformity and debilitating heart disease etc.

When you have too much and yet you still want even more… by definition you already don’t care about anyone else and haven’t for a very long time already. Nobody lives alone and billionaires are aware of what they are.

What the future will be like is damn scary I think. No joke! We live in science fiction and are headed for dystopia and hard times for our species, other species and our world.

If we are utterly and truly lucky…we will stumble upon some way of traveling to other worlds quickly and easily before we cause the majority of species in our rich diversity of life here on Earth to disappear.

We could seed a billion lifeless worlds with Earth’s myriad life…

… if only.


Most people do not like to think of ourselves that way - as “animals” that achieved “death control” without “birth control.” People use the analogy of yeast in a Petri dish, but when it comes to seeing ourselves as the yeast and the Petri dish as the Earth, we avoid processing what that means for each of us and all of us.

It’s not a perfect analogy, since yeast can never think about any of it, while we have these live computers growing in the front of our brains. We’ve developed technologies like condoms that enable birth control. Many people do use these technologies effectively to limit births. Of course our brains enabled science which enabled techno-industrialism and capitalism, so it’s a complex synergistic whole-systems problem.

Capitalism and exploitation are what these threads primarily focus on, as i’m sure you’ve witnessed the public lashings that occur whenever someone asserts population as the primary issue. Capitalist techno-industrial exploitation of the Earth multiplies the despoilation of our Petri dish; exploitation of other humans on one hand keeps many from the opportunity and incentive to practice birth control; while together these create war and the politics and economics of war, which have numerous multiplier effects on our despoilation and also block efforts to address the mega-crisis in any straightforward way.

You do make brief reference to this second complex with your “resource hoarding / resource sharing” phrase.

The reasons for not “figuring that out” are also complex, involving the nature of human consciousness, which is not a straightforward assessment of reality, but emerges from the evolutionary history that we emerged from, and involves all kinds of mystification and hidden processes, and social systems of identity and status.

i would also assert that among the primary reasons for our not “figuring it out” is our existential dread, fear of our own death, and longing to not die, which (perhaps counter-intuitively) leads us toward complex mystifications of our existence which “protect” us from straightforward assessment of that.

But i digress… Originally i just wanted to say, you make an important point, but it is not the whole picture.


“We live in science fiction and are headed for dystopia and hard times for our species, other species and our world.”

Recently i’ve been saying to my friends, many of whom are into reading or writing dystopian fiction or playing fantasy games, that i don’t understand why THIS world is not as fascinating to them as their imaginary worlds, since we are living in a dystopian novel. But i suppose i have a failure of imagination.


And we are, all of us, hypocrites in multiple ways, and so none of us should ever speak.


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Novels have the convenience of resolution at the end whether for good or bad. They are tidy and like a puzzle each piece fits together step by step until the end.

Real life is full of hope and of hope denied and always at the wrong time by the wrong people and in the wrong way. Novels are neat and tidy and real life is a big f’k’n mess!

But friend if you think that we are living in a dystopia now boy are you in for a surprise. So are your friends. A Zombie Apocalypse (you really have to wonder at our cultural heritage sometimes) is nothing but a lot of particularly annoying neighbors if you ask me.

Summer heat that can kill and does so whenever there is a brown out (which will happen like in France where literally tens of thousands died because the rivers cooling nuclear reactors grew too warm and the reactors had to be shut down in the middle of a heat wave.

Oceans of jellyfish becoming empty of fish and coral reefs dying and crustaceans unable to propagate.

Forests killed by beetles, drought and turned to ash by an endless and year round fire season.

Drought (dystopia? You mean like fracking poisoning ground water in the middle of a drought?) - super storms - lower crop yields - spread of diseases to where they’ve never been… and on and on.

When facing the real world’s problems… a happy go lucky Zombie Apocalypse kind of seems upbeat and far more interesting than real life.



Sadly if we go, we’d take it with us - the Sixth Great Extinction. We’d leave behind… a ruined majesty and fragments of beauty.

But we aren’t going anywhere. I firmly believe that. No easy out!

No big finale!!!

We will live in the misery that we will have created. Like I’ve said before… It isn’t the end of the world… it s just the end of the good times… the bountiful times …the days of surplus.

We enter the days of want and

they get worse.


Oh damn, i don’t follow MSM and i don’t want to look up what you are referring to…


I do not use plastic bags; I take reusable cloth bags with me when I shop. (And my car is 100% electric and solar panels cover my house…I do everything I can). Your straw man argument that I am not perfect - I never asserted that I was - ignores the point I made - meat eating is the single most environmentally destructive action that people routinely perform without even thinking about it. To argue that meat eaters can keep on trashing the environment because vegetarians are not perfect people is specious. I have read the justifications that meat eaters advance to justify their arrogant and callous food choices and none of them have merit. Like racists and sexists, speciesists are on the wrong side of history for very obvious reasons.


I was once a strict vegetarian for some years myself and as I said I agree with much of your argument but you do make it seem like if everyone stopped eating meat then everything would be fine in the world.

If you said that about fossil fuel use you might have more of a legitimate case. It is your extreme point of view that alienates. By the way it is the fossil fuel (including plastics) industry that is the biggest unless you include farmers and cattle raising going back thousands of years.

Humans are omnivores and if you are not perfect as you say then recognize that nobody else is either. We are not gorillas which do not eat meat though chimps do and baboons actively hunt like do predators.

You sound so hostile towards people who eat meat which is weird since aggressiveness is sometimes associated with eating meat. Maybe you have a passive aggressive hunger for a cheeseburger that threatens to surface sometimes?

In any case vegetarianism will not save the world although give it a few decades and another three or four billion hungry souls and you’ll have more of a valid point then.

Nevertheless!!! Persecuting innocent vegetables is nothing to be proud of!


Yes I am hostile towards meat eaters because they so glibly justify their actions by insulting vegetarians every chance they get. And the animal slaughter industry causes about 17-18% of all greenhouse gas emissions, virtually tied with the transportation industry. So to dismiss vegetarianism as ineffective or unimportant is wrong. I have zero desire to eat a dead body; your amateur psychoanalysis is also wrong.