Time of Great Dying: Population Bomb Bursts, the End of Old-Growth Forests, and the Great Awakening

By Glen Barry | 8 October 2017
EcoInternet

An aerial view of housing developments near Markham, Ontario. (Photo: IDuke / Wikimedia)

Gaia, the living biosphere, is infested with humans. Not just any humans, but the type that grow fat and reproduce exponentially by liquidating natural ecosystems. The population bomb has burst and we are seeing daily the predicted consequences of collapse and death in the climate, water, oceans, and on the land. Having spent much of my life working to protect Earth’s last naturally evolved primary forests from logging for inequitable over-consumption, I am today ready to declare defeat. Preserving Earth’s last large old-growth forests is a lost cause as there are simply too many people. This Time of Great Dying is unlikely to end well unless a global ecology ethic – including a sense of ENOUGHNESS, just population reductions, ending fossil fuels, and massive ecological restoration – is widely embraced with all haste in an unprecedented and overdue Great Awakening.

“The idea that we can just keep growing forever on a finite planet is totally imbecilic…”
– Paul Ehrlich, Author of The Population Bomb

“Over-population has destroyed Earth’s last large natural old-growth forest ecosystems, aided and abetted by traitors to the cause… It is up to each of us to develop a keen sense of enoughness, which among other things means no old-growth forest products.”
– Dr. Glen Barry

Over-Populated, Inequitable Over-Consumption

In 90 years – a blink of an eye in ecological and geological time – the human population has gone from two billion to over seven billion. Another one billion people are added every 12-15 years, such exponential growth in human population can only end in collapse. Of these, a billion extravagantly over-consume (including a few hundred individuals who have amassed half of Earth’s wealth) as another billion live in abject poverty on less than $1.50 a day.

Concurrently capitalism has manufactured all types of artificial needs for consumption to which the vast majority aspire, and which can never be universalized at current population densities. Thus globally devastating inequity is assured. Each of these manufactured desires is fulfilled through apocalyptic polluting of the atmosphere and liquidating of natural ecosystems that have evolved over eons and make Earth habitable.

Over-populated, inequitable over-consumption literally dismembers Gaia – the living Earth – to gorge upon her ill-gotten limbs.

As long anticipated, the population bomb has burst, and we are witnessing the impact upon the natural world. The result of such democratic consumption has been our current Time of Great Dying – an epic cataclysm of death and destruction rained down by humanity upon all non-human life and their assemblages into natural wildlife populations, plant communities, ecosystems, and landscapes. Humans, after all, are animals too. It is not normal for populations of an organism to grow so rapidly, or for an organism to so quickly destroy its own habitat. When this does occur in nature, the result is always mass death and system collapse.

Everywhere a trained eye looks, one can see the tawdry, traumatized remains of much diminished organic biological life upon an immense ecocidal battlefield. Oceans are plagued by overfishing and dead-zones, the climate is failing before our very eyes, wetlands and soils are much diminished, natural sources of water are increasingly scarce, wildlife has been decimated in a reign of terror, and natural terrestrial ecosystems have virtually disappeared. And the murder of remnant bits of nature that still exist continues unabated.

Over the past century throughout much of the world naturally evolved millions of year old old-growth forests have in short order simply been mowed to be replaced by farms, homes, and strip malls for the ever burgeoning bourgeois population of over-consumers. We poorly measure human advancement by the speed whereby this growth machine dismembers our ecological habitat.

As long predicted in the ecological classic The Population Bomb, Earth’s natural ecosystems have been overrun. Not unlike bacteria in a petri dish, industrial humans are reproducing (and many over-consuming) uncontrollably, on track to quickly surpass their ecological base. Such a nefarious enterprise is already leading to collapse and mass death.

Earth is finite. There are biogeochemical limits to the amount of energy produced on Earth, to the number of any given organism that can be supported by a unit of land, and to natural ecosystems’ absorptive capacity for waste. Numerous planetary boundaries – including climate change and terrestrial ecosystem loss – have already been surpassed as Earth spirals out of control in a state of profound ecological overshoot.

We are in the Time of Great Dying.

Old-Growth Forests Lost

Having spent much of my life working to protect Earth’s last naturally evolved primary forests from being logged for inequitable over-consumption, I am ready today to declare defeat.

The campaign to maintain large old-growth forests is lost. What old forests remain are emasculated fragments of their former ecological and evolutionary brilliance. Earth’s old-growth forest heritage has been dismembered through logging, saturated in nitrogen, cleansed of large wildlife, and have become sources rather than sinks of carbon pollution.

How could it have ended any other way when the organizations self-tasked decades ago with maintaining ancient forests instead started spouting nonsense regarding how they should be “sustainably” logged and creating “certified” markets for doing so? No large, natural forest can long withstand the demands of 7 billion super predators bent upon their destruction for lawn furniture and toilet paper, particularly when billions over-consume opulently as billions lack basic needs.

More old-growth forests and other natural ecosystems have been lost than the biosphere can bear. Over-population has destroyed Earth’s last natural forest ecosystems, aided and abetted by traitors to the cause. You know who you are and may you live your final days in shame and despair for your old-growth logging treachery.

It is pure ecocidal madness to individually and societally continue to live in a manner that is known with certainty will kill us all. Despite vast strides in knowledge and understanding of ecological science truths by specialists, most of the world and its leaders wallow in willful ignorance. Many are too concerned with the comfort of their individual nerve endings to understand that their ecological context of being, which they as organic beings utterly depend upon for everything, is collapsing and dying.

Slews of technologies are developed and then misused to exacerbate over-population and over-consumption. Inordinate amounts of energy are put into techno-optimist schemes that far from obviating ecological limits, simply postpone them as ecosystems are driven even further beyond sustainability. There is no technology that can save us.

There is one last hope. We must now embrace an age of ecological restoration, to allow what fragments of natural ecosystem still exist to age, recover, and expand. Of course this would presuppose that we stop logging the last old-growth forest fragments, instead maintaining all old forests as genetic seed stocks and ecological models. We must return to the garden even as we learn to live with the sadness (for however long we have) that we willfully destroyed the ancient ecological tapestry of being from which humanity and all life evolved and have been forever sustained.

We best help old forests grow back fast from what remains of native old-growth forests or we are toast. Much potential exists for agro-forestry and perma-culture enmeshed within regenerating natural ecosystems. Only returning to the land to tend our gardens and rebuild ecosystems can prolong and possibly sustain human being.

The Great Awakening

The answer is less.

Less people. Less stuff. Less inequity. Less technology. Less industry. Less emissions. Less toxics. Less hate. Less war. Less religion. Less ignorance. And fast.

We need less of everything; except for far more natural ecosystems, sharing, truth, justice, and love.

Only by limiting our own fertility and consumption can the human family avoid biosphere collapse and the end of being. It is up to each of us to develop a keen sense of enoughness, which among other things means no old-growth forest products.

A mammoth coordinated program of population control, ecosystem restoration, renewable energy, industrial degrowth, and total disarmament are our only chance to avoid utter ruin. We must hold onto our humanity as massive extreme weather, authoritarian demagoguery, thirst, and famine of our own making ravage an ill-treated Earth.

Only then can the human family together make its way back to the garden.

Reducing population growth and inequity, and then absolute human numbers, is deviously simple: educate all girls too, free birth control and a universal basic income, provide meaningful work (including restoring ecosystems) and human services with funds realized by demilitarization, and tax the birth of children. And learning to share with and love one another. Seems like a small price to avoid an apocalyptic end of being.

Believe in a better world and make it so.

Only by getting back to the land and making a righteous living which creates more ecology than it consumes can you overcome post-modern humanity’s bacteria-like destructive instincts. We each choose every day whether we are part of the Great Dying, or its antithesis, the Great Awakening. Time for each of us to decide, are you part of the disease afflicting the Earth, or the cure?

Reprinted with permission from the author.

Dr. Glen Barry is an internationally recognized political ecologist, data scientist, writer, and technology expert, who resides in New York City and Wisconsin. He is well-known within the environmental community as a leading global ecological visionary, public intellectual, and environmental policy critic.

Robert Engelman – Catholic Church Impedes Sound Population Policy

Conversations with Great Minds – Alan Weisman

Professor Paul Ehrlich: Can a collapse of global civilization be avoided?

Vatican control of World Health Organization population policy: An interview with Milton P. Siegel

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3 COMMENTS

  1. Is Dr, Glen Barry in the American Political world? Why didn't he run for the office
    of President? This world is so sadly lacking visionaries like Dr. Barry, but I don't
    think his voice is loud enough… Writing books 'gets it off your chest', but the lazy
    public are too busy enjoying the fruits of Mother Earth to bother to read them. In
    the late 1980's I started getting concerned after reading Vandana Shiva's book
    "Staying Alive" and, of course, the amazing Sir David Attenborough recently made
    a docu "How Many People Can Live On Earth"? – but it's the Governments of the world who need to unite and develop practices resulting in sustainable worldwide environments – instead of raping Earth's treasures in order to boost their economies.

  2. Beautifully written prediction of the coming apocalypse. There's no way Humanity is going to willingly amend it's destructive impact. Potentially, if Nature gives us a big enough scare, or eliminates billions with a disease or virus, the remaining population might finally see sense.

    It seems a sad fact that we have enjoyed the few decades of relative Human contentment, and are once again heading into a new Dark Age. We are simply not very good at adapting to our environment in an appropriate and healthy way, Humanity has all the characteristics and appearance of a parasite, not a caretaker.

  3. I've always thought we were acting like an invasive species, doing all we can to take all we can and then move on. Fortunately we will kill ourselves off before we can populate another planet and do this all over again.

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