Making a Difference
Conservation is the act of protecting Earth’s natural resources for current and future generations.
I’ve been in the tech industry a very long time in a variety of roles that all share one thing; the need to review a broad set of trends and predict the future. There’s an art to being specific enough to be useful but vague enough to never be wrong. “Kraken of Eden” started with a thought experiment. As much as I love monster stories, I always struggle with how an alien beastie could possibly be munching on our heroes. How, I asked myself, could an alien evolve the digestive plasticity required to feed on our protagonists.
But how do we encounter the beasties in the first place? Why are we out there?
I needed a plausible backstory to set context for how our protagonists would live and think. I applied some of my professional strategic planning skills and seasoned the result with a little imagination and literary license.
It was a sobering exercise. For example, as I began development of this content in 2019, I realized we were overdue for a pandemic. I really wish I’d been wrong about that...
I also wish I could be more optimistic about conservation.
I love to travel, and I love wild places. I’ve been blessed to see many of the world’s spectacular natural places filled with stunningly beautiful biodiversity, all too often encroached or tainted by our relentlessly growing population. As I conducted my
research and ran through my thought experiments, I stopped wondering whether we’d ever feel compelled to emigrate from our beautiful home world. Instead, I found myself wondering just how bad things will get before we’re sufficiently motivated to colonize beyond our Earth, and how little of our home world’s biodiversity will be left to preserve.
Our global human population tends to double every 60 years or so. We’re also, year after year, raising the standard of living for more and more of a global population.
This is a wonderful thing to make humanitarians rejoice, but the environmental impact
of a middle-class lifestyle is an order of magnitude greater than a life of subsistence poverty, compounding the environmental impact of our relentlessly growing population.
This Southern California oil rig also provides structure for sea life, creating opportunities to see pelagic forms swimming by the kinds of life one usually encounters closer to shore...
We may well invent ways to address these challenges. We may, for example, devise a way to fix enough carbon on a grand scale to alleviate climate change.
We may find ways to reduce the environmental impact
of an industrialized standard of living. But if addressing these challenges enables us to keep doubling our population, we are only delaying the inevitable.
Let’s presume the Earth can support some set amount of biomass. Say, ‘x’ tons of living tissue. As our human population grows, we will account for a larger and larger percentage of that global biomass. Increasing the human percentage of Earth’s biomass must mean the non-human percentage of Earth’s biomass must be decreasing. And remember that it’s not just humans; it’s also our ‘familiars’.
Our domesticated plants and animals and weeds and vermin are also displacing non-human biomass.
Here are a pair of Yellow Gobies making the most of a glass bottle in the Philippines:
This is beyond remembering to recycle and eschewing plastic straws. This is beyond wanting to preserve wilderness for our children and thinking baby seals are adorable.
It is in our enlightened self-interest to acknowledge that
we are reducing the carrying capacities of our ecosystems even as we increase our share of global biomass, and,
at some point, the system will crash in the form of mass extinctions, climate change, pandemics, drought, famine, and wars fought for dwindling resources.
Tactically, we must do everything we can to reduce our ecological footprints.
Strategically, we’d better be thinking of ways to reduce our global population to a more sustainable number before the ramifications of our choices do it for us in
very unpleasant ways..
We must look up.
Reef squid in Indonesia nesting in debris
Shipwrecks like this one in St Lucia form artifical reefs
Sadly, our oceans, even in preserves like this one in the Caribbean, are filled with trash despite the sea’s best efforts to reclaim our debris.
Damselfish spawning on a shipwreck in Bonaire
The ocean is slowly reclaiming this WW2 Zero