Author: Greg Ray
Publication: Newcastle Herald
SEVEN billion people.That takes some comprehending.In fact, I can't get my head around those numbers at all.All I know for sure is that it scares me and it worries me.Don't get me wrong, I love people. I love the human race and I'm thrilled to be part of it.A lot of mornings I get up, look at the sun and the sky and everything around me and I just shake my head with wonder and bewilderment about the whole experience of living on this amazing planet.But knowing I'm now officially one of 7 billion others of the same race makes me deeply uneasy.Because it is already obvious that to support so many people, the earth's biosphere has had to change.We eat, for a start. That means we need food.We kill animals for meat and we convert vast swathes of landscape to make farms for food crops.In the past, a certain amount of that activity was just absorbed by the planet. But that hasn't been true for a long time now.For many years it has been obvious that our continued expansion as a species has come, and must continue to come, at a cost. The cost is being borne by other species, which are becoming extinct at a rate not seen since whatever it was that killed the dinosaurs.I cannot comprehend the mindset of those who see something heroic in searching for faint traces of life on other planets but can't bring themselves to be troubled about the permanent loss of thousands upon thousands of unique life forms, right here under our very noses.Creatures that have evolved over aeons to fit particular niches of existence on the only habitable planet of which we are aware are daily consigned to oblivion because we need more food, more energy, more housing.When I was a kid at school we used to sing a song with some lyrics that affirmed there were more fish in the sea than ever came out of it.I don't think that can be asserted any longer.In fact, I've read that more than 90 per cent of the ocean's biomass has been removed by humans.I often imagine the creatures that live on the floors of the world's oceans and seas and then I reflect that we ourselves live on the floor of a great ocean of fluid - our atmosphere - that covers the whole globe with a thin life-giving film.Of course I then have to reflect on the fact that we seem quite OK about pouring immense quantities of waste gas into that atmosphere.And that anybody who suggests that might be harmful has to endure being pilloried as a dupe.We've turned great forests and grasslands into sterile deserts. We've turned lake systems into toxic sewers. We've ruined rivers and are intent on poisoning the seas.Blah blah blah.People more eloquent than me have been yelling about this stuff for years but what is the human race doing other than racing to the brink even faster than it was before?I wouldn't call myself a bible-basher. But some of the stories I learnt at my grandmother's knee resonate with me every day of my life in ways that real bible-bashers wouldn't appreciate.In the parable of the loaves and fishes, for example, I take heart that - if we would only share - we have more than enough of everything at our disposal to be happy in everything that matters.But more and more it's the story of Eden that haunts me.How the seductive fruit of the tree of knowledge cost Adam and Eve their place in the loveliest garden imagination could ever picture.I don't see in that story a fanciful legend of the distant past.I see instead a potent warning of the approaching future.When I was a kid I accepted without question the idea that humanity and its leaders were working in some kind of grand cooperative effort to make the best possible society.It was a shock to realise that this wasn't true. Since that realisation I've striven, with limited success, to understand the forces that are driving us in such atrocious directions.For all my thinking and reading I'm not much closer to knowing why we tolerate an economic system that condemns millions to starvation while millions more bloat in overindulgence. Nor why no amount of money is considered too much to spend on war and killing but we begrudge every penny to feed the poor.What would be the perfect place to live?Could you picture anything better than a giant, varied garden that yielded up food and shelter with modest effort, that maintained itself, healed itself and, in almost infinite variety, gave us reason every day to marvel at our strange and blessed situation in an incomprehensible universe?That's been ours for our whole existence as a species.What a thing to throw away.
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