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August 8, 2020

Vulnerable Earth

Opinion

August 8, 2020

Our present course puts humans on track to be among the species that expire in Earth’s ongoing sixth mass extinction. In my conversations with thoughtful people, I am finding increasing acceptance of this horrific premise.

The Covid-19 pandemic, along with climate change, drives home the lesson that we must honor and care for Earth. The increasing frequency of the appearance of deadly viruses reminds us of the consequences of disrupting the natural systems by which life on Earth organizes to create and maintain the conditions essential to both its own existence and ours.

This is a time for learning and conscious collective choice like no other in the human experience. Defining lessons are coming from a variety of “teachers,” including the pandemic and climate change, protests against systemic racism, and oddly enough, Donald Trump.

Perhaps we can now recognize and accept the limits of Earth’s regenerative systems and our need to help Earth heal from the damage of our recklessness. The Earth is strong, but also vulnerable. As Earth cares for us, we either care for it or bear the consequences of our recklessness.

The pandemic may be seen as a not-so-subtle warning to humanity that we may be sacrificed, if necessary, to protect the health of the planet. On the path to human extinction, the most vulnerable will go first, but there will be no human winners.

"Returning to business as usual is neither possible nor desirable." Covid-19’s attack also exposes the culpability of the economic system that bears major responsibility for our assault against Earth and each other. We now see with ever greater clarity the disconnect between two economies. One is a financial economy devoted to generating unearned profits for monopolists and speculators. The other is an economy of Earth’s regenerative systems and humans doing work essential to the well-being of people and planet.

We can get along just fine without financial speculation, and labor devoted to wasteful or destructive purposes to make money for rich people. We cannot survive without the regenerative systems of a living Earth and the beneficial labor of both human and nonhuman beings.

We also see more clearly the devastating consequences of concentrating power in the hands of the financial elite. For example, the pandemic has exposed the long and vulnerable supply chains that only serve the interests of exploiters who locate industries where wages and taxes are lowest and environmental regulations are most lax to produce consumer goods for the world’s affluent.

Disruptions of those supply lines led to shortages of critical products, such as nose swabs and face masks, that we’re only now realizing can be more quickly and securely obtained through local producers – assuming we still have some that can take on the job.

Excerpted from: 'Earth Is Warning Us We Must Change. Will We Listen?'.

Commondreams.org