On the day that you read this article, 200 species of life on Earth (plants, birds, animals, fish, amphibians, insects, reptiles) will cease to exist. Tomorrow, another 200 species will vanish forever.
The human onslaught to destroy life on Earth is unprecedented in Earth’s history. Planet Earth is now experiencing its sixth mass extinction event and Homo sapiens is the cause. Moreover, this mass extinction event is accelerating and is so comprehensive in its impact that the piecemeal measures being taken by the United Nations, international agencies and governments constitute a tokenism that is breathtaking in the extreme.
And it is no longer the case that mainly ‘invisible’ species are vanishing: those insects, amphibians and small animals about which you had never even heard, assuming they have been identified and given a name by humans.
You and I are on the brink of driving to extinction some of the most iconic species alive today. For a photo gallery of threatened species, some of which are ‘critically endangered’, see ‘World’s wildlife being pushed to the edge by humans – in pictures’.
If you want to read more about some aspects of the extinction threat, you can do so in these recent reports: ‘World Wildlife Crime Report: Trafficking in protected species’ and ‘2016 Living Planet Report’ which includes these words: ‘The main statistic from the report … shows a 58% decline between 1970 and 2012. This means that, on average, animal populations are roughly half the size they were 42 years ago.’
And if you want to read just one aspect of what is happening in the world’s oceans, this recent UN report will give you something to ponder: ‘New UN report finds marine debris harming more than 800 species, costing countries millions’.
Of course, some of what is happening is related to the ongoing climate catastrophe and there isn’t any good news on that front. See ‘What’s Happening in the Arctic is Astonishing’.
But not everything that is going badly wrong is well known either. Did you know that we are destroying the Earth’s soil? See ‘Only 60 Years of Farming Left If Soil Degradation Continues’.
And did you realise that even nitrogen is now a huge problem too? See ‘Scientists shine a spotlight on the overlooked menace of nitrogen’.
Of course, military violence has devastating consequences on the Earth’s ecosystems too, destroying land, water and atmosphere (not to mention killing human beings) in the fight over resources. You will get no joy from the article ‘Iraq’s oil inferno – government inaction in the face of eco-terrorism’ or the website of the Toxic Remnants of War Project.
But every single aspect of military spending is ultimately used to destroy. It has no other function.
While 2.5 billion human beings do not have enough to eat. See ‘One in three people suffers malnutrition at global cost of $3.5 trillion a year’
As you read all this, you might say ‘Not me’! But you are wrong. You don’t have to be an impoverished African driven to killing elephants for their tusks so that you can survive yourself. You don’t have to be a farmer who is destroying the soil with synthetic poisons. You don’t have to be a soldier who kills and destroys or a person who works for a corporation that, one way to another, forces peasants off their land.
You just have to be an ‘ordinary’ person who pays your military taxes and consumes more than your share of world resources while participating without challenge in the global system of violence and exploitation managed by the global elite.
‘Why is this?’ you might ask.
This is because the primary driver of the human-induced mass extinction is not such things as some people hunting a particular lifeform to extinction, horrendous though this is. In fact, just two things drive most species over the edge: our systematic destruction of land habitat – forests, grasslands, wetlands, peatlands, mangroves… – in our endless effort to capture more of the Earth’s wild places for human use (whether it be residential, commercial, mining, farming or military) and our destruction of waterways and the ocean habitat by dumping into them radioactive contaminants, carbon dioxide, a multitude of poisons and chemical pollutants, and even plastic.
And do you know what drives this destruction of land and water habitats? Your demand for consumer products, all of which are produced by using land and water habitats, and the resources derived from them, often far from where you live. The most basic products, such as food and clothing, are produced on agricultural land, sometimes created by destroying rainforests, or taken from the ocean (where overfishing has savagely depleted global fish stocks). But in using these resources, we have ignored the needs of the land, oceans and the waterways for adequate regenerative inputs and recovery time.
We also participate, almost invariably without question or challenge, in the inequitable distribution of resources that compels some impoverished people to take desperate measures to survive through such means as farming marginal land or killing endangered wildlife.
So don’t sit back waiting for some miracle by the United Nations, international agencies or governments to solve this problem. It cannot happen for the simple reason that these organizations are all taking action within the existing paradigm that prioritizes corporate profit and military violence over human equity and ecological sustainability.
Despite any rhetoric to the contrary, they are encouraging overconsumption by industrialized populations and facilitating the inequitable distribution of income and wealth precisely because this benefits those who control these organizations, agencies and governments: the insane corporate elites who are devoid of the capacity to see any value beyond the ‘bottom line’. See ‘The Global Elite is Insane’.
If you want action on the greatest challenge human beings have ever faced – to avert our own extinction by learning to live in harmony with our biosphere and equity with our fellow humans – then I encourage you to take personal responsibility.
If you do, you need to act. At the simplest level, you can make some difficult but valuable personal choices. Like becoming a vegan or vegetarian, buying/growing organic/biodynamic food, and resolutely refusing to use any form of poison or to drive a car or take an airline flight.
But if you want to take an integrated approach, the most powerful way you can do this is to systematically reduce your own personal consumption while increasing your self-reliance. Anita McKone and I have mapped out a fifteen-year strategy for doing this in ‘The Flame Tree Project to Save Life on Earth’.
You might also consider signing the online pledge of ‘The People’s Charter to Create a Nonviolent World’ which obviously includes nonviolence towards our fellow species.
One of the hidden tragedies of modern human existence is that we have been terrorized into believing that we are not personally responsible. See ‘The Delusion “I Am Not Responsible”‘.
For a fuller explanation, see ‘Why Violence?’ and ‘Fearless Psychology and Fearful Psychology: Principles and Practice’.
It isn’t true but few people feel powerful enough to make a difference.
And every time you decide to do nothing and to leave it to someone else, you demonstrate why no-one else should do anything either.
Extinction beckons. What will you do?
Robert J. Burrowes has a lifetime commitment to understanding and ending human violence. He has done extensive research since 1966 in an effort to understand why human beings are violent and has been a nonviolent activist since 1981. He is the author of ‘Why Violence?‘http://tinyurl.com/whyviolence His email address is firstname.lastname@example.org and his website is at http://robertjburrowes.wordpress.com
Permanent Warfare Sustained by Media Propaganda
Ghosts of Vietnam Era Inform American Leaders in 2017 as They Plan Billion Year War
“USCENTCOM commanders announced today that they intend to maintain their presence in [Afghanistan, Iraq and Qatar] until the sun runs out of hydrogen, thus committing the US to the longest duration deployment in human history. When asked how they planned to maintain the presence in the three countries for a projected length of 4 to 5 billion years, planners said ‘we’re working on a plan for that. We don’t have one yet, but not having a plan or an intelligent reason to do something has never been much of an impediment for us in the past; we don’t foresee it being a big show stopper for us in the future either.’
Among the options that were being discussed was an innovative program to “interbreed” the deployed personnel. “We are going to actively encourage the military members in these countries to intermarry and raise children that will replace them in the future. Sure, it may be a little hard on some of our female service members, since there currently are about 8 men for every woman over there, but we expect that to be Overcome by Events (OBE) as the sex ratios will even out in a generation or two.
In any case the key to the plan is to make these assignments not only permanent, but inheritable and hereditary. For example, if you currently work the Joint Operations Center (JOC) weather desk, so will your children, and their children, and their children, ad infinitum. We like to think of it as job security.”Captain (Combined Joint Task Force-180)
Coincident to the Pentagon’s request for thousands more US soldiers to be shipped off to Afghanistan comes the massive vehicle borne improvised explosive device (VBID) attack in Kabul that has killed nearly 100 and wounded 400 others. Among the wounded are said to be about a dozen US citizens who, likely, are defense and support contractors. The Taliban vehemently denied any involvement in the attack. The Islamic State, or an affiliated group, is the likely suspects.
And so the world is off to the races again with a news cycle that features the routine victim portrayals, on scene interviews, expert analysis, and statements from leaders around the world condemning the attack and vowing to carry the fight to the evil doers. A billion year crusade indeed!
Americans watch the carnage on television or the Internet and empathize for, maybe, 10 minutes. Then, at their own peril, it is back to soap operas, video games, sporting events, the mobile device and the Game of Thrones television series: Seems like much of the world does the same thing. We are into civilian body counts on television, or the Internet, now with an occasional US soldier’s death reported. This is not dissimilar to watching body counts during the Vietnam War only civilians lead the gruesome counts.
Meanwhile, the Kabul attack becomes a prop to support the Pentagon’s request for more US troops to support Afghanistan, Iraq and the eternal global war on terrorism. But how are a few thousand US soldiers sent to and fro going to bring the Taliban to its knees or stop terrorist attacks from happening anywhere in the world? Even as the Islamic State is being squashed in Iraq and Syria, they are able to create havoc in Baghdad, Kabul, the Philippines and Manchester, UK.
Don’t we need 500,000plus soldiers as we did in Vietnam to crush the adversaries? Why the incremental increases Why not seek the services of 1 million American citizens via the draft to go and get the job done in Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria?
The suicide attacks are mini-Tet Offensives: They remind world leaders and military planners that they are largely helpless to eliminate terrorist attacks. The relatively low numbers of reinforcements requested by the Pentagon are puzzling. If the US wanted to annihilate the Taliban and the Islamic State, they’d get the Whole of American Society involved in the task. Most Americans don’t care about US military actions in Afghanistan, Iraq or Syria.
“In a New York Times article dated August 7, 1967, two unidentified generals were quoted who stated that he had destroyed a single North Vietnamese division three times:
“‘I’ve chased main-force units all over the country and the impact was zilch. It meant nothing to the people. Unless a more positive and more stirring theme than simple anti-communism can be found, the war appears likely to go on until someone gets tired and quits, which could take generations.’”
The other general’s quote was
‘Every time Westmorland makes a speech about how good the South Vietnam Army is, I want to ask him why he keeps calling for more Americans. His need for reinforcements is a measure of our failure with the Vietnamese.’”
Replace the “anti-communism and Vietnamese” with the Taliban, Islamic State or any terrorist group and the sentiments from 1967 are relevant in 2017.
In many ways, American society is culturally fragmented and stove-piped in three factions: Left, right and center. This is not dissimilar to the late 1960’s, early 1970’s. Aggressive Alt-Righter’s have taken up the mantel of Neo-White Nationalism, an ideology that finds friends in a Republican White House and Justice Department Attorney General Jefferson Sessions.
The Democrat Left still bemoans Hillary Clinton’s loss to Trump in 2016 and has, as yet, no aggressive platform to counter the Alt Right or appeal to its lost followers. The Independent Center looks Left and Right and disdains the rigid, uncompromising ideology they hold. If the stovepipes crack open in the worst way, the streets are where passions will be fought for as they were during the Vietnam era.
There are other similarities to the Vietnam experience. President Donald Trump’s administration is in disarray and under investigation by the US Justice Department. CNN reports that former FBI director James Comey will testify in the US Senate that Trump pressured him to halt the investigation into Russian influence operations during the 2016 presidential race. The country is already, officially a nation at war and is even flirting with a war against North Korea. To top it off, Trump just declared war on the planet on June 1 by withdrawing from the Paris Climate Accords. The Trump Administration is cornered and dangerous.
It’s hard not to draw comparisons with the Vietnam War experience. The convergence of the anti-war and anti-racism movements, the criminal investigations of president Richard Nixon, and a cultural sea change challenging the established order was, then, unprecedented. Its ghosts seem to be haunting the American Republic at this moment in time.
According to the History.com:
“Though U.S. and South Vietnamese forces managed to hold off the Tet Offensive Communist attacks, news coverage of the offensive (including the lengthy Battle of Hue) shocked and dismayed the American public and further eroded support for the war effort. Despite heavy casualties, North Vietnam achieved a strategic victory with the Tet Offensive, as the attacks marked a turning point in the Vietnam War and the beginning of the slow, painful American withdrawal from the region.”
History does repeat itself simply because humans are repetitive creatures.
“And corruption is stranglin’ the land. The police force is watching the people and the people just can’t understand. We don’t know how to mind our own business, ’cause the whole world’s got to be just like us. Now we are fighting a war over there but no matter who’s the winner we can’t pay the cost.” Steppenwolf Monster, 1969.
John Stanton can be reached at email@example.com.
Featured image: britannica.com