It's Not Earth Day — It's Human Civilization Day

Illustration for article titled It's Not Earth Day — It's Human Civilization Day

Today is Earth Day, a celebration that's supposed to focus on attention on ecological balance — keeping our planet green and healthy. But as futurist Jamais Cascio points out in an essay published today, the point of environmentalism isn't to protect the planet — Earth has survived much worse than a little carbon emissions, thank you very much. Remember that asteroid that wiped out the dinosaurs? Way worse than aerosols in the atmosphere, and yet the planet survived. Cascio argues that the unspoken point of environmentalism is to save human civilization.


Cascio writes:

The fact of the matter is that, no matter how much greenhouse gas we pump into the atmosphere or how many toxins we dump into the soil and oceans, given enough time the Earth will recover.

But human civilization is far more fragile.

Human civilization could not withstand and recover from the same kinds of assaults the planet itself has shrugged off in eons past. We remain entirely dependent upon myriad Earth services and systems, from topsoil and clean water to carbon cycles and biodiversity. Activities that undermine those critical services and systems quite literally threaten the survival of human civilization. The fundamental resilience of the Earth's geophysical systems simply means that, when we ignore our effects on the planet, we're simply making ourselves disposable, just another passing blip in the planet's long history.

In trying to minimize the harmful impacts of human activities upon the global ecosystem, environmentalism supports the continued healthy existence of humankind.

He's got a point — it's as if environmentalists don't want to face up to the fact that, as usual, nature has us beat in terms of resilience and longevity. Instead, a lot of eco-rhetoric portrays nature as this fragile maiden being ravaged by evil human monsters with pockets full of coal. Why don't we want to face the fact that our pollution spells our own doom, rather than the doom of our glorious planet? Image from Google Earth.

Earth will be just fine, thank you [Open the Future]


Corpore Metal

Me, I agree with Cascio. Environmentalism is really about seeing that we don't foul our nest so badly that we kill ourselves.

That being said, I'm thinking that we are clever enough that we'll side-step many of these self-induced environmental fubars.

The biodiversity will decrease significantly, the Earth will become more "park-like" (Sort of like how significant parts of Europe and Asia already are.) and the cost of living will be more expensive all the way around, but we'll muddle through somehow. It will be messy, expensive and probably fatal to some but we'll muddle through. I'm just hoping that it doesn't get so bad for us that science and technology grow too expensive to continue. At that point our civilization will die or at least change significantly. I think it will be a long slow spiral to human extinction (barring asteroid impacts.) at that point.