The Triple Crisis of Civilization

Ecological Devastation


• Unsustainable, intensive agriculture leads to top soil loss, erosion, desertification, and lower water tables. The result is decreased per-capita food availability even with increases of fertilizers, irrigation, pesticides, herbicides, and genetically-modified crops designed for mono-culture. All of these were made possible with fossil fuels and are now augmented as we begin growing biofuels.

• Over-hunting, over-grazing, over-fishing. Large parts of the ocean are becoming dead zones. Mass extinction of species is accelerating.

• Extensive deforestation of all parts of the world. For instance, the Brazilian rain forest is being reduced by 10,000 square miles per year primarily for sugar-cane ethanol. The resultant burning contributes to over 20 % of atmospheric CO2. In the world, 121,000 square miles are deforested each year.

• Pollution is causing a world-wide health crisis. In the last 100 years, the consumption of fossil fuels has introduced so much CO2 into the atmosphere that local climate change and world-wide global warming are becoming apparent. Thirteen billion tons of CO2 are released into the atmosphere each year. Recent studies show the Arctic ice cap open, Greenland ice is breaking up, and Antarctica is diminishing in size and ice volume. The world may have passed the time for corrective action against possible scenarios as CO2 climbs towards 400 ppm and China builds a new coal-fired power plant every week. Inferred results follow:

• Ocean level increases measured in meters, whereas only a few inches already cause coastal flooding.

• Possible shut-down of the Atlantic conveyor belt that relies on cold salt-water density to bring a habitable climate to N. Europe.

• Increased water temperature which in some areas now remains above 80 degrees all winter. The number of hurricanes and intensity are increasing.

• Heat waves and drought are more prevalent.

• Glaciers the world over are disappearing.

    Humankind, led by the U.S. and China, is only repeating, in a very short period and on a global basis, the sins which caused the longer-term demise of many ancient but more localized civilizations.

These are just a few of the respected authors warning about human devastation of all parts of the delicate earth eco-system. Is anyone listening?

Brown, L., Plan B, Norton, 2003

Youngquist, W., GeoDestinies, National Book, 1997

Ponting, C., A Green History of the World, Penguin, 1991

Pimentel, D., Food, Energy, Society, University of Colorado, 1996

Diamond, J., Collapse, Viking, 2005

Gelbspan, R., Boiling Point, Perseus, 2004

Hartmann, T., The Last Hours of Ancient Sunlight, Three Rivers, 2004

Linden, E., The Winds of Change, Simon and Schuster, 2006

Laszio, E. and Seidel P., Global Survival, Select Books, 2006

Wilson, E.O., The Future of Life, Knoff, 2003

Jensen and Draffan, Strangely Like War, Chelsea Green, 2003

Houghton, J., Global Warming: Complete Briefing, Cambridge, 2004

Carroll, J., Sustainability and Spirituality, New York Press, 2004

Kolbert, E., Field Notes From A Catastrophe, Bloomsbury, 2006

Gore, A., The Earth in Balance, Houghton, 1992

Flannery, T., The Weathermakers, Grove/Atlantic, 2006

Lynas, M., High Tide, Picador, 2004

Tamminen, T., Lives Per Gallon, Island Press, 2006

The destruction of almost every natural eco-system on the planet is a direct result of population growth exacerbated by fossil energy consumption. Environmentalism has long been a growing concern by itself signaling the spreading collapse of interrelated world systems. History is replete with localized ecological disasters, but now, with the globalization and accelerated resource depletion made possible by fossil fuels, there are no longer isolated areas unscathed by expanding human presence and environmental destruction. Examples: