Imagine coming home to your kitchen and finding the floor flooded and noticing that water is pouring out of the sink. You race for the closet and grab a bucket and mop and start frantically to mop the water.
Then you realize you had stopped the sink and turned the water on to soak a pot refusing to be cleaned. But, alas, you forgot to turn the water off. Then you turn the water off, unstop the sink and continue mopping.
You’ve discovered the two causes of the water on the floor. So finally you start making progress in drying the floor by removing the causes and treating the symptom.
The Earth’s biosphere, the zone of life on Earth, is being destroyed by humanity. Climate change is but one of the many symptoms of this catastrophe. Biosphere destruction is like the water pouring out of the sink, and humans have not looked hard enough at the underlying causes, let alone understanding the symptoms associated with destruction of the biosphere.
The biosphere is a very complex system composed of a multitude of complex systems. However, for the most part, human understanding of complex systems is primitive, so the prospects of action to stop this catastrophe are grim.
We will now explore some of the causes of the destruction of the biosphere. The most important cause is that human population has exceeded that which can be sustained by the Earth. It can be said that human civilization is causing the destruction.
Human civilization is based partly on: cultures not suited for this modern era, unbridled technology, economic systems geared to continued growth while destroying ecosystems, ineffective political systems and value and ethical norms leading to destruction of nonhuman species. These causes are difficult to adjust or remove in time to eliminate the massive problems facing Earth’s biosphere.
Some symptoms of the ongoing catastrophe are: pollution of the ocean with plastics and other toxic material, changing the chemistry of the atmosphere and oceans, destruction of ecosystems and climate change, all culminating in the ongoing mass extinction.
Most of these causes and symptoms are intertwined and difficult for the individual to see. For example, while climate change is devastating species and ecosystems, human land use policies are accelerating these effects by burning and clearing the vast tropical forests.
Unfortunately human civilization will have great difficulty doing what is necessary to stop the destruction of the biosphere. In thinking about this, remember that climate change is just one of the symptoms, and treating just this symptom and its causes is not sufficient to stop the destruction of the biosphere.
We need vast, effective and humane responses ranging from the individual through all our institutions to preserve what is left of the biosphere.