Technological Capitalism, Endangered Species, and the Human Prospect

Just over thirty years ago, the citizens of the United States of America faced a hard reality, like a slap on the head, and they responded well to the realization. The reality was that modern technology-based capitalist society posed a grave threat to the continued existence of other species, including very charismatic birds such as the peregrine falcon and the bald eagle. A bipartisan U.S. Congress enacted an innovative law called the Endangered Species Act, which provided for protection and recovery of all forms of bio-diversity, and the Act went to far as to specifically state that economic considerations, which were usually the penultimate cause of conflict between human activities and the survival of other species, NOT be weighed into the equation of saving bio-diversity.

Gradually over time, the Act was altered and weakened by processes such as the inclusion of economic calculations into the financial cost of saving species. And portions of the Act were poorly or rarely implemented and often just ignored. But the Act itself stood as a testament to the willingness of a society to preserve the ecological basis of its economy and the recognition that man’s own survival depends on a complex life support system which can be either deliberately or inadvertently degraded or weakened by human activity.

Here in 2005 it appears clear that our society has reached a threshold and is well along in a new course in which the persistence of life itself, of humanity and of worldwide bio-diversity is less important than the temporary accumulation of wealth within strata of human society. Mankind is so transfixed in its capitalistic processes that Aldo Leopold’s words seem true on a scale he could have never envisioned: "The whole world is so greedy for bathtubs that it has lost the ability necessary to build them, or even to turn off the tap." And the world is certainly focused on a different priority than Leopold recommended: "Nothing could be more salutary than a little healthy contempt for a plethora of material blessings."

So, here in 2005, we take a scan of the world situation and we see:

  • — weakening of the Endangered Species Act by a bipartisan majority of the House of Representatives and a public support of this weakening by Federal and State resource agencies who are totally unwilling to engage in the necessary fights for bio-diversity, but have sided with the threat vectors against the very resources under their charge
  • — installation of public infrastructure around the world that undisputedly harms, not only wildlife, but human health, such as coal burning, heavily polluting energy generation plants on the Eastern seaboard of the U.S that sicken huge numbers of American children with asthma in exchange for increased profits for industry executives
  • — continued tolerance of grievously destructive agricultural practices worldwide, including aridlands cattle grazing, unsustainable timber harvest, chemical-dependent and petroleum dependent industrial agriculture which degrades and loses topsoil, wastes water, pollutes watersheds and bankrupts subsistence farmers worldwide
  • — creates profitable but false choices in the form of "solutions" to energy needs, such as wind-farms placed in the middle of protected sea eagle habitat in Norway and in golden eagle habitat in California while contributing power only when the wind blows and in insufficient quantities to make a serious difference in anything other than pocket-lining of entrepreneurs
  • — even the mindless transition of entire industries creating jobs paying living wages from one nation to another in the endless search for more profits and less expenses, at the expense of working class people in America and elsewhere, resulting in more impoverishment, less access to medical care, less ability to fund real solutions that benefit the rapidly growing underclass of humanity
  • — contrivance of lethal conflicts that bring enormous profits to munitions manufacturers and investors in military hardware, while costing many thousands of human lives, immense damage to ecology of whole regions, and the diversion of resources from the world’s needy, who are often caught in the middle of these resource conflicts
  • — the prospect of increased resource wars, increased loss of bio-diversity, increased stratification of the world’s human population between "haves" and "have nots" and the increased accumulation of wealth and power into the hands and portfolios of an international moneyed elite

And yes, all these issues are interrelated and increasingly inseparable. The international moneyed elite, using corporations to manage affairs and influence media, military and government, do strategize relentlessly to increase their power and affluence at the expense of virtually everything else.

They deceive the public when necessary, but they also entrap millions in webs of debt, desire and distraction through the media, advertising, entertainment, and social pressures.

People are led to ignore their own peril. People are more interested in the features of their next cell phone than in the fact that cell phone towers kill hundreds of millions of birds annually. People are more concerned about the cost of gasoline to operate their SUV than the impact of their SUV on the global climate. People are more worried about the cost of protecting bio-diversity than on the cost of living on a planet with reduced bio-diversity. People are more worried about getting higher credit ratings and limits than in the impacts of passing unimaginable debt to their children and grandchildren, not to mention the ecological deficits that are ubiquitous and increasing in every biosphere imaginable on the planet.

The human prospect is a function of human actions and activities, and the actions we are taking now are almost enough to inspire panic. But our society is too busy to panic, too wealthy to stop and think, too poor to think it can make a difference, too leaderless to rise up and act. The dominoes are set up and they are just about ready to fall…