Sometimes it is simply appropriate to, coffee shop style, slap an article down and announce, “You must read this”. Well, this is one of those occasions, because Johann Hari says it far better than I ever could …
Sometimes, there are hinge-points in human history -moments when we have to choose between an exuberant descent into lunacy, and a still, sober voice offering us a sane way out. Usually, we can only see them when we look back from a distance. In 1793, the great democrat Thomas Paine said the French Revolution shouldn’t betray its principles by killing the King, because it would trigger an orgy of blood-letting that would eventually drown them all. They threw him in jail. In 1919, the great economist John Maynard Keynes said the European powers shouldn’t humiliate Germany, because it would catalyze extreme nationalism and produce another world war. They ignored him. In 1953, a handful of US President Dwight Eisenhower’s advisors urged him not to destroy Iranian democracy and kidnap its Prime Minister, because it would have a reactionary ripple-effect that lasted decades. They refused to listen.
Another of those seemingly small moments with a long echo is happening now. A marginalized voice is offering us a warning, and an inspiring way to save ourselves – yet this alternative seems to be passing unheard in the night. It is coming from the people of Ecuador, led by their President Rafael Correa, and it would begin to deal with two converging crises.
In the four billion years since life on earth began, there have been five times when there was a sudden mass extinction of life-forms. The last time was 65 million years ago, when the dinosaurs were killed, probably by a meteor. But now the world’s scientists agree that the sixth mass extinction is at hand. Humans have accelerated the rate of species extinction by a factor of at least 100, and the great Harvard biologist E.O. Wilson warns it could reach a factor of 10,000 within the next twenty years. We are doing this, largely by stripping species of their habitat. We are destroying the planet’s biodiversity, and so we are making the natural chains that keep us alive much more vulnerable to collapse. This time, we are the meteor.