- Summarise the diverse manifestations of global anthropogenic environmental change that characterise the Anthropocene.
- Explain how those changes affect nonhumans and ecosystems, creating the sixth mass extinction event in the Earth’s history.
- Describe what characteristics and circumstances render an animal species particularly at risk of becoming extinct in the Anthropocene.
- Explain what food webs are, giving examples; explain how they can become ‘frayed’ by human impact.
- Summarise how marine food webs are affected by acidification, deoxygenation and marine heat waves.
- Differentiate the impacts exerted on food webs by macroplastics, microplastics and nanoplastics.
- Summarise the challenges that render global overpopulation particularly problematic and difficult to address.
- Explain how population size, consumption level, technological means work together to determine the ecological impact of a person.
- Analyse how cultural factors conspire to render patterns of mass consumption to become part of the War on Nature.
- Explore how the assumptions, beliefs and aspirations held by neoclassical economic theorists render their field non-scientific.
- Develop a personal view about justifications, critiques, prospects of humanity’s War Against Nature.
This chapter is made up of the ‘case studies’ that follow from Our War Against Nature, written from a perspective that sees human security as co-extensive with maintaining the integrity of the Biosphere; in other words, if the Biosphere goes down we go down. It is important for us to resist the ‘shifting baselines’ phenomenon, a tendency to adjust uncritically to ‘the new normal’ as ecosystems are disrupted, human-altered landscapes spread and the global climate shifts into new extremes. Instead of recapping the dynamics of climate change, discussed in Chapter 9, however, the focus here will be on some of the pressing but lesser known “other” problems our growing demand on planetary systems is generating, with connections to climate change pointed out where pertinent. Many of the articles referred to herein have appeared in the scientific literature just in the last five years, and public awakening to the stark reality of our “existential crisis” is considerably more recent. It may not yet be too late to prevent a ‘state shift’ of the Earth System and the massive loss of Holocene-adapted lifeforms likely to accompany it, but the case studies presented in Part I of this chapter are meant to stand as evidence that our current trajectory is accelerating toward such a shift. Appreciating the magnitude of our human footprint, examined in Part II, should help us to understand what sorts of moves are needed to change course; it will require transformation of many of our humanly constructed institutions and certain widely shared beliefs and values–but that’s well within our capacity as flexible biological beings. We face a choice between clinging to the habits of thought and behavior that have driven Our War Against Nature and creating new ways of living that will assure a viable future for all Life on Earth. What will we choose?
The chapter is divided into two parts:
- Part I - The Assault on Organisms and Ecosystems
- PART II - The Human Footprint