How Can the Earth Win If Global Citizens Do Not Seek Ecological Truth and Sufficient Action?

Sustaining biodiversity, climate, and the biosphere requires protest to achieve sufficient policies based upon ecological science; and all of us including the environment movement taking risks while committing to massive social change

Earth Meanders by Dr. Glen Barry, March 30, 2008

As the fourth anniversary of my Earth Meanders personal ecological essays approaches, I thought it appropriate to meander on the past and future challenges of their writing. Given the demands of 80 hour weeks required by my day job running Ecological Internet (EI), the leading provider of environmental portals, I much desired an opportunity to more broadly express my ecological insight. Thus Earth Meanders was born with the mandate of "placing environmental sustainability within the context of other contemporary issues".

After 20 years of focusing tightly upon studying and working to protect forests, and climate for the last ten years, writing these essays and expressing more widely a biocentric vision has helped me tremendously. I do this out of love for the Earth and to help myself deal with the personal pain of knowing the violence being done to her. However, I do realize there has been some confusion regarding my dual roles within EI and these writings. They are completely separate, and to make this clearer you will see that future Earth Meanders will be coming from .

Earth Meanders is my attempt to understand and communicate how ecology pervades every aspect of life. This ongoing dialogue regarding ecological sustainability and related issues is not meant to be strategic, or part of a campaign. The only criterion determining whether I like a piece and will send it out is if I believe it to be truthful, and it says what I meant to say. This essay is even more bloated and self- indulgent than usual, but I find it necessary to respond at length to what I consider unfair criticisms and further explain what I do and why.

Far too little effort has been made to truthfully determine global ecological policy required to sustain humanity and the Earth. A strong disservice is done to the Earth's prospects by those who generally know the scope and seriousness of the global ecological crises but continue living and working as if token change is enough. My personal approach as an essayist, and professional methods as an activist -- both based upon biocentric ecological truth seeking and protest action -- are frequently criticized, even by my closest colleagues.

Let me give a few examples, not to chastise, but to illustrate some important points. A dear advisor and financial supporter recently castigated me in regard to my cellulosic biofuels essay, letting me know "nothing that you write will have any significant impact", urging me to accept them as inevitable rather than tipping at windmills. A longtime colleague of EI recently suggested we should not protest Brazil's soy policy because it was undiplomatic and could cause outrage. As I went ahead, this individual reneged on pledged financial support.

And there is the long-standing six-year effort to get former colleague Rainforest Action Network out of the business of supporting ancient forest logging. RAN refuses to answer the simple question "how does FSC certified logging of primary and old-growth forests protect endangered forests". These sincere, truthful efforts have been met with stonewalling and increasingly personal attacks suggesting I just seek attention, like causing problems, and dismissal of EI's campaign to end ancient forest logging as "flame bait". If all I wanted was attention I would go and hang off a building as RAN does!

In each case criticism from respected associates that I depend upon for my livelihood has strongly stung. I am deeply reflective, and this leads me to consider whether changing my approach would be a good idea. Ecological Internet continues to struggle financially. Is this because of these controversial personal writings and EI protests, and should I sell out and stop strongly identifying and advocating ecological truth in order to better fit in while paying my modest mortgage?

Certainly if I stopped writing these essays and removed controversial content from EI's portals, while toning down our campaigns, it would result in more mainstream, broad-based support including more funding. But would the Earth's interests and truth in general be best served? Though modest in resources (though perhaps not in personality) I have built one of the world's only ecological truth-telling truly global networks committed to sufficient policies to achieve global ecological sustainability. Should this be traded away for social acceptability, some coins, and a return personally to IT/ecological consulting to make a living?

In response to each expression of concern, I have replied that truth matters, that a central truth is that ecosystems are required for life and are failing, and that discussion of uncomfortable yet sufficient alternative ecological views is a good thing. These three instances are but tiny examples of the timidity and cautiousness of the environmental movement.

I am constantly amazed at the lack of fight. If any other issue threatened to kill billions, and even perhaps end human civilization, there would be outrage and urgent mobilization to action. Alas, it is easier to raise armies than achieve necessary widespread personal and societal sacrifice. When asked to give up material comforts to save their species and habitat, even the greenest would rather seek reform than revolt.

If the Earth is to have a future, it is critical that little in regards to human consumption patterns remains sacrosanct. If we cannot fuel personal automobiles, power our electronics and use large timbers in construction without destroying global ecosystems; then autos, coal and ancient forest logging have to go. The status quo is irredeemable and will change either through lack of effort, continued destruction and eventual collapse; or through personal and societal revolutionary change based upon ecological truth.

Humans are animals. Fundamentally our habitat requirements are met by the variety of life and their cumulative outputs and interactions; that is, biodiversity creates ecosystems we need to live. There is virtually no chance that humanity can engineer these ecological processes and patterns. All aspects of human endeavors – economic, cultural, social, artistic and political – are subsets of the global ecological system. No ecology, no economy.

Economic, justice, security and other political concerns are very important. Yet none rise to the level of biodiversity loss, ecosystem failure, global heating and the biosphere's pending collapse. If the global ecological system fails, being ends, and all these other matters mean nothing. There are many fancy and increasingly complex policies proposed to protect the Earth's climate and biodiversity. These range from carbon markets, to biofuels, to payments for avoided deforestation -- all meant to extend growth of the human enterprise.

Yet in reality, limits to such growth have already been exceeded, and the solutions are simple -- ending the burning of fossil fuels, and any diminishment of rainforest and other natural habitats. And we must be willing to pay the price of forgone development including meeting needs of those economically dependent upon these antiquated activities.

If humanity really decides saving the Earth’s diversity of life and relatively stable climatic patterns is worthwhile, we would swing into action with a sense of urgency to support this environmental sufficiency agenda at all costs. Ecologically enlightened global citizens will protest across borders judging rightly that their survival depends upon success. Europeans and Americans will protest Amazonian rainforest loss; even as Bolivian victims of climate change induced floods protest their wasteful use of energy.

Saving the Earth and all her species including humans depends critically upon creating a movement of global citizens interested in truthfully identifying what is required to maintain the Earth, and then taking sufficient action (whatever the odds) to achieve that which must be done. This effort must not be bound by social convention, political boundaries, or the interests of environmental funders and gatekeepers of permissible thought.

I believe strongly it is less risky for the Earth and the survival of all her creatures to perhaps fall short of what is truly necessary to achieve ecological sustainability, while just maybe wholly succeeding; than to achieve in their entirety policies that are inadequate and can only inevitably lead to ecocide. For as long as we can possibly hold out, you can count upon Ecological Internet to help facilitate required global protests, and for me to write freely and truthfully here about sufficient measures to achieve global, just and equitable ecological sustainability. It is what I do.

Dr. Barry is founder and President of Ecological Internet; provider of the largest, most used environmental portals on the Internet including the Climate Ark at and http://www.EcoEarth.Info/ . Earth Meanders is a series of ecological essays that are written entirely in his personal capacity. This essay may be reprinted granted it is properly credited to Dr. Barry and with a link to Earth Meanders. Emailed responses are public record and will be posted on the web site unless otherwise requested.


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