Alarmists say we are losing our biodiversity and that our ecosystem will be destroyed because of human activity. This will cause mass extinctions that will eventually lead to our own. It’s true, that our species has had a profound effect on the ecosystem, but there is no evidence that our environment is changing such that it won’t continue to support human or other life.
The rate at which species go extinct versus the rate of speciation (divergence of lineage to a new species) would be difficult to arrive at, considering that our knowledge of those species that existed in the past and present is still incomplete. Similarly it would be difficult to figure what net effect the amount of extinctions human activity is directly responsible for versus the ones we prevented by breeding species for farming and other purposes.
For the most part extinctions and speciation are natural events from a geological perspective. Climate change and habitat destruction can be part of this natural process. There is no evidence to support that habitat destruction due to human activity will cause a significant amount of extinctions, or that this has caused permanent damage to the ecosystem.
Life continues to thrive on earth and it is more diverse than ever. After all 4.5 billion years ago there was no life on earth, 3.5 billion years ago there were only Prokaryotes. Earth’s history shows we've had much climate change and ever changing conditions defining ecosystems. It's these conditions that allowed for evolution of the species and allowed for the level of biodiversity we have today.
We are the only species on earth with the ability to manipulate and recreate our physical environment to such an extent. It’s for this reason that we have a more profound effect on the ecosystem than other species. We have transformed Earths landscape and have made it more accommodating to human life. The power to transform our environment will very likely extend to the ability to manipulate the ecosystem so that any negative impact on it due to human activity will likely be reversed by the same means.
“Our whole evolution up to this point shows that human groups spontaneously evolve patterns of behavior, as well as patterns of training people for that behavior, which tend on balance to lead people to create rather than destroy. Humans are, on net balance, builders rather than destroyers.” Julian Simon
The record shows that in 6 million years existence that we’ve continually improved the human condition. It seems in a geological ‘blink of an eye’ that Homo Sapiens went from pushing the limitations of their environment by migrating to colder climates after the invention of the needle and thread - to traveling beyond the limits of the planet itself.
Scientific and technological progress since the first use of tools has been exponential. Advances in science and technology promise even more control over our environment. If the trend continues we will likely experience a level of biodiversity that dwarfs anything experienced in the past.
In the coming years, we will continue to explore beyond the earths limits. We will build more space stations, create artificial habitats, inhabit and terraform other moons and planets. We will propagate life from earth in these other environments and use our knowledge to synthesis new forms of life. We will encounter vastly different environments which will cause evolutionary divergence as a result of regional isolation. We will introduce complimentary species to other environments and they will adapt and speciate.
Extending the biosphere beyond its natural habitat will create a level of biodiversity that could never be realized on earth or without human intervention.
What about diversity within the human population? It might seem as if the human race is ‘losing’ its genetic diversity. After all at one time several hominid species inhabited the earth, and now only Homo Sapiens remain with only 0.1% genetic diversity. This was dictated almost entirely by natural selection and climate change. Over the past few centuries that has changed. Man is gradually taking control of his own evolution.
We have become transhuman by augmenting our bodies with enhancements like prosthetics, pacemakers, and cochlear implants. Through these and many more innovations we have already managed to extend and improve quality of life. If Life expectancy is a fair measure for environmental sustainability and quality of life, then consider that over the past 200 years, we have doubled our own life expectancy.
Even in poorer countries life expectancy and standard of life is continually on the rise. Advances in Biotech promise new ways of combatting disease and further extending life span. If our control over our evolution continues we will very likely gain more diversity than ever before within the human population.
After we eliminate disease and increase longevity our next transhuman endeavor will be enhancements that accommodate different environments. This will cause a divergence in human evolution. Having this much control over our state of being will cause ‘hyperdiversity’ among human populations. Biological and technical enhancements will reflect personal preference and chosen environment. It’s even possible that one day it might be difficult to find two people with exactly the same enhancements.
Sadly today it’s popular opinion that we will reduce quality of life and die out and that it’s already too late! We have exploited the earth for our own selfish wants and poisoned it with our pollution. Species will continue to die out one after another until our ecosystem begins to collapse. But fears of losing biodiversity and man-made environmental destruction are misplaced. We have a better chance of getting hit by an asteroid or a catastrophic volcano erupting than we do of losing biodiversity.
I'll feel a lot better when Humanity gets over its self-loathing period. We should ask ourselves if this continued exponential progress is actually all about survival, because up to this point is always has been.
“Every surviving civilization is obliged to become spacefaring…for the most practical reason imaginable: staying alive.” -Carl Sagan
Roberta Scarlett describes herself as a techno-anarchist and a promoter of radical open source education, technology and science. She is a supporter of DIY, hacking, bio hacking, the maker movement, transhumanism, and off grid energy systems.
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