History provides numerous examples of entire cultures that have collapsed and failed. Examples such as Easter Island, Mayans, Aztecs and Norse people of Greenland are cultures that have failed as a result of environmental failures within their immediate environments. Dr. Jerod Diamond, a professor of geography specializing in evolutionary biology and bio-geography, contributes these failures to the ecological problems inadvertently caused by the people which resulted in the destruction of the resources they depended on for survival. He identifies eight major environmental issues to be most significant in the demise of these Cultures. They were deforestation and habitat destruction, soil problems, water problems, over-hunting, over-fishing, population growth, introduction of non-indigenous species and increased per capita consumption of the people. Studies indicate the people were probably not aware of the devastating impact they were having on their environment until it was too late, which continues to be a problem today. It is important to point out again the natural world and forests in particular, provide the life sustaining elements for 80% of all living species on our planet.
There is no doubt that the concept of a global community is progressing regardless of our desires. Advanced technology, particularly in travel and communications, has accelerated this transition with little consideration for the human impacts which might occur. Worldwide markets are critical for major countries and it seems fair market principles are being debated daily. Worldwide communications allow corporate institutions to find and employ workers to produce their goods and services at a fraction of the cost of American labor. There are even considerations for a global monetary system. Yes, advancements in technology has shrunk our world, unfortunately it has not produced more land to provide for our growing populations needs. When I review the research that has provided insight into past cultures, the two most common environmental issues found in their collapse and failure are population expansion and deforestation.
It appears, we failed to realize what we were doing when we began to interfere with the processes of the natural world. We saw Earth as belonging to us and used our new found knowledge for our own human advantage with an arrogant disregard for the well-being of the planet. Even our religious beliefs indicate we were to be dominant over all other life and we were given the intelligence to manipulate the natural world. Ignoring the human destruction to our home, planet earth, raises the question, do we have time to change? Based on past cultural failures, it is apparent our indigenous people were not perfect but, many knew their environment and shared the resources they depended upon. Dr. Berry states, “In their traditional mystique of the earth, they are emerging as one of our surest guides to a viable future”.
Approximately, ten thousand years ago civilization moved from a hunter-gather culture to an agricultural culture and human disturbance of the natural world began in earnest. Early agricultural efforts planted food bearing plants among the native plants and did not clear the land of existing vegetation. Time changed as the need to supply food for large numbers of people increased. Soon small farms began to appear and today, with modern equipment, farms are thousands of acres in size and some ranches are measured in square miles. Today’s demand for tillable soil has resulted in deforesting millions of acres worldwide. The opportunity to provide new lands for our masses has also been exhausted. Everything now demands intensive management of each individual acre including our remaining forest covered lands. The problem is; how do we define intensive management? The science of forestry, which focuses on a sustainable flow of resources from the forests, views intensive management as planting trees in plantations and selecting species that maximize the production of wood fiber per acre. Those who follow the principles of preservation, want the forest lands locked up from human intrusion and allow nature to re-establish the stands of trees after they become old and decadent. Old and decadent tree stands are unable to provide the elements required for life on our planet. Neither of these management strategies will sustain life in the future. Management must focus on keeping the individual forest communities healthy and vibrant as well as maintaining the diversity of the original vegetative cover found within the community. I call this, “Natures’ Way “, which describes the human process of trying to perpetuate the original vegetative cover, diversity and animal utilization. The problem we are having exists because scientists insist their knowledge is based on measured modes of explanation which creates a materialistic universe from simply random processes.
There are a few obvious factors we must accept today if we care about tomorrow! The power of control humans have over the natural life systems are vast in the powers of devastation but pathetically limited with the powers of renewal. There are no new lands to discover and develop on our planet and our world population is going to challenge Earth’s carrying capacity within the next 30 to 40 years. Increased population will necessitate additional deforestation for food, shelter and infrastructure. The life sustaining elements provided by forested lands and required by 80% of life systems on Earth, will shrink as deforestation efforts increase! These facts should trigger a worldwide coalition focused on finding realistic solutions for our future! We must join hands with our brothers and sisters and ignite the Eighth and Final Fire described in the Seven Fire Prophecies of the Anishinaabe People. Our grandchildren are depending upon us! Will globalization help or hinder efforts to save and renew the Natural World?