Monday, November 9, 2020

Habitat Loss

As our species dominated and the world’s ecosystems, we made them part of our own habitat. The tools we used to do so were simultaneously used to create artificial environments that removed or spoiled resources that could be used to meet the basic biological needs of species we directly or indirectly depended upon for our survival, threatening to exterminate them and - in much the same way - us. This is a story told by statistical simulation of our history by my Timelines model and ecological observation of how extinctions occur.



According to my simulations, resources available for meeting human needs (what I’ve called “ecological resources”) are now only double the amount consumed for needs. This allows for consumption of only 15% more needs before population reaches a peak and then collapses. Most likely, collapse occurs because the populations of species (counted as resources) that supply the resources we directly consume themselves collapse. Our population peak is projected to occur no later than 2024, after which casualties are unavoidable.



ABOVE: Current summary of global variables and their projected trajectories. 


The COVID-19 virus is already exacting a toll on our population. It can be thought of as a consequence of habitat loss, because the other species in our habitat are likewise experiencing habitat loss, being forced to share more of their space with us and enabling those that prey on them to prey on us. Critically shrinking habitat is making this situation catastrophically worse even as our temporarily restrained consumption slows the rate of the shrinking. 


Meanwhile, climate change is becoming a self-sustained feedback of our pollution that is destroying habitat and creating conditions such as melting ice that will drive it further on its own. Our collectively growing obsession with reducing greenhouse gas emissions (climate-altering pollution) might slow the destruction, but more is necessary because we are too close to the critical point where species including ours might not avoid collapse in time to recover. 


As I’ve suggested before, the best option is to radically increase the total amount of habitat by reducing what we are currently consuming (in needs and waste). This will buy time for us and the other species we save to create barriers to further loss, including cleanup of waste such as that threatens to increase global warming. My simulations of such an approach provide insight into the attendant physical and social consequences that be used to craft a strategy for making them a reality and monitoring the results.


ABOVE: Summary of global variables after a reduction in consumption from 2021 to 2030. Reducing the amount of greenhouse of gases in the atmosphere to avoid more dangerous temperatures would need to occur soon.