In yesterday’s post, “Bye Bye Biodiversity,” I mentioned the hundreds of miles of Iowa cornfields where nothing else grows or lives. Humans have seen to it that nothing else lives in that region, at first by physically killing off the birds and mammals through hunting and trapping, and next with poisons to eradicate those species they deemed “pests:” the insects and burrowing mammals, along with any competing plants, collectively known as “weeds.”
To see to it that only the resultant monoculture thrives, their chosen plants are genetically modified to repel any other life that might find its way into the wasteland (also so they won’t reproduce on their own without the parent corporation’s seed stock). Much of the corn is grown to serve as feed for those other monoculture “crops:” cows, pigs and chickens stuck on factory farms.
It requires huge tracts of open, flat land to allow for this kind of whole-Earth manipulation to go on, and the Midwest, once known as The Great Plains—the former home to vast herds of migratory bison and elk, pronghorn and prairie dogs, wolves, grizzly bears and more—was just the ticket.
As long as there are still miles of farm roads to speed their pickup trucks along and an occasional deer, coyote or “planted” pheasant to hunt, folks growing up there consider it to be the “country,” blissful in their ignorance of the biological diversity that thrived across the once wild land they call home.
It’s a similar story out west, where so much of the ancient forests have been removed and replanted with single-species tree plantations. Though the slopes are still mostly green, much of the wondrous diversity of life has been lost, along with the memory of whom and what once lived there.
By the same token, anyone arriving by transatlantic schooner would have no way of knowing that mass extinction in North America had already begun with the arrival of the first human hunters to cross the Bering land bridge a dozen centuries before. The megafauna which evolved on the Western Hemisphere—in glorious isolation from predacious human primates, whose greatest achievement may well be the complete undoing of all that evolution has created during this, the tail end of the age of mammals—would have brought to mind the African savanna; an American Serengeti.
Futuristic films, such as Soylent Green and Silent Running, suggest that when humans inevitably destroy the planet, there will be absolutely nothing left. But mass extinction does not necessarily equate to a totally denuded planet. The otherwise lifeless Midwest monoculture cropland, where one or two dominant species have displaced all others, is closer to what a mass extinction looks like.
In other words, we aren’t on the “verge of causing” a mass extinction, as the mainstream media (loath to report on anything that might affect the stock market) would tell you; we are among the living-dead in the midst of a human-caused mass extinction. It may not be the “Zombie Apocalypse,” but as far as life on Earth is concerned, it’s pretty damned scary.