The Limits to Human Carrying-Capacity

Harvard archeologist Steven Le Blanc writes in “War or Peace for the Future,” the final chapter of his book, Constant Battles; Why We Fight (pg. 224), “…let’s examine the myths of a peaceful past and of humans living in ecological balance and contrast them with a careful assessment of reality that turns the more traditional view on its head. These myths assume that for long periods of time the earliest humans were simple foragers [hunter-gatherers] who lived in harmony with nature, had few wants, and were able to control their populations. When agriculture was developed, populations grew, but farmers managed to remain inherent environmentalist and continued to avoid the environment. Then finally, but not until the rise of complex societies, we humans lost our ability to live in ecological balance. At that point, the appealing story of millions of years of peaceful coexistence with nature turns ugly, and violent, environmentally threatened societies—in particular Western European society—command a starring role. As Western societies spread or affected much of the planet, the myth continues, warfare and environmental degradation spread like an infectious disease, engulfing most of the world—except where vestigial remains of this peaceful, ecologically balanced existence survived among such groups as the !Kung [bushmen], Australian aborigines, Eskimos, Siriono, and the like. In other words, noble Cro-Magnon humans were replaced by warlike, modern imperialists.

“Reality paints a different picture, one with many opportunities for peace and ecological harmony, but it is a portrait of opportunities lost. Looking back through history, several radical changes in human societies occurred, and each change provided, in theory, an opportunity to improve the population-ecological balance and usher in a new era of peace. Each time one of these dramatic changes took place, peace and ecological balance remained elusive.

“The first of these transformations was becoming human. As proto-humans became fully human beings and gained superior intelligence, language, and cultural norms, these initial human foragers were hardly peaceful. Greater intelligence did not result in greater peacefulness. Although some ecologically benign behaviors did develop, they were never effective enough to regulate population growth and to establish a peaceful, stable system. Except in the harshest environments, forager populations grew, reaching the carrying-capacity limit, and then competed for resources. For more than a million years, humans lived in a precarious balance between population growth and the limitations and variability of the environment. Periodic population increases that could not be sustained by an ever-changing resource base lead to chronic starvation, infanticide, and warfare. These early people modified the environment by such means as fire and were no more ‘environmentalists’ than their short-term goals dictated. Since their numbers, by necessity, low, and their technology limited, the impact of the first foragers was relatively minor.

“Beginning around ten thousand to twelve thousand years ago, people began to farm in the Middle East, China, and later in Africa and Central and South America. This new situation might have resulted in a peaceful world. Farmers were able to get far more food from an acre of land than had ever before been possible, and there was potential for plenty for all—but the balance was not maintained. Farmers could reproduce at rates far beyond those of foragers, and they spread quickly over much of Earth. In spite of its potential, farming itself solved no problems. The benefits of every new plant domesticated, every new animal tamed, and every new technology invented were quickly consumed by the growing number of people such advances could additionally support. Horticulture and domestic animals caused environmental degradation that went way beyond the effects of just the higher population numbers. More people translated into more degradation. In any given region, in spite of efforts to control growth or to develop new foods and technologies, the population soon grew to stress the resources once again. Malnutrition, if not starvation, and even more intense and chronic warfare were common among the early farmers.

“Once again, a major social transformation occurred. Complex societies developed. The leadership in these societies had the mechanisms and potential ability to control population growth and to force people to be more ecologically sensitive. Along with more complex societies came complex technologies. The chiefdoms and early states had developed enough technology to harm the world’s environment at levels and rates not seen before. The result was even more degradation of the environment. Although some efforts were made to control population growth, such mechanisms were always far from fully successful, and resource stress was as common as ever.”      etc…

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The Gravest Problem Animals Face: Man’s Self-Appointed Supremacy Over Them

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“Time is running out” (A final message from John A. Livingston)

The following thoughts appear in the last chapter of the late John A. Livingston’s 1973 book, One Cosmic Instant; Man’s Fleeting Supremacy (a book I can especially relate to in that it dissects and begins to dismantle the entrenched, arrogant attitude that humans are apart from, and even superior to, the rest of life here on Earth). Livingston begins by comparing this complex, arrogant, human attitude to an ecosystem:

“In their natural environment, living beings face an infinity of survival problems—food shortages, predators, diseases, competitors, population stresses, and so on. The gravest problem they now face, however—man’s self-appointed supremacy over them—is strangely like an ecosystem. It has a vast and complicated array of interlocking components…

“As any naturalist knows, the quickest and neatest way to destroy an eco-system is to simplify it, to reduce its complexity and thus short-circuit the equilibrium maintained by the mutual interdependence of its component parts. Perhaps the traditional, cultural, institutional, conceptual eco-construct can be decomplexified by our deliberate manipulation—by the exercise of our conscious choice. Intervention in its workings will require degrees of courage, sacrifice, imagination and generosity which have not frequently been displayed in the course of man’s relationship with his environment. One hesitates to predict whether we will be willing to undertake it. The destruction of the power hierarchy over nature will require a shift in attitudes more profound than we can presently imagine.

“The process of simplification or decomplexification will be drastic. Suppose one were to elect to have an initial go at the “rights of man”—the God-given rights of man the individual and man the species. Suppose it were feasible to actually remove some of those rights, one after the other. The consequences might be astonishing… Environmental forces are already ‘eroding’ traditional rights.

“Then there is the right to have children. Suppose people were no longer permitted to reproduce beyond the replacement level. Replacement level means one adult, one child—zero population growth…The environmentalist must look hard at traditional human freedoms.

“There are other ‘rights’ such as the imagined right of man to kill non-human animals for amusement. Clearly the environment itself will deal with this tradition, simply as the effect of men having joyfully massacred so many ducks, geese, rhinos, elephants and Cape buffaloes that there will not be enough of them to go round. A similar end will come to the fashion industry’s apparent determination to exploit to the bitter end the final stocks of leopard, tiger, jaguar, and the rest.

“What of the more fundamental, unquestioned rights of man the species? The right to populate at will must certainly be removed, either by our own conscious choice or by a natural backlash on the part of the biosphere itself. The right to dominate animals of other species, and to dominate landscapes, will not be subverted as readily. Other beings, as species and as landscapes, do not have the ‘clout’ of the combined forces of the biosphere. But that right, too, will disappear. It will be a sad process, for we will not give up the right to dominate without a struggle—a struggle which will cost both human and non-human nature exorbitantly.

“It will not be in our best interests to allow the environment to dismantle our conceptual power structure for us. In such an eventuality, cosmic forces would make life devastating. We should not expect the environmental counter attack to be nearly so dramatic or spectacular as the ancient vision of the Apocalypse, but it would be equally disastrous. Because it would not be sudden, it would be even more agonizing…

“Time is running out for the dismantling of the institutions which have kept us so grimly locked in step with ‘progress.’ There is even less time for reflection on the merits of the traditional components of our culture which have brought us—and all of nature—to the present point of departure. A point of departure it is, either from the narrow and egocentric culture course we have adopted, or premature departure from the blue planet itself. If we are not capable of identifying the specific threads in the fabric of our beliefs which have sustained the entire tapestry upon which the myth of human dominance is emblazoned, then it may be too late already.

“The hope for survival of non-human nature is dim. There is a familiar scenario. As conditions worsen for human populations—as they will, initially, in underprivileged parts of the world—every ounce and erg of our most refined technological skills and energies will be brought into play to extract from Earth and its non-human inhabitants the basic ingredients for human survival. We will first destroy all of the larger animals, either for meat or because they compete with us for space, together with those which may be intolerant of our activities because of their specific natural specializations. Extinctions of non-human species, without replacement, will continue at an accelerating rate, until the only non-human beings remaining will be those who are willing to share their squalor with us—rats, gutter curs, and parasites and micro-organisms which thrive in time environmental dislocation.

“Our capacity for seeing into the future—and we do not want to know about futures of that kind. We withdraw behind the opaqueness of closed imaginations and familiar fancies. We acknowledge that, yes, the situation is bad, but human ingenuity, creativity, enterprise and good will overcome all difficulties.

“While we should be unravelling the threads of tradition, we are weaving ever more elaborate curtains of rationalization. Every avenue of questioning closed off is another route to intellectual and spiritual freedom barricaded forever.

“There is no engineering answer to a problem created by culture. The worst in humanistic ways of thinking opened and kept open the conceptual man/nature dichotomy, and only mature wisdom and insight that categorize the best in natural philosophic tradition can mend it.”

Breeding Ourselves To Extinction

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http://www.counterpunch.org/2014/11/19/breeding-ourselves-to-extinction/

November 19, 2014

Overpopulation Fuels Climate Change

Breeding Ourselves To Extinction

by DADY CHERY & GILBERT MERCIER

The United Nations has held countless major meetings on climate change, at great consumption of fuel, that have amounted to nothing but reports and promises of more talk. After many of these alarming reports, the G20 leaders, in November 2014, decided to throw several billions of dollars at the problem. Despite climate-change denial becoming incorrect, as long as a discussion of overpopulation, in the context of climate-change mitigation, remains a taboo, we may be sure that nothing will be achieved. If we are serious about reducing our carbon footprint, we must rethink the flawed capitalist concept of unending economic growth and consider reducing the number of human feet in the world. Overpopulation must be discussed in the context of climate change. A major impediment to this discussion has been the assumption that Africa and Asia would be the main targets for depopulation, with eugenics intent towards “black and brown babies.” In reality, there are too many human babies of all kinds: especially in industrialized countries with high rates of consumption.

A Time Bomb on a Short Fuse

Earth’s current human population is 7.27 billion and it is increasing at a rate of more than one per second: so fast that this will make you dizzy. By the middle of any given day, for example, there are about 205,000 thousand births, compared to 84,000 thousand deaths. Superficially, Asia and Africa are the most populous continents in the world, with the 10 most populated countries being China, India, the United States, Indonesia, Brazil, Pakistan, Nigeria, Bangladesh, Russia and Japan. On the other hand, if we consider the human impact on greenhouse-gas emissions, the most heavily industrialized countries contribute more per capita to the burden of overpopulation on climate change. Specifically, in 2012, China, the United States, and the European Union alone contributed about 56 percent of the world’s carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions from fuels: 29 percent from China, 16 percent from the US, and 11 percent from the EU. India and Russia were a distant fourth and fifth, at respectively, six and five percent. The rest of the entire world only contributed 33 percent of the total carbon emission! This includes all of Africa, South and Central America, Australia, and all the less industrialized countries of Asia.

According to Paul and Ann Ehrlich, who sounded the alarm about overpopulation several decades ago and have analyzed it for many years, “our species’ negative impact on our own life-support systems can be approximated by the equation: I = P x A x T.” In this equation, I, the impact of a population is equal to its size (P),  multiplied by the per-capita consumption (A), and finally also multiplied by the energy use (T) for the technologies to drive that consumption. By this analysis, the US is by far the most overpopulated country on the planet. The rapid growth in consumption by China and India, and the global aspiration to follow the US’ footsteps are terrifying and should have dire consequences within 25 years.

The Catastrophic Scenario of Eating Oil

The human population should have crashed from famine in the 1970s but was rescued by modern science. In particular, Norman Borlaug’s green revolution allowed our consumption of food to rely more and more on fossil fuels than on solar energy. We have come to depend on industrial fertilizers that require vast amounts of oil for their production, plus a heavily mechanized agricultural industry that also consumes large quantities of hydrocarbons. Indeed, for many years, the patterns of food, fertilizer, and oil prices over time have been superimposable. Today we can say with confidence, for example, that it takes three quarters of a gallon of oil to produce a pound of beef. Consequently, the idea of cheap oil has become regarded as a guarantee of affordable food. There are three problems with this notion: for one, oil is a finite resource; secondly, in a vicious cycle, cheap and abundant oil will, at best, postpone the inevitable human population crash to a much higher population; and finally, all the oil will eventually wind up in the atmosphere as CO2.

According to a November 2014 report from the International Energy Agency (IEA) that projects the state of the planet and its energy resources to 2040, humans will not have to face a shortage of energy. The IEA projects, that by 2040, the world will consume greenhouse-contributing energy like oil, gas and coal, compared with so-called green energy like wind, solar, and nuclear, in a 1:1 ratio. A world-wide expansion of fracking is expected to keep carbon energy cheap and plentiful. This fact plus a projected two-billion-people increase on Earth mean that energy consumption would increase by 37 percent by 2040. This rate of growth and consumption implies a rapid increase of greenhouse-gas emissions, which in turn translates into a 3.6-degree Celsius global warming by the year 2100. This, according to the IEA report, is a “catastrophic scenario.”

Breeding Ourselves to Extinction

About 20 years ago, when the human population was 5.7 billion, our species was already consuming 40 percent of the Earth’s primary productivity. In other words, 40 percent of the total solar energy converted to organic matter was being consumed by a single species. We are quickly approaching a tipping point in the planet’s sixth mass-extinction event, attributable to human folly. The planet simply cannot accommodate another human doubling. Whether or not there is sufficient hydrocarbon to permit such a doubling, it will be prevented by the ravages of climate-change events, such as floods, hurricanes and droughts due to global warming, by famines due to the disappearance of key members of our ecology like the bats and honeybees, and by infectious diseases, like Ebola, from human infringement on the habitats of other animals. Our runaway overpopulation, overconsumption, and our obsession with economic growth are carving a sure path to collective suicide.

Procreation is still viewed as a being blessing and accomplishment, although this is an obsolete notion from an era when many hands were needed on a farm, and life expectancy was short, especially for women (many of whom died in childbirth) and young children. In an overpopulated world, parenthood is an act of self indulgence: the ultimate act of selfishness against the society at large and even toward the children themselves, who are being delivered to a world in crisis. So far, the only country that has seriously tried to control its population has been China. For the 35 years from 1979 to 2014, China’s unpopular one-child policy helped to avert a population growth of more than 400 million. More recently, China’s capitalist ambitions to grow a domestic market for its goods have led it to relax this policy to allow two children per couple if either parent is an only child.

Population control policy is needed globally and can be achieved without coercion. In most industrialized countries, parenthood currently comes with substantial tax breaks and an assortment of benefits. This must end. Instead, parenthood should be heavily taxed in proportion to the number of children, and adults without children should be those to receive tax breaks. The notion that children are a burden to the community at large — and not a blessing — must become part of the discourse. Ultimately, this should become incorporated in the culture to such a degree that the sight of a mother or father with three or four children will become obscene. To have any future as a species, our population needs to drop, as does our consumption. We must challenge capitalism and adopt a degrowth model. If we are to make any progress on mitigation of climate change, we must urgently address the problem of overpopulation.

…and the Grasshoppers Inherit the Earth

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Those who are still harboring fantasies about a time of peace and harmony, sustainability, or inherent respect for nature in human kind’s pre-Columbian past should read, Constant Battles, by Steven A. LeBlanc, which explodes the myths about the peaceful, noble savage and the notion of early conservation ethics.

Here’s an excerpt from that book’s chapter, “Enter Conflict:”

“What sets humans apart from almost all other animals is their ability to take resources from other groups, by group action. A large male bear can chase other bears from the best fishing spot along the river, and a male lion can defend its pride’s territory from other lions, but humans developed this process much further. They can cooperatively take over the territory or resources of another group—either by killing them off or driving them from the resources. Such aggression is not without risk, but it is achievable. The ability to engage in social cooperation sets up a dynamic among population growth, carrying capacity, and the potential for conflict.

“Not only are human societies never alone, but regardless of how well they control their own population or act ecologically, they cannot control their neighbors’ behavior. Each society must confront the real possibility that its neighbors will not live in ecological balance but will grow its numbers and attempt to take the resources from nearby groups. Not only have societies always lived in a changing environment, but they always have neighbors. The best way to survive in such a milieu is not to live in ecological balance with slow growth, but to grow rapidly and be able to fend off competitors as well as to take resources from others.

“To see how this most human dynamic works, imagine an extremely simple world with only two societies and no unoccupied land. Under normal conditions, neither group would have much motivation to take resources from the other. People may be somewhat hungry, but not hungry enough to risk getting killed to eat a little better. A few members of either group may die indirectly from food shortages—via disease or infant mortality for example—but from an individual’s perspective, he or she is much more likely to be killed trying to take food from the neighbors than from the usual provisioning shortfalls. Such a constant world would never last for long. Populations would grow and human activity would degrade the land or resources, reducing their abundance. Even if, by sheer luck, all things remained equal, it must be remembered that the climate would never be constant: times of food stress occur because of changes in the weather, especially over the course of several generations. When a very bad year or series of years occurs, the willingness to risk a fight increases because the likelihood of starving goes up.      …

“Now comes the most important part of this overly simplified story: The group with the larger population always has the advantage in any competition over resources, whatever those resources may be. Over the course of human history, one side has rarely had better weapons or tactics for any length of time, and most such warfare between smaller societies is attritional. With equal skills and weapons, each side would be expected to kill an equal number of its opponents. Over time, the larger group will finally overwhelm the smaller one. This advantage of size is well recognized by humans all over the world, and they go to great lengths to keep their numbers comparable to their potential enemies. This is observed anthropologically by the universal desire to have many allies, and the common tactic of smaller groups inviting other societies to join them, even in times of food stress.

“Assume for a moment that by some miracle one of our two groups is full of farsighted, ecological geniuses. They are able to keep their population in check and, moreover, keep it far enough below the carrying capacity that minor changes in the weather, or even longer term changes in the climate, do not resort in food stress. If they need to consume only half of what is available each year, even if there is a terrible year, this group will probably come through the hardship just fine. More important, when a few good years come along, these masterfully ecological people will not grow rapidly, because to do so would mean that they would have trouble when the good times end. Think of them as the ecological equivalent of the industrious ants.

“The second group, on the other hand, is just the opposite—it consists of ecological dimwits. They have no wonderful process available to control their population. They are forever on the edge of carrying capacity, they reproduce with abandon, and they frequently suffer food shortages and the inevitable consequences. Think of this bunch as the ecological equivalent of the care-free grasshoppers. When the good years come, they have more children and grow their population rapidly. Twenty years later, they have doubled their numbers and quickly run out of food at the first minor change in the weather. Of course, had this been a group of “noble savages” who eschewed warfare, they would have starved to death and only a much smaller and more sustainable group survived. This is not a bunch of noble savages; these are ecological dimwits and they attack their good neighbors in order to save their own skins. Since they now outnumber their good neighbors two to one, the dimwits prevail after heavy attrition on both sides. The “good” ants turn out to be dead ants, and the “bad” grasshoppers inherit the earth.

“The moral of this fable is that if any group can get itself into ecological balance and stabilize its population even in the face of environmental change, it will be tremendously disadvantaged against societies that do not behave that way.” The long-term successful society, in a world with many different societies, will be the one that grows when it can and fights when it runs out of resources. It is useless to live an ecologically sustainable existence in the “Garden of Eden” unless the neighbors do so as well.”

Man’s Fleeting Supremacy

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I recently learned about author John A. Livingston, whose pioneering 1970s era environmental works are steeped in a misanthropy that reflects my own feelings on the scourge of humanity. I just acquired a used hard-back copy of his book, One Cosmic Instant: Man’s Fleeting Supremacy, and found myself in agreement with his attitude from the get-go, starting with Chapter One:

“The non-human world is important to the bird watcher. Its relative importance grows, in inverse relationship with an inevitable misanthropy. One’s disillusionment with society’s treatment of non-human nature is built on a body of evidence which is conspicuous on every hand…

“…if for no other reason than his own survival, man must soon adopt an ethic toward the environment. ‘The environment’ encompasses all non-human elements in the one and only home we have on Earth. However, it will be some time before we are able to enunciate, much less promulgate, an environmental ethic because, fundamentally, the ethic runs contrary to our cultural tradition.

“Ethics have been associated with man-to-man or man-to-society. They have not been concerned with man’s relationships to the non-human. Most moral philosophers have not acknowledged that man might have at least some ethical responsibility to the non-human. Perhaps this is because we cannot conceive of having any ethical responsibility to that which is not capable of reciprocating. Ethics, morals, fitness and propriety of behavior—these are human attributes. They do not exist, so far as we’ve been able to determine, in the non-human world. (That this may be a mere problem in communication does not seem to have occurred to us.) Since ethics do not exist in the non-human world, there is no need to apply them to that world. Our attitude toward the non-human world is not immoral: it is amoral.”

New Conservation Science is Misguided and Too Much About Us‏

 
New Conservation Science is Misguided and Too Much About Us

New Conservation Science is Misguided and Too Much About Us

By Marc Bekoff Ph.D. on February 21, 2015 in Animal Emotions
New Conservation Science argues conservation should focus on human self-interests. It is wrong-minded and ignores the magnificence of nature including the fact that animals and diverse ecosystems have intrinsic value and should be valued for who and what they are, not for what they can do for us. There are far too many of us and it shouldn’t be all about us.

Tuesday Is Soylent Green Day Again

Last night I watched the timeless 1973 movie, Soylent Green, again and was again impressed (unfavorably) by how much the futuristic world that it depicted mirrored the world we’re headed for now. The temperature of the overcrowded New York of the future was a constant 90 degrees; the oceans were dying (presumably from overfishing and pollution, they hadn’t heard of acidification at the time); and the world was running out of food..

Spoiler Alert:

Set in 2022, the film opens with a slide show of earlier eras, back when the Earth was covered with forests and open fields, and there were only a few scattered settlements of people who travelled in horse-drawn wagons.

As the images pass quickly by, we see the first automobiles (tail pipes spewing toxic climate-changing carbon gases), followed by a massive blacktop parking lot jam packed with Model Ts. The pictures begin to flash almost more rapidly than we can focus, but we catch glimpses of factories with smokestacks billowing and crowds of people barely able to

move without trampling one another. (Come to think of it, what we are witnessing looks a lot like the inside of an average modern-day poultry barn, where chickens and turkeys are forced to live out their lives in intense confinement.)

The first scene of action takes place in a cramped little New York City apartment, the dwelling of the film’s two main characters, Thorn, a semi-corrupt detective, and his elderly room-mate and research partner, Sol, who is constantly going on about the good old days—a world that Thorn can’t possibly envision or relate to.

They are among the lucky few; most people sleep on the stairways or in the hallways or anywhere they can find shelter from the oppressive heat caused by an out of control greenhouse effect. We overhear a program on their worn out old TV which is an interview with the governor of New York, touting a new food product called “Soylent Green,” ostensibly made from the ocean’s plankton. (Everyone in that day and age knows that the land is used up, but they’re told the oceans can still provide for them).

Food in this depressing, human-ravaged world comes in the form of color-coded wafers, distributed under strict government supervision. Hordes of people stand in line for their ration of Soylent yellow or blue made from soy, or other high protein plants grown behind the fortress-walls of heavily guarded farms.

Signs remind the throng that “Tuesday is Soylent Green day.”

The multitudes are exceptionally unruly on Tuesday. Brimming with anticipation, they can’t wait to obtain a ration of the special new product. When the food distributors run out of soylent green, people start rioting and things get out of hand. “Scoops” (garbage trucks fitted with backhoe-like buckets on the front) are called in to scrape up the angry masses and haul them off…

By the end of the film, Thorn learns that the oceans are dead and the actual ingredients of Soylent Green are something a bit harder to stomach than plankton. In the final scene, a mortally-wounded Thorn is carried away on a stretcher as he desperately tries to tell bewildered onlookers, “Soylent Green is People!” “They’re making our food out of people. Next thing, they’ll be breeding us like cattle for food!”

Could it ever happen? Could the human race ever stoop so low? If the scenario seems too hard to swallow­, consider this: the conditions animals are forced to endure on today’s factory farms would have seemed unimaginable to people living a hundred years ago.

Humans: Overall, Not Favorably Impressive So Far

The human species is surely impressed with itself. Even the name they chose to classify themselves—Homo sapiens (Latin for “wise man”)—suggests it. Undoubtedly, there must have been some thought involved in the process of mushrooming from a simple tree-dwelling leaf eater in one small corner of the planet, to becoming the scariest big game hunter to rule the Earth.

 UGH

(Carrying a torch)

                               “I’ll use this fire stick to chase that group of peacefully grazing, gregarious gazelles toward that cliff over there, and you guys try to spear as many as you can”

THAG

(Carrying a spear)

                                           “Good thinking, Ugh.”

Scenes like this played themselves out over and over as the species spread out and burgeoned to 7.2 billion. Now the technology of the killingest of creatures has advanced to the point that a single hunter, dressed in camouflage and drenched in another animal’s urine to con his victim as much as possible, can bring down the mightiest moose or tallest giraffe with the slightest squeeze of a trigger.

And still the species grows exponentially and continues to claim every last habitat.

It was impressive when man built the first rocket and took a walk on the moon. However, the rockets they build to blow their enemies sky-high (while irradiating the land and sea) more clearly typify the species’ overall achievements to date. But lately it seems that nuclear annihilation won’t get to see its day; anthropogenic climate change and a man-made extinction spasm are now higher on the agenda.

Perhaps the human, the only creature capable of destroying the Earth, should have been named Homo horribilus mactabilis (Latin for “horrible, dreadful, fearful; deadly, lethal man”).

What would really be impressive is if people were to drop their steak knives (and other weapons of mass destruction) en masse and make peace with this amazing planet and all of its inhabitants. The potential is there, but do they still have the will to learn?

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Pope Potpourri: Don’t Breed Like Rabbits/Will the Pope Go Vegan?

http://www.cbsnews.com/news/pope-francis-walks-back-remark-about-catholics-breeding-like-rabbits/

Pope change his mind on breeding “like rabbits”?

Pope Francis leads his Wednesday general audience in Paul VI hall at the Vatican, Jan. 21, 2015. REUTERS

ROME — During his weekly general audience in St. Peter’s Square, Pope Francis sought Wednesday to clarify remarks he made earlier in the week which suggested Catholics should limit the number of children they have, if they can’t afford to take care of them properly.

Aboard the papal plane from Manila to Rome on Monday, the Pope spoke of his disapproval of a woman who was expecting her eighth child.

“Does she want to leave seven orphans?” asked the pontiff, wondering aloud whether she was trying to tempt god by undergoing an eighth birth by cesarean section.

Using the colorful language that has become his hallmark, the Pope said being a good Catholic did not mean people should breed “like rabbits,” and added that there were many church-approved ways to limit births without resourcing to contraceptives, which are banned by the Catholic Church.

Wednesday, he seemed to pull back from that statement. Speaking of his recent trip to the Philippines, where he presided over the largest mass in history, he said “it gives consolation and hope to see so many numerous families who receive children as a real gift of God. They know that every child is a benediction.”

He called “simplistic” the belief that large families were the cause of poverty, blaming it instead on an unjust economic system. “We can all say that the principal cause of poverty is an economic system that has removed the person from the center, and put the god of money there instead.”

Mons. Anthony Figueiredo, a theologian and Director of the North American Pontifical College in Rome, said the two statements are not contradictory.

“When the Pope speaks on the plane, he is speaking as a pastor to ordinary people,” said Figueiredo, who is a CBS News consultant. “When he comes back, he wants to speak as Pope.”

The Monsignor said that while some Popes have put doctrine first, Francis puts the person first.

“It’s a risky business, there is no doubt about it; because when you begin with the person, everyone has their own way of hearing it.”

Putting Pope Francis squarely into any category can be difficult.

Speaking to reporters during Francis’ trip to the Philippines, Archbishop of Manila Luis Antonio Tagle said that when he’s asked whether the pope is a liberal or a conservative, he responds simply: “he is who he is.”

__________________________________________

Will the Pope Go Vegan? | Posted January 20, 2015 | 11:35 AM

I jest not. Never having been one to adhere to any organized religion, in fact I have an utter contempt for them, I find myself nonetheless more than a little happy to hear Pope Francis has made global climate change a top concern. According to the Associated Press