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Hope in the Age of Humans, A Call to Action including Voting!
By Kim Crumbo
While there’s life, there is hope. Stephen Hawking
Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot,
Nothing is going to get better. It’s not.
Sixty-five million years ago, an eight-mile-wide asteroid crashed into what is now the coast of Yucatan wiping out seventy-five percent of all the planet’s species in what is known as the Fifth Extinction. So ended the Mesozoic, the Age of Reptiles, and began the Cenozoic, the Age of Mammals. An estimated 10 million years is required to recover from each great extinction event. After a long period with a relatively stable planetary environment human activity has now accelerated the rate of extinction between one hundred and one thousand times higher than before humans arrived. Today, we find ourselves in what is called by many the Anthropocene, the Sixth Extinction.
This essay touches on two topics considered controversial—Hope and the Anthropocene. The lesser controversy is the highly controversial term Anthropocene.
According to the International Union of Geological Sciences (IUGS), the professional organization in charge of defining Earth’s time scale, we are officially in the Holocene (“entirely recent”) epoch, which began 11,700 years ago after the last major ice age. Others argue for “Anthropocene”—from anthropo, for “man,” and cene, for “new”—because human-kind is causing mass extinctions of plant and animal species, polluting the oceans and altering the atmosphere, resulting in a profoundly changed the planet. Those somewhat inconsistent interpretations prompted an eminent and exasperated conservation biologist, Michael Soulé, to challenge the credibility, not to mention the wisdom, of the concept: saying we are in the ‘Anthropocene’ can lead to human exceptionalism, the idea that finally we have defeated nature once and for all, and it’s our destiny to dominate the world. That’s an incredibly dangerous idea. It’s also totally absurd. We have destroyed much of the planet’s wilderness, but there’s still a lot of nature left. Nature is all around us.
The debate continues as the term Anthropocene endures, but for the purpose of this discussion I prefer the improvised time frame Age of Humans, the span between the human-exacerbated mass extinction of Pleistocene animals and the present, but with the emphasis on the present.
We men are wretched things, so spoke Achilles, as one of the man-killing heroes in the slaughter at Troy should know. Literature abounds with convincing examples of Homo sapiens’ dark side. The early great epics—the Iliad, the Odyssey, the Aeneid, the Voyage of the Argo—provide fascinating accounts of the ancient world’s mythological heroes immersed within an unsettling war environment overflowing with violent behavior toward women, children, slaves and other fellow countrymen, and animals.
First hand and other more recent historical or literary accounts, such as Joan of Arc’s Self-Portrait, reveal a milieu in 15th century Europe replete with then-acceptable, despicable standards of violence. There are Franciso Goya’s horrifying graphic depictions of The Disasters of War and novelist Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness which dwells on the idea that there is little difference between the so-called civilized people and those described as savages. Conrad’s novel inspired Francis Ford Coppola’s critically acclaimed Apocalypse Now, a disturbing film on war and the human condition. Haing Ngor’s chilling book Cambodian Odyssey, a tale of enduring then escaping the brutal Khmer Rouge genocide, drives home the realization that evil still lurks in the modern world. Of course, the Holocaust and the horror it brought still haunts most of us. My formative years as a Navy SEAL in Vietnam also contributed to a worldview that undermines for me any uncritical perspective of human nature.
Despair, the complete loss or absence of hope, touches most of us sooner or later, or so it seems. Realizing our own mortality, loss of a loved one, especially a child or spouse, or other devastating events can hurtle even the most durable soul into that dark abyss. Immersed as we are in the global Sixth Extinction, chaotic climate disruption, and the current administration’s reckless hostility toward confronting the Planet’s grave risks, it’s challenging to find credible shreds of optimism. Perhaps the silver lining to such a dark cloud can be at best empathy for others so afflicted.
There are other aspects of life that, at best, a sentient being may get through if not over. As Michael Soulé points out somewhat reluctantly, most human beings are wired for optimism, the irrational joie de vivre, the joy of living. Despair is debilitating, awful to endure. But, as another wizard, Tolkien’s Gandalf, emphatically asserts during his desperate journey to save the world, despair is only for those who see the end beyond all doubt. We do not.
We do not.
According to Hesiod, when Prometheus, the Greek god credited with the creation of humanity, stole fire from heaven, Zeus took revenge by presenting Pandora to Prometheus’s brother Epimtheus. Eager to blame a women for all humankind’s problems, Hesiod describes how Pandora opened a jar containing sickness, death and many other unspecified evils which were then released into the world. Though she quickly closed the container, only one thing was left behind – usually translated as Hope, though it could also have the pessimistic meaning of deceptive expectation.
J.R.R Tolkien, author of Lord of the Rings, The Hobbit and other fine works of literature, was a World War I veteran. He survived the Battle of Somme, with its one million casualties, making it one of the fiercest concentrations of killing in the history of human conflict. By the war’s end in 1918, all but one of his close friends were dead. Tolkien went on to produce a wealth of inspiring literature, although his life was cast in the shadow of the long defeat—the idea that evil will always come back, no matter how many times it has been defeated. One of Tolkien’s central characters, Galadriel, an elvish queen with an immortal’s perspective, drew hope from the knowledge that wars would end, at some point, and that, if she and others had beaten back evil once, they could do it again. Hope without guarantees, yes, but hope nonetheless.
The Better Angels
Be brave, be curious, be determined, overcome the odds. It can be done. Edward Abbey
Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has. Margaret Mead.
In their insightful book, The Liberation of Life, biologist Charles Birch and theologian John Cobb confront the challenge of global natural and human impoverishment:
The future is truly open in the sense that the human species may extinguish itself and destroy much of the rest of life on the planet; yet such an outcome is not inevitable. Hence there is great urgency about establishing the right direction through the current maze of problems and dangers.
Harvard Professor Steven Pinker, in his 800-page tome, The Better Angels of Our Nature: Why Violence has Declined, thoroughly documents humankind’s dismal, violent past. Yet Pinker describes six trends resulting in our species retreat from violence, including
The Rights Revolution—symbolically inaugurated by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1948, a growing revulsion against aggression against ethnic minorities, women, children, homosexuals, and animals. These spin-offs from the concept of human rights—civil rights, women’s rights, children’s rights, gay rights, and animal rights—were asserted in a cascade of movement from the late 1950s to the present day.
In his generally positive assessment, Pinker factors in alarming events including authoritarian populism (Trump, Brexit, European populist movements), reminding us that [t]he major long-term forces that have carried liberalism along—mobility, connectivity, education, urbanization—are not likely to go in reverse, and neither is the pressure for equality from women and ethnic minorities.
Pinker has his critics. While many share his optimism that this could be our best century, in which poverty and many of the challenges humanity has historically confronted are addressed, yet there is also a real potential for dystopian outcomes as sea levels, strife, temperatures and resistant infections rise, and biodiversity, democratic institutions, social ties, mental health and resource security are eroded. Ian Goldin, professor at Oxford, emphasized the need to face up to these and other daunting challenges while nurturing the positivity required to tackle them.
Pinker, in fact, emphasizes the fact that many measure of environmental quality are improving does not mean that everything is OK, that the environment got better by itself or that we can just sit back and relax. He beseeches us to treat environmental protection as a problem to be solved: how can people live safe, comfortable, and stimulating lives with the least possible pollution and loss of natural habitats. Our problems are caused by humanity, and it is up to humanity to solve them.
Former Secretary of State and the first woman to serve in that role, Madeline Albright, is an optimist who worries a lot. When asked how she avoids despair, seeing the authoritarianism that marked her childhood now sweep the globe in her old age, she responded It’s something that I really do think I learned from my parents, she said. You have to make a way of dealing with the problems that are out there in order to avoid despair, and not just be an observer of it. And realize that we all have a role. Her role right now is to speak out, with whatever authority her history and career confer.
When asked if he is pessimistic or optimistic about the future, environmentalist and writer Paul Hawken’s answer is consistent:
If you look at the science about what is happening on earth and aren’t pessimistic, you don’t understand the data. But if you meet the people who are working to restore this earth and the lives of the poor, and you aren’t optimistic, you haven’t got a pulse. What I see everywhere in the world are ordinary people willing to confront despair, power, and incalculable odds in order to restore some semblance of grace, justice, and beauty to this world.
It is inevitable that more and more species will need a helping hand if they are to continue to share the planet with us, wrote scientist, conservationist, and mentor, Jane Goodall. So it is fortunate that increasing numbers of people are waking up, becoming aware of the damage we are inflicting on the web of life, and wanting to do their bit to help, whether as wildlife biologists, government officials, or concerned citizens. 
The poet Adrienne Rich wrote, So much has been destroyed I have cast my lot with those who, age after age, perversely, with no extraordinary power, reconstitute the world.
There could be no better description, according to Hawken. Humanity is coalescing. It is reconstituting the world, and the action is taking place in schoolrooms, farms, jungles, villages, campuses, companies, refugee camps, deserts, fisheries, and slums.
A key strategy for protecting the environment and its diversity of life is to motivate an informed and caring citizenry to defend wild nature. For better or worse, the fate of all life lies inextricably entwined within humankind’s behavior. We can ill afford waiting until all of humankind is thoroughly enlightened, and so our very survival depends on what Abraham Lincoln described as the better angels of our nature, in this case the better angels of society who develop inquiring, knowledgeable and caring citizen leaders and help to create a better and more peaceful world through intercultural understanding and respect for the Earth’s diversity of life.
The Tasks Ahead
Our most basic common link is that we all inhabit this planet. We all breathe the same air. We all cherish our children’s future. And we are all mortal.
John F. Kennedy
If we can make it to the ground, we’ll take the next chance. And the next. On and on until we win…or the chances are spent.
In his recent book, Half-Earth, the eminent ecologist Edward O. Wilson offers an emergency solution to saving and stabilizing at least 80 percent of the planet’s diversity of life. He presents a compelling case that sustaining the planet’s natural unfolding of evolutionary processes is essential for the survival, let alone flourishing, of all our planet’s living inhabitants, humans included. He implores us to understand that only by setting aside half the planet in reserve, or more, can we save the living part of the environment and achieve the stabilization required for our own survival. Wilson’s premise, based on extensive research including many other scientists, is that nature’s planetary share requires at least half the planet to sustain its complexity, ecological processes, and diversity of life.
As an interim step toward Half-Earth, Eric Dinerstein, the lead author of a 2019 study, A Global Deal for Nature: Guiding Principles, Milestones, and Targets, calls on governments around the world to fully protect 30% of Earth’s surface, including oceans, and sustainably manage another 20% by 2030 if they’re to have a hope of saving ecosystems and limiting global warming. While some worry that the “thirty by thirty” message is still too aspirational to make a practical difference for some of the most important and threatened habitats on the planet, Dinerstein says that goal provides an initial road map for what needs to be done, but a global movement is needed to convince governments and the private sector to act. I think we have the science now, he says. We need to rally humanity to step up.
The rally is underway. In October 2018, the Wyss Foundation announced it would donate an unprecedented $1 billion to the Campaign for Nature to protect our planet’s lands and oceans and ensure that future generations can drink clean water, breathe clean air, and experience the wonders of the natural world. The campaign’s goal is to help conserve 30 percent of the planet in a natural state by 2030 by creating and expanding protected areas, establishing ambitious international conservation targets, investing in science, and inspiring conservation action around the world. The National Geographic Society is directly involved while other conservation organizations, including the Sierra Club, are laying out a road map to reach that Half Earth goal, demanding that governments protect 30 percent of landscapes and seascapes by 2030.
Protect Public Lands
America’s public lands play a major role in any North American Half-Earth strategy, especially in the context of climate disruption, and so we at The Rewilding Institute strongly advocate for the protection of public lands, with Wilderness Area, National Park, National Wildlife Refuge, or other protective designations wherever possible. In this endeavor we have two powerful pillars of support. For one, Americans support protecting the environment, but there are deep partisan divides on the issue. A 2016 poll indicated that about three-quarters of U.S. adults (74%) said the country should do whatever it takes to protect the environment, compared with 23% who said the country has gone too far in its efforts to protect the environment. Reliance on credible science remains our second pillar of support.
Pinker describes Five Historical Forces that favor our peaceable motives and that have driven the multiple declines in violence. Of these five, particularly relevant to public lands is the rule of law. Our tasks include continuing to strongly advocate, and when necessary, litigate for the retention of public lands, not only for the existing and potential protected areas those lands afford, but for the laws we fought long and hard for and compromised to get passed, such as the Wilderness Act and the Endangered Species Act (ESA). Other laws, including the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), Federal Land Policy Management Act (FLPMA) and the National Forest Management Act (NFMA), provide us the opportunity to engage in decision-making and land-use planning. These laws also provide us the option of formal protests and lawsuits when agencies or others behave badly. These same laws are under attack by the current administration.
Five years ago, Barrack Obama stressed that No challenge – no challenge – poses a greater threat to future generations than climate change, and emphasized the significance of the 2016 Paris Agreement on confronting climate change. Although only an interim step, the agreement’s central aim is to strengthen the global response to the threat of climate change by keeping a global temperature rise this century below 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels and to pursue efforts to limit the temperature increase even further to 1.5 degrees Celsius. Additionally, the agreement aims to strengthen the ability of countries to deal with the impacts of climate change. A year later, Trump submitted a notice of intent to withdraw the U.S., from the Paris Climate Agreement, a process that cannot be completed until November 2020.
Last year, climate researchers, along with more than 11,000 other scientist signatories from 153 countries, declared a climate emergency and recommended humanity take immediate steps to slow down the effects of a warming planet including
- Implement massive conservation practices; replace fossil fuels with low-carbon renewables; leave remaining stocks of fossil fuels in the ground; eliminate subsidies to fossil fuel companies; and impose carbon fees that are high enough to restrain the use of fossil fuels.
- Restore and protect ecosystems such as forests, grasslands, peatlands, wetlands, and mangroves, and allow a larger share of these ecosystems to reach their ecological potential for sequestering atmospheric carbon dioxide, a key greenhouse gas.
- Convert the economy to one that is carbon free to address human dependence on the biosphere and shift goals away from the growth of gross domestic product and the pursuit of affluence.
- Curb exploitation of ecosystems to maintain long-term biosphere sustainability, and
- Stabilize a global human population that is increasing by more than 200,000 people a day, using approaches that ensure social and economic justice, such as insuring a women’s access to birth control and education.
Reversing the factors contributing to climate chaos, and mitigating its on-going adverse effects, remains a major existential challenge and fundamental goal for humanity. It demands a dramatic shift from the reckless direction of the current administration.
By any standards that include concern for biological diversity as well as human wellbeing, human population—7.7 billion as of 2019 and still rapidly growing—is imperiling our planet. While nobody really knows what the planet’s human carrying capacity is, some scientists advocate a global population strategy to enable a smooth descent to the two to three billion that could live comfortably indefinitely within the biophysical means of nature. What exactly a smooth descent might look like is uncertain, but ethical is the imperative is to sharply lower the human population over the next one hundred or so years.
A non-coercive approach for stabilizing and lowering our numbers globally—through the exercise of reproductive rights—offers an effective, humane strategy for scaling down consumption on all fronts consistent with democratic values. Research and experience reveal that improvements in women’s rights, education and self-determination generally lead to lower birth rates. Several 20th-century cases demonstrate the efficacy of population policies in reducing fertility, even in the absence of strong economic development. Such policies simultaneously promote human rights and support important development goals. Lessons from successful population strategies in countries as diverse as Thailand, Bangladesh, Costa Rica, South Korea, and Iran, among others, reveal that the most effective transcultural approach to lowering fertility rates is to embark on comprehensive, well-designed, and well-funded campaigns promoting women’s overall well-being.
Of course, this task is neither safe nor easy.
Steven Pinker points out
that when women are given access to contraception and the freedom to marry on their own terms, they have fewer offspring than when the men of their societies force them to be baby factories…[and] that giving women more control over their reproductive capacity…may be the most effective way of reducing violence in the dangerous parts of the world today. But this empowerment often must proceed in the teeth of opposition from traditional men who want to preserve their control over female reproduction, and from religious institutions that oppose contraception and abortion.
For example, the current U.S. administration has not only cut aid for family planning, but backed out of the global agreements that seek to avert the most devastating impacts of climate change, even as rising sea levels and drought-related famines threaten to create tens of millions of new refugees and other migrants.
The Dual Plague
I’m not a scientist, but I can read.
I’m writing this as the United States emerges as the epicenter of the global coronavirus epidemic. Thanks to pathologically incompetent, anti-science leadership, particularly from the president and congressional enablers, the cost in American lives and livelihood will most likely be substantially higher than if better informed and less ethically challenged heads were in charge. Given the events of the past few years, this should come as no surprise.
Assault on Science
The best available science comes from independent scientists with relevant expertise who are able to evaluate and synthesize the on-going research, and adhere to standards of peer-review and full conflict-of-interest disclosure. In a polarized political environment, such objective evidence is often considered an inconvenient truth by some, as partisan reaction to the film by the same title convincingly demonstrates.
The split in American political parties in recent years—with Republicans becoming increasingly antiregulatory and increasingly skeptical of credible science on issues like climate change and the Covid-19 pandemic—has additionally led to a preponderance of scientific integrity violations when the Republican party is in office. I am not a scientist is a phrase often used by American politicians, primarily Republicans, to dodge responding to concerns regarding anti-science policies and legislative proposals.
Trump administration has hired a plethora of administrators and appointees that are antagonistic to the science-based mission of their agencies and with problematic ties to the industries they now oversee. While their hostile actions toward science, science policy, and federal science agencies are deeply rooted in the past, they are now more willing to openly violate scientific integrity. For example, a special bipartisan report reserved special condemnation for the actions of the Trump administration, which has disbanded independent scientific review boards, altered reports that contradict the administration’s political views and relocated researchers whose conclusions were politically uncomfortable. The White House also attempted to stop a State Department senior intelligence analyst from discussing climate science during congressional testimony. In addition, they dictated what scientists can say in their work. For example, in March 2017, a supervisor within the DOE’s International Climate Office asked staff to not use the terms “climate change,” “emissions reduction,” or “Paris Agreement” in any form of communication.
Trump’s frequent dismissal and proclivity to ignore advice from medical experts regarding the current Covid-19 pandemic is especially disconcerting and bodes ill, not only for the immediate future, but for the long term. Between 1980 and 2013, before the Covid-19 catastrophe, there were 12,012 disease outbreaks, comprising 44 million individual cases and affecting every country in the world. A number of trends have contributed to this rise, including high levels of global travel and trade, overpopulation, and high density living—but the links to climate change and biodiversity loss are of particular concern for all of us.
Climate chaos and pandemics present formidable global challenges requiring competent leadership based on the best available science and respect for the diversity of human communities and planet’s diversity of life. Thomas Friedman, writer for the New York Times, offers a stark comparison with the Trump administration (and Republican congress) handling of the coronavirus pandemic and climate change while pointing out the difference between the two: Climate change doesn’t “peak” — and then flatten out and then maybe dissipate or be permanently prevented by vaccine — so normal life resumes.
Friedman emphasizes that it is vital that we keep in mind just how much more destructive climate change could be for all of us, and make sure that we invest in long-term resilience against that as well. The bottom line is while new technologies offer hope in the search for countermeasures to climate disruption and pandemics, protecting the natural world remains a critical strategy.
Assault on Democratic Values
Prior to the 2016 election, the respected and normally reserved physicist, Stephen Hawking, observed that the republican presidential candidate is a demagogue who seems to appeal to the lowest common denominator. As the national and global consequences of the election became painfully apparent, Madeleine Albright implored that
we should wake up to the assault on democratic values that has gathered strength in many countries abroad and that is dividing America at home. The temptation is powerful to close our eyes and wait for the worst to pass, but history tells us that for freedom to survive, it must be defended, and that if lies are to stop, they must be exposed.
It’s worth noting that during his first three years as president, Trump’s astounding record on verifiable false and misleading statements rocketed past 16,000.
Get out and Vote
Fortunately, democratic nations provide a remedy for desperately needed leadership change. While the process is imperfect and subject to underhanded manipulations, voting remains our best opportunity for a change for the better. The outcome of the November 2020 election will determine what our chances are to protect our democratic institutions and save our planet.
Most US-based conservation groups are constrained by their 501(c) 3 tax-exempt status regarding lobbing and advocating for legislation or particular candidates. We can, however, point out that that by the end of 2019, the Harvard Law School, Columbia Law School, and other sources counted more than 90 environmental rules and regulations rolled back under Trump. Again, this dismal record includes submitting a notice of intent to withdraw the U.S., from the Paris Climate agreement, a process that cannot be completed until November 2020—election time! Two national monuments (Grand Staircase-Escalante and Bears Ears) were eviscerated. A ban on hunting carnivores in Alaskan wildlife refuges was overturned; and listing procedures of the Endangered Species Act were changed, making it more difficult to protect wildlife from long-term threats, such as climate chaos. There are an additional 84 or more similar actions and counting. We simply cannot afford continuing down this path.
While global conditions could get worse, they can get better if we act. One crucial task for conservationists is to motivate our communities to remain informed on events and get out and vote to install more competent leadership on the local, state, and national levels. Michael Soulé acknowledges that if we want to make changes to the way society operates, we’ve got to be political. Edward Abbey, legendary iconoclast, believe it or not, agrees. In a reflective mood, he cautioned against angry, illegal actions that would get us jailed or shot dead and offered a well-worn, reasoned approach to political action:
So I hope we can save what’s left of … the United States by legal, political means and I still think we can. I still vote in elections…. I think if enough people get sufficiently concerned, why we can still make changes…needed changes in this country by political methods…God, I hope so.
The Earth, Our Home
‘I wish it need not have happened in my time,’ said Frodo.
‘So do I,’ said Gandalf, ‘and so do all who live to see such times. But that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us.’ Tolkien
Thanks to the resilience of nature, and the indomitable human spirit, there is still hope. Hope for their world. And it is our world, too.
Humanity is part of a vast evolving universe. The Earth, our home, is alive with a unique community of life. The forces of nature make existence a demanding and uncertain adventure, but Earth has provided the conditions essential to life’s evolution. Like it or not, we remain a biological species in a biological world, wondrously well adapted to the peculiar conditions of the planet’s former living environment, albeit tragically not this environment nor the one we are creating.
The resilience of the community of life and the well-being of humanity depend upon preserving a healthy biosphere with all its ecological systems, a rich variety of plants and animals, fertile soils, pure waters, and clean air. The global environment with its finite resources is a common concern of all peoples. The protection of Earth’s vitality, diversity, and beauty is a sacred trust.
Our tasks include enlisting the better angels of our society—scientists, artists, writers, medical workers, teachers, farm worker, delivery truck drivers, etc.—and continuing to insist on the best available science and adherence to our democratic values to protect and restore our natural and cultural treasures. It is evident that the fate of all life lies inextricably entwined with humankind’s behavior. Our very survival depends on what Abraham Lincoln described as “ the better angels of our nature,” in this case to develop inquiring, knowledgeable and caring citizens who help to create a better and more peaceful world through intercultural understanding and respect for the Earth’s diversity of life.
Our Earth, this tiny living outpost in a vast and lonely universe, is our only home. There is no Planet B.
Carpe diem—Seize the Day—and Vote!
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Trask, Willard [compiler and translator]. 1961. Joan of Arc: Self-Portrait. New York: Collier Books. 128 pages.
Watson, James E.M., and Oscar Venter. 2017. “A Global Plan for Nature Conservation: The Idea of Securing at Least Half of our Planet for Nature Conservation has Recently Been Gathering Momentum.” Scientific American. October 5, 2017
Williams-Burden, Bruce. 2010. Luminous Base: Stories About Corpsmen and Helicopters, Courage and Sacrifice. International Standard Book Number: 1450516777. 312 Pages.
Wilson, Edward O. 2016. Half-Earth: Our Planet’s Fight For Life. New York: Liverwright Publishing Corporation. www.wwnorton.com. 259 pages.
Wolff, Eric. 2017. “Energy Department Climate Office Bans Use of Phrase ‘Climate Change.’” Politico, March 29, 2017.
Yahil, Leni. 1990. The Holocaust: The Fate of European Jewry, 1932-1945. New York: Oxford University Press. 808 pages.
1 Hawking, 2018:11.
2 Wilson 2016:7.
3 Wilson 2016:8.
4 Wilson 2016:54.
5 Wilson 2016:54; and Kolbert, 2014.
6 The Age of Humans: What is the Anthropocene and Are We In It? Smithsonian Magazine, January 2013. https://www.smithsonianmag.com/science-nature/what-is-the-anthropocene-and-are-we-in-it-164801414/.
7 Welcome to the Anthropocene. https://populationmatters.org/campaigns/anthropocene?gclid=EAIaIQobChMIhuHuzJen6AIVR_7jBx3gZA-LEAAYAiAAEgIOa_D_BwE; see also The Age of Humans: What is the Anthropocene and Are We In It? Smithsonian Magazine, January 2013. https://www.smithsonianmag.com/science-nature/what-is-the-anthropocene-and-are-we-in-it-164801414/.
8 Tonino, 2018.
9 Spoken by Brad Pitt portraying Achilles in the 2004 movie Troy. Robert Fagles elaborates in his 1998 translation of Homer’s Illiad (page 605): “So the immortals spun our lives that we, we wretched men live on to bear such torments—the gods live free of such sorrows.”
10 Martin Sheen (Captain Benjamin L. Willard) comments: “In a war there are many moments for compassion and tender action. There are many moments for ruthless action—what is called ruthless—what may in many circumstances be only clarity, seeing clearly what there is to be done and doing it, directly, quickly, awake, looking at it.”
11 Dr. Ngor received the Academy Award for his portrayal of his fellow Cambodian, Dith Pran, in “The Killing Fields.” He was subsequently murdered by LA Chinatown gang members in 1998.
12 Yahil, 1990; and Levi, 1996.
13 For a published account of one combat operation I was involved on, see Bruce Williams-Burden, 2010, Luminous Base, “HMI Richard Ogden Wolfe (SEAL), pages 173-184.
14 Kolbert, Elizabeth. 2014.
15 Tonino, 2018.
16 Tolkien, 2004, p.269.
17Hesiod, 1988, pp. 38-39.
18 Hesiod, 1988, pp. 39-40: “For formerly the tribes of men on earth lived remote from ills, without harsh toil and grievous sicknesses that are deadly to men. But the woman unstopped the jar and let it all out, and brought grim cares upon mankind. Only Hope remained there inside in her secure dwelling, under the lip of the jar, and did not fly out because the woman put the lid back in time by the providence of Zeus…”
19 Hope is an optimistic state of mind that is based on an expectation of positive outcomes with respect to events and circumstances in one’s life or world at large. Among its opposites are dejection, hopelessness, despair.
20 The Physiology of Hope, https://ultrawellnesscenter.com/2019/01/09/the-physiology-of-hope/. See Brill’s Companion to Hesiod, Leiden NL 2009, p.77.
21 Tom Shippey, British scholar and widely considered one of the world’s leading academic scholars on Tolkien’s writings, builds a strong case supporting him as the most influential author of the 20th Century, and The Lord of the Rings the Book of the Century. See Shippey, 2000.
22 Loconte, 2015:xiii.
23 Tolkien, 2004:xxiv.
24 Kyla Neufeld, https://geekdomhouse.com/galadriel-and-the-long-defeat/.
25 Abbey, Edward and David Peterson (ed). 2006. Postcards from Ed: Dispatches and Salvos from an American Iconoclast. Milkweed Editions: Minneapolis. MS. 978-1-57131-284-6.
26 Attributed to Mead in Curing Nuclear Madness (1984) by Frank G. Sommers and Tana Dineen, Methuen, p. 158.
27 Birch and Cobb 1990:4.
28 Pinker 2011:xxiv: Chapters 2-17.
29 Pinker 2011:xxiv.
30 Pinker 2018: 341.
31 Goldin, Ian. 2018. The Limitations of Steven Pinker’s Optimism. Nature. 16 February 2018. https://www.nature.com/articles/d41586-018-02148-1
32 Pinker 2018:134.
33 Pinker 2018:134.
34 Our problems are manmade—therefore, they can be solved by man. Kennedy 1963.
35 Albright 2018:221.
36 Michelle Goldberg, Michelle. 2017. Madeleine Albright is Worried: We Should Be, Too. New York Times. April 13, 2017. https://www.nytimes.com/2018/04/13/opinion/madeleine-albright-worried-trump.html?rref=collection%2Fsectioncollection%2Fopinion&action=click&contentCollection=opinion®ion=rank&module=package&version=highlights&contentPlacement=6&pgtype=sectionfront.
37 Hawken, Paul. 2009. Paul Hawken’s Commencement Address to the Class of 2009. University of Portland, May 3rd, 2009. https://www.commondreams.org/views/2009/05/23/paul-hawkens-commencement-address-class-2009#.
38 Goodall et al., 2011:xxvi.
39 Adrienne Rich. 1950-2012. Excerpt from “Natural Resources” in The Dream of a Common Language, (Norton, 1978), p. 67.
40 Hawken, Paul. 2009. Paul Hawken’s Commencement Address to the Class of 2009. University of Portland, May 3rd, 2009. https://www.commondreams.org/views/2009/05/23/paul-hawkens-commencement-address-class-2009#.
41 See The International Baccalaureate® (IB) Mission: http://www.ibo.org/about-the-ib/mission/.
42 Kennedy, 1963.
43 Jyn Erso, portrayed by Felicity Jones, the Movie Rogue One, 2016.
44 Wilson 2016:3-4.
45 Wilson 2016:3.
46 Dinerstein et al., 2019.
47 Dinerstein et al., 2019.
48 “‘Global Deal for Nature’ Fleshes Out With Specific Conservation Goals: To Maintain a Livable Planet, Governments Need to Protect 30% of the Earth’s Land and Sea and Sustainably Manage Another 20%, Researchers Say,” Jeff Tollefson, April 19, 2019, Nature https://www.nature.com/articles/d41586-019-01253-z..
50 We Need to Protect 30 Percent of Earth by 2030, Michael Brune, September 6, 2019, Sierra https://www.sierraclub.org/sierra/2019-5-september-october/executive-director/we-need-protect-30-percent-earth-2030.
51 For Earth Day, Here’s How Americans View Environmental Issues, Monica Anderson, April 20, 2017, Fact Tank, https://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2017/04/20/for-earth-day-heres-how-americans-view-environmental-issues/; Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents have consistently been more likely than Republicans and Republican leaners to say the country should do whatever it takes to protect the environment. But as Republican support has decreased since 2004, the gap between the two groups has widened to 38 percentage points.
52 Pinker 2011:xxv, xxvi; and Chapter 10. 53 95 Environmental Rules Being Rolled Back Under Trump, Nadja Popovich, Livia Albeck-Ripka, and Kendra Pierre-Louis, December 21, 2019, New York Times https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2019/climate/trump-environment-rollbacks.html.
54 Obama, Barrack. 2015. Climate Change Greatest Threat To Future Generations. Announcement 21 January 2015 (https://unfccc.int/news/president-obama-climate-change-greatest-threat-to-future-generations).
55 United Nations, The Paris Agreement, https://unfccc.int/process-and-meetings/the-paris-agreement/the-paris-agreement. Accessed March 26, 2020.
56 95 Environmental Rules Being Rolled Back Under Trump, Nadja Popovich, Livia Albeck-Ripka, and Kendra Pierre-Louis, December 21, 2019, New York Times https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2019/climate/trump-environment-rollbacks.html.
58 Wilson, Edward O. 2016. Half-Earth: Our Planet’s Fight For Life. Liverwright Publishing Corporation, New York www.wwnorton.com. 259 pages; Dave Foreman and Laura Carroll, 2014, Man Swarm: How Overpopulation is Killing the Wild World, (2nd edition), LiveTrue Books, 194 pages, http://lauracarroll.com; see also Elizabeth Kolbert, 2014, The Sixth Extinction: An Unnatural History, New York: Henry Holt and Company, 319 pages.
59 Memo from a Climate Crisis Realist: The Choice before Us. William E. Rees. November 12, 2019. The Tyee. https://thetyee.ca/Analysis/2019/11/12/Climate-Crisis-Realist-Memo/. See also Population Equation: Balancing What We Need With What We Have, Environmental Health Perspectives, 113(9): 2005 September, doi: 10.1289/ehp.113-a598.
60 Foreman and Carroll, 2014:158..
61 Crist et al., 2017: 261.
62 “Data show that the higher the level of a woman’s educational attainment, the fewer children she is likely to bear. Given that fewer children per woman and delayed marriage and childbearing could mean more resources per child and better health and survival rates for mothers and children, this is an important link.” Female Education and Childbearing: A Closer Look at the Data. Elina Pradhan. World Bank Blogs. November 24, 2015. http://blogs.worldbank.org/health/female-education-and-childbearing-closer-look-data
63 Crist et al. 2017. Emphasis added.
64 Pinker 2011: 688.
65 Sierra Club. 2019. The Planet in Crisis: She Has Solutions. Sierra [Special Issue]104:6. https://www.sierraclub.org/sierra/2019-6-november-december; see also The Trump Administration Goes After Birth Control, Summer Brennan, October 30, 2019, Sierra, https://www.sierraclub.org/sierra/2019-6-november-december/feature/trump-administration-goes-after-birth-control .
66 Remember the Population Bomb? It’s Still Ticking, Eugene Linden, New York Times June 15, 2017, https://www.nytimes.com/2017/06/15/opinion/sunday/remember-the-population-bomb-its-still-ticking.html
67 Barack Obama, in his 2015 State of the Union speech, countered this frequent dodge by Republicans with Well, I’m not a scientist, either. But you know what? I know a lot of really good scientists a NASA, and NOAA, and at our major universities. He later pointed out that, while not being a scientist, he can read.
68 On Coronavirus, We’re #1, Paul Krugman, March 26, 2020, New York Times, https://www.nytimes.com/2020/03/26/opinion/trump-coronavirus.html.
69 Of Course Trump Deserves Blame for the Coronavirus Crisis, Michelle Goldberg, March 19, 2020, New York Times, https://www.nytimes.com/2020/03/19/opinion/trump-coronavirus-us.html.
70 Concerned Scientists 2016.
71 An Inconvenient Truth (Movie), directed by Davis Guffenheim and narrated by former Vice President Al Gore, https://www.algore.com/library/an-inconvenient-truth-dvd.
72 Bergman and Carter, 2918.
73 Chait, Jonathan, May 30, 2014, Why Do Republicans Always Say “I’m Not a Scientist?” Intelligencer, https://nymag.com/intelligencer/2014/05/why-republicans-always-say-im-not-a-scientist.html; Adler, Ben, October 17, 2014, How To Get Republicans to Stop Using the “I’m Not a Scientist” Dodge, Grist, https://grist.org/climate-energy/how-to-get-republicans-to-stop-using-the-im-not-a-scientist-dodge/; Benen, Steve, October 3, 2014, McConnell Climbs Aboard the “I’m Not a Scientist” Train, MSNBS, http://www.msnbc.com/rachel-maddow-show/mcconnell-climbs-aboard-the-im-not-scientist-train; Davenport, Coral, October 30, 2014, Why Republicans Keep Telling Everyone They’re Not Scientists, New York Times, https://www.nytimes.com/2014/10/31/us/why-republicans-keep-telling-everyone-theyre-not-scientists.html; Loria, Kevin, November 7, 2014, Stephen Colbert Has the Best Translation of Republicans’ New Favorite Catchphrase, Business Insider, https://www.businessinsider.com/stephen-colbert-on-im-not-a-scientist-2014-11; Volcovici, Valerie, and Amanda Becker, January 27, 2015, On Climate Change, “Not a Scientist” Not Enough for Some U.S. Republicans, Reuters, https://www.reuters.com/article/us-usa-politics-climatechange-insight/on-climate-change-not-a-scientist-not-enough-for-some-u-s-republicans-idUSKBN0L00D620150127; Atkins, Emily, October 3, 2014, “I’m Not a Scientist”: A Complete Guide to Politicians Who Plead Ignorance On Climate Change, ThinkProgress, https://thinkprogress.org/im-not-a-scientist-a-complete-guide-to-politicians-who-plead-ignorance-on-climate-change-54de3a31644d/; Rather, Dan, September 23, 2015, Ignoring Science Isn’t Just a Republican Problem. It’s an American Problem, Mashable, https://mashable.com/2015/09/23/dan-rather-science-politics-election-2016/.
74 Bergman and Carter, 2018.
75 Bergman and Carter, 2918; See also Bipartisan Report Says Trump’s Abuse Has Pushed Federal Science to a ‘Crisis,’ Lisa Friedman, October 3, 2019, New York Times, https://www.nytimes.com/2019/10/03/climate/trump-science-crisis.html. 76 Proposal for Reform Volume II: National Task Force on Rule of Law & Democracy, October 3, 2019, https://www.brennancenter.org/our-work/policy-solutions/proposals-reform-volume-ii-national-task-force-rule-law-democracy.
77 White House Tried to Stop Climate Science Testimony, Documents Show, Lisa Friedman, June 8, 2019, New York Times, https://www.nytimes.com/2019/06/08/climate/rod-schoonover-testimony.html.
78 Wolff ,2017.
79 Trump Said His Coronavirus Response has been a Perfect ’10.’ Public Health Experts Say that it’s ‘Abysmal’ and that he needs to “Stop Talking,” John Haltiwanger, March 17, 2020, Business Insider, https://www.businessinsider.com/coronavirus-experts-give-trump-abysmal-grades-on-pandemic-response-2020-3.
80 With the Coronavirus, It’s Again Trump vs. Mother Nature, Thomas Friedman, March 3, 2020, New York Times https://www.nytimes.com/2020/03/31/opinion/covid-trump-climate-change.html. 81 How Biodiversity Loss is Hurting our Ability to Combat Pandemics, John Scott, March 9, 2020, World Economic Forum, https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2020/03/biodiversity-loss-is-hurting-our-ability-to-prepare-for-pandemics/.
82 Stephen Hawking Said Popularity of ‘Demagogue’ Trump was Beyond Even His Understanding, March 14, 2018, Independent, https://www.independent.co.uk/news/science/stephen-hawking-trump-popularity-brexit-understand-theoretical-physics-republican-party-a8255086.html.
83 Albright 2018:252.
84 Trump Made 16,241 False or Misleading Claims in His First Three Years, Glenn Kessler, Salvador Rizzo, and Meg Kelly, January 20, 2020, Washington Post, https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/2020/01/20/president-trump-made-16241-false-or-misleading-claims-his-first-three-years/.
85 You Shouldn’t Have to Risk Your Life to Vote, Editorial Board, April 3, 2020, New York Times, https://www.nytimes.com/2020/04/03/opinion/wisconsin-primary-coronavirus.html.
86 95 Environmental Rules Being Rolled Back Under Trump, Nadja Popovich, Livia Albeck-Ripka, and Kendra Pierre-Louis, December 21, 2019, New York Times https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2019/climate/trump-environment-rollbacks.html.
87 Tonino, 2018.
88 From a KAET-TV [Phoenix, Arizona] interview, given in December of 1982.
89 Tolkien 2004:51
90 Goodall et al., 2011:xxvi.
91 Wilson 2016:2.
92 The Earth Charter Initiative, Earth, Our Home. 2012.
93 See The International Baccalaureate® (IB) Mission: http://www.ibo.org/about-the-ib/mission/.
94 Ben and Jerry’s and Green for All. 2016. Shouldering the Burden. New York Times Paid Post: I believe our world is worth saving and now is the moment to act. http://paidpost.nytimes.com/ben-and-jerrys/shouldering-the-burden.html?
Chris Pupke is the Executive Director of the Biophilia Foundation. Chris coordinates Biophilia’s grants program and assists with the habitat conservation program. His work supports projects that restore wetlands in the Chesapeake Bay, protects Jaguar habitat in the Sonoran Desert, reconnects migratory routes for Elk in the Rocky Mountains and more.
During his career in conservation, Chris has helped lead on-the-ground restoration projects that resulted in the restoration of 475 acres of wetlands, 28 acres of forests and 150 acres of native meadows. He previously worked at Chesapeake Wildlife Heritage and Pickering Creek Audubon Center.
Mr. Pupke graduated from Drew University in Madison, NJ where he studied international diplomacy at the United Nations, British Politics in London and Greek History in Greece. He is currently a member of the Board of Directors and past president of the Queen Anne’s County (MD) Historical Society where has conducted important research on local U.S. Colored Troops that served in the Civil War. He has previously served as President of the Board of Directors for Queen Anne’s (MD) Conservation Association, a local smart growth advocacy group. He has also served as a member of the Board of Trustees of Camp Wright and is active in his local church.