The more space humans appropriate, for living space and to feed our consumption, the less space we leave for all other forms of life. We seldom realize that we depend on all other life. For example, only about 10% of our bodies are really us; the rest is zillions of microbes living as a complex symbiotic family. They can’t live without us; we can’t live without them. This interplay of diversity gives life resilience to adapt to change by evolving. And no human “micro-ecologies” and no local macro-ecologies are exactly alike. Biodiversity preserves life by evolving in unique localities in which conditions are always changing.
Humans co-evolve with nature. That’s why an objective of Compression Thinking is to preserve all life indefinitely, keeping the stress on life in a zone in which nature can regenerate itself. A sneaky threat to species and perhaps ecosystems is endocrine disruptors, chemicals that in small concentrations disrupt glandular systems. The attention getter is that endocrine disruption may prevent both humans and animals from sexually reproducing.
If we hold that the objective of the human economy is to expand forever, we fight nature, assuming that the resilience of all other life is infinite. But it isn’t. Yes, some forms of life will continue, but given the multiplicity of threats, will human life be one of them?
Preserving all life requires a huge change in economic thinking. If we have already damaged enough biodiversity that preservation of life is precarious, we must compress the human biological footprint rather than expand it. Of course, if we can never completely understand ecological systems, we can’t precisely define what to do. We need to exercise broad systemic thinking rather than precise, but fragmented thinking – magic pill fixes. For example, E.O. Wilson, the noted naturalist and expert on ants, proposes that we leave half of the earth to care for itself.
An important part of biodiversity is soil health. Plants thrive if healthy rhizomes of bacteria and other critters inhabit their roots. Plants growing out of a chemical bath don’t do well. Healthy life grows out of the complex chemistry of other life.
Around the world, projections of soil degradation are dire. Soil regeneration is needed on a big scale, and soon. But for most of us, soil degradation is a distant abstraction, just another crisis that we cannot track, much less dig into. Perhaps one core problem is that our psychology and limitations inhibit us from recognizing slow developing disasters.