March 9, 2023   ·   0 Comments

By Doug Skeates

A well-known and often-quoted question facing mankind is, “What came first the chicken or the egg?” Of course, there is no satisfactory answer.  

Poultry is an important component of the human food chain, and both chicken and egg are aspects of the human diet. The question is symptomatic of situations facing humanity. One in particular, “Are people victims of nature’s failure to maintain the necessary life balance?” vs. “ Is the planet victim of humanity’s inability to maintain the necessary balance?” 

These are justifiable questions requiring answers today. The answer is ‘both.

All life depends on photosynthesis, with sunlight being basic to plant growth, grass, vegetables and forest ecosystems on the 30% of the planet’s land surface, which mankind inhabits. We are hardly conscious of that dependence on oxygen in every breath we take, each glass of water we drink, and every mouthful of food eaten. There is no question about the importance of the natural world in human lives. 

It is also apparent that the natural world is facing extreme changes in climatic conditions. Unusual weather patterns are affecting the incidence of wildfires and the loss of whole communities, including severe loss of life and many thousands of square miles of forest ecosystems. The incidence of flooding worldwide has resulted from changing storm patterns. Rising ocean levels are forcing many to seek safer high-elevation lands.

The missing link is mankind, both as a victim and through the promotion of conditions creating drought and flooding. Progress has been made in ensuring a better world, as well as regress over severe disasters. 

In Ontario, the reforestation program has helped rehabilitation of abused land from the harvesting of forest lands as well as the development of large-scale replanting of large areas of forests. In the south lands of the province, thousands of acres of county and authority forest ecosystems have been rehabilitated, contributing to the country’s prosperity. 

Many countries are moving toward the development of renewable forms of energy with the intent to reduce dependence on fossil fuels for energy.

The general priority in addressing the crisis is to slow down the rate of increase of the atmosphere’s CO2, the prime cause of the planet’s greenhouse condition, the basis of global warming. 

The level of atmospheric pollution is already affecting the quality of life for many throughout the world. 

Effort is required to reduce the existing problem. Nature has shown society ways and means of stewardship of the planet’s resource base in sequestering carbon, storing much of it in oceans, lakes, and land ecosystems.  

It is humanity’s duty to work with nature to address the imbalance caused by the species’ misuse of the planet’s resource base. Many scientists have emphasized the importance of deforestation as a significant factor of abuse. 

Clearing forests for economic reasons reduces mankind’s ability to preserve the effectiveness of nature’s service. Overharvesting of both flora and fauna on the land base as well as abuse of oceans and overfishing is creating the same effect.

Preservation of the natural world is one direction requiring greater attention. Looking out the window illustrates nature’s effectiveness in recreating forest cover and resulting ecosystems. Not only does the development of increased forest cover helps control over air pollution but promotion of benefits provided by ecological rehabilitation is considerable.  

Abandoning land ecosystems subject to flooding is one effective means of ecological improvement. A textbook, “Water always wins”, (Erica Gies 2022) quotes community purchase of large areas of the fens in south-western England. “Researchers of a 2019 paper for Nature Sustainability calculated that every dollar invested in buying undeveloped land for conservation could save $2 to more that $5 in avoided flood damages.” Observations by local farmers indicated that the original flora and fauna returned to the rehabilitated wetlands as well. Mankind and the planet benefitted from avoiding a battle with rising flood waters.

I am reminded of a song “Love and marriage’.

This is a ‘both / and’ situation, not requiring one to choose ‘either / or’ decision-making. The theme of the piece was ‘You can’t have one without the other’. Adapting to the inevitable changed condition was an alternative to fighting the system.

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