In a time when we are possibly going through Earth’s resources faster than ever before, it only makes the greatest common sense to know what we are spending. If I sat there and made purchases on my debit card, infinitely, and never bothered to look at the balance, you might think that I was financially irresponsible. And you indeed would be correct, spending without looking back is financially irresponsible. However, from the larger perspective, this is exactly what we are doing with our planet’s resources and biological species.
Each day we lose species, something like 27,000 species a year, I remember learning in an old systematics class, back at The University of Iowa. We are discovering something like 13,000 species a year, according to that same text book and classroom lecture, but unfortunately many species are lost even before we discover them.
Is Anyone Paying Attention?
Boo hoo, right? Oh well, some far away salamander is gone to the history books. Why ought we be so concerned? What does it matter to us? Why should we humans care? Does this mean I can’t still watch my Netflix?
Let’s be honest; most people are disconnected from nature, because frankly it’s not that important to daily survival (so we think). Unfortunately, most people live in cities far away from the steadily depleting fisheries, aquifers, and underground natural gas deposits.
The reality is, that most people are unable to even value what is being lost, because they never see it. As your author, it is important for me to state that I have seen numerous environmentally damaging places and scenarios, and our scope and pace is very indeed real in its grand scale. We are probably consuming more of our planet’s resources in our modern time, than humanity has ever in its collective time on the planet.
Granted, humanity never breached above 1 billion prior to the 1800’s. This world of almost 8 billion people is an anomaly on this planet and one of the big trends we never talk about. What about all these people? “Ohhhh, yeahhh” they say as if remembering a distant errand forgotten to be run.
If we are a truly intelligent species, if we were a true civilization, we would be daily assessing our biological load. We would be using all the surveying tactics of science, employing all the “ground troops” to set out and discover what is lurking beneath our feet. We would know exactly how many we had of what and where, and even assemble teams to discuss how they ought to be best utilized.
“Hippie hogwash” someone might say. I say to challenge this: Do we treat our greatest corporate warehouses any differently? Every object on Amazon’s shelves is accounted for, as is in every Walmart warehouse. Lest a toilet seat or car battery go missing from the mighty temples of commerce, yet an entire genetic populations that took millions of years to form are being lost and there’s not much of a batting of an eyelash. (and I would argue elsewhere on this website that this is because we’ve never been taught to value nature fully to begin with).
Yet our biological flow, nobody is watching. If we can’t see this is a major problem, than there plainly shows our inability to see the situation we are in. Only a blind fool would never look ahead. Humanity, as whole, could be akin to this metaphor, blindly spending and spinning up objects, oblivious to where they’ll be returned and how these resources will be recovered.
Potential New Medicines
The advantages to a full biological inventory of the planet earth hold infinite potentials. Almost all medicines known to human kind have been synthesized, at least partially, from some naturally occurring compound. Truly, this is the basis for modern medicine: converting something that we find advantageous into nature into a stronger or more concentrated version which produces a more desirable effect. There are countless plant and animal compounds that perhaps could be the cure to diseases all around us. Yet these species could be lost well before we ever find them.
New Models from Nature for Science and Engineering
All of our human advancements have been made by studying the principles of nature. Whether you want to talk engineering, mathematics, chemistry, biology, medicine, all of these major advancements rely on studying the natural world. We’ve used models of creatures of flight to imitate our flying machines. We’ve used models of nature to create things like “flippers” to propel us through the water, and we’ve used nature’s examples of construction to aid in our designs of construction and technology. If we find new species, who knows what we’ll find genetically, or on the exterior, that may provide us some new model to imitate from. If we can study how nature approaches a problem and crafts a solution, we may be able to bridge these perspectives to our engineering and scientific models.
Extinction Monitoring and Ecosystem Integrity Monitoring
The most important advantage that we, as a species, would gain from a massive biological assessment of our planet, would be the ability to monitor for extinctions and ecosystem degradation. Right now, countless species go lost completely unchecked. Or, populations are dwindling and we are unable to save them, or to communicate to the public that they ought to be saved. Additionally, ecosystems begin to slowly decline as species are lost (or rapidly decline if keystone species are lost), and this can cause an entire collapse of a given biome. All of the “ecosystem services” that were gained by humanity from this biome is now gone. If we had a ‘dashboard’ of our planet to observe, we would know which areas were under the greatest stress, and perhaps we could work to alleviate them. A truly advanced and intelligent species, certainly would be monitoring the holistic integrity of its life support systems.
Monitoring our biological inventory makes sense. Given the amount of money that governments invest in warfare and materials production, it is unfortunate that assessing our planet or understanding our planet is not given equal financial priority. If the same efforts that we put into war were put into better understanding what surrounds us, living and alive, right now, what a different world it would be. An intelligent person watches what they eat, they exercise, they try and spend wisely. An intelligent species must, holistically, do the same. Our “collective body” is the the aggregation of our planetary resources and biological capital. Even from a purely anthropomorphic point of view, it is in our best interest to ensure the well-being and longevity of our “earth body”. We wouldn’t want to damage ourselves simply because we weren’t paying attention. And that’s what is happening now. Instead of being focused on improving our body and monitoring our spending, we are essentially on “party weekend mode” eating Tostino’s pizzas and binging on Hostess products. The cabinets will soon be dry and there will be no neighbors to turn to. We are indeed, here in this corner of space, for now, without outside aide, and we’re spending all we’ve got. Let’s hope the aliens get here soon to give us a long term loan. By taking a proper biological assessment, we would know what we have, and could plan how to spend it with long-term thinking.