Mass Extinction to Mass Abundance

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By George M. F. Hardebeck

George M. F. Hardebeck is the director of Arts Restoring Culture for Healing Earth (ARCHE). He recently moved to Urbana from Cincinnati and he works on eco-cultural restoration and cultural reconciliation.

We are running wildly toward the cliff, herding as many species ahead and lassoing as many to us as possible, hoping to turn around at the last minute with enough of Life’s web to keep us alive―and Earth? How many of our counterparts in Life is that? What cruel experiment, what fool game is this? Wake up!

Many have heard of mass extinction events. Some say we are in the middle of one such event, and call the one we are in the Holocene Extinction Event. While earlier peoples eliminated some species, these losses were more gradual. They seem to have learned their lessons about exhausting systems. Loss called them to more sustainable native ways. Our current patterns of annihilation of life have compounded dramatically, beginning with the Homogenesis―the homogenization Charles Mann notes in his book, 1493: Uncovering the New World Columbus Created, when we introduced plant and animal species convenient and familiar to European ways. Alfred Crosby refers to this as the Neo-European landscape in his book, Ecological Imperialism.

Around the turn of this century, the UN began to look at our phenomenon of diminishing species and made a conservative estimate that we are losing 50-55,000 species per year. Experiencing some extinctions is considered to be normal; however, this rate is about one thousand times the normal rate. Others place the numbers higher, at maybe 140,000 species per year; with a rate of 3,000 times the norm.

The UN rate breaks down to one to three species lost every ten minutes. By the end of an eight-hour workday,  our consuming culture is responsible for the complete elimination of about 50 to 150 entire life forms: hundreds of members per day of Life’s community―all given in our charge, and with whom to share Life. Despite this, when do we see official economic reviews that take these costs into consideration? Are we above it―‘lords over’ Life, in cultural and ecological imperialism, forgetting to be meek ‘children of’ Life―‘native to’ Life? When we run into each other in the community, say at market after a week’s work, while we pat ourselves on the back for buying local, driving a hybrid, walking, cycling, using cloth bags and taking other actions toward carbon reduction, we have still lost about 1000 to 3000 species.

Can we talk? We might begin by asking: “how many beautiful fellow creatures will we lose by the time a child born today goes to college, gets tenure or has grandchildren?” If 30 million species currently populate the planet, at this rate we’ll make zero in 214 to 600 years. This doesn’t account for the fact that our population may be doubling every 35 years; and global warming seems likely to up the ante, dramatically. Within species we lose local genotypes, or cultures, before we know or understand them. Renowned ecologist E. O. Wilson tells us that we know about 10% of our species, and have studied about 1% to some degree. Are we part of our ecology? If so, are human losses part of our mass extinction? What diversity among humanity are we losing?

Native Elder Mad Razor Ray tells us, First Peoples of the Americas went from 60 million to 800,000; that’s a decline of almost 99%. Our Native languages of love for Life disappear at two per month, globally. Native Peoples, in their cultures and languages held, and still hold, the values and arts that stand in the way of ‘more modern’ consuming ways. Our shameful holocaust continues in the Amazon, and everywhere those hoarding power colonize to exploit. In the popular book Ishmael, Daniel Quinn’s gorilla character, who remarkably  began sharing his wisdom in 1977, tells how we ‘Takers’ waged war on all indigenous species and ‘Leaver’ peoples, inconvenient to conqueror ways.

Many have shared the observation that we ended a major cycle of the Mayan Calendar this past Winter Solstice. In a statement released by the Maya alliance, Oxlaljuj Ajpop, the end of this great cycle simply “means there will be big changes on the personal, family and community level, so that there is harmony and balance between mankind and nature.” If a new year is a great time for resolutions, what of this shift into another world? What might be our finest resolution, culturally, for moving into this time ahead?
While Winter Solstice was considered the pivotal moment of shift, the state of our planet calls on us now, today, this month, year and time ahead to muster forth great change for great healing.

Mass extinctions have been caused by various forces beyond our control: meteors, ice- ages, and mega- volcanoes. We don’t control those things. Hollywood sells us images of solving our problems through glorious global collaborations in which we shoot down gargantuan projectiles of doom or realign our Earth’s core by travelling deep within her with super explosives. However, it is not the sensational high-tech mega-tonnage we need. We merely need to turn our awareness, understanding, and powerful creativity into responsible arts realigned in Life―turning our allegiance from apartheid to great solidarity. We have made some motions toward this. Cities like Cincinnati, my family’s home before moving to Urbana last May, have passed resolutions to turn back global warming, and resist policies like fracking. These are only part of our mass extinction crisis. What holds us back from facing the bigger picture, overwhelming hopelessness? David Suzuki, in his recent documentary A Force of Nature offers a two-part way for thinking out our situation via the two Chinese characters for ‘crisis’: one means ‘danger’ and the other, ‘opportunity.’ While we need to acknowledge our failing ways and the disasters in our wake, we also need to focus on our potential solution or re-solution―to proactively reintegrate ourselves as a species into the solvent movement of Life. We have an opportunity to return to the mass abundance Life has given all.

Ironically, our intellect lit the fuse of our current debacle―our dynamic minds, disconnected from heart and gut, held prominence. Rather than seeing ourselves as victims of wild Nature, whom we must overpower as enemy, we are her lost children turned alien―imperial zombies amassing a consumer plague. No gory blockbuster here, just our cast call home, to our roots, to being boldly meek with Life who bore us, re-turning to our once long-held commitment.

Some interpreted the Mayan Calendar as stating that the Earth was to spin on her axis in 2012 . . . Not a moment too soon. Let’s turn our world on its axis, culturally, realigning with Earth, and Life on her terms, place to planet, culturally to bio-regionally, ethnosphere to ecosphere.

Be the tipping point! Statements and resolutions to re-solve Mass Extinction are welcome, at our Facebook group page for: ARCHE – Arts Restoring Culture for Healing Earth.

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