Echoing Green

We are told over and over again these days that the economy is the bottom line. But as a biologist this never made any sense to me. It is the biosphere that is the source of everything that matters because it is the health of the biosphere,including the water, soil and air we all breath, that is responsible for survival and our quality of life.” 

David Suzuki


As a biologist, certainly not of Dr. David Suzuki‘s stature, I couldn’t resist using his eloquent quote this week. It accurately and effectively reflects my own view. From a biological perspective he is focused directly at the heart of what matters – survival and what survival requires. Another biologist, Clifford Grobstein, once said; when doing biology we inevitably apply the “unambiguous criterion of survival.” Water, soil and air are fundamental to life on planet earth and the quality of these critical elements will ultimately determine the quality of life.

However, our human species too frequently frames phrases such as quality of life as OUR quality of life, with the implication that only humans matter or that it is “humans first!”. It is mal-adaptive when we ignore, or even worse deny, the dependence of the human species on all species with which we share our blue orb. It is, after all, almost exclusively the mass action of other species that keep our air, water and soil fit for human life.

Arrogance is a trait we don’t share with another species. My guess is that if other species could think about our arrogance, they would find it particularly unbecoming.

Talk about sustainable development is, after all, talk about survival – economic, ecological and social survival – survival of all species. Survival, of course, is a species thing. Survival of a species is threatened and endangered when sufficient numbers decline from one generation to the next. Endangered species are at risk because the environmental support systems on which they depend have been altered sufficiently to preclude the qualities and quantities of air, water and soil they require for successful reproduction and survival of their offspring.

The agent of alteration is a globally distributed, rapidly growing species self-named Homo sapiens. We, perhaps alone in the universe, are blessed with an ability to think and manipulate.We urgently need to think critically about what and how we manipulate the environment that supports us.

The late Senator and founder of Earth Day Gaylord Nelson said, “The economy is a wholly owned subsidiary of the environment.”

Reprinted from TGIF — March 16th, 2007.