Robert J. Burrowes*
Several years ago in Cameroon, a country in West Africa, a Western Black Rhinoceros was killed. It was the last of its kind on Earth.
Hence, the Western Black Rhinoceros, the largest subspecies of rhinoceros which had lived for millions of years and was the second largest land mammal on Earth, no longer exists.
But while you have probably heard of the Western Black Rhinoceros, and may even have known of its extinction, did you know that on the same day that it became extinct, another 200 species of life on Earth also became extinct?
This is because the sixth mass extinction event in Earth’s history is now accelerating at an unprecedented rate with 200 species of plants, birds, animals, fish, amphibians, insects and reptiles being driven to extinction on a daily basis. And the odds are high that you have never even heard of any of them. For example, have you heard of the Christmas Island Pipistrelle, recently declared extinct? See ‘Christmas Island Pipistrelle declared extinct by IUCN’.
Apart from the 200 species extinctions each day however, and just to emphasize the catastrophic extent of this crisis, myriad local populations of many species are driven to extinction daily and millions of individual lifeforms are also killed. See ‘Biological annihilation via the ongoing sixth mass extinction signaled by vertebrate population losses and declines’.
For a taste of the vast literature on this subject touching only on impacts in relation to insects, see ‘Death and Extinction of the Bees’, ‘Insectageddon: farming is more catastrophic than climate breakdown’ and ‘“Decimated”: Germany’s birds disappear as insect abundance plummets 76%’.
Is anything being done to end this omnicide (the destruction of all life)?
Not really, although there is plenty of rhetoric and limited action in some contexts as all bar a few committed individuals and organizations ignore this onslaught while even fewer take action that addresses the underlying cause and/or fundamental drivers of this killing. Unfortunately, most effort is still wasted on lobbying elites.
For example, in the latest example of the foolishness of lobbying elites to take action in our struggle to defend Earth’s biosphere, the European Union has again just renewed Monsanto’s licence to keep poisoning (and otherwise destroying) our world – see ‘German vote swings EU decision on 5-year glyphosate renewal’ – despite the already overwhelming evidence of the catastrophic consequences of doing so. See, for example, ‘Killing Us Softly – Glyphosate Herbicide or Genocide?’ and ‘GM Food Crops Illegally Growing in India: The Criminal Plan to Change the Genetic Core of the Nation’s Food System’.
Of course, massive poisoning of the biosphere is only one way to destroy it and while elites and their agents drive most of this destruction they nevertheless often rely on our complicity. To itemize just a few of these many techniques for destroying our biosphere in most of which we are complicit, consider the following. We destroy rainforests – see ‘Cycles of Wealth in Brazil’s Amazon: Gold, Lumber, Cattle and Now, Energy’ – we contaminate and privatize the fresh water – see ‘Groundwater drunk by BILLIONS of people may be contaminated by radioactive material spread across the world by nuclear testing in the 1950s’ and ‘Nestlé CEO Denies That Water is an Essential Human Right’ – we overfish and pollute the oceans – see ‘New UN report finds marine debris harming more than 800 species, costing countries millions’ – we eat meat despite the devastating impact of animal agriculture on Earth’s biosphere – see ‘The True Environmental Cost of Eating Meat’ – we destroy the soil – see ‘Only 60 Years of Farming Left If Soil Degradation Continues’ – and we use our cars and air travel (along with our meat-eating) as key weapons in our destruction of Earth’s atmosphere and climate with atmospheric carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide levels all breaking new records in 2016. See ‘Greenhouse Gas Bulletin’.
But if you think that is bad enough, did you know about the out-of-control methane releases into the atmosphere that we have triggered – see ‘7,000 underground gas bubbles poised to “explode” in Arctic’ and ‘Release of Arctic Methane “May Be Apocalyptic,” Study Warns’ – and did you know that scientists at the University of Leicester warn that we are destroying the Earth’s oxygen? See ‘Global warming disaster could suffocate life on planet Earth, research shows’ and ‘The Extinction Event Gains Momentum’.
In addition, relying on our ignorance and our complicity, elites kill vast areas of Earth’s biosphere through war and other military violence (without even considering the unique, and possibly life-ending, devastation if the recently and repeatedly threatened nuclear war eventuates) – see, for example, the Toxic Remnants of War Project and the film ‘Scarred Lands & Wounded Lives’ – subject it to uncontrolled releases of radioactive contamination – see ‘Fukushima Radiation Has Contaminated The Entire Pacific Ocean – And It’s Going To Get Worse’ – and use geoengineering to wage war on its climate, environment and ultimately ourselves. See, for example, ‘Engineered Climate Cataclysm: Hurricane Harvey’, ‘Planetary Weapons and Military Weather Modification: Chemtrails, Atmospheric Geoengineering and Environmental Warfare’, ‘Chemtrails: Aerosol and Electromagnetic Weapons in the Age of Nuclear War’ and ‘The Ultimate Weapon of Mass Destruction: “Owning the Weather” for Military Use’.
Of course, all of this is done at immediate cost to human beings, particularly indigenous peoples – see, for example, ‘Five ways climate change harms indigenous people’ – and those who are in the worst position to resist – see ‘Global Poverty: How the Rich Eat the Poor and the World: The Big Lies’ – but elites know they can ignore our lobbying and occasional, tokenistic and disorganized protests while relying on the fear and powerlessness of most of us to ensure that we do nothing strategic to fight back.
And given the unrelenting criminal onslaught of the insane global elite – see ‘The Global Elite is Insane’ – directed against Earth’s biosphere, together with the elite’s many sycophantic academic, bureaucratic, business, legal, media, military, political and scientific servants who deny science and threaten human survival in the interests of short-term personal privilege, corporate profit and social control, it is long past time when those of us who are genuinely concerned should be developing and implementing a strategy that recognises the elite and its many agents as opponents to be resisted with a careful and powerful strategy.
So, in essence, the problem is this: Human beings are destroying the biosphere and driving countless lifeforms, including ourselves, to extinction. And there is little strategic resistance to this onslaught.
There is, of course, an explanation for this and this explanation needs to be understood if we are to implement a strategy to successfully halt our omnicidal assault on Earth’s biosphere in time to save ourselves and as many other species as possible in a viable ecological setting.
This is because if you want to solve a problem or resolve a conflict, then it is imperative to know and act on the truth. Otherwise you are simply acting on a delusion and whatever you do can have no desirable outcome for yourself, others, the Earth or its multitude of creatures. Of course, most people are content to live in delusion: it averts the need to courageously, intelligently and conscientiously analyse what is truly happening and respond to it powerfully. In short: it makes life ‘easier’ (that is, less frightening) even if problems keep recurring and conflicts are suppressed, to flare up periodically, rather than resolved.
And, of course, this is how elites want it. They do not want powerful individuals or organizations interfering with their scheme to (now rapidly) consolidate their militarized control over the world’s populations and resources.
This is why, for example, elites love ‘democracy’: it ensures disempowerment of the population. How so? you might ask. The fundamental flaw of democracy is that people have been deceived into surrendering their personal power to act responsibly – in relation to the important social, political, economic, environment and climate issues of the day – to elected ‘representatives’ in government who then fearfully represent the elites who actually control them (whether through financial incentives, electoral support or other means), assuming they aren’t members of the elite themselves and simply represent elite priorities out of shared interest (as does Donald Trump).
And because we delegate responsibility to those powerless politicians who fearfully (or out of shared interest) act in response to elite bidding, the best scientific information in relation to the state of the Earth is simply ignored or rejected while conservative ‘scientific warnings’ advocating ‘strategies’ that must fail are widely circulated. See, for example, ‘World Scientists’ Warning to Humanity: A Second Notice’.
So this widespread failure to respond thoughtfully and powerfully is a fundamental reason that we are killing the biosphere and destroying life on Earth. Too few humans are willing to accept personal responsibility to understand why the violence is occurring and to participate in a carefully designed strategy to avert our own extinction, let alone save countless other species from premature entry into the fossil record. It is easier to leave responsibility to others. See ‘The Delusion “I Am Not Responsible”’.
And, clearly, time is running out, unless you are gullible enough to believe the elite-sponsored delusion that promotes inaction, and maximizes corporate profits in the meantime, because we are supposed to have until ‘the end of the century’. Far from it, however. As some courageous scientists, invariably denied access to mainstream news outlets, explain it: near-term human extinction is now the most likely outcome.
One of these scientists is Professor Guy McPherson who offers compelling evidence that human beings will be extinct by 2030. For a summary of the evidence of this, which emphasizes the usually neglected synergistic impacts of many of these destructive trends (some of which are noted above) and cites many references, listen to the lecture by Professor McPherson on ‘Climate Collapse and Near Term Human Extinction’.
Why 2030? Because, according to McPherson, the ‘perfect storm’ of environmental assaults that we are now inflicting on the Earth, including the 28 self-reinforcing climate feedback loops that have already been triggered, is so far beyond the Earth’s capacity to absorb, that there will be an ongoing succession of terminal breakdowns of key ecological systems and processes – that is, habitat loss – over the next decade that it will precipitate the demise of homo sapiens sapiens.
In relation to the climate alone, another scientist, Professor Kevin Anderson, who is Deputy Director of the UK’s premier climate modelling institution, the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research, has warned that emissions are now out of control and we are heading for a world that is 6 degrees hotter; he pointed out that even the International Energy Agency, and conservative organisations like it, are warning that we are on track for a 4 degree increase (on the pre-industrial level) by 2040. He also accused too many climate scientists of keeping quiet about the unrealistic assessments put out by governments. See ‘What They Won’t Tell You About Climate Catastrophe’.
So be wary of putting any credence on ‘official’ explanations, targets and ‘action-plans’ in relation to the climate that are approved by large gatherings, whether governmental or scientific. Few people have the courage to tell the truth when it guarantees unpopularity and can readily manifest as career-extinction and social and scientific marginalization.
As an aside, it is perhaps worth mentioning that most people have long forgotten that a decade ago (when the global temperature was .8 degrees above the pre-industrial level) it had been suggested that a decrease in global temperature to not more than .5 degrees above the pre-industrial level was actually necessary to achieve a safe climate, with the Arctic intact (although there was no clear feasible method for humans to reduce the global temperature to this level with any speed). Sadly we have made little progress in the past decade apart from to keep raising the ‘acceptable’ limit (whether to 2 degrees or ‘only’ 1.5). Most humans love to delude themselves to avoid dealing with the truth.
Hence, for those of us committed to responding powerfully to this crisis, the fundamental question is this: Why, precisely, are human beings destroying life on Earth? Without an accurate answer to this question, any strategy to address this crisis must be based on either guesswork or ideology.
So let us briefly consider some possible answers to this question.
Some people argue that it is genetic: human beings are innately violent and, hence, destructive behaviors towards themselves, others and the Earth are ‘built-in’ to the human organism; for that reason, violence cannot be prevented or controlled and humans must endlessly destroy.
However, any argument that human beings are genetically-predisposed to inflict violence is easily refuted by the overwhelming evidence of human cooperation throughout the millennia and there are endless examples, ranging from the interpersonal to the international, of humans cooperating to resolve conflict without violence, even when these conflicts involve complex issues and powerful vested interests. There are also plentiful examples of humans, particularly indigenous communities, living in harmony with, rather than destroying, nature.
Other analysts argue that human violence and destructiveness are manifestations of political, economic and/or social structures – such as patriarchy, capitalism and the state, depending on the perspective – and while I agree that (massive) structural violence actually occurs, I do not believe that these structures, by themselves, constitute an adequate explanation of the cause of violence.
This is simply because any structural explanation cannot account for violence in all contexts (including the violence that led to creation of the structure in the first place) or explain why it doesn’t happen in some contexts where a particular perspective indicates that it should.
So is there another plausible explanation for human violence? And can we do anything about it? Let me offer an explanation and a way forward that also takes advantage of the insights of those traditions that have critiqued structural violence in its many forms.
I have been researching why human beings are violent since 1966 and the evidence has convinced me that the origin of all human violence is the violence inflicted by adults on children under the guise of what sociologists call ‘socialization’. This violence takes many forms – what I call ‘visible’, ‘invisible’ and ‘utterly invisible’ violence – and it creates enormously damaged individuals who then personally inflict violence on themselves, those around them (including their own children) and the Earth, while creating, participating in, defending and/or benefiting from structures of violence and exploitation. For a full explanation of this point, see ‘Why Violence?’ and ‘Fearless Psychology and Fearful Psychology: Principles and Practice’.
Hence, in my view, the evidence is overwhelming that if we want to end human violence, whether inflicted on ourselves, others or the Earth, then the central feature of our strategy must be to end adult violence against children. See ‘My Promise to Children’. I claim that this must be ‘the central feature of our strategy’ for the simple reason that each damaged child grows up to become a willing and active perpetrator of violence when, if they were not so damaged, they would be powerful agents of peace, justice and sustainability committed to resisting violence and exploitation in all contexts until it is eliminated.
This profound evolutionary inheritance – to be an individual of integrity who consciously chooses and lives out their own unique, powerful and nonviolent life path – has been denied to virtually all of us because humans endlessly terrorize their children into mindless obedience and social conformity, leaving them powerless to access and live out their conscience.
And this makes it very easy for elites: By then using a combination of our existing fear, indoctrination (via the education system, corporate media and religion) and intimidation (via the police, legal and prison systems), sometimes sweetened with a few toys and trinkets, national elites maintain social control and maximize corporate profits by coercing the rest of us to waste our lives doing meaningless work, in denial of our Selfhood, in the corporate-controlled economy.
As I implied above, however, we need not be content with just working to end violence against children. We can also work to end all other manifestations of violence – including violence against women, indigenous peoples, people of color, Islamic and working class people, and violence against the Earth – but recognize that if we tackle this violence without simultaneously tackling violence at its source, we fundamentally undermine our effort to tackle these other manifestations of violence too.
Moreover, tackling structural violence (such as capitalism) by using direct violence cannot work either. Because violence always feeds off fear it will always proliferate and remanifest, whether as direct, structural, cultural or ecological violence, however beneficial any short-term outcome may appear.
Importantly then, apart from understanding and addressing the fundamental cause of this crisis, we must implement a comprehensive strategy that takes into account and addresses each and every component of it. There is no point working to achieve a single objective that might address one problem no matter how important that particular problem might be. The crisis is too far advanced to settle for piecemeal action.
Hence, if you wish to tackle all of this violence simultaneously, you might consider joining those participating in the comprehensive strategy simply explained in ‘The Flame Tree Project to Save Life on Earth’. If you wish to tackle violence in a particular context, direct, structural or otherwise, consider using the strategic approach outlined in Nonviolent Campaign Strategy or Nonviolent Defense/Liberation Strategy.
And if you would like to publicly commit yourself to participate in the effort to end all human violence, you can do so by signing the online pledge of ‘The People’s Charter to Create a Nonviolent World’.
Killing the biosphere is the most effective way to destroy life on Earth because it destroys the ecological foundation – the vast array of incredibly diverse and interrelated habitats – on which organisms depend for their survival. And we are now very good at this killing which is why averting human extinction is already going to be extraordinarily difficult.
Hence, unless and until you make a conscious personal decision to participate strategically in the struggle to save life on Earth, you will be one of those individuals who kills the biosphere as a byproduct of living without awareness and commitment: A person who simply over-consumes their way to extinction.
So next time you ponder the fate of humanity, which is inextricably tied to the fate of the Earth, it might be worth considering the unparalleled beauty of what Earth has generated. See, for example, ‘Two White Giraffes Seen in Kenyan Conservation Area’.
And as you do this, ask yourself how hard you are willing to fight to save life on Earth.
*Robert J. Burrowes has a lifetime commitment to understanding and ending human violence. He has done extensive research since 1966 in an effort to understand why human beings are violent and has been a nonviolent activist since 1981. He is the author of ‘Why Violence?’ His email address is firstname.lastname@example.org and his website is here.