The Earth has its own set of rules, solidly grounded in laws of physics and chemistry and emergent principles of geology and biology. Unlike our economic model, these are not artificial constructs. They are real, and they govern. Earthquakes, tsunamis, volcanic eruptions, hurricanes, tornadoes, 100-year floods, massive wildfires and disease epidemics are dramatic examples of parts of nature, neither all service nor all harm, creating and destroying, and governed by rules that are indifferent to humans. Our anthropocentric economic model for interacting with the world ignores and is proving to be incompatible with Earth's rules, and is therefore on a direct collision course with them.(...)
Recent measurements of unprecedented, directional changes in the vital signs of Earth suggest that we may have already staved in our lifeboat's hull, causing changes beyond the ability of Earth's biogeochemical forces to maintain balance. The quasi-steady state that makes our lives possible may be disappearing before our eyes. We are in direct conflict with Earth's rules.This has been my position for a couple of decades at least, though I could never have stated it as eloquently as the authors. (Bruce E. Mahall is a professor of ecology at the University of California, Santa Barbara. F. Herbert Bormann, a professor emeritus at Yale University, is one of the founders of the Hubbard Brook Ecosystem Study.) Unfortunately, I have become increasingly pessimistic that we as a culture are capable of abandoning our old paradigms- economic, religious, philosophical and scientific, as described in the essay- in time to save our asses. I'm certain we as a species could do it, but ingrained habit looks like it's going to prevent it.