Conclusion: The Human Island (Chapter 17)

The real tragedy, as I see it, is that we’re not short of the vitals. We certainly have enough of the required understanding, potential methodology and community level will to divert from this path to islandising our species. We understand emotionally, as well as scientifically and economically, the value inherent in a richly bio-diverse planet. We have both ecological and social warning bells wailing overhead. We also want to have the best lives for ourselves and our children.

Arguably, meeting the challenges facing our immediate future would not only increase sustainability, but also tackle economic disparity from a local to global level. Work and personal life balance would be greatly improved as would access to basic goods and services – which should be available to everyone. Empathy, dignity and virtue would be returned to our global community which is slowly forgetting the heart of a prosperous community for the sake of the material consumables and extreme personal and species individualism.

We could again develop diverse and unique communities akin to those of yesteryear with one major improvement – choice. Where we once relied on vastly unknown environmental factors and farming ‘by-thumb’, we now know how we can utilise ecosystems within and around urban landscapes to promote resilience against the extremes of weather, to increase food and water security and provide usable energy in ways we’ve yet to seriously contemplate.

The phrase, ‘Where we live’, is at best ambiguous as it is all too familiar in highly developed western societies, to reside in one location and work and gather many kilometres away and the consumables which we gather to have travelled many more kilometres. Urban sprawl as we’ve watched it develop in the west has diluted where we live so much so that is near meaningless; were there is little unique about a community and little reason to have connection with landscape. All the while the commonwealth of such societies is on the decline and even in some of the most advanced societies of the world, disparity increases. This is signature islandisation at its broadest sense.

We should, as free people in the modern, post-enlightenment age, demand much more community level prosperity and equality. We should demand political will that asserts long term sustainability – the only thing that can ensure such prosperity.

Our sacrifice in return would be the acknowledgment that business-as-usual, while it has improved regional GPD, it has failed to protect us against disparity, to provide resilience and to measure humanistic values. We would need to accept the mess we’ve made to engage in progress for better and increasingly prosperous societies.

Even before we become concerned about the physical sea level rise from the increasing temperature anomaly, we need to be willing to accept the rising waters of isolation. We will not improve production by removing producers – that should be blatantly obvious.

I opened this report with the words of John Donne;

“No man is an island, entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main.”

Indeed, no man or woman is an island; even a CEO’s wealth comes largely at the work of those on the factory floor (increasingly in developing nations where such labour is cheap). No community is an island; for trade is by far one of the oldest ventures of our civilized cultures. No species is an island, entire to itself; every species is a piece of the continent, part of the main – what we refer to as ecosystems.

We are just a small fragment of the continent of life. We are more fragile than, in our pride, we’d like to admit. We are heavily reliant on a dynamic and little understood network. It is the rest of the continent that keeps us afloat.

This is chapter seventeen of the series The Human Island: A Place of Ecological Ruin. To see the previous chapter, click here. As the series grows, the complete work can be found here.

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