We live amid a global wave of anthropogenically driven biodiversity loss: species and population extirpations and, critically, declines in local species abundance. Particularly, human impacts on animal biodiversity are an under-recognized form of global environmental change.
Call of Life is to investigate the threat to Earth’s life support systems from this unprecedented loss of biodiversity. Through interviews with leading biologists, ecologists, social scientists, indigenous leaders, and others, the causes, the scope, and the potential effects of the mass extinction have been explored. The research also looks beyond the immediate causes of the crisis to consider how our cultural and economic systems, along with deep-seated psychological and behavioral patterns, have allowed this situation to develop, continue to reinforce it, and even determine our response to it.
The research tells the story of a crisis not only in nature, but also in human nature and considers the collective and individual responses that will be needed to mitigate the impacts of the mass extinction, and makes clear the critical choices we have before us. We face the potential of the natural world devastated beyond recognition, with the loss of human life in the billions. Yet we still have time to avert the worst of the losses and save much of the biosphere if we act decisively. The first step is to create broad public awareness of the magnitude and implications of the crisis. Only then can our whole society begin to consider the systemic changes that will be required.
In order to save our planet and secure a future for our own species and all species, we need a new worldview. We must recognize that technology alone cannot save us, and business-as-usual is no longer an option. Instead, we need to create fundamental change in our culture, our minds, and our hearts. Unique among all human generations, those of us alive today have been given a great opportunity: one last chance to preserve the vitality and magnificence of the living planet that sustains us, and is our only home.
Both denial and dissociation are faulty and ineffective methods of dealing with a very real crisis. It is actually through allowing ourselves to experience our feelings and our grief that we can work through it and bring forth the energy to move into action.
Humans have evolved over thousands of generations to live in a relatively stable world. We have been equipped by evolution for survival in that world—where, for instance, sudden events were important for us to notice but slower, gradual ones were not. Such patterns of filtering and interpreting our perceptions once enhanced our survival, but these are obsolete in today’s world of complexity and global change. This evolutionary flaw in our thinking may make it difficult for us to distinguish relevant information from the trivial, and yet the ability to make such distinctions is becoming increasingly crucial. The mass extinction is a good example. It’s proceeding quietly in the background of our daily lives, so even though it’s a formidable threat, it’s easy to ignore while we give precedence to more immediate concerns. In order to overcome this flaw, we must use our natural reasoning ability, and educate ourselves to think and perceive in a new manner—one that facilitates our survival in today’s complex environment.
We’re already on a downhill slide, but it’s not too late to mitigate the impacts of the mass extinction if we begin now. We don’t have to accept the destructiveness of our culture; other ways are possible. We should envision the kind of world we want to have when we emerge from this crisis.
The challenges may seem overwhelming, but we know that societies can change rapidly when enough people become aware of the problems and begin looking for solutions.