Apparently road builders were about to plough up and pave over the only habitat for a rare, as in nearly extinct, native orchid. Ecologists moved this rare orchid from the NSW Central Coast and took it to Canberra. The scientists are surprised that it survived!
“This is one of the most difficult orchids on earth… if we can shift this, we can probably shift most things,” he said.
Well that’s nice — we saved one tiny smattering of biodiversity. I’m glad. Now you’re waiting for me to say ‘but’. OK, let’s get on with it. BUT — if we did not know transplanting this rare orchid would actually work, and the scientists are surprised that it actually did, what were we doing extending the road in this area? Is our ‘right’ to bulldoze every last square centimetre of Australia that burnt into our brains? Does car culture automatically trump common sense? Do we really want to so plunder nature that we end up managing all Earth’s ecosystems ourselves, with ‘nature’ a thing of the past?
Some fear that if we try to take over too many of the planet’s ecological systems that it will eventually become artificial, a human managed park rather than a planet. In this scenario, there is no natural ‘margin’ left, no wiggle room, no room for error. We are in charge of trying to create all our own soil because there is no arable land left for forests and wetlands and natural ecosystems to create soil. If, for whatever reason, our farmland soils dry out and die, there is no natural ‘backup’ to turn to in an emergency. We have already paved over and ploughed up the rest. So do we really think we can place ourselves in charge of an entire planetary ecosystem? We are charging down this road. It seems unavoidable.
This kind of thinking even affects me. When friends become too depressed about global warming, I try cheering them up with the thought that if we fail to curb Co2 emissions, we can always use the ‘sulfur gun‘ of dumping huge quantities of sulfur particles high into the stratosphere. This strategy is cheap, delivers immediate results, and is reversible if necessary. (We just stop dumping the sulfur and the system would quickly clean itself up). But what are the side effects? Some suggest that the Indian monsoon might be shut down. Do we really want to inflict water stress on a billion people? One horrifying scenario is that as global warming starts to bite richer nations, they might decide the ramifications of runaway global warming are just too much to bear and take unilateral action on artificially setting the planet’s thermostat. Some might argue that they would never do this, as the ‘sulfur gun’ has global implications. But first world nations like America, Britain and Australia formed the so called ‘coalition of the willing’ and invading Iraq against the wishes of the global community. The GFC was largely caused by America’s unaccountable, wildly out of control banking sector, and are people suggesting that didn’t have global implications?
Burning all those fossil fuels in the first place didn’t have global implications?
So this is not really about just one orchid. This is about the mentality which shouts and celebrates our right to bulldoze what we want, where we want, come what may. This is about being against conservation because ‘it is against development’. (As if our bland and boring suburban blocks don’t need retrofitting and redevelopment) This is about the arrogance that assumes we can and will assume control of all planetary systems. In our folly we’ll gradually take over all fresh water collection and creation, all waste management, all biodiversity management, and create that dreadful prospect some have called ‘space-ship earth’. For when we find ourselves relying on artificial life support systems, rather than natural ecosystem services, haven’t we basically converted the Earth into our mother-ship?
I’m just not sure Scotty is able to run the engineering on an ‘Enterprise’ of that scale!