We have reached a frozen moment in a heating world.

Our natural world is being increasingly denatured. There go the animals: extinctions are now up to a thousand times the natural background rate,1 and between 150 and 200 species become extinct every 24 hours.2 Watch out, plants: a fifth of your sort, up to 100,000 species, could also soon be extinct.3 Some 80,000 acres of rainforest vanish off the face of the earth – each day.4

The gyres of capital, economic growth and consumption will make mincemeat of nature. It’s a catastrophe being documented daily by alternative – and, increasingly, even mainstream – media. But we remain frozen in its glare.

Now, more than ever, there is a need to conserve and let be. Before the voraciousness of growth leaves us with a stripped, bare world.

Nature can be miraculously resilient – as in the amazing comeback of the Small Aral Sea (see overleaf). A twinkle of hope to set against the fact that dead zones in our oceans have doubled every decade since the 1960s.5

But where we should be fighting tooth and nail to conserve and restore, we often get swept away by corporate greenwash. Take the running sore of open cast mining in the Canadian tar sands (see NI 431 for extended coverage) which has disturbed an area of 530 square kilometres. The oil industry claims to be actively reclaiming 65 square kilometres.6 But how much land is actually certified by the government as reclaimed? Just 1.04 square kilometres.7 As for the marshlands that existed before the oil industry ran amok, there’s no way of recreating them.

Shouldn’t destruction on such a scale be a crime (see Stopping the juggernaut for a radical proposal)?

Yet, as our structures and systems alienate us from nature and make of it a commodity to be priced up and exploited, we humans hanker for a better balance, the sustaining connection that we know only it can ultimately provide. We have been too long the agents of nature’s destruction. Conservation requires our agency, too.

  1. UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon, ‘Remarks at the High-level Event on Biodiversity’, 22 September 2010.
  2. United Nations Environment Programme.
  3. ‘Fifth of world’s plant species “at risk of extinction”’, The Independent, 29 September 2010.
  4. http://rainforests.mongabay.com/0801.htm
  5. UNEP Year Book 2010.
  6. www.oilsandsdevelopers.ca/index.php/oil-sandstechnologies/mining/environment/
  7. www.pembina.org/oil-sands/os101/reclamation