As human beings we live within a planetary ecosystem that we did not create, cannot control and must not destroy. Moreover, it seems that Earth is the only life-supporting planet in the known universe. This is a sobering fact about the precariousness of our place in space.
Yet, even more disturbing is the fact that in spite of all we now know about our vulnerable circumstance and despite our very best intentions, the social, economic and political institutions of our contemporary world are committed to operate – in their ‘default mode’ – so as to destroy the prospects for our future survival within the constraints of Earth’s ecosystem.
The institutions of which we are so proud and like to think we can control have in reality taken control of our behavior as a species. This is particularly troubling because these institutions are founded in law and in practice upon the principle of promoting perpetual growth and continued human expansion.
The trouble is – as ecologists have pointed out long ago – that this growth will not persist for any species in a finite ecosystem. It is a basic law of biological systems that no organism within them can grow without limit without destroying the system itself.
Starkly put, then, the question is simply this: can humans survive the anthropocene? Can we repurpose with sufficient speed our institutions so as to assure human continuity, rather than accelerate our demise? If we fail to redirect them away from their default modes of perpetual growth no amount of technological wizardry will spare us from the system-wide collapse towards which our global agriculture is now headed.