William Rees: What's Driving The Planet's Accelerating Species Collapse?

The data regarding planetary species loss just gets more alarming.

Today's podcast guest is bioecologist and ecological economist Dr. William Rees, professor emeritus of the University of British Columbia’s School of Community and Regional Planning. Rees is best known for his development of the "ecological footprint" concept as a way to measure the demand a particular population places on the environmental resources it needs to survive.

Since the beginning of modern agriculture (around 1800), human activity has increased demand on planetary resources at an exponential rate. More energy has been expended -- and more resources consumed -- in the past 40 years than in all of human existence beforehand. That is placing a greater and greater strain on ecosystems that are now dangerously depleted:

At the dawn of agriculture, just ten thousand years ago, human beings accounted for less than 1% of the total mammalian biomass on the planet. Today, there’s been a sevenfold increase, roughly speaking, in the biomass of vertebra species on the planet -- but most of that is human-induced. Today, human beings account for about 32 - 35%of the total biomass of mammals, a much greater biomass than at the dawn of agriculture. But when we throw in our domesticated animals and our pets, humans and their domesticated animals amount to 98.5% of the total weight of mammals on planet Earth.

So we’re engaged here, through sheer growth, in the scale of the human enterprise in what ecologists refer to as "competitive displacement". This is a finite planet. There’s a finite flow, a limited flow, of photosynthetic energy through the planet which we share with millions of other species. Now, on a finite planet with limited energy flow, the more any one species takes the less is available for everything else. So as humans have gone from less than 1% of the total biomass to over 98.5% of an increased biomass, it means that almost all other species with which we share that photosynthetic flow have been pushed off the planet.

So we’ve gone from millions to a few thousand elephants. We’ve gone from hundreds of thousands, maybe even millions, of tigers to a handful. And so on. Wildlife on the planet today is clinging to the edges of existence. They may not have gone extinct, but their populations have been reduced to a tiny fraction -- a few percent at best -- of what used to be.

North America used to have 40 to 60 million bison regularly migrating north and south through our great plains. Well, today there’s only a few thousand bison on domesticated farms or in a couple of parks -- they’ve been replaced utterly by the food crops that we grow to feed humans or to support our domestic animals.

Competitive displacement has revealed humans to be the fiercest competitors on Earth for the planet’s living resources, forcing nearly all other species to essentially disappear. 

Click the play button below to listen to Chris' interview with Dr. William Rees (65m:45s).



This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at https://peakprosperity.com/william-rees-whats-driving-the-planets-accelerating-species-collapse/

This podcast put a lot of things into perspective. If you don’t make changes after listening to it you probably never will.

I found the juxtaposition of Ron Paul’s message prior to Bill Rees’ an example of the large gap in “social constructs” we see amongst the growing anger of the “perceived” disenfranchised. What Bill so eloquently put forth, unfortunately, hid the undercurrent which he carefully implied. As a species, we share some potentially admirable qualities.

I find it humorous if not comical the interest to find another habital planet in our galaxy. And maybe it’s because we have so badly screwed up this planet that people are beginning to wakeup to the fact that we are in the process of causing omnicide to ourselves and everything else on this once thriving planet.
We are eliminating wildlife as if it doesn’t matter and yet it does as it’s part of the web of life. Most recently we have heard about Ecological Armegeddon where 80% of the insects are gone. Little by little we are recreating Easter Island on a global scale.

Only the dumbest species would knowingly kill its habitat.
Sometimes evolution confuses me
like my dog
I told him to get down too many times
and he took up guitar

I agree, great podcast.
My first question is what about waste. People generate a heck of a lot of the stuff, can we assume that fact was figured into the equation? Even worse is governmental and corporate waste, surely that was NOT factored in. Nuclear waste, farm waste, mining waste, oh and here is an extra big one, WAR waste, all those rusting, toxic, deadly products created in perpetual war. Hmmm I doubt that nasty stuff is thought about, rather it’s buried or dumped into the ocean, you know out of sight out of mind.
Will have to listen to this podcast again!
Great choice Chris and Adam.

Would this be considered productive or waste?

Supposedly smart people think nothing of extending (and expanding) our environmentally profligate ways at every opportunity they have, if it makes money. When we should be working on negative growth, Brainiac Bill is pushing growth IN A DESERT.

I found the resistance to this message very confrontational.
I think most intelligent people know, deep down, but are trying very hard not to acknowledge it, least they woul find it necessary to modify their behavior.
I suspect this attempt to be dishonest with themselves is at least partially responsible for issues today like the drug problem among others.

The more money a person has the bigger their ecological foot print. If we all had to live on just a few dollars a day we would not be running out of resources.

Don’t you know, we must have growth because that is progress. I mean, we must have growth cause when you create debt, the only way to repay it is with more debt.
This is the crux of our situation, is that our debt market needs a holiday, which won’t happen till it crashes. The powers in charge, will not give up their position till it collapses, and since they have control of MSM, the alt media and realist’s(us) won’t be given positions of power till after the crash also.
What I think is most important is how are we going to manage the situation after the crash. Historically, the average Joe does a very poor job of organizing and getting their people in places of power. The average Joe’s are too trusting and dumb too boot. What I see is when people set up to do good and attempt to be in power, they are not supported by the masses. The powers in charge also use any means to maintain their positions, by any means, murder, entrapment, coercion, lies, etc. People with a conscience won’t which usually means more of the same.

I agree fully BP.
I would be happy to have a miller and a tanner. Working on a miller, met him in our draft horse community and is passionate about grain, esp. ancient heirloom breeds.
Kelsey, one of our Suffolk Punch drafts is settled.
good day

This interview reminded me of Paul Erhlich who has made the same case since the 60’s. Nothing has changed. The environment has continued to deteriorate. I am not optimistic the trajectory will change for the better. There have been 4.5 billion human beings added to the planet since the "Population Bomb " was first published. Every one of those want to live like a North American.
It is obvious that physically that is an impossibility. A quick jaunt to any Walmart on a Saturday afternoon at 2 PM will be enough to disabuse even the most pollyanna of optimists that moving the deck chairs aint gonna save the ship.
Bill lost me at the end. His political views which until then had been absent came to the fore in all their glory. He is clearly in the Socialist, Big Government, One World New Order camp. More government regulations and the Holy Grail of liberal Socialists everywhere more taxes, especially carbon taxes.
Sorry Bill but that approach will do zero to help the environment but it will hasten the transfer of wealth from the bottom to the top. It is ludicrous to believe that the very same politicians who have profited along with their patrons (the corporations) will use the money raised from taxes to protect the environment, reduce pollution, build light rail, reduce carbon emissions, alter our debt based monetary system which demands growth, or any other number of "solutions " which will make this a sustainable ( i hate that word) planet.
Those very same politicians and captains of industry will steal those taxes for their own benefit. As proof of that one need look no further than Social Security to understand that giving money to the criminal class only encourages further theft.
This site has consistently demonstrated that what we have is not a problem but a predicament. Therefore there are no viable solutions only coping mechanisms.
Having read through the transcript I was looking forward to some "creative " ideas but instead got the same old Socialist rhetoric of taxes and regulation. It is no wonder that the intellectual capacity of humanity will not help our predicament. Disappointed