Though the cause of human self-extinction may be singularly attributed to unsustainable lifestyles, it involves so much more than just “climate change.”
An unbroken continuity to human existence has been to employ technology to make men money by making living more comfortable for the masses. Ecological abuse from technology has been the modus operandi to self-destruction.
The hominid diaspora ended up with this apex predator on most every dot of land on Earth where survival could be eked out: if not from the earth itself, by trading with others.
Everywhere they have lived, people tried to make their claimed patch of land a Nature-exclusion zone. Homes and farmlands were cleared of “weeds” and “pests” using biocides. Heading into hothouse, cities have become heat islands precisely because vegetation has been replaced by asphalt and concrete.
The relentless taking of land, including the extensive network of roads – ribbons of death – has been a factor in the mass extinction event underway. Chopping habitats into fragments has been a death sentence to billions of other mammals.
Real-estate retrenchment, by restoring bits of land back to Nature, would be wholly inadequate to reverse what has already been done. Planting trees may make people feel good about Nature, but it has no significance.
Material extraction to support the industrial lifestyle is an odious extension of land use. It exacerbates taking from Nature by profuse pollution. Mining and drilling invariably turns the land into single-use human consumption for centuries, if not millennia. No extraction or use of oil does not happen without petrol spilling and polluting.
The fouling of the air & water which is causing global warming is just one aspect of the endless poisoning which has turned green fields into brownfields, strangled sea life in plastic, and made precious freshwater forever undrinkable for animals or plants.
Another aspect of resource extraction, to use the concept loosely, has been the wanton killing of wildlife, including chronic overfishing. Beyond merely taking away the homes of other life, men have actively killed off any animal that might be of some use or got in the way of how he wanted to live.
The ubiquitous system of free-market trade seemed to have worked well enough until the machine age. The terminal problem with industrial capitalism is that it just does not scale into sustainability; quite the opposite. There are a few ways to look at this holistic dilemma, but one sticks out: there simply are too many people on the planet, all aspiring to unsustainable lifestyles.
The application of technology cannot possibly remedy what technology created in the first place. There is no “green” energy. There is only more taking.
At this late juncture in civilization’s fragile existence, the only possible path to species survival would be an abrupt change in collective lifestyle and way of living: away from do-as-you-like individualism to a conservation-oriented communalism.
Even that would prove inadequate given what has already gone down. The Gaia momentum now ushering humanity to its own demise isn’t going to stop just because we change our minds. The momentum instead is only picking up speed.
The plutocracy which reigns over the status quo remains unmoved, and the masses are not calling for a revolution toward unpalatable frugality.
With democracies holding sway in most of the world, radical action would require a public consensus which is nowhere in sight. Humanity does not have decades to come to this critical revelation.
The road ahead is, alas, clear. It is a dead end.
Further reading: The Story of Humanity: Ecology & Consequence.