Spineless Science

Spineless Science

So even scientists have been coopted, now. Today in Paris most all of the most famous scientists in the world issued an 1800-page much anticipated report detailing what the rapid loss of biodiversity is doing to us:

Killing us, essentially. By the way, what did you think about that last Game of Thrones episode? Pretty cool, isn’t it, that Alex Cora is skipping the White House meeting? Is it possible that climate change has something to do with the decline in biodiversity?

To ask such an important question, of course, mocks science. But that’s exactly what these cowardly scientists did: they tip-toed, shifted around and dosey-doed so much with the otherwise amazingly complete factual report, that they completely muddied any intelligible conclusion.

Here’s the report’s conclusion from its own media summary:

“These culprits [causing a dangerous and rapid decline in biodiversity] are, in descending order: (1) changes in land and sea use; (2) direct exploitation of organisms; (3) climate change; (4) pollution and (5) invasive alien species.”

Changes in land and sea use. What, we shovel the water and surf the hill?

Direct exploitation of organisms. So we shouldn’t eat so many Big Macs?

Climate change. Yeah, I know.

Pollution. Isn’t that caused by climate change and cows burping?

Invasive alien species. From Mars? Or do you mean garlic mustard?

Alright, I’m being harsh. But my point is that ever since Richard Leakey’s landmark book, The Sixth Extinction, first published in 1995 and now on-demand in paperback, we’ve understood that the biodiversity in the world was declining at a profound rate.

That “profound rate” was never imagined to become as fast by Leakey as it is, today, and so aptly proved in the new report.

But for close to the last quarter century we’ve been talking about this, debating it, studying it. Depending upon what moment of extinction you focus on – the actual final death, the multiple tag points in the decline of a species, or earliest, the point at which individual species stop expanding – there will be different immediate and specific reasons.

And yes, you could organize these into broad subcategories, but the ones in this report are totally confusing and overlapping. They’re political, not scientific.

Moreover, it’s normal and useful to find some root cause to them all. We’ve done that with climate change: human-induced. So why not extend that clear minded hybrid adjective to the loss of biodiversity, and thereby, link it to climate change?

I don’t know if it’s a good sign or not, actually, but the public is taking the scientists to where they should have gone themselves:

On the popular NPR show 1A, this morning, Joshua Johnson invited his listeners to join tomorrow’s conversation about how “climate change is causing the decline of a million species annually.”

He was referring to the report, but the report of course, refuses to say that. As I showed above, directly from the report’s summary, climate change is the third most important cause.

And then there’s respectable newspapers like London’s Independent. Just a few hours ago reporter Jane Dalton said of the report, “Loss of biodiversity threatens the human race just as much as climate change, the experts believe, with up to a million species facing extinction in the world’s sixth mass die-off.”

Of course the experts didn’t say that, either. So shall we celebrate this “fake news?”

I think I know why the scientists effectively prevaricated. Because climate change deniers still prevail. They don’t prevail among the world’s people, who after all is who we’re talking about and advocating for. But they remain strong among the fossil fuel industry and aged politicians grasping to every last feather in their crowns.

And scientists get their grants from politicians and corporations.

So we’ve had another scream, today. It came from Paris, and is as muddled and undirected as the Yellow Vests. If there’s a silver lining it’s that the facts are getting underscored and a clear people’s voice is coming from those reporting on the report.

But where’s the courage in our scientists, folks? Have special interests prevailed? Live rich or die?