The Future is Here… For Those Who Wish to See It

Written by M. Glantz. Posted in All Fragilecologies

Published on October 20, 2009 with No Comments

Fragilecologies Archives
27 January 2006

pen5The idea behind the title of this editorial is the following: Many of the scenarios people have discussed about the consequences of future human interactions with various types of ecosystems, from deserts to mountain slopes, have already, in reality, been played out. The scenarios should no longer be viewed as speculation about possible consequences, because the future — that is, the end result — of activities involving changes to the natural environment have already been initiated by human activities somewhere on the globe for the first time. The impacts of those changes have most likely already been demonstrated. Why? Because the result of similar activities (modification of the natural environment) has already been pursued, tried, and tested in other parts of the globe in earlier times, and they have already yielded their results, which have turned out to be either good or bad for the environment, or for society, or for both.

As an example, cutting down trees in large numbers on mountainsides will likely yield similar results as far as the natural environment is concerned, when the same clearcutting approaches are attempted anew in a similar topographical setting in a different part of the globe: soil erosion, rapid rainfall runoff, lower soil moisture recharge, silting up of stream flow, sediment loading of dams and reservoirs, and faster snowmelt in the spring. The same is true if one were to remove mangrove forests in order to develop shrimp ponds or to irrigate desert soils without proper drainage facilities.

<forest deforestation
A pristine forest scene
A pristine forest after clearcutting

While some people may have made these changes to the environment in proper ways, others have not. The point is that we do not necessarily need new scientific assessments of potential environmental impacts, for some of these processes of human-induced environmental changes have already shown their impacts on the environment and on society. it is a fact that often the call for new environmental impact assessments is no more than a delaying tactic by those who favor the changes to the environment, often for personal or corporate gain.

forest1 shrimp_ausblick
Mangrove forests
Shrimp ponds displacing mangroves

The future impacts of new activities that involve modification of the natural environment already exists somewhere on the globe, if only we choose to look for them.


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