Human Exceptionalism

Should We Live Shorter to Save the Planet?

Humans are the enemy! A new study published in Ecology and Society claims that longer life expectancy for us is bad news for the planet. From the study by Aaron Lotz and Craig R. Allen:

We found a positive relationship between life expectancy and the percentage of endangered and invasive species in a country…The overall trend in high-income countries with improvements to the Human Development Index, which includes human life expectancy as one of its variables, is toward a disproportionately larger negative impact on a country’s ecological footprint. However, some lower-income countries have a high level of development without a high impact on ecosystem services (Moran et al. 2008).

Increased life expectancy means that people live longer and affect the planet longer; each year is another year of carbon footprint, ecological footprint, use of natural resources, etc. The magnitude of this impact is increased as more people live longer.

Bad humans!  Bad, bad humans.

The answer is supposedly–it’s becoming a cliché–that we see ourselves as just part of nature:

Fischer et al. (2012) propose a “transformation strategy” that assumes that direct links between people and nature are better than indirect links. This paradigm shift would recouple the social-ecological system.

Wrong. We are the exceptional species. The environment benefits most when we see that it is our duty to manage the environment responsibly because we are human. If we redefine ourselves as just another animal in the forest, that’s just how we will act.

The authors don’t say whether we should try and live shorter lives. But that certainly seems an implication.

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