Exploring the Meaning of the Sixth Mass Extinction
I’m trying to articulate a better understanding of the meaning of the 6th mass extinction in Earth’s history. Most scientific and policy discussions of anthropogenic mass extinction describe it primarily as a loss of resources for human beings. I think this view is ethically solipsistic and misstates the scope and scale of our achievement. Other ways to conceptualize mass extinction that I’m exploring include species extinction as a violation of other species’ right to continued existence, analogous to human group rights, and extinction as interspecies genocide. The best book I've read recently on this topic is Thom Van Dooren's Flight Ways: Life and Loss at the Edge of Extinction. How do you think we should think about the 6th mass extinction?
I recently finished a new book on the ethics of immigration: How Many Is Too Many? The Progressive Argument for Reducing Immigration into the United States. In it, I maintain that we need to reduce immigration if we hope to achieve key progressive political goals, such as decent wages for American workers, a reduction in economic inequality, and creation of an ecologically sustainable society. For a preview, see the article "The Environmental Argument for Reducing Immigration" (co-written with Winthrop Staples), attached below. Comments are welcome!
I am working on a number of additional projects centered on defending the value of wild nature and affirming the need for limits to growth. One recent effort is the new anthology Life on the Brink: Environmentalists Confront Overpopulation, co-edited with Eileen Crist, recently published by the University of Georgia Press. Along with terrific contributions from Lester Brown, Tom Butler, Eileen, Dave Foreman, Stephanie Mills, Tim Palmer and many others, it contains an essay by Winthrop Staples and I titled “For a Species Right to Exist.” Win and I hope to more fully develop the argument for the injustice of anthropogenic species extinctions.
Two recent efforts to remind environmentalists of the connection between accepting limits and achieving ecological sustainability are my review article “Climate Ethics and Population Policy” published in WIRES: Climate Change 2012 (3): 45-61 and "Reducing Consumption to Avert Catastrophic Global Climate Change: The Case of Aviation," recently published in Natural Science, both appended below. These articles link up with some other work of mine on climate ethics and limits to growth, including “Beyond Business as Usual: Alternative Wedges to Avoid Catastrophic Climate Change and Create Sustainable Societies,” “Economic Growth or the Flourishing of Life: The Ethical Choice Global Climate Change Puts to Humanity in the 21st Century” and “The Virtue of Simplicity,” co-written with Joshua Gambrel (all appended below). See also the page on “alternative climate wedges” on this website.