Occupy Earth is a term that I’m seeing here and there, and I hope it grows into a household phrase. There is an ongoing debate about what we need to fix first, the environment or the economy. But it’s a ridiculous debate, since you can’t fix one without fixing the other. A good piece I ran across today spelled that out in more detail. Here’s the intro:
Chico State professor of geography and planning Mark Stemen admits it: He’s part of the 1 percent. And, he says, so are you: “In the context of the biotic community, we [humans] are the 1 percent.” The true 99 percent—the rest of life on Earth—is struggling because of humans, said Stemen.
Stemen recently conducted his Environmental Issues class at the Occupy Chico headquarters in the downtown City Plaza. The idea was to discuss the relationship between the environmental movement and the Occupy Wall Street movement, which focuses primarily on the unfair influence of the richest 1 percent of Americans on the United States’ economy and government.
As it turns out, in terms of biomass, “humans are a completely trivial fraction. In fact, [all] animals are a very small fraction—most of the world’s biomass is plants, trees,” offered Gordon Wolfe, microbial ecologist and Chico State professor of biological studies. “It’s very uncertain, but microbes might constitute as much biomass as all the animals and plants of the world, because they’re everywhere, including underground,” he added.
But despite humans’ negligible position among the life on Earth, our impact has been startling and “completely nontrivial,” Wolfe said. “We’re tremendously affecting every other organism.” Wolfe went on to describe our current situation as “a period of mass extinction caused by humans.”
Many prominent environmentalists, such as climate-crisis activism website 350.org’s Bill McKibben and filmmaker Josh Fox, are concerned with this human-induced impact and have turned to the Occupy movement to widen the focus of the protests to include the environment. “The same corporations that are doing all these things to the workers, the economy and such, are the same that lay waste to the environment,” said Stemen.
The inclusiveness of the Occupy movement—its General Assembly has not yet approved an official list of demands—has proven helpful for environmentalists, who have found a welcoming stage for their own take on the Occupy concept, which some have dubbed Occupy Earth. Occupy Wall Street protesters at New York City’s Zuccotti Park recently hosted workshops in honor of Climate Justice Day, aimed at educating protesters on the myriad environmental issues connected to the same corporate cronies their movement aims to upset, such as mountain-top removal for coal extraction, and fracking, the controversial method of using chemicals to extract petroleum from rocks.