Epilogue – the choice before us
CoViD-19 may well exemplify the biological universal to expand that H.sapiens shares with all other life-forms. But humans have other unique qualities that we have yet to exercise fully in addressing overshoot. Our species is blessed with high intelligence, the capacity to reason logically from the evidence, and the ability to plan ahead in ways that could dramatically alter our future prospects. It helps that we also possess a unique appreciation of our own vulnerability and mortality, no doubt heightened by the current pandemic.
The scientific evidence tells us that some form of contraction of the human enterprise is a material necessity if we are to maintain the functional integrity of the ecosphere. It seems we have a choice: either allow nature to take its course and suffer the ugly consequences of a chaotic implosion or rise to our true potential by executing a controlled down-sizing of the human enterprise. The overall goal must be ‘one-planet living’ which means learning to thrive more equitably on Earth well within the carrying capacity of the ecosphere (Moore and Rees, 2013). When dealing with the human plague, this is the real meaning of ‘flattening the curve’ (Fig. 4).
The question is: how can the self-proclaimed most-intelligent-species-on-Earth organize socially, politically, and economically to implement a process to ensure an orderly and equitable contraction? Could there be a more riveting intellectual and practical challenge? Indeed, this, more than fear, is proving to be the real motivation for some of our best minds in dealing with our (un)sustainability crisis (see, for example the degrowth initiative at https://www.degrowth.info/en/what-is-degrowth/). If the global community does not rise fully to engage its fate, humanity proclaims itself to have no more practical intelligence or conscious moral agency when it comes to ensuring its own survival than does the CoViD-19 virus.