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Sustainability and the anthropogenic alteration of evolutionary processes

Keywords: Evolution , sustainability ethics , destruction of natural capital , human occupancy of Earth , alteration of biosphere , biotic extinctions , economic globalization

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Abstract:

Persuasive evidence indicates that Earth is now experiencing a major biotic crisis. Even if humankind ceases severe stress on natural systems, the crisis will probably disrupt the basic evolutionary processes that characterized the period preceding the agricultural and industrial revolutions.Proliferation of drug and pesticide resistant species and opportunistic species that thrive in human-dominated ecosystems will become increasingly common. The effect on humankind of altering basic evolutionary processes is uncertain because the understanding of these processes is not robust. The probable result will not be an environment as favorable to humans as the one that has existed for most of human history. Humans probably have altered the environment since Homo sapiens first appeared. However, only in the last two centuries has the degree and rate of change reached levels now considered by many people to be normal , even though the record shows they are not.Greatly improved technology has facilitated increased exploitation of natural resources to unsustainablelevels. This exploitation, in turn, has led to exponential human population growth, which has depleted natural capital (living systems and the services they provide). Economic globalization has ensured that ecosystems far distant from consumers can be and are profitably exploited. Economicgrowth has become a universal mantra that is coupled with a conviction that such growth can continue indefinitely on a finite planet. A major paradigm shift is essential if sustainable use of the planet is to become a reality.

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