Our existential imperative: Prioritize the biosphere

We now must realize without further delay that we as one species, Homo sapiens, are latecomers to earth and that so much of how we live in this, and the last century are not compatible with the earth’s “wisdom” and ways.

Photo by Kalen Emsley on Unsplash
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Dr. Douglas Zook

Editor’s note: This is one in a continuing series of guest opinions about fostering environmental stewardship and leadership coordinated by ACES — The Alliance of Climate and Environmental Stewards.

The things that we purchase, covet, rely on – SUVs, trucks, techno- items, gasoline, pavement, concrete, furniture, appliances, furnaces, airplanes, etc. – came from our home, the earth’s biosphere, mostly through major disruptions and even destruction via ongoing massive mining, drilling, logging, burning, explosives, water diversion and so on over the past 250 years to the present day.

We now must realize without further delay that we as one species, Homo sapiens, are latecomers to earth and that so much of how we live in this, and the last century are not compatible with the earth’s “wisdom” and ways.

Just think, everything that is basic to survival and life came about successfully over 3.6 billion years through chemical exchanges and interactions of millions of evolving life forms, especially the dominant microlife.

All this biodiverse life and the ecosystems they built produced oxygen, motility, food and shelter, nutrient flow, essential gene exchange, and photosynthesis long before Homo sapiens evolved. Indigenous peoples for centuries lived and flourished often through these ongoing, life-giving “gifts,” seeing land and seas, indeed all of nature, as sacred.

In that context, we must step back actively and courageously from our world, this economy based on relentless extraction from nature, which is already showing science-based indications of a perilous and even limited future for our children and grandchildren.

Many indicators are already here, such as soil degradation through mega-corporate chemical-farming, far too much fossil fuel dependency, the demise of bees, forest removal and the rapid unnatural extinction rate of many animals, plants, fungi and their ecosystems. It is definitely time to realize the one thing we have meaningful control over – ourselves.

It is time for each of us and our communities, cities to actually be the change that is needed such that we are a part of this amazing biosphere and not an outlier or outlaw. We cannot continue to live with self deception that the goal is to have wealth, lots of material stuff, more roads, plastics, techno-objects, big houses, shoreline living, big cars.

W-earth working toward: Humility – See yourself as part of and completely dependent on nature, not above it. Advocate for our very best friends – trees. Find out and share why trees are so very essential...

Biodiversity and human diversity are both crucial for a healthy future. Work, speak out for all the life, particularly indigenous peoples who live close to Nature and did not contribute to the climate crisis, and who are major caretakers of regions that are crucial for life globally.

Avoid being on the sidelines. Participate in peaceful, nonviolent educative protest to help stop disrespect of nature and to oppose warfare, one of the main destroyers of the biosphere and the future.

Be at least a “1 percenter for the planet”: For a livable future now and for the coming generations. There are about 720 hours in a month. Contribute 1% or seven hours per month. Make a bold list of what you can do/change in your personal life. Then gradually do it! Build your own personal green new deal that includes getting off plastics, excess fossil fuel use, pesticides/herbicides, junk food, products with palm oil, excess materialism ... .

Don’t give in to naysayers ... that is, those who say, “It doesn’t make any difference what you do.’’ Essential ethics/value changes will happen as a growing society of minds/souls actively prioritizes nature’s biosphere, its diverse life, and the future of our children/grandchildren.

Bottom line: There really is no choice.

Newburyport resident Dr. Douglas Zook is a global ecologist and science educator.

Our Youth Corps asks that you care about the matter of our biosphere and its importance to future generations and then act accordingly personally. To learn more about doing more for the future or if you have any questions, please send an email to To learn more about ACES and its Initiatives, visit

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about the author
Douglas Zook

Douglas Zook, PhD taught global ecology, symbiosis courses at Boston University for nearly 30 years.  Part of those years he also directed the Master’s in Science Education program, helping more than 300 students to become creative science teachers.  He is a three-time Fulbright Scholar recipient, has given over 200 invited lectures here in the USA and in many countries worldwide, does considerable nature and reflections photography, as well as leading excursions to the remote, very biodiverse Yasuni REGION OF THE NW Amazon.  His Global Ecology Education Initiative based at UMass/Boston actively engages students and teachers at Massachusetts high schools and other venues, often via zoom, about our Home, the biosphere.

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