By Sherry Ackerman The word is in from the wildlife biologists. Say goodbye in North America to the cougar and the grizzly bear. They are destined for extinction sometime in the next 40 years. Add to that list the Red wolf, the Mexican wolf and the Florida panther. Also on the list are the jaguar, [...]

By Sherry Ackerman
The word is in from the wildlife biologists. Say goodbye in North America to the cougar and the grizzly bear. They are destined for extinction sometime in the next 40 years. Add to that list the Red wolf, the Mexican wolf and the Florida panther. Also on the list are the jaguar, the ocelot, the wood bison, the buffalo, the California condor, the North Atlantic right whale, the Stellar sea lion, the hammerhead shark, and the leatherback sea turtle. And, that's just in North America.
If that news isn't startling in and of itself, it becomes even more sobering when you factor in that most humans, frankly, could care less. Science magazine recently carried an article stating that Earth could lose 90 percent of the species that produce oxygen " not 90 percent of total biomass, mind you, just the diversity of the oxygen producers " and this would make very little difference to modern humans. What does this mean?
It means that the combined biomass of the living 7.2 billion human beings, along with the few species of animals we have domesticated " dogs, cats, cattle, sheep, pigs, chickens, horses " now constitute at least 95% of the entire biomass of all extant terrestrial vertebrates on Earth. This constitutes an almost total usurpation of the biosphere for the benefit of one species alone humans. This is ecological imperialism, any way that you look at it. Raw, unadulterated anthropocentricism.
What happened to environmentalism? How did we get this far out? Well, it started, in part, by the notion of a planet being designed to create and support 'thriving economies.' Even Big Green environmentalism, which is a radical departure from the environmentalism of the 20th century, has marketed a nomenclature to describe the new thinking: eco-modernism, neo-green or, simply, the new environmentalism. Regardless of what it is called, it represents the implementation of eco-pragmatism. The most important departure from the old environmentalism is the jettisoning of any concern about the limits to economic and population growth.
Under an eco-pragmatic worldview, often referred to as the Anthropocene, humans are viewed as the force that should dominate every flux and cycle of the planet's ecology and geochemistry. Instead, for example, of pursuing the protection of biodiversity for biodiversity's sake, this new view seeks to only enhance those natural systems that benefit the widest number of people. Wildlife, habitat and flora be damned. This is about people humans.
This ideological shift represents an historic alliance of conservation with the doctrines of industrial growth capitalism. It has not arisen in a vacuum, but is the logical culmination of 30 years of corporatization of the Big Greens that have by now degenerated into professional, business-funded interest groups and operate like the businessmen they once saw as their adversary.
The advent of eco-pragmatism frames a central conflict in the conservation community. What happens to wilderness in a world that is managed for the economic benefit of the 'widest number of people' and not for the health of all of the inhabitants of the planet?