green leafed tree

Shifting Baseline Syndrome

“Due to short life-spans and faulty memories, humans have a poor conception of how much of the natural world has been degraded by our actions, because our ‘baseline’ shifts with every generation, and sometimes even in an individual. In essence, what we see as pristine nature would be seen by our ancestors as hopelessly degraded, and what we see as degraded, our children will view as ‘natural’.”

Source: Dense Discovery

In the US, since the first European settlers arrived, 90% of virgin or ‘old growth’ forest has been destroyed. Today’s forests could be better described as ‘tree farms’ as they do not resemble the richly biodiverse forests that once were.

Another example are whale populations: in just one century we managed to reduce whale numbers by a whopping 99%. The impact of this is hugely complex: apparently the lack of whale poop reduced the fertilising effect on ocean algae levels, permanently crashing the productivity of ocean food webs and even altering global climate.

The Twitter thread has a lot of examples.

A more current and more widely understood example is the recent, dramatic decline of the insect population. Thanks to SBS, our children will most likely never know how many bugs ended up splattered on windshields during a road trip taken just a few decades ago.

The Windscreen phenomenon.

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