ETHICAL ISSUES: THE ETHICS OF NATURE

NATURE’S CODE of ETHICS

It’s clear that Earth is a living planet, unique in our solar system and perhaps beyond. As a geologist/earth scientist I can speak with some authority about our planet, and there exists scientific support for the following professional/personal conclusions in spite of its necessarily deduced origins. I welcome your checking the facts.

Although Earth was born devoid of life, it seems to have created its own unique environment for it, and has remained alive since the advent of prokaryotic bacteria some 600Million years ago. That the geologic and biologic realms are interrelated is supported by the coevolution of organisms, climate and the earth’s crust as deduced from the geologic record.

We don’t know the origin of the simple prokaryotic (photosynthetic) bacteria that started it all in the preCambrian period, but the fossil record supports their existence. These simple cells (without nuclei) were responsible for altering the atmosphere from anaerobic to aerobic to enable the support of life beginning with the basic eukaryotic cell (with a nucleus) typical of plants and animals. This cell is the progenitor of all life forms that have evolved from it, including us.

Organisms co-evolve with their environment, the biotic system influencing the abiotic system that supports it. Organisms interact with the inorganic environment to complete a self-regulating system that maintains life-supporting conditions on Earth. The biosphere, atmosphere, lithosphere and hydrosphere combine to maintain the balance necessary for our living Earth. That’s the way it started, and that’s the way it remains.  http://www.extremeethics.org/?p=594

Solar energy apparently has increased by 25-30% over time but surface temperatures seem to have remained within the limits of habitability in spite of it.  Apparently the life-friendly environment has withstood all of the many violent (literally earth-shaking) changes that have occurred since life appeared—vulcanism, sea-floor spreading and plate tectonics, meteor strikes and other cosmological hazards known to have occurred—to maintain conditions suitable for life to continue and develop to the current level. The system shows every sign of being self-regulating since its inception, and why wouldn’t it? It’s the system—Earth, the living planet.

The gases of our atmosphere are produced by biological reactions with Earth’s soils and rocks and are maintained in spite of changes in earth processes.  Atmospheric conditions have remained constant enough to maintain conditions necessary for life, and are kept in a narrow range by the life it supports. Air is 78% Nitrogen, 21% Oxygen, 0.04% Carbon dioxide, and just under 1% Argon and traces of other gases. Oxygen is a very reactive element that if much higher would lead to dangerous conditions (fire). That this probably occurred in the past is supported by the occurrence of natural charcoal in the Carboniferous coal measures, deposited when oxygen exceeded 25%.

Carbon dioxide is critical to maintaining atmospheric temperatures and in maintaining the oxygen level. Its major contributor is vulcanism, an apparently chaotic occurrence that nevertheless exerts some control over concentrations of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere that help maintain our climate within acceptable limits. Another is animal life—it produces carbon dioxide by processing life-giving oxygen. Carbon dioxide is removed by vegetation, carbonate rocks, and certain phytoplankton. When carbon dioxide increases, more plants grow to process it. This includes certain algal blooms in the oceans, which increase with increasing carbon dioxide concentrations.  The oceans are instrumental in controlling carbon dioxide, and there’s a lot of water–and plant life–in them.

There is feedback between the oceans, the atmosphere and the entirety of the hydrosphere. Ocean salinity remains near-constant at about the 3.4% necessary for life to exist in spite of natural phenomena that would seem to alter this number. This is partly a function of organic processes; organisms naturally improve their environment in order to survive. It’s natural, not planned.

THERE’S A SYSTEM AT WORK HERE. Call it a complex adaptive system or, if you prefer, spontaneous order. While it may appear from our limited perspective to be a chaos of pressures, tensions and constraints with no hope of resolution, that’s not the case. It’s not the case because Earth has its own code of ethics, It is innately ethical. And it’s innately ethical because it’s the way it is–a first principle. The environment as an ethical whole will handle whatever nature throws its way. Nature always adapts, and it’s always done “on the fly.” And we, individually or collectively, haven’t a clue as to how it really works. But one thing we do know is that it does work in spite of whatever happens to thwart it because the norm is innately ethical. If it weren’t, mankind would have been done for long ago. This, the way it is, is beyond our control.

GLOBAL WARMING IS A PERFECTLY NATURAL OCCURRENCE, and MAN IN ALL HIS ARROGANCE IS UNABLE TO CONTROL IT.  Earth is in an interglacial period, and nature is adapting and will continue to adapt to it as it has for millennia.  It’s the system at work, and it’s a good thing, not bad. We need only act responsibly, relax, enjoy it and stop trying to change it. We can’t (and that, too, is a good thing). http://www.extremeethics.org/?p=708

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