Schaefer: Solving the biodiversity crisis means changing our short-term psychology

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By James Schaefer, Ottawa Citizen, May 13, 2019

In the 18th century, a budding psychiatrist devised a foolproof way of distinguishing the sane person from the insane. The subject was locked in a room. On one side of the room were water taps; on the other side were mops and buckets. The test began when the taps were turned on. An individual diagnosed as mad would rush to the mops and buckets. The sane individual would stride over to the taps and turn them off.

Recently, we were reminded of a deluge of planetary proportions. The UN issued its Global Assessment Report on the state of the world’s biodiversity. The figures are astonishing and sobering. Extinction looms for one million species; three-quarters of land and two-thirds of oceans have been severely altered by humans; plastic pollution is up tenfold in 40 years; crops worth three-quarters of a trillion dollars could be at risk from the loss of pollinators; 25 million kilometres of new roads are expected in 30 years. And so on.