We are naturePosted: April 19, 2010
I feel as though we have lost touch. We have lost touch to where we really come from and what it means to be an equal part of a working system so much bigger than ourselves. I believe that the human species have placed themselves on a pedestal of dominance over all other living things and that this myth is the engine that drives our day to day activities. Many people operate by this myth – whether consciously or unconsciously, that the Earth was “created,” for us to live on and take whatever we need from it without understanding the consequences. This has led to alarming environmental destruction worldwide and an overall lack of recognizing the intrinsic (natural) value, not economic, value of all living species. With this anthropocentric worldview placing humans at the center of everything, the natural balance that once existed between species on this Earth has been lost.
Now, the natural imbalance I mentioned relates to global warming and climate change. In the past before major human interference of natural systems, the Earth was able to maintain a state of “homeostasis,” a balance; of species, temperature, you know. But now, because humans have interfered and developed a way of living that consumes so much of the world’s natural resources, pollutes and disrupts so many natural ecosystems so quickly, the earth is having a harder time keeping the balance and temperatures are rising. You may have seen Al Gore’s zigzag graph that points to our most imminent doom.
You may not be with me on this, but I happen to agree with the thousands of scientists that have worked and continue to work tirelessly to be able to tell us almost unequivocally that climate change is indeed happening, is indeed a great threat to all species on this planet, and is indeed caused by human activity in the past 100 years or so. Before I go further I will make a distinction between climate and weather. Weather is our day to day, its rain, its snow, its blazing heat, its freezing cold. Climate is the average of all these things over time, lots of time. So to people who say that climate change and global warming are not happening because of one cold day in the summertime, that’s just not the case. The average weather (climate) is getting warmer and shifting. Now the worst effects of this may not be felt by westerners, but it is being felt by many third world countries and small island nations. The alarm is ringing and people need to stop tuning it out. One devastating effect of climate change is the worldwide destruction of coral reefs. Coral reefs cover one sixth of the world’s coastlines, are the most productive ecosystems on the planet and are the livelihood of the people that live near them. Because of rising temperatures, a slight increase in the temperature of the water as well as increased pollution and agricultural run off which is nutrient and mineral rich into the water causes massive blooms of algae to grow. Algae out-compete the corals for the nutrients that enter the water from the run-off and the algae end up using up most of the oxygen in the water leaving barely any for the corals. They also create a blanket which can block out the sunlight, decreasing the ability of the corals to photosynthesize. Fishermen use cyanide, sulphur and explosives to stun tropical fish to make them easier to catch and sell in foreign markets. These chemicals along with algal blooms cause the corals to bleach and in many cases, die. Scientists predict that coral reef ecosystems are in danger of becoming extinct and to prepare for this they are in the process of collecting corals to keep in storage in case one day the water returns back to a state in which they can thrive again. This is just one effect of climate change and one way that our current way of living is affecting the environment.
There was a new philosophy developed in the 1970’s by Arne Naess called “Deep Ecology.” This philosophy centers on the principle that all living things are equal in the inherent value on Earth, in other words, no one species is more important to life than another and everything is interconnected and interdependent. It rejects the anthropocentric way of life, just as many civil rights, feminist and animal rights movements have as well. Its not misanthropic, or people hating, it simply recognizes that we aren’t the center of things and our needs aren’t the only thing that matters. This has been one of the philosophies that has fuelled environmental activism in the past few decades. It is kind of related to the Gaia theory proposed by James Lovelock that suggested that the Earth functions as one organism or one entity, so if one part of the organism defies this then the whole thing goes all wacky. In respect to climate change, the deep ecology worldview is a way of seeing the world that leads to a respect and appreciation of nature and the complex web of life that we are a part of. One of the basic principles of deep ecology is to question things on a deeper level, to question where we came from and what that means. Our actions all have a consequence, and whether or not we can feel the effect of those consequences in our daily life, we can’t avoid them.
What I’m getting at is that I am worried that the majority of people don’t value nature outside of its economic worth, or at all. There needs to be a shift in consciousness toward a worldview that does not alienate our species against all the rest. All species share the same right to live and flourish. There is a great opportunity for self realization in identifying with the natural world. To realize that we are all interconnected, all animals, plants, insects, bacteria, etc., is a process of self realization. We all share the same history and we are all one.
I will add one more thing. While I was researching this I learned about social ecology as well and on particular thought stood out and that was the fact that “we can’t expect to treat the natural world appropriately unless we take care of other human beings appropriately.” This is an excerpt from something I read, “…But humanity is a part of nature too, and the development of our awareness and our human freedom is an important step in ending the environmental crisis. I would say that deep ecology is part of the great liberation movement that culminated in the Enlightenment and is now trying to move beyond the Enlightenment’s limitations. It’s not just about freeing white men from the control of the king, and it’s not just about freeing women or blacks anymore. It’s about freeing all beings from unnecessary kinds of control and exploitation.”
So what do we do? Well I suggest we educate ourselves, we talked to people, we reach out, we connect, we question, we find true value in life.
P.S. Please question, challenge, comment.