Saturday, October 4, 2014

All Natural

I've always taken something of a laid-back attitude to environmental issues. I don't really worry about the planet. Mother Nature is a grown woman and can take care of herself. We, on the other hand, could really create serious problems for ourselves if we're not careful. But that said, I'm glad that environmental protection wasn't an issue tens of thousands of years ago. I can just imagine what the environmental impact statement for "fire" would have looked like. We'd still be living in caves.

I think that we've come to see ourselves as outside influences on "the environment" rather than a natural (if unusually influential) part of it. If the population of some particular animal - any animal, most likely, were being decimated, or even pushed towards a realistic chance of extinction by a different animal that had recently evolved into a remarkable effective animal-hunting niche without any measurably direct influence from human activity, no-one would be saying that we had a responsibility to attempt to halt the evolution of one animal to spare another. And we, as humans, have simply evolved to the point where we're capable of doing incredibly destructive things to the environments that we live in and interact with. Some of these things we live with, because we like for people to be able to have more children or keep out of the rain. Some of these things we push back against because we like the idea of having pristine spaces or we worry about damaging the Earth's ability to support us over the indefinite term (which is almost certainly limited).

Where I do think that we have a responsibility is to take ownership. I don't find anything wrong, in and of itself, with deciding that we're willing to trade bats and birds for a lower atmospheric carbon load - or when it really comes down to it, that we're willing to trade bats and birds for a better standard or living for some number of people. But I think that carelessly stumbling into those tradeoffs is what is going to get us into trouble. But that's kind of the way it's always worked. I know that here in the United States, we tend to not work to avoid catastrophes - we simply dump resources into cleaning up after them after the fact. And that, more than likely, is one of the real drivers of a lot the issues that we have. But it is what it is, and we don't have the drive and unity that it would take to change it.

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