On the Proper Relationship Between People and Nature
I was thinking lately about that long-fought and ongoing revolution of values in the last several decades across the West, in which the old assumption that nature is to be the extracted victim of a conquering and ever-expanding human ambition has gradually been replaced with a more holistic view where man and nature exist in a mutualistic and interdependent relationship.
It’s been hard enough to have that much accepted in culture — that really most obvious and bar-scraping non-maniacal first assumption — against the incessant forces of industry and profit which we have as a species already allowed to collapse most world ecosystems without any accountability.
But it’s wrong, too, and also not enough. The correct approach, I think, to thinking about the proper relationship dynamic between man and nature is not one of interdependence, but of subservience, of man, to nature, and of the worship (literally or not) of the latter by the former. And only when we recognize nature as our superior, and of ourselves as dependent on and helpless without it, I think, will we begin to make wise decisions in regards to what bits of nature are under our control.
The New Left, the hippie movement, the environmental movement, and the New Age of the 1960s and 70s all tried desperately to dismantle the prevailing Western approach to resource extraction; by which I’m of course referring to the “all of the extraction, all at once” approach. In doing so, they promoted ideas of humanity as the steward of nature, or of humanity working to extract resources less wantonly and more efficiently, or of humanity and nature standing shoulder-to-shoulder as equal and opposite forces, where balance between their respective desires of extraction and preservation had to be maintained for all of time. These were noble ideas, without a doubt, and they did do a lot of good in the world by changing how a lot of people behaved in their day-to-day lives. But ultimately, they could not break into those institutions with the biggest sway in environmental policy and convince them to change their ways. And so, we are where we are now; ostensibly, in the same place, but considering the time that’s passed, in a tragically (and…