Eco Nihilism

August 14, 2007

A New York Times Opinion piece named The 17 Percent Problem and the Perils of Domestication laments about man’s influence on the natural world.

In June, Science magazine published an article called “Domesticated Nature,” which noted that by 1995, “only 17% of the world’s land area had escaped direct influence by humans.” The article was accompanied by one map showing the enormous “human footprint” on Earth and another showing in a thicket of red lines the tangle of road networks and shipping lanes across the globe. That 17 percent figure is now certainly smaller, and that thicket of transport networks gets a little more tangled every day. The article takes as a working assumption what is obviously true: “There really is no such thing as nature untainted by people.”

Obviously true? Let’s try it with bees: “There really is no such thing as nature untainted by bees.” This sentence applied to bees really doesn’t make any sense because the word “untainted” is emotionally loaded in a “you’ve got the cooties” kind of way and it is really really weird to think of bees as separate from nature.

So why do we continue to think of humanity as separate from nature despite all the contrary evidence? It is an “Us vs. Them” mentality where Them is nature and Us is something very different and flawed beyond repair.

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2 Responses to “Eco Nihilism”

  1. Geoff Dann Says:

    So why do we continue to think of humanity as separate from nature despite all the contrary evidence?

    No other species, bees included, are causing a mass extinction of other species. In fact no other animal has ever caused a mass extinction in the whole history of life on Earth. Some theories implicate algae as guilty of such a crime, but the algae weren’t intelligent, conscious beings which are capable of making ethical choices, and humans are.

  2. RAD Says:

    If only conscious beings were around to make the ethical choice of stopping the great oxygenation event. Those poor little photosynthesizers didn’t know what they were doing.

    So how did that whole oxygenated atmosphere turn out anyway? I wonder what big brained ethicist could have modeled the outcome.


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