Consequences from altering environment

Bob Hughes

COLUMN

In a recent article headlined “Species die: Get over it”, Professor R. Alexander Pyron of Washington wrote “We don’t need to save endangered species . . . . Extinction is part of evolution, the only creatures we should go out of our way to protect are Homo Sapiens.” And “urgency is unsupported, and unnecessary” . . . “extinction does not carry moral significance” . . . “we should feel no remorse about altering our environment”.

Here is an opposite American view from the mid 19th century:

“This beautiful Earth . . . is our mother. We are part of the Earth and it is part of us. The perfumed flowers are our sisters, the deer, the horse, the great eagle, these are our brothers. The rocky crests, the juices in the meadows, the body heat of the pony, and the man, all belong to the same family.” — Chief Seattle (Washington state’s largest city, Seattle, carries his name.)

Chief Seattle is not the only indigenous cultural leader to have put a high value on nature.

Within our civilised societies we find the opposite focus, on dominating and taming nature.

Nowadays, with the world’s indigenous peoples all but conquered, any remaining pockets have been tainted by the values of “civilisation”.

Civilised humans have been plundering Mother Earth and randomly exterminating her life forms for eons.

It got much worse with the industrial revolution, and the discovery and harnessing of fossil fuels.

The excessive use of these products have, over the past two centuries, changed the chemistry of Earth’s atmosphere, oceans and soils, and triggered climate change.

Combined with our other extravagances, this is having a devastating effect on our planet and many species.

I believe in the science of evolution, the Big Bang etc.

It defies logic that a wise God would create such an amazing world as this, with perfectly balanced ecosystems, wonderful creatures and all, then create such a misfitting creature as us and let us loose to upset, exploit, pollute and exterminate until we have reached this present crisis point.

Since 1950:

• Our ocean — marine life has halved; tropical coral reefs are dying; countless tonnes of plastic are choking the oceans and being consumed as food; and the ice is melting at the Arctic and Antarctic.

• Atmosphere — increased concentrations of all greenhouse gasses are warming the planet; more water vapour is amplifying the effect.

• Terra firma — acid rain; loss and death of oxygen-producing forests; top soils lost and degraded; unsustainable farming practices; declining water health, etc.

To Professor Pyron’s justification that “Humans should feel less shame about moulding their environment to suit their survival needs”, I say:

We should hang our heads in shame for humanity’s deep disregard for Mother Earth and her precious cargo.

Other species take sufficient for their needs and do not unbalance the planet’s ecosystems.

OK, we must exploit nature to survive, but our unbridled, selfish attitudes are affecting Mother Earth’s ability to provide.

Exterminating species, creating uninhabitable zones and committing ecocide as we do is not progress.

We jail wrongdoers for murder or endangering other’s lives, yet continue business as usual; we are endangering the lives of billions of unborn.

Chief Seattle also famously said: “Humanity is but one thread of the web of life. Whatever we do to the web, we do to ourselves.”

All things connect.

How many more strands of that web of life can we break?

I am convinced that when enough wake up to our dire predicament, meaningful action will follow.

Our grandchildren and all future generations depend on an immediate and urgent awakening.

Let’s not wait for God to fix it all.

Wake up everyone.

In a recent article headlined “Species die: Get over it”, Professor R. Alexander Pyron of Washington wrote “We don’t need to save endangered species . . . . Extinction is part of evolution, the only creatures we should go out of our way to protect are Homo Sapiens.” And “urgency is unsupported, and unnecessary” . . . “extinction does not carry moral significance” . . . “we should feel no remorse about altering our environment”.

Here is an opposite American view from the mid 19th century:

“This beautiful Earth . . . is our mother. We are part of the Earth and it is part of us. The perfumed flowers are our sisters, the deer, the horse, the great eagle, these are our brothers. The rocky crests, the juices in the meadows, the body heat of the pony, and the man, all belong to the same family.” — Chief Seattle (Washington state’s largest city, Seattle, carries his name.)

Chief Seattle is not the only indigenous cultural leader to have put a high value on nature.

Within our civilised societies we find the opposite focus, on dominating and taming nature.

Nowadays, with the world’s indigenous peoples all but conquered, any remaining pockets have been tainted by the values of “civilisation”.

Civilised humans have been plundering Mother Earth and randomly exterminating her life forms for eons.

It got much worse with the industrial revolution, and the discovery and harnessing of fossil fuels.

The excessive use of these products have, over the past two centuries, changed the chemistry of Earth’s atmosphere, oceans and soils, and triggered climate change.

Combined with our other extravagances, this is having a devastating effect on our planet and many species.

I believe in the science of evolution, the Big Bang etc.

It defies logic that a wise God would create such an amazing world as this, with perfectly balanced ecosystems, wonderful creatures and all, then create such a misfitting creature as us and let us loose to upset, exploit, pollute and exterminate until we have reached this present crisis point.

Since 1950:

• Our ocean — marine life has halved; tropical coral reefs are dying; countless tonnes of plastic are choking the oceans and being consumed as food; and the ice is melting at the Arctic and Antarctic.

• Atmosphere — increased concentrations of all greenhouse gasses are warming the planet; more water vapour is amplifying the effect.

• Terra firma — acid rain; loss and death of oxygen-producing forests; top soils lost and degraded; unsustainable farming practices; declining water health, etc.

To Professor Pyron’s justification that “Humans should feel less shame about moulding their environment to suit their survival needs”, I say:

We should hang our heads in shame for humanity’s deep disregard for Mother Earth and her precious cargo.

Other species take sufficient for their needs and do not unbalance the planet’s ecosystems.

OK, we must exploit nature to survive, but our unbridled, selfish attitudes are affecting Mother Earth’s ability to provide.

Exterminating species, creating uninhabitable zones and committing ecocide as we do is not progress.

We jail wrongdoers for murder or endangering other’s lives, yet continue business as usual; we are endangering the lives of billions of unborn.

Chief Seattle also famously said: “Humanity is but one thread of the web of life. Whatever we do to the web, we do to ourselves.”

All things connect.

How many more strands of that web of life can we break?

I am convinced that when enough wake up to our dire predicament, meaningful action will follow.

Our grandchildren and all future generations depend on an immediate and urgent awakening.

Let’s not wait for God to fix it all.

Wake up everyone.

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lloyd gretton - 6 months ago
Chief Seattle, did not say any of that. A white settler took notes of a speech he made in his local dialect and claimed this was the spirit of his words. The native American Indians were quite destructive of their environment, in particular their buffalo scavenging hunts. White romanticists made an image of the Indians to suit their own philosophy.

Christenson, USA - 6 months ago
Seems to me this column has the argument backwards:
How many more species can die before it is the human species that also dies? What is the moral value of your grandchildren?

Pedro Di Girolamo, Chile - 6 months ago
Very well argued, it seems to me, and very poetic and beautiful the relation made of the words of chief Seattle and our present critical ecological predicament -- I will share the text via web and printed as a translation, I suppose with your authorisation, for the ecological cause.
Many congratulations and keep up with your very good words!

Wanda J. Harding, New York - 6 months ago
Well, I see you just recently wrote this article. It is very good and informative. I will, however, have to disagree, that "I am convinced that when enough wake up to our dire predicament, meaningful action will follow."..... First of all, it is too late... and secondly, no, the others are NOT going to wake up. Even after their house burns down, their children die from disease or tornado, flooding etc... they will find some other reason, as to why this is happening.... .like, HARRP, or is it HAARP.... anyway, I realized, I can not make the whole world wake up. Even those in my own family and circle are not awake. They think I am a nut. I have been learning about climate change for 13 years now. About 5 years ago, I realised we are losing the fight... about 3-4 years ago, I realized we have lost... it is a done deal. Most will not even know what happened or understand it....

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