12 June 2009

A Change in Values.

The scientific details concerning the current ecological crisis are nothing new to the people of the 21st century. For us, there is no more room for denial; we know we have “fouled [our] nest” and we are beginning to feel the retributions of it. However, these details were fresh in the minds of the people of the nineteen-sixties and seventies. Lynn White, Jr.’s article “The historical roots of our ecological crisis” must have come as a shock in 1967. His article gathered a great deal of attention due to its fiery subject matter and its publication in Science, which is considered one of the most prominent scientific journals currently in press, and it was no less notorious in 1967.

The topic of religion’s role in the environment is always one of extreme controversy. It is often so contended a subject that many scientists and politicians chose to circumvent the topic to avoid the scorn of society, hiding their opinions, arguments, and possible solutions to our growing ecological issues. Lynn White, Jr., a professor of medieval history at the University of California, Los Angeles at the time of the article’s publication, was not intimidated in the least respect by the eggshells that lie under one’s feet while religion is in discussion.

White’s area of expertise within history was the role of technological advancements in the Middle Ages. According to White, the origin of our current ecological crisis is rooted in Western technological and scientific advancements of the Middle Ages. Religion, specifically Christianity, motivated many scientists of the era in their exploration of the natural world. Most scientists of the time also considered themselves theologians. In fact, Sir Isaac Newton considered himself more a theologian that a scientist, according to White. Unlike today, scientific inquiry in the Middle Ages was not simply an investigation to gain a better understanding of the natural world, but an examination of the essence of God, through knowledge of the natural world. Thus, in many respects, scientific inquiry of the Middle Ages was a means to an end.

Genesis can be interpreted in two different ways. Either human beings are stewards of Earth, or they are exploiters of Earth. Either we are a part of nature or nature is a monarchy with human beings at the top. There are various excerpts from the Bible that lean in one direction or the other, but it is not difficult to decipher the more environmental friendly perspective. White argues that the bottom line is since the Middle Ages the exploiter perspective has been held and the combination of this perspective and the growing advances of technology and science have lead us to the environmental predicament we face today.

“All forms of life modify their contexts,” White states so eloquently. Every organism’s presence affects the overall functionality of an ecosystem. The existence of mass congregations of coral polyps, forming coral reefs, provides a home for thousands of other organisms, thus “modify[ing] their contexts”. Humans clear cutting forests, polluting water supplies, and burning fossil fuels also change the composition of specific ecosystems, as well as the essence of the entire Earth as a whole. White compares the manner in which a coral polyp changes the environment to the way humans have changed the environment. Humans must learn from the coral polyp: although one’s existence must effect the environment, many other animals and plants live without harming the environment they live in.

White offers a solution to our current ecological crisis: we must change our view of nature as a monarchy. He goes so far as to suggest that we need a new religion or we need to reevaluate our old one. White argues that more science and more technology are not going to cure the planet of its mounting ailments. If we follow White’s advice, and view nature as a democracy rather than a monarchy, then conservation and sustainability can enter the equation. Conservation advocates biodiversity and the right of all species to exist on earth. Sustainability strives to use the Earth's resources at a degree at which they can be renewed. But even in conservation we are biased towards species that are attractive to humans, such as charismatic species or species that we find useful. Amphibians and reptiles are so underrepresented because of this bias that nearly one-fifth of all known reptiles and one-quarter of all known amphibians in Europe are threatened, according to IUCN Red List (International Union for the Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources). Bird and mammal conservation efforts are far from sparse in comparison.

White argues that when Christianity overtook paganism, the belief that every tree, river, hill, and so forth, has its own spirit, we became less aware of the large scheme of things. While previously we were required to ask permission of the spirit of a tree whether we could use its wood to make our home, and give thanks after we did, the more prevalent, less environmental interpretation of Christianity encouraged the idea that all of the nature is at our disposal.

Humans, like all other organisms, are in a constant struggle of adapting to the changing environment; we are concerned with propagating the earth with our own kind, with passing on our genes. Before Christianity overtook paganism, there were far fewer people inhabiting the earth. When our population grew, it is possible that from a need for more food, there developed a need for more efficient farming methods and use of the land, which, thus, might have influenced us to see ourselves as dominators of nature. Did we change what we believe because we unconsciously felt we needed to believe it to stay alive?

Religion, it has been argued, is a form of adaptation. Humans, like all other organisms, are captives of natural selection. When numbers of an organism increase, competition increases and the tactics of survival become fiercer. Thus, dominating the land as we did and viewing nature as a monarchy might have been a result of increased competition. However, a system that uses resources at the alarming rate we are using them today can only be a short term solution to our growing population. We are now beginning to realize that our destructive methods have proven not so adaptive in the long term. If we are to survive, we must, again, alter our beliefs.

At the end of the article, White recommends St. Francis of Assisi as the patron saint for ecologists due to of his unified view of nature, and his belief that all organisms form a family. If we followed St. Francis’ philosophy, we would be returning to a set of values that has respect for the earth, rather than the desire to transcend and dominate it. In 2009, it is apparent that St. Francis has truly lost the battle. In some ways, science has formed our new set of values. Sustainable methods of life have become our savior, big bang theory is our creation, natural selection feeds our morals, and Darwin, Einstein, Mendel, Freud, Wilson, Leopold, Watson, Crick and Franklin are our saints.

What is strange about our destruction of the earth is humans generally prefer to be in nature over urban environments, “Studies conducted in the relatively new field of environmental psychology during the past thirty years point consistently to the following conclusion: people prefer to be in natural environments” . Why then, do we destroy the environment? Greed? Ignorance? Both? The depths of human psychology are undoubtedly the most mysterious and obscure area of knowledge. Maybe if we attempt to better understand the inner workings of our own minds, we will understand the needs of our planet, of our home.

1 comments:

ElderChild June 14, 2009 at 2:40 AM  

Simply, "progress", so-called, is destroying the earth(land, air, water, vegetation, creatures) and perverting that which is Spirit(Light, Life, Truth, Love, Peace, Hope, Grace, Miracles, Faith, etc.) ;-(

Postings have been made at TheDestructionOfTheEarth.Wordpress.com concerning such destruction and perversion and also concerning The Creator's(G-D, Father) promise that HE will "destroy those who destroy the earth(HIS Creation)!" (Rev11:18c)

Yet there is a Living, Lively Hope!

However, such Hope is not for that which is of the earth, earthly and fleshly, but there is a Living, Lively Hope for that which is Spirit, Heavenly and Spiritual.

Hope for that which is Spirit is Alive because "progress", which is the product of mankind's "imag"ination, can pervert, yet not destroy that which is Spirit! For that which is Spirit is Real, and that which is Real is Forever!

So no matter how perverse this world's systems of religion become, that which is Spirit can only be abused and perverted, not destroyed!

That which is Spirit is Eternal.......

As for that which is called "religion".

"Pure religion and undefiled before G-D The Father(Creator) is this, to visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction and to keep oneself uncontaminated by the world." (James 1:27)

Simply, every other religion is impure and defiled!

As stated previously, "that which is called ""progress" is of mankind's "imag"ination and can pervert, yet not destroy, that which is Spirit", and so it is that this world, and it's systems of religion, have their version of "Light", which can be turned on and off;

Their version of "Truth", which is of the "imag"ination;

Their version of "Love", which should be called lust;

Their version of "Peace", which needs be enforced;

Their version of "Hope", which is but a desire for temporal "things";

Their version of "Faith", which is powerless;

Their version of "Grace", which is the liberty to "do your own thing";

And sadly, the favorite color of this world's religion is gray ;-(

So come out of the shadows! And as is said by many, "Get Real"!

Once again, "only that which is Spirit is Real, and only that which is Real is Forever"!

Hope is there would be those who "see" that The Life is in and of The Spirit. Those who "see" will no longer have their portion with the multitudes who are destroying the earth(and, air, water, creatures, vegetation) and perverting that which is Spirit(Light, Life, Truth, Love, Peace, Hope, Faith, Grace, etc.) ;-(

Simply, each breath(Spirit) you take is a revelation of The Source of Life.

And "A Simple and Spiritual Life is the only Life that will survive!"

Forever.......

So "set your affections on Heavenly things" and be not of those "whose god is their bellies because they mind earthly things". Be not of those who "love this world and it's things" and who are "progress"ively destroying the earth(land, air, water, vegetation, creatures) and perverting that which is Spirit(Light, Life, Truth, Love, Peace, Hope, Faith, Grace, etc.).......

Peace, in spite of the dis-ease(no-peace) that is of this world and it's systems of religion, for "The WHOLE world is under the control of the evil one" (1John5:19) indeed and Truth.......

Truth is never ending....... TheDestructionOfTheEarth.Wordpress.Com