The Control of Nature
Dr. Tiffany B.
success in exploiting, modifying and controlling nature has been extraordinary.
But our hubris in thinking that we can
impose our dominion over nature by working against it -- instead of working
with it -- is becoming increasingly foolish, dangerous, absurd, and risky. We are effectively daring nature to assault
us by such unwise activities as building in floodplains and forcing rivers into
artificial channels and clear-cutting forests and destroying wetlands. And we are essentially denying the growing
certainty that global warming will cause more severe weather, stronger
hurricanes, disrupted weather patterns, greater drought in some areas, more
flooding in others, sea-level-rise disasters in coastal zones worldwide, and
extremely expensive disaster relief and reconstruction efforts.
forces of nature exist in a dynamic balance. This balance is so exquisite that a Big Picture perspective can
validly view the Earth's total biotic community as one whole mega-organism. In a colony of bees with its interdependent
queen, drones and worker bees, the hive cannot be understood in a context of
individual bees alone. Likewise, no
individual species is self-sufficient, and no species of life can truly be
understood in a context independent of the whole community of life on Earth. All forms of life depend on other and are interconnected
with each other, and with natural processes such as the hydrologic cycle of
evaporation and precipitation.
whole of life -- some call it "Gaia" -- effectively supports itself,
with plants creating food and oxygen that animals need, through the process of
photosynthesis, and animals creating carbon-dioxide that plants require,
through the process of respiration. This
insight is valuable in understanding why it is foolish for the human race to
inadvertently drive other life forms to extinction, reducing biodiversity and
damaging Earth’s vital ecosystems.
Respect for the balance and ecological
intricacy of nature is a critical precondition for a good standard of living
and a healthy future. As an example,
wetlands filter and cleanse fresh water, mitigate flooding, and provide a
nursery for many forms of aquatic life. Forests create soil that regulates water flows, contributing to
the health of terrestrial ecosystems. So
it is an exceedingly bad idea in the long run for us to allow wetlands and
forests to be indiscriminately destroyed.
say that the human body has the ability to spontaneously heal itself of
diseases and afflictions, and that good nutrition, healthy exercise, and
medical treatments may simply be a matter of supporting that process. In addition, protections against infection
and against exposure to contagious diseases are good preventative medicine. Certainly the human immune system is powerful
and effective, and wounds heal almost as if by magic. When we work with the body's natural
defenses, rather than weakening them, we have the best possibilities of health
this: the same may be true on a larger
scale in the world, In other words,
nature itself has a resilient capability to heal, so to heal nature we must
work with nature, not against it. This
is the concept of visionary group, the "Bioneers". Natural systems are best maintained in a
healthy state; they should not be
compromised with pollution, habitat fragmentation, ecosystem destruction, and
other inimical influences. We should
strive to prevent malaises from affecting us by being better planners, and by
being more intelligent and disciplined in following preventative measures.
management is a poor way to deal with problems in our societies. Intelligent foresight, wise prioritizing, and
common sense planning are obviously better means. It is usually only in hindsight that we glimpse this truth.
American Society of Engineers has given annual performance report cards to the
government that warn us that we are failing to maintain the critical
infrastructure of America. But instead
of recognizing the vital necessity of working with nature to maintain our
infrastructure and mitigate risks, we fail to protect such natural resources as
coastal wetlands. In addition, we
indulge in pork barrel spending, and we subsidize wrong-headed projects, and we
squander taxpayers' money to benefit cronies, and we wrong-headedly defend the
status quo, and we indulge in costly foreign military occupations. To truly make our communities safer, we must
mend our ways!
of all, we pretend that environmental concerns are some sort of luxury rather
than being a fundamental basis for a healthy economy and for the well-being of
is NOT dead. Denial does not make
problems go away. The ascendancy of
right-wing doctrine and the distortions of clever marketing, manipulative
political spin, deceptive rhetoric, and religious fundamentalism do not change
the overriding realities of ecological imperatives. In the long run, we are capable of significantly influencing our
own destinies. Ignorance,
closed-mindedness, delusion, ethnocentric conflict, propagandized certitudes,
and aggressive drives for dominion all guide us in the wrong direction, towards
an austere fate of exacerbated conflicts, squandered opportunities, depleted
resources, polluted waterways, greenhouse-gas choked skies, unfair policies and
ideas must prevail, and the sooner we begin the shift to them, the better. Mother Nature provides us with a copious
bounty, and a perfect paradigm of sustainable activities in which natural
systems have no waste. It is imperative
that we do not squander this bounty, and that our economic systems begin to
mimic nature in its utilization of wastes. We must shift to a wiser system of "natural capitalism"
as advocated by the far-sighted author Paul Hawken. Check out his book The
Ecology of Commerce, in particular, for its simple, straightforward, and
brilliant ecological perspectives.
can no longer allow our federal government to facilitate the plunder of public
lands, or to peddle influence to the highest bidder. We cannot accept institutionalized bribery and the dishonest manipulation
of scientific data. Public servants
like Interior Secretary Gale Norton, and the bureaucrats in the Environmental
Protection Agency, please take notice!
must not continuously degrade the underpinnings of everything upon which we
depend. We currently live in a culture
of waste. Even more than we are
consumers of goods, we are producers of waste. The average American produces about 1,600 pounds of garbage each
year. And we produce emissions of
carbon dioxide exceeding 20 tons annually per person. We waste electricity, water, natural
resources, and fossil fuels.
change this, deep ecology must be better and more widely understood. We must pause in our obsessions for resource
exploitation, profit-making, speculation, misguided priorities, misplaced
loyalties, consumerism, sports spectacles, flawed self-righteousness, guns,
power, and war. We must look instead
for what is truly important, and what really matters.
our human hubris, we myopically imagine ourselves as being above dependence on
nature, yet this is a mistaken perception. The natural systems of the planet form a fine balance that is
self-regulating and self-adjusting in many ways. Nature is powerful and ruthlessly impersonal. Natural processes occur in accordance with
physical principles, not with wishful thinking, and certainly not with prayerful
entreaties. Principles of physics such
as cause and effect form defining and limiting parameters. Infinitely occurring activities result in
mega-trends, and imbalances are inexorably restored to equilibrium.
species play their own roles in the context of the physical world and the
intricate dance of survival. All must
survive to adapt, and adapt to survive. Humanity must foster a new paradigm for nurturing, respecting and
protecting our global life support systems to ensure that the human race is
amongst the survivors!
theology is an authoritarian Christian dogma that holds that it is essentially mankind's
duty to subdue nature. But we are
finding out that this doctrine is based not only on preposterous myths, but extremely
unwise premises as well. It is patently
inimical to ecological well-being, and it is contrary to sane planning for
people today and in the future. Religious
progressives, and all sensible people, should recognize that it is our
biological imperative to treat nature with a responsible stewardship of
resources, not insistent rationalizations for dominion and exploitation.
simply must seek to make our economy sustainable, and our societies safer,
fairer, and saner. When solutions so
simple as revenue-neutral "green taxes" could be implemented to move
our societies towards sustainability, it is incumbent upon us as a society to
support them wholeheartedly.
must establish incentives and disincentives to beneficially change the
consumption habits and behaviors of our citizens. It is unacceptably unwise to wait until crises arise and far worse
impacts inevitably result as a consequence of selfishness, stubborn
propensities to resist change, and narrow-mindedness.
social, political and religious institutions must change. A rapid "greening" of America, and
the world, is urgent. The longer we
embrace ignorance and denial in the service of vested interests, and
superstition in the service of evangelical religious beliefs, the more
difficult the challenges will become.
Dr. Tiffany Twain