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                  The Control of Nature

                                                                                                                              Earth Manifesto Insights

                                                                                                              Dr. Tiffany B. Twain  

                                                                                                             January 2006

Mankind's 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.

The 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.

This 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.

Some 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 and success.

Consider 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.

Crisis 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.  

The 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!

Worst 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 our societies.

Environmentalism 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 intolerant attitudes.

Better 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.

We 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!

We 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.

To help 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.

In 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.

All 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!

Dominion 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.

We 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.  

We 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.

Our 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