What we do to nature - we do to ourselves
Nature is losing ground and this means we are losing ground. It should be very clear to us at this point, that we are biological beings dependent on and influenced by all the other lifeforms on this planet. We aren’t separate. We aren’t excluded from the workings of the natural world. We are nature and therefore what we do to nature, we do to ourselves.
Perhaps the current problems in the natural world arise from our attitude towards it. This attitude is reflected in our use of terms like “under-utilized species”. This phrase is used to describe a species we have not yet fully exploited for economic gain. These underachievers (which probably have no idea they have not been living up to their full potential) become the focus of industry and government once other “fully-utilized” species are at the brink of collapse. We are in the habit of thinking of the natural world in terms of the short-term economic benefit it can yield, but we might be better served by taking a more holistic and long-term view of nature.
First, maybe we could do away with language like “natural resources” and replace it with words like “nature”, “wilderness” “wildlife” or “life”. We all understand that we need some economic activity to support our complex and highly developed societies, and no one wants to see an end to health care and education, but we are at an important crossroads now. We have gone a long way down the path of economic development and we have reached a point where we must choose a new path or risk driving ourselves and many other species off a cliff. Ecosystems are fragile and interconnected in ways we don’t fully understand and yet we are altering and destroying those fragile ecosystems even before we can identify all the players in them. A shift in the way we perceive the natural world and our place in it is crucial to the longterm survival of our societies. We should start to think first in terms of healthy environments and healthy lives, and secondly in terms of a healthy economy. To this point, we have done the reverse.
We have come dangerously close to a point of no return and we have already set in motion a chain of events that could well bring sad news on a near-daily basis. But it is not too late and as Greta Thunberg says, “There are no magical dates for saving the world.” We can do things to avoid the worst possible outcomes. One of the most important things we can do is support nature by preserving habitat everywhere. Natural habitats allow for healthy ecosystems. And healthy ecosystems support us by doing things like absorbing carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases and pollutants, and by helping the all-important pollinators to survive. Healthy habitat also provides a safety net for many species that could in the future provide important insights and research opportunities.
We must also think of future generations and how we are robbing them of the experience of a rich and diverse natural world.
We must learn to live in harmony with our natural surroundings and to tread as lightly as possible on the world around us. This starts by understanding that we are part of that natural world and that nature is not a place to visit - it’s home.