An excerpt from the Passionate Earth: The Evolution of Our Relationship with the Natural World by John Del Signore. I will be posting new articles to this site on a regular basis.
There are many scientists, environmentalists and other professionals who believe the environmental crisis is solvable if we assume responsibility for what we have done and address this challenge with commitment and concerted action. Al Gore is certainly a staunch proponent of this stand and asserts that we have the technology to succeed if our political will is strong enough and if we take decisive action immediately.
Unfortunately, the human addiction to money, material wealth and power and our current, comfortable and even decadent lifestyles are starkly opposed to such a commitment and could present an arduous challenge. Also, those who feel it is indeed too late to halt global catastrophe might argue that we might as well just enjoy what we have left until it is gone. Despite these possible scenarios, many people are well informed, are aware of the eminent danger of the continuance of our destructive behaviors, and would support an environmental revolution to save the planet.
The human race has progressed to the point that we now have some knowledge and capacity to maintain the wellbeing of society, but we also have the facility to impact our environment in such a manner that will ultimately lead to eco-catastrophe and the extinction of all Earth’s creatures. This fact is alarming in that we have evolved to this state of peril in such a relatively short time; have either been unable to recognize our dysfunctional perceptions and behaviors that have led to this reality or we have been aware of this fact and other priorities such as the accumulation of power and wealth have taken precedent. In either case, we, as a civilization have reached a critical point in our evolutionary history in that our current decisions on how to proceed will determine whether our species prevails or destroys itself in the relatively near future. Humanity will have to make a conscious choice about its destiny and act in a manner that is consistent with that decision without further hesitation before it becomes too late.
My personal opinion is that we should go ahead and act as if the Earth is sustainable and do whatever we can to make that a reality even if we discover that too much damage has already been done. At least we could attempt to minimize the negative effects of our renderings to some degree so that evolution is not reverted to a primitive state that would take eons to re-evolve from.
The reason I propose this strategy is because I believe that we have no right to destroy our habitat in the first place and we certainly have no right to kill off the magnificent flora and fauna that have evolved so painstakingly over the eons of time, not to mention the beautiful landscapes of the Earth as well. They have as much right to exist as we do. The same can be said for future generations, who also have a right to participate in the wonders of creation and evolution.
The notion that humans are the epitome of creation is simply self-serving and not supportable religiously, scientifically or philosophically. If one were to employ a religious context to this thinking, it would be hard to imagine a deity who would approve of the annihilation of his or her own creation. Scientifically speaking, it would be illogical to destroy one’s habitat when it would result in the extinction of all living species. Philosophically, it would be irrational to destroy living organisms and halt the process of understanding: who we are, why we are here and what might be in store for us as evolving organisms. We also don’t know whether evolution has a specific or greater purpose that is beyond our understanding or that might have further implications for the future of our planet and its continued development.
Earth in the Balance, Ecology and the Human Spirit by AL Gore © by al Gore 1992, Rodale Inc., A New Common Purpose, pp. 269-270.