The Relationship between Man and Nature
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People valued passenger pigeons and were a part of many aspects of human life and culture. Passenger pigeons populations were estimated at five billion individuals in North America during the 19th century. People ate their fatty meat, they used the feathers of passenger pigeons to stuff pillows and mattresses, people also hunted them for sport. In the end though, the last passenger pigeon in existence died at the Cincinnati Zoo in the spring of 1914. There used to be flocks of passenger pigeons that were a mile wide and up to 300 miles long, flocks so dense that they darkened the sky for many hours or even days. But, now people don’t miss them anymore, nobody except for the occasional history buff. People have learned to live without the passenger pigeon.
People have destroyed the passenger pigeon and eliminated its benefits even though we didn’t have to. We made it impossible to use or see the beauty of the passenger pigeon ever again. For the past 200 years people have consumed to extinction millions of organisms like the passenger pigeon. The extinction of life harms us and yet we cause it to happen. We’re chipping away at our own biological survival for sport and short-sighted corporate profiteering. The fact is the way that humans have decided to be connected to the natural world by destroying other organisms and harming ourselves is irrational. To save ourselves we need to reconnect with the natural world in a way that not only preserves us but also preserves organisms around us as well by living more of a minimalistic lifestyle.
In 1986 there was a nuclear meltdown at the Chernobyl power plant in present-day Ukraine, leaving miles of land in radioactive ruins. Residents living in areas most contaminated by the disaster were displaced. Evacuated and relocated by government order and the region was left to its own devices. Over the course of 25 years, forests, marshes, fields and rivers reclaimed the land, reversing the effects of hundreds of years of human development. Ironically enough, this “dead zone” which has become abandoned and uninhabitable by humans has become like a post-nuclear Eden, populated by beavers, bison, horses, birds, fish, falcons, and wolves. Vast spans of cultivated land and canal infrastructures now have returned to the marshes they once were. Beavers, once a nuisance to farming were hunted aggressively.
Now, with the absence of humans the beaver population has bounced back quickly, damning up the man-made canals, undermining dikes, and restoring the marshes for amphibians, fish, insects, otters, moose, and water fowl. The return of cultivated land to wilderness is occurring much faster than anyone had ever imagined. Ageing fruit trees collapsed onto rooftops, orchards once a part of the Soviet Union’s bread basket, now feed the animals that live in the contaminated zone. Garden flowers, once overseen with care, are left to run wild. The metropolitan city of Pripyat once teemed with human technology and infrastructure now in ruins. Toppling buildings, sidewalks, and even factories are now drowned in waves of green.
The flora and fauna that live in the contaminated zone thrive despite the radioactive poisoning coursing through their veins and mutating their young. Their population densities are even higher and healthier than in clean zones. The nuclear meltdown at the Chernobyl power plant shows that when people stop shaping nature comes back on its own. The only things that don’t come back on its own are extinct. By leaving the natural world to its own devices can people repaired the damage that we have caused.
The way that humans are connected with the natural world is not a way that can continue indefinitely. Today the world faces the irreversible effects of the global economy. From population pressures, to collapsing ocean resources, to ozone depletion, to access to fresh water, to acid rain, to disease control; the list goes on. All of these problems are happening all over the world, and to many people the problem looks intractable. The real problem that humans are facing today regarding the environmental problem is not green-house gases or over consumption it is physiological. “If one does not look into the abyss, one is being wishful by simply not confronting the truth…On the other hand, it is imperative that one not get stuck in the abyss.” (Gustave) Cynicism, denial, and fear run rampant in the environmental crisis, paralyzing people and closing themselves off from the brighter reality.
The way to combat pessimism and irrationality is not with optimism and logic but with faith. Pessimism and optimism balance each other out and logic does nothing to affect irrationality – in order to make real change happen we need to work on the morale of the people, not just overwhelm them with facts. In order to change the views of the environmental problems we need to look deeper into the fundamental motives and psyche of companies, governments, and citizens improve morale. In 1964 the Surgeon General published a comprehensive report linking cigarette smoke with cancer and other medical illnesses yet it would take decades before public acceptance of the true dangers of smoking. The point is that the science didn’t need to be disproven it was only enough to sew in a seed of doubt into the science to stop the public from acting at the time.
But this brings up the question how can there be doubt when science is facts. The weakness lies within how science is presented. Science is an “agreeable reality” or in other words something we believe is real even though we may never directly experience it though our five senses. Science needs belief to be real otherwise it means nothing. By promoting positive environmental changes through mainstream religions we will indirectly unifying many ideologies with those a part of the worldwide social movement under the same goal of ecological sustainability. Religions are a system of beliefs and morals that are applied to addressing ethical questions that are a part of that religion. If environmental solutions and steps are applied to religious ethics then I truly believe people will climb back out of that abyss, ground the intractable problems, and start looking to reconnect with the natural world we are a part of once more. Sources: Not Listed