Human Dependence on Nature
BY HAYDN WASHINGTON, author of Human Dependence on Nature
I think we need to talk about something obvious - that humanity is dependent on Nature to survive. Yet our society largely acts as if this is not so. We ignore or deny that our roots lie in the Earth. Thereby hangs a tale. How do we depend on Nature and why do we deny or ignore this dependency? This is worth digging deeper into.
The energy that powers our very cells, the nutrients that make up our bodies, the ecosystem services that clean our water and air, these are all provided by the Nature from which we evolved and of which we are a part. Yet this is the same Nature that our numbers and technology are impacting on to such a degree that extinction rates are 1000 times above normal, ecosystems are degrading and collapsing, and we have an ecological footprint of 1.5 Earths. Yet the truth is we only have one Earth.
We depend on Nature in many ways - physical, biological, ecological, psychological and spiritual. Obvious it may be to some of us, yet paradoxically as societies we tend to deny these dependencies. There is a deep, insidious and common tendency to anthropocentrism within our society, a worldview that has been distributed by globalization. It seems that humanity is running around, effectively yelling ‘Me! Me! Me!’. Yet we are not the only species on Earth, and I argue we have a deep and abiding responsibility to our evolved cousins.
I finish up in my book by playing devil’s advocate and asking ‘Do we have a problem?’. I do this as many people seem happy to delude themselves that everything is ‘just fine’. I think we have to accept the grim reality that we face. However, at the same time, it is not all about ‘doom and gloom’. Fear is actually not a good motivator to action, as people freeze up and turn their minds to other things. So we need to provide a vision of a ‘Great Work’ of Earth repair (as theologian Thomas Berry espoused). We need to provide a framework for solutions to help solve the environmental crisis. Key to all of these however is accepting we have a problem and facing up to it! We can solve the environmental crisis if we accept we have one.
Now I did not write my book written for academics, but for the educated layperson who is interested (and worried) about what we are doing to the world. I try to show how we can break through the denial of our dependency on the Earth, and rather accept and celebrate this, and thus help solve the environmental crisis. We have a dependency, a deep connection and a responsibility to the Nature we share this world with and evolved from. Let’s celebrate our wondrous heritage and make sure future generations will be able to do this too!