Human Dependence on Nature
How to Help Solve the Environmental Crisis
Foreword by Paul R. Ehrlich
Routledge – 2013 – 184 pages
Humanity is dependent on Nature to survive, yet our society largely acts as if this is not the case. 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 have evolved and of which we are a part. This book examines why we deny or ignore this dependence and what we can do differently to help solve the environmental crisis.
Written in an accessible and engaging style, Haydn Washington provides an excellent overview of humanity’s relationship with Nature. The book looks at energy flow, nutrient cycling, ecosystem services, ecosystem collapse as well as exploring our psychological and spiritual dependency on nature. It also examines anthropocentrism and denial as causes of our unwillingness to respect our inherent dependence on the natural environment. The book concludes by bringing these issues together and providing a framework for solutions to the environmental crisis.
‘Our characteristics trace back to the forces that created the earliest simple organisms, and the physical features of our planet and other life forms have shaped the processes and traits that eventually produced modern human beings. But we biologists tend to be even more impressed by our utter dependence on the world that gave us evolutionary birth – on Nature, which nurtures us and to which we are tightly bound. When you’ve finished Human Dependence on Nature you’ll be impressed too – and want to give a copy to everyone you know.’ – Professor Paul R. Ehrlich, President of the Center for Conservation Biology, Department of Biology, Stanford University, California
‘Endowed with unprecedented numbers, technological prowess, consumptive demand and a globalized economy, human beings are now undermining the very life support systems of Earth. The environmental movement has successfully raised concerns over issues like pesticides, acid rain, ozone depletion, toxic pollution, clear-cut logging and global warming, but has fundamentally failed in indicating that these problems are driven by deep underlying beliefs and values that shape the way we behave. A paradigm shift happens when we move from the centre of everything to being a creature embedded in and utterly dependent on Nature for our well being and survival. Haydn Washington's book provides the unassailable evidence that we are in an eco-crisis of our own making, making a strong case for an urgent need to change direction and seek ways to live in balance with the factors that sustain us in the biosphere.’ – Professor David Suzuki, University of Columbia, author of The Sacred Balance
‘We are all indebted to Haydn Washington for helping us to understand in more details the complexity of our dependence on nature.’ – Dr Lester R. Brown, President of Earth Policy Institute, author of World on the Edge.
‘This book’s stern and detailed message about humanity’s multifaceted involvement in Earth's biosphere is vital. Are you among the many who have been reluctant to recognize how today’s industrialized human load profoundly damages Earth’s ecological basis for our descendants’ lives? Inability to face that reality has obstructed essential change. Were we to overcome habitual denial, we might commit to protecting rather than undermining the physical, chemical, and biological qualities of this planet essential for future human life.
Read this book! Enable posterity to respect us, their ancestors, for our wisdom, instead of loathing us for our obstinate fantasies.’ – Professor William R. Catton, Jr., Washington State University
‘We are entering the Anthropocene Epoch-so we are told these days. Humans will increasingly manage the planet. Haydn Washington provides a daunting account of how humans still need a biosphere enveloping their technosphere, a life support system they increasingly place in jeopardy.
His respect for the biosphere is inclusive, necessary for our human prosperity on landscapes we love, and enlarging into respect for intrinsic value in nature. Enter the Anthropocene if we must, but life remains basically natural, and we should enter carefully, full of cares for ourselves and our wonderland Earth. Washington is a thoughtful, spirited guide, persuasively blending science and conscience.’ – Professor Holmes Rolston (III), Colorado State University
‘This is a brave book that shows that unless we stop acting ‘like gods’ who assume that we constitute the whole purpose of creation and recover the humility to respect nature, we are doomed. It articulates the ultimate questions that confront us with courage and points to solutions.’ – Dr Paul Collins, author of Judgment Day
‘Humans not only depend on nature – we are nature. Haydn Washington documents why. Not only does he bestow us with explanations of the scientific underpinnings, but he also helps us spell out the implications. If high-schoolers could not graduate without having read this book, our chances of survival would be greatly enhanced.’ – Dr Mathis Wackernagel, President, Global Footprint Network
'An illuminating and necessary discussion of humanity’s absolute dependence on nature and our reluctance to accept that reality.' – Donald Spady, Adjunct Associate Professor of Pediatrics and Public Health, Faculty of Medicine and Dentistry, and the School of Public Health, University of Alberta.
‘Nowadays the majority of people are city dwellers and most have no idea that we humans are totally dependent upon nature for our survival. Until now scientists have been remiss in explaining this to the public and even to university students. In this book Dr Haydn Washington explains clearly the physical, biological, ecological, psychological and spiritual ways we depend on Nature and critiques the attempts by some to deny it.’ – Professor Mark Diesendorf, Deputy Director of the Institute of Environmental Studies, University of New South Wales
‘Haydn Washington is among those who appreciate that if present trends in human activity continue unabated the ecological collapse of society is inevitable. Climate change is at present the most critical issue; but this is just one symptom humankind’s gross over-exploitation of the Earth’s natural resources and general insensitivity to the needs of the processes of life that underpin our existence. This thoughtful and thought-provoking book is a unique contribution to the growing literature on the gross excesses of modern society and the urgent need for a transition to a society that is truly in tune with and respectful of Nature.’ – Professor Stephen Boyden, Fenner School of Environment and Society, ANU, author of The Biology of Civilisation
"I can recommend Washington's book for anybody who wants a quick update on the state of nature, and if they know any politicians in need of education, please surprise them with a gift!" – Peter J. Schei, IUCN
Foreword Paul Ehrlich 1. Energy is life 2. The great cycles 3. Ecosystem services – essential but overlooked 4. Collapse 5. Psychological and spiritual dependency on Nature 6. The great divide – anthropocentrism vs. Ecocentrism 7. Dealing with denial 8. Do we have a problem? 9. Solutions to keep our roots in the Earth
Haydn Washington is an environmental scientist and writer with 35 years' experience. He has worked as a plant ecologist, a CSIRO scientist, an environmental consultant, and is currently a Visiting Fellow at the Institute of Environmental Studies at the University of New South Wales, Australia. This is his fifth book on environmental issues and he is also the lead author of Climate Change Denial: Heads in the Sand (Earthscan from Routledge 2011).