Can we buy indulgences for sins against nature?
What do we know about environment and how important is it to us?
Is there a genuine concern about nature?
Can an individual change anything?
How much time do we have left exactly? Are we doomed?
I have been thinking lately what exactly I know about the environment and what they have taught me so far. Throughout the education, they have taught us that it is not appropriate to throw garbage outside the dustbin. Few of us have reached the unit describing what to do when there is no bin around...
Or when you are driving down the motorway, hitting 100 mph, and it feels pretty awkward to throw an uneaten apple on the car mat, so you throw it through the window. Or when you are close to a river almost calling you to hurl some trash and watch it being carried away by the current.
To avoid cynicism, the point is that even if we wanted, we could hardly grasp the consequences of human actions upon the environment.
Through the entire 4.6 billion year history of Earth, not a single species had such an enormous influence upon our planet as humans have.
The extent of that influence and human impact is testified by the fact that as of 1900, since the first industrial revolution, more than 500 animal species have become extinct due to continuous degradation and destruction of natural habitat by human element.
In regular circumstances, natural extinction rate is 9 species in 100 years. Only animal species, plants have not been taken into consideration.
The pollution of the entire eco-system is unprecedented. The emission of greenhouse gases, global warming, receding of polar ice caps, raising of the ocean level, the list is almost endless.
We have really left an ineradicable trace. It is probably the reason why the epoch we live in is called Anthropocene in scientific circles, as a result of immeasurable impact of the single species upon the rest of the planet!
By opting to live in modern civilization, without being asked though, we condescended to assume one of the worst roles - the greatest and the fiercest predator and devastator of wildlife.
One could almost say that we are cutting the branch we are sitting on, yet hardly aware of it.
Subject to the level of impact upon the environment, all life on Earth can be divided in two main categories:
1. Environmentally neutral species
2. Environmentally influential species
- Environmentally aware
- Environmental hypocrites
- Ecocidal sadists
1. Environmentally neutral species
consist of all living beings except humans. Virtually 99.9% of all life on Earth, the complete flora and fauna.
Even though some plants and animal species may become invasive and disrupt the eco-system and its balance, what is specific for this "unintelligent" life is that it relies on natural cycles and processes and is a part of a wider food chain.
An otter that fells a tree will use that tree to make a dam on the river and thus procure extra food supplies. That same dam will enable filtering of river sediments, flourishing of frogs and fish, which will bring some birds as well. The birds in their turn will excrete seeds and help the growth of new trees.
Everything is interconnected and there is no adverse effect upon nature. It actually creates natural balance that gets shaken from time to time, only to regain its composure in no time.
That is why I call these species environmentally neutral, since their impact upon nature is neither positive nor negative, they are simply a part of mother nature and a wider self-regulating system.
Take a short break and watch this interesting video on cascade influence of the food chain and interconnectedness of various plants and animal species, when a wolf pack was introduced to the Yellowstone national park, fundamentally changing its ecosystem.
2. Environmentally influential specie
This category includes only one species - Homo Sapiens, comprising three sub-categories:
- environmentally aware
- environmental hypocrites
- ecocidal sadists
are those individuals who are aware of their influence on the environment. They live in harmony with nature, they live of it and for it. And they behave as good hosts towards nature.
This category primarily consists of rare remaining tribes settled deep in the Amazon forests or scattered across Africa and North-Eastern Asia and Australia.
These peoples and tribes used to be referred to as primitives or savages. Political correctness has changed this term to indigenous people. They use hand-made tools and weapons made of natural materials, using pure mechanical energy, water and fire.
Their impact upon the environment is very limited, mostly restricted to close environment of their settlements.
Social cohesion is pretty strong, while their rites and rituals often derogate from the usual norms of "the civilized world". They show great respect towards nature they live from and their religions are predominantly of animistic type.
In that sense, I classified them as environmentally aware, given that they are conscious of the world they are surrounded with and they treat it with due respect.
Nevertheless, due to the top of the food chain they belong to and prominent cognitive faculties focused on significant modification of natural habitat, they cannot be considered neutral like plants and animals.
I'd also add to this group those who escaped to nature from civilization, giving up on all of its benefits, although their number is negligible.
It involves various hippie communes, naturalists, all those who rejected consumerist culture and set off for a lifelong adventure, resolved to spend the rest of their lives merged with nature, observing its unwritten laws. Just like the movie Captain Fantastic.
are the largest group that deserves commensurate attention.
I feel like I belong to this group as well. I am neither proud nor ashamed of it. Although a hypocrite may not be the most suitable term for someone who is not even aware of being a faker and a trickster.
To cut the long story short, this group is composed of people who believe to be or would like to be environmentally aware, but they are actually far from it. There are large differences here, of course. There are some who are consciously dishonest and those who sincerely believe that what they are doing helps save the environment, but the overall effect is devastating in either case.
All of us who live in civilization, in rural and urban areas alike, we are insatiable consumers and polluters. There is no way out, unless we decide to join the previous group of environmentally aware ones.
Everything else is outright BS. The extent to which you are ready to accept and admit it determines your hypocrisy level. And you should not feel much blame, as many of us had no choice.
Let us consider for a moment an extreme case: a man who is a vegan, a Green Peace member, planting trees, housing stray animals, installing solar panels, a geothermal heating system, recycling plastic, carrying textile bags in supermarkets, avoiding plastic in any form, buying organic food, riding a bicycle and meditating.
One could almost say that such a person, with that level of environmental awareness, probably deserves to be classified as environmentally aware rather than a hypocrite. But is it really so?
How much energy had been consumed and nature polluted before solar panels were produced? And what about cellphones and laptops? Low-consuming LED lights? Does he have a fridge and how often he opens it letting freon into atmosphere? Does he have leather footware and clothing? Does he use wood furniture? Commutes with organized transportation?
What do you think about this?
You must have been pissed reading these questions. I agree, no one can be such a puritan and cut off all risks and threats.
That is exactly why I subscribed to this category, which is probably how most of you reading these lines feel as well.
In other words, on our ecological scales, the damages by far outweigh the benefits, no matter how hard we try to convince ourselves otherwise.
There are too many people on this globe, there is a system and civilization in place which took thousands of years to develop, that we encounter at our birth. We are predestined to become insatiable consumers.
We are powerless to change that and make amends. But we can certainly mitigate our negative impact, to avoid slipping into the next, third category.
are those who might not be always aware of the consequences of their actions but they are characterized by inordinate desire to conquer, exploit and harness nature and wildlife for personal benefits, profits or for pure sadistic drive.
The latter are individuals who have an accumulated frustration and sometimes mental disorders. They are capable of destroying nature or killing animals, for pure fun or primal instincts, or for no particular reason whatsoever.
The former ones are far more dangerous and their impact is much more extensive. They act in silk gloves, pretending to be civilized.
Those are the representatives and proponents of large capital, corporations, political or other organisations who actively endeavor to change the ecosystem to accommodate market demands and fill their own pockets as much as they can.
Their greed and unquenchable desire brings them into amoral zone when other living beings are concerned. They are unscrupulous in cutting entire patches of forests, drying out river beds, making nuke tests, warfare, unlimited hunting and fishing, only to serve their own needs.
That is the worst sort of people, completely alienated from nature and with no sense of responsibility whatsoever.
Driven by their selfish interests, they shun nothing, not even causing natural disasters to make profits, collect insurance or deforest wide stretches of land by intentionally causing fires so as to ensure construction land for investors.
These are the guys we feel transfer of shame for, and we often feel powerless against them since they possess unlimited quantities of that which keeps the world turning - money.
For as long as this third category commands our lives, it is impossible to make any progress. All our efforts will go in vain and we will keep the neoliberal system going like hamsters in a wheel.
Until we make them change, which can hardly be expected, or until we overthrow them from power.
An individual is unfortunately pretty helpless in this big game. We can appease our conscience by trying to raise awareness in our social circles. To create a culture where the elections can be won only by those who place environmental protection as their topmost priority.
Over the past couple of years, a brave group of people in Serbia stands up against ruthless ''investors'' who are trying to put small mountain rivers in pipes by constructing small hydro-power plants.
Their fight is hard and fierce, but people are resolved and persistent in their battle to preserve and protect our heritage which we are obliged to carry forward to our descendants - pure and intact nature.
The name of the movement is Defend the Rivers of the Balkans Mountain, take a look at their Facebook group and keep yourself posted on their latest activities and combat against the monster threatening to turn Serbia into a great wasteland.
Globally, the survival of life on this planet, including humans, has been jeopardized for some time now and we have been long since on a road with not return (tipping point). But Homo Sapiens is an invasive species, and it will find its way around one way or another, even if it means turning into robots.
My only concern is for the remaining 99.9% of species who will go down the gutter together with us, many of them much earlier than that.
We have been given this lovely planet, of unmatching beauty in the known universe, and it became too tight and boring for humankind already dreaming of colonizing other planets, deserted and uninhabitable.
Taking all that in consideration, a simple question pops up ''Who gave us the right to call ourselves the most intelligent species on Earth?''
Judging by the effects of our actions, some extraterrestrial intelligence could hardly agree with such a statement. As the saying goes: Don't foul your own nest, even animals know that.