Skip to comments.Nature ISN'T fragile nor a bossy mother-in-law - top eco boffin
Posted on 04/05/2012 1:35:31 PM PDT by Ernest_at_the_Beach
It must abandon the idea that nature is "feminine" and in particular that it's "fragile", he said, because not only is this artificial, it's wrong, and so many bad ideas follow.
When people believe that a fragile "Mother Nature" is harmed by anything humans do, it's actually the humans who suffer, Kareiva argues in the co-written essay Conservation in the Anthropocene.
It's little wonder that environmentalism is now dominated by "misanthropic, anti-technology, anti-growth, dogmatic, purist, zealous, exclusive pastoralists" - that's how Kareiva described them in a talk in 2011. Greenpeace's co-founder Patrick Moore made similar points in an interview here a year ago.
The modern environmental movement views every human action - from fracking to flying - as both intrinsically evil and irreversibly harmful. But this is an artificial view, one generated out of convenience, says Kareiva. "The notion that nature without people is more valuable than nature with people and the portrayal of nature as fragile or feminine reflect not timeless truths, but mental schema that change to fit the time," the authors write.
Kareiva cites Rachel Carson's Silent Spring as popularising the "fragility trope". The book purported to blame the collapse of bird ecosystems on DDT, and is often cited as a catalyst for the modern environmental movement. But Kareiva and his co-authors argue that the data suggests this view simply isn't true.
"The trouble for conservation is that the data simply do not support the idea of a fragile nature at risk of collapse," he write. "Ecologists now know that the disappearance of one species does not necessarily lead to the extinction of any others, much less all others in the same ecosystem. In many circumstances, the demise of formerly abundant species can be inconsequential to ecosystem function."
"Nature is so resilient that it can recover rapidly from even the most powerful human disturbances," scientists now conclude. Well, some of them do.
The idea of an "ecosystem" being inherently fragile is a very modern one. When the word was dreamed up by English botanist Sir Arthur Tansley, nature was thought to be self-healing and robust. Sir Arthur believed natural life was an instance of what he called "the great universal law of equilibrium". This view prevailed for the next fifty years.
Then came the hippies, whose new view of the relationship between man and nature was summarised by the Pogo cartoon in this embellishment of the first "Earth Day" event in 1970: "I have seen the enemy, and he is us." This went on to be the most successful political idea of the next forty years, culminating in "climate change", accompanied by policies that regulate and tax every industrial human activity.
Kareiva objects to characterising nature as a helpless, fragile female or a bossy matriarch - the only two versions we seem to hear. In his view, eco-mentalists are giving up the human-hating policies of conservationism, but are doing so too slowly.
"Instead of pursuing the protection of biodiversity for biodiversity's sake, a new conservation should seek to enhance those natural systems that benefit the widest number of people, especially the poor," he said.
Much the same point was made by the anonymous distributor of the Climategate emails last year, known only as "FOIA" in the README.TXT editorial that accompanied the second release of private emails from climate scientists at the University of East Anglia.
"One dollar can save a life - the opposite must also be true. Poverty is a death sentence," the author wrote, comparing it to the "$37 trillion" investment in energy technologies apparently needed to halt runaway global warming.
It's likely that more self-styled progressives and environmentalists who would never read Climategate emails will take note of Kareiva. And some already have, including the New York Times's Malthusian-in-residence Andrew Revkin.
The problem with turning the ship of environmentalism around to a more humane and less fearful philosophy is that it has been so successful - at least up until now. Although the public, when asked, doesn't share the apocalyptic worldview, eco-mentalism remains embedded among the political and media elites.
The environmentalists who have succeeded using this version of Mother Nature now have successful bureaucratic empires as a result; they're now really the New Establishment, and have seats at the table. They won't voluntarily give these up. ®
Very good. Thanks for the post. Bookmarked. BTTT!
Ping for later.
Which would make shutting down the Marxist EPA all the more enjoyable. Imagine watching once highly paid oppressors mill about the States looking for employment.
“Mother Earth” is not real?
Oh contrare, Mother nature can be a mean b*tch when she wants to.
“When people believe that a fragile ‘Mother Nature’ is harmed by anything humans do, it’s actually the humans who suffer”
Yes! This is what I’ve always said. Enviros have forever been speaking at cross-purposes. You know why? Because—suprise, surprise—it’s not about the environment. It’s about socialism. The environmental movement, or at least the part of it that gets all the press, is a leftist movement. The plight of humans under a corrupted Mother Nature is merely one of the currently (or, more and more, formerly) popular problems to be solved. Socialism is always a solution in search of a problem.
If the language of public welfare never jived philisophically with the Earth First mentality, that’s because it wasn’t a philosophically consistent movement. Few ideologies are, true, but this especially so. Because it was especially dishonest. Ever wonder why their radical avoidance of cost-benefit analysis? Not because they want humans to go extinct so that—what? I don’t know, the planet’s crust can prosper? Granted, many espouse some version of this, but they’re merely confused (or more confused).
They talk like they want humans to go extinct because they want current human civilization to crumble, so that they can replace it with a new order. Just like every other revolutionary leftist group, except this one with flowers in their hair. They proposed Cap’n’Trade knowing it would cripple our economy because they want to cripple our economy. Yet they speak as if they’re in favor of , because they are in favor of public welfare. It’s just that the adverse affects to be expected to follow civilization crumbling are less important than the eventual benefits they (irrationally) expect to follow from socialization.
I get your point, but I'm not sure socialism is the right term.
Socialism, it if has any meaning at all that covers its wide diversity, means the political ideologies that have human well-being and equality, especially economic equality, as their first priority. (We'll leave out of the discussion whether this has any relationship whatsoever with what they do in practice.)
For your deep environmentalists this is no longer their first priority. In fact, they want to regress humans and drive down their numbers. The health of the ecosystem is much more important than human equality or even prosperity and health.
I'm not sure what to call such an ideology, but I don't think it's really socialist. Though many socialists support it to varying degrees.
“Socialism, it if has any meaning at all that covers its wide diversity, means the political ideologies that have human well-being and equality, especially economic equality, as their first priority.”
Basically all recent political ideologies, stretching back to the 18th century, praise welfare and at least some level of equality. ThThis includes much maligned supposedly rigidly hierarchical ones like fascism. Socialism is not special in that regard. They are special in the extent to which they emphasize equality. But that does not define them; what does is their trust in the abolition of private property and the total centralization of economic coordination. If you’re looking for a term to pinpoint radical welfare and equality, you can say “welfarism” and “egalitarianism.”
“For your deep environmentalists this is no longer their first priority. In fact, they want to regress humans and drive down their numbers. The health of the ecosystem is much more important than human equality or even prosperity and health.”
This is so for some, but for the movement as a whole, it’s only one more step on the road towards socialism, which they honestly believe will, eventually, bring welfare and equality. They want to tear down civilization in order to do it again, this time correctly. You’ve heard the saying “you wanna make an omelet you gotta break a few eggs.” Same thing.
“I’m not sure what to call such an ideology, but I don’t think it’s really socialist. Though many socialists support it to varying degrees”
See, I don’t think it is an ideology. Ideology doesn’t really apply to societies of non-humans. Whatever your plan is for what happens after humans leave...whoops, you can’t have a plan, because no one will be there to implement it. For those who truly believe in Earth First, if they have an ideology, it have to be purely negative. A form of nihilism, perhaps, or primitivism, atavism, whatever you want to call it.