“We cannot win this battle to save species and environments without forging an emotional bond between ourselves and nature as well—for we will not fight to save what we do not love.”
—Stephen Jay Gould
The idea of the Earth at the center of the universe seems ludicrous to us today, but the fundamentally self-centered belief system that created that theory still exists. We still believe that all life revolves around human life, and that everything else should bend to our will.
Few people would argue against the assertion that humankind is critically separated from the natural world. It is becoming increasingly apparent that our way of living is at odds with nature, and is a severe threat to the natural systems that support us and the rest of life on this planet. In addition to this, many people are becoming aware that this separateness is causing us to feel an emotional and spiritual distance from nature, and from life itself.
How did we come to this point? How did humans, who are, in many ways, Nature’s most advanced species, come to be so very isolated, so completely cut off from our origins?
Out of a natural desire to protect our fragile selves from the dangerous and hostile elements of untamed nature, we have spent our time on the planet developing knowledge, skills and technology that have enabled us to escape the terrifying world of the predatory paradigm. By creating a safe distance between ourselves and the natural world, we have, for the most part, successfully removed from our reality the fears that wild animals live with constantly.
It is undeniable that this has served an important purpose – that of creating a sanctuary for humans where we have been able to further our evolution. The great accomplishments of human history, as well as the basic conveniences of living in our society are made possible by the fact that we have transcended the requirements of basic survival that the rest of the animal population must live according to – finding food and shelter, avoiding predators, and everything else that makes life in the wild so very tenuous.
But, as I said in an earlier article, rather than using our position of advantage to help our fellow animals, we, who claim to be creatures of moral conscience, have used it to exploit them, by forcing them into lives of even more fear, more pain, and more suffering.. It is for this reason that we feel guilty when we look at animals, because something inside us knows that we have betrayed them, and we continue to betray them, on a grand scale. What do we do in response to the guilt that nags at our conscience? We keep killing them, keep hurting them, keep terrorizing them, and keep oppressing them.
Caught up in this cycle of oppression, we forget that we are animals ourselves, who also rely on the mercy of those who have the power to harm us. It is the guilt we feel as a result of withholding our compassion from those who are at our mercy that makes it impossible for us to look more deeply into the true nature of animals, and the rest of the natural world that they rely on for survival.
For some time now we have been at war with the world of nature and animals, and increasingly, it seems that we are beginning to be on the losing side. We are beginning to learn that we are not, in fact, above the laws of nature. Thus, we now find ourselves on the receiving end of the violence we have inflicted, in our self-appointed role as the dictators of the future of all life on our planet.
The only way we will be able to change this perilous course, is to be willing to change the actions that created it. The choices of each individual, on every level from procreation to dietary practice, have to be examined, but not through the filter of one’s personal desires, rather through the filter of their impact on the rest of the planet. If we continue to stubbornly cling to the lifestyle that has led us to this point, we will find that we too are destroyed.
The global environmental crisis offers us a wealth of opportunities. They are opportunities for change, for conscious evolution of ourselves, which is something we humans collectively resist as much as anything. Changing oneself requires an admission that something in us needs to change, and that is a challenge for anyone.
All of us would like to see change occur on a global level, but first, we need to accept the fact that global change has to begin with personal change. We need to begin acknowledging that our personal actions affect the rest of the planet, and we must take into account this wider impact in all our choices.
For too long, we have luxuriated in the pleasures of an unsustainable self-indulgence, using the resources of the planet, as well as its other inhabitants, however we please. The outdated mindset that man is at the center of the universe and everything exists to feed, clothe, house, entertain and please us has got to be overthrown, and this has to occur in people’s own hearts and minds.
It seems that our grand experiment is coming to a climax. We can no longer continue to worship a lifestyle that promotes the hedonistic desires of a human population that is convinced that the entire planet exists to serve our pleasures. We must take responsibility for our mistakes, make peace with the rest of the world, and come to understand and embrace our place in the natural order of things. This change of consciousness will not occur without the change of heart that we desperately need.
Originally published on Care2