Monday, 9 March 2009

DEBATE: Environmentalism

“Environmentalism will cease to be persuasive to people,” says Keith Lockitch, “only when they see that they have a moral right to leave a ‘footprint’ on nature.”



  1. I think any animal species has the right to survive by whatever means are available to it. But time is the ultimate arbiter of life; any species that decimates too much of its local ecosystem must either move, evolve, or die. So we see a complex balance that arises due to many autonomous agents that reinforce one another in the survival of an ecosystem. So while I agree that we have every "right" to leave a footprint on nature, if we are interested in our own long term survival we must be careful of the consequences. We should try to integrate ourselves with a web of life that processes our wastes and produces our food.

    As a result I believe in free-market based advocacy of systems and methods that protect the environment from destruction or pollution. These systems are often economically worthwhile, and lead to greater prosperity and quality of life. So I see no innate conflict of interests between human beings and the planet. Nature, after all, has every right to leave its footprint on us.

  2. Brett, you seem terribly confused.

    "Rights" are a distictly human concept, and may only be applied to humans. Why? Because observing another animal's "right" to live "by whatever means are available to it" is a two way street: it requires at least the possibility of mutual agreement. Since only humans can make such a pact, only humans are capable of conceptualising, implementing, observing and upholding "rights" (if you disagree with this statement, try striking a deal on rights with some predatory wildlife next time you are in their vicinity - good luck!). "Rights" therefore only pertain to humans - the only species capable to entering into an agreement on anything.

    Further, we as humans are not dependent on the "balance" of the ecosystem for our survival. We are unique in that, unlike other animal species, we have the ability and metaphysical obligation to adapt nature to our ends; all other animals have no choice but to simply "fit in" and adapt themselves to nature. Nature exists therefore to serve us, not the other way around. We must act accordingly.

    Finally, one certainty in this universe is that all life on earth will die eventually - the sun will destroy everything that lives here in the end. Your precious "eco-system" is therefore only temporary anyway. We are all here and alive *now* - and the purpose of our lives (as human beings) is to live our lives as human beings: i.e. to flourish by adapting the environment to our benefit. In future generations the human race will need to leave this Earth and find or create greener pastures elsewhere. For now though, we owe it to ourselves to make the most of *this* life.

    Exploit the earth or die dude.

  3. We must care for nature because ultimately we rely on nature for everything - food, clothing, shelter. Caring for nature is in our own best interests.

    But if a man is more important than a grasshopper, we cannot sacrifice men to save the grasshoppers. Any policy that oppresses mankind to "save" nature is inherently flawed, as it places nature as more important than man.

    The Hindu philosophy that is infiltrating our culture through "New Age" beliefs (I love the "modern" name to promote old-fashioned pantheism!) is very dangerous, as it treats all life as equal. Following this logic it is better to kill a million people than to allow two million worms, slugs, or even bacteria to die. You can technically justify genocide to "save the planet" - that in my mind is a very worrying prospect.

    And there are plenty of people who say we need to reduce the world's population but aren't willing to practice what they preach - who do they want to kill instead?

    If Man is more important than the rest of nature (as taught by Christianity and fortunately believed by many atheists too who haven't been taken in by pantheism), we must protect nature to benefit man, not oppress man to benefit nature.

  4. And there are plenty of people who say we need to reduce the world's population but aren't willing to practice what they preach - who do they want to kill instead?

    I smell a red herring, but perhaps i'm misguided. Reducing the population usually refers to the need to reduce the rate of growth, not killing people.

  5. StephenR


    That's a big word, pregnant with possibilities.

    The means to be employed for "reducing the population" is one of those terms whose meaning depends who it is you are talking with, what you assume and how much they tell you....


  6. You're right LGM, but most ;-) advocates are not fans of killing through method 'x' as a means of population control, IMHO. Of course there are probably some, but too often people focus on these extreme examples and then project them onto anyone else remotely associated with such matters.

  7. Plenty of people are willing to promote abortion to help "reduce the rate of growth" - many of us define that as killing people. Some disagree.

    That is as far as public statements go at the moment.

    My point is however that following "New Age" pantheistic logic, you CAN justify abortion even if you believe that is killing people, and you can even justify killing adults - all for the sake of saving the planet. This is very worrying thinking.

    Eugenics was accepted by many people before WWII, and it was only rejected after the horrors of Hitler's killing spree. After the damage had been done. Remember that Hitler was democratically elected, because what he was saying sounded reasonable. Only afterwards did people agree his policies were flawed - well, most people...

    Pantheistic logic can be used to justify even greater evil. Don't think someone won't act on their beliefs - ideas have consequences.

    Well said LGM.

  8. I agree with Brett, although I'd ditch his usage of the word "right". All physical constructs survive by utilising the methods made availiable to it by it's level of complexity.

    The idea that humans are unique because we can adapt our surroundings to service us, while other lifeforms can't, is false. Using a greater level of intelligence, we are capable of manipulating our environment to a greater degree than the other organisms, but we're certainly not the only life forms that do it.

    The balance that will form will be made between our ability to manipulate our environment, and the limitations of our intellect.


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