Writing my land ethic, a philosophy about the interaction of man and world, is a lofty task not lightly taken by a woman whose mind is brimming with questions about the nature of consciousness and the evolution to thought. These questions which are the very basis for philosophical study hold the key to understanding how man has been able to reach a point of seemingly disharmonious existence on the sanguine possibilities of future survival.
I dare say that the trouble we are in is birthed by the perceptions of abundance and expectations of a “life worth living” promised to us by deities guiding the actions of the very minds that create them. We are our own worst enemies and it is through the collective actions of each man living, and having once lived, that we’ve became separated from the consequences of our actions and lost something true and pure about ourselves. The quest for knowledge is simultaneously our liberator and our captor.
We are trapped within an existence which limits perceptions to inputs received by and filtered though a complex network of chemical and electrical pathways. These pathways change over time with the ebb and flow of learning and experience. The mere act of recalling a memory has the power to alter. It. So, perhaps it is false nostalgia that tells us, we as a species, were at one time in harmony with nature.
It seems the earth is constantly undergoing changes that impact the organisms living here and what may seem a balance to our eyes could be, when viewed on a geologic or planetary time scale, outliers to the larger system of chaos and entropy.
The earth formed some 4.6 billion years, only 1.2 billion years ago did multicellular life come about and man has existed for a mere 200,000 years; life is the result of co-opted chemical processes and molecular chance spat out by iterations on scale within our ability to comprehend.
I seek to find a balance between the nature of man and the needs of the world in which we came about. If all that man was driven to possess were shelter, food and reproduction, the matter would be vastly different, alas, we are a species driven by self preservation and curiosity. In the 15th century Johannes Kepler proposed the idea of viewing the earth as a singular organism, though this idea has little scientific validity, it is a perfect way to view the impact of ones actions because it reduces the overwhelming complexity of ecological relationships to a single unified variable.
Fear of want drives “civilized” man to seek excess, and cultural norms at best accept this while at worse reward it. Possessing not only the awareness of our existence but also the ability to use tools and to plan for the future, we are the perfect storm of form and function. But it is not just our physical and mental capacities that threaten the land; we have, over thousands of years, built a society in which destruction and disharmony are accepted byproducts of living.
Examples of cultures that have caused their own extinction are many and those of cultures existing closer to an equilibrium are becoming fewer with each passing day. I have little doubt that within my lifetime we will see the end to indigenous peoples along with the disappearance of untouched wilderness and the reduction of biodiversity. Is this part of the natural progress of the conscious mind or is it an outgrowth of misguided teaching? Can man hope to find a balance and if so, how will that balance be defined.
Consciousness is perhaps a gift of evolution, it is plausible that awareness of self and surroundings came as a beneficial adaptation to prolonged survival. It is however my belief that consciousness, though beneficial to the human species, is in fact a detriment to the diversity and complexity of life. We are a species evolutionarily equipped to dominate the land, and culturally driven to use that which we can touch.
Most people are aware to varying degrees, the environmental factors which are impacted by their act of living. Caught somewhere between oblivious mistreatment and willful neglect, people heed their impact only when it is convenient for them.
But whether I spent the remainder of my life in a vegetarian buddhist monastery or driving a Hummer through marshland, my existence would impact the ability of other organisms to survive. Some choices simply have a lower impact on the world around me, a smaller harm to the organism called Earth, if you will.
Since I recognize that is it in mans nature to confuse want with need and it is in this societies expectations to seek economic profit as a primary goal over natural equilibrium, I am pessimistic about mankind’s ability to cease the spiral of abuse and neglect of the natural world. With the belief of manifest destiny so deeply engrained that it is almost a subconscious drive, I do not know if the general populous will ever pull head from sand and take a stand for the land.
I cannot expect to change the world, how it works or how mankind functions on a broad scale. My land ethic does not set forth calls to recycle or to take shorter showers or to grow your own food. It rests closer to the heart and the mind than to the hands. If thought is the origin of reality, it is there that all change begins. So I ask you, open eyes, take notice of not just what is around you but how those things relate to you. Ask questions and seek answers. Think critically about what others present to you as truth. Seek out the natural world and build a connection with the organism which saw mankind step from the cerebral shadows into the light of consciousness. This, is my Land Ethic.