June 14, 2006

Hey, deep ecologists: the planet is not your nature preserve!

In the absence of a Creator a number of people have taken to worshipping the next best thing, creation itself. This phenomenon has been exemplified by the rise of Gainism and the Gaianists. Given the poor state of the environment today this sentiment has mutated into the kind of reverential desperatism and misanthropism that is now the all too familiar opium promoted by the deep ecologists. God may be dead, but religious sensibilities that showcase the unworthiness of man have been retained by these radical environmentalists, resulting in a worldview that perpetuates defeatism, shamefulness and self-loathing.

The deep ecologists and Gainists ascribe divine status to nature—a kind of neo-pantheism--and like their religious forbearers, have insisted on keeping humanity outside the gates of heaven. In their view, man is dirty, irreverent, and profane. His sheer presence is an affront to the divine processes of nature, the very cause of paradise lost; terms like ‘biodiversity’, ‘symbiogenesis’, ‘biosphere’, and ‘homeostasis’ have replaced the old religious canons.

The Earth, they would argue, would be better off without the meddling of humanity and their omnipresent disruptive technologies. The deep ecologists are on a self-prescribed mission to recover paradise and turn the Earth into a giant nature preserve where the only observers would be those creatures trapped in endless cycles of mindless selection and procreation. Birth, life, death, birth, life, death—the perpetuation of the Darwinian cycle as an end unto itself, a cycle with no other purpose than to satiate the aesthetic sensibilities of the nature worshippers.

But there is a cure to the new quasi-religious environmentalist fervor: humanism. And it doesn’t matter what kind of humanism, be it secular humanism, Christian humanism, Buddhist humanism, or transhumanism. Even better are those humanistic codes, like Buddhism and transhumanism, which are nonanthropocentric and demand the respect of all life. Humanist sensibilities work to ensure that it is the quality of life that is maintained rather than pseudoscientific and quasi-religious abstractions.

One can be an environmentalist and a humanist. The key is to make this planet habitable, sustainable and humane. It is this last crucial point that the Gainists and deep ecologists have failed to grasp, and in so doing, have come to represent a dangerous and misguided ideology.

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8 comments:

Jose said...

A hearty hear hear. Some of the deep ecology types actualy make matters worse. They oppose the disposal of nuclear waste even though short term facilities are leaking. They oppose R&D in fields such as genetics and nanotechnology. They oppose the manned space program because man doesn't deserve to go to other planets because he's been such a naughty beast.

Post christian angst.

William said...

Aw, come on man, the Earth can be their nature preserve. ...After we're done with it.

Frankly, I like the idea of leaving behind a system restore point.

Kevin said...

What Gaia writings are you basing your opinion on (besides Wikipedia)? I'm honestly curious -- I haven't read much by Lovelock, and I didn't realize he was that radical.

George said...

Kevin,

Admittedly, I mushed Gaianism and deep ecology in together, perhaps unfairly--but in some ways not; there's a lot of simpatico in the two outlooks. Moreover, my blanket charge of misanthropy is certainly unfair--but I will qualify that statement by saying that 1) there are genuinely misanthropic individuals within the deep ecology movement, and 2) an ecocentric viewpoint establishes a hierarchical preference for the optimization of autonomous, naturalistic process over the quality of life; this agenda by necessity places strict limitations on the degree to which sentient life can operate within the world.

Deep ecologists like Arne Naess and George Sessions have recently addressed the charges of misanthrophy. They're trying to create an ecocentric framework in which humans can still flourish--but not at the expense of the environment. That being said, the underlying assumption is that naturalistic processes trump intelligent interventions. As Naess argues, “By an ecosophy I mean a philosophy of ecological harmony or equilibrium.”

As for resources, take a look a the Foundation for Deep Ecology and their mission statement. As their president Doug Tompkins has stated, "We are hopeful, despite the overbearing weight of negative evidence, that the ecological crisis, most especially the extinction crisis, may be quelled and that natural evolutionary processes may one day resume." You can take a look at their platform here:
http://www.deepecology.org/deepplatform1.html

As for my charge of misanthropy, there are a number of individuals and groups who qualify. Eric R. Pianka, for example, has promoted a severe brand of deep ecology. He recently stated that airborne Ebola was as an efficient means to eliminate 90 percent of the world's population, leading to claims that he is advocating genocide. He says things like “We’re no better than bacteria!” and so on. Pianka argues that he was taken out of context and does not advocate for this to happen, but counters “I am convinced that the world WOULD clearly be much better off without so many of us... We need to make a transition to a sustainable world. If we don't, nature is going to do it for us in ways of her own choosing. By definition, these ways will not be ours and they won't be much fun. Think about that."
http://www.sas.org/tcs/weeklyIssues_2006/2006-04-07/feature1p/index.html

One deep ecology group that is explicitly advocating for a mass reduction in human population is the Voluntary Human Extinction Movement (VHEMT). Their motto is "May we live long and die out." They’re essentially a negative population growth movement who promote the idea that people should voluntarily stop procreating until there are no more people left.

Hope that answers your question.

Kevin said...

Yes, thanks for the pointers.

Jose said...

It's worth noting that the man who originated the Gaia theory doesn't approve of what people have done in its name.

Most of the stuff you hear about in reference to Gaia has nothing to do with the theory. The poor fellow who came up with the theory probably feels like he's starring in his own personal version of The Life of Brian.

Jasupa said...

Its interesting that you say that the cure is humanism which includes Buddhism. In my experience many "Gaianists" embrace humanism and Buddhism or Hinduism allready..

Maybe if those people would read this comic story Japan cute style
evolutionkawaii :p they would never say anything poisenous about humanity again :p

In my view it is schizophrenic to make a devide between nature and humans; simply because all a human is is the latest update of nature :p ...

Come on guys.. lets go and evolve and burst into the next phase of enhancement. Lets change our own DNA instead of letting time and luck change it.. Power to the people :p

Justin said...

If we are not carefull, we will turn out to be no better than bacteria, or better yet a cancer. We will devour our host all in the name of "Human Experience" before we even know it. To suggest that there is something wrong with a concern for overpopulation is completely absurd. It is also a bit arrogant to assume that we will always be able to fix any problem with "technology". There are very few examples of this in our species past and it would be best to hedge our bets by living a little more sensibly.