Saving threatened habitats worldwide

What is nature? And what is natural?

27 September, 2011 - 09:23 -- John Burton

What is nature, seems at first to be a stupid question. But many people seem to think that it is something separate from the human condition. But the reality is, that even when standing in the middle of a city, to misquote Christopher Marlow’s Tragicall History of the Life and Death of Doctor Faustus , “This is nature, nor am I out of it”.

We forget at our peril, that man is part of nature, subject to the same natural rules of evolution and all other natural laws. Social scientists, and religious believers have perverted Darwinism so that human evolution is often interpreted as ‘progress’ towards some higher ideal. The facts are, that evolution is NOT progress, it is simply change and adaptation to new circumstances. It is survival of the fitter (for a particular circumstance) not survival of the more ‘advanced’ or ‘better’. Think in terms of cities equalling ants’ nests.

Just as the passenger pigeon, once believed to be the most numerous bird in the world, took less than a century to become completely extinct, simply because it was too highly specialised as a colonial nester and migrant to survive the human onslaught, so too could humans disappear just as rapidly. We arrogantly think we are more adaptable than any other species – that may be true, for all the circumstances that we know about. But new viruses, bacteria, prions may (in my view, will) completely alter the course of human history.

I personally hope that the human species does not become extinct overnight, in the near future. But I do think that major catastrophes will occur, and that it is probable that massive changes will occur. As I have written many times before, a volcanic eruption of the scale of Tambora alone, would trigger massive worldwide famines, and probably wars. Films like Metropolis, Solyent Green, Alphaville, and Fahrenheit 481, all made decades ago, all have elements in them that have become depressingly true. 

As the first decade of the 21st century drew to a close, there was very little pristine nature, unaltered by humans, left anywhere in the world. There is no empirical proof that it is essential for the so called natural world to survive. I just feel that on the balance of probabilities, it is better that it does, and that while fake nature, which is increasingly what dominates the countryside of Britain, will be perfectly OK for a lot of people, just as Disneyland, and reality TV satisfies the overwhelming majority of those living in the cities of the world, I personally would like to see the diversity and abundance of life, that is still found in the rainforests and other habitats, to survive beyond my lifetime. And I would also like to see the human species as we know it survive for a few more generations.

To help rainforests and other wilderness areas survive for many more generations to come, make a donation to the WLT Action Fund.

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