This is Part II of my essay Adventures In Flatland. These essays are an attempt to summarize my work on Decline Of The Empire (DOTE). There will be a part III. This essay comes to about 26 printed pages. You can comment, but if you're just another optimist, you'd better know what you're talking about — Dave
The Human Relationship To The Natural World
Perhaps the destiny of man is to have a short but exciting life.
— Nicolas Georgescu-Roegen
In "Consume, Screw, Kill," a review of Elizabeth Kolbert's The Sixth Extinction, Daniel Smith sums up the human relationship to the natural world.
Since the start of the Industrial Revolution, 250 years ago, humans have dug, developed, dammed, and diverted with such transformative fervor that the effects will be detectable in the geologic record 100 million years from now. We have become indelible...
An Israeli oceanographer, Jack Silverman, summarizes the problem of the [destruction of] coral reefs for Kolbert as follows: “If you don’t have a building, where are the tenants going to go?” The question is rhetorical, but it raises an uncomfortable subject that The Sixth Extinction, for all its thoroughness, never truly addresses.
That subject can be put in the form of another rhetorical question: From the point of view of the slumlord, or the developer, or the demolition crew — or whatever role humans would be assigned in Silverman’s metaphor — what does it matter where the tenants go? Our indifference to the tenants’ welfare, after all, is why they’re in trouble in the first place. We haven’t much concerned ourselves up to this point. Why should we start now?
Indeed, now may be the unlikeliest time for us to grow a conscience about how our rapacity is endangering other species, since we’re now aware of how frightfully our rapacity is endangering us...
The key word describing the human attitude toward the natural world is indifference. Smith goes on to say that "we’re now aware of how frightfully our rapacity is endangering us," but who does "we" refer to?