Are Humans Part of “The Environment?”

How interesting, really.


Something that has always confused me is how humanity has somehow separated itself from the environment: As if to suggest humans did not spawn from it; as if to say what we eat, breath, and drink does not come from it; that we are not shaped by it; unaffected by it; an exception to all other life on earth. Are we really so vain? Surely not.

It’s difficult to engage in the debate of many environmental issues when there are many out there that have such beliefs.

However, it’s also frustrating to hear “we’re destroying the planet”, too. Although long, I found the most perfect quote, by Michael Crichton, that offers a quite different perspective on this issue. In a lot of ways, this is where I’m at. I hope it’s helpful, you tree-huggers, you.

“You think man can destroy the planet? What intoxicating vanity. Let me tell you about our planet. Earth is four-and-a-half-billion-years-old. There’s been life on it for nearly that long, 3.8 billion years. Bacteria first; later the first multicellular life, then the first complex creatures in the sea, on the land. Then finally the great sweeping ages of animals, the amphibians, the dinosaurs, at last the mammals, each one enduring millions on millions of years, great dynasties of creatures rising, flourishing, dying away — all this against a background of continuous and violent upheaval. Mountain ranges thrust up, eroded away, cometary impacts, volcano eruptions, oceans rising and falling, whole continents moving, an endless, constant, violent change, colliding, buckling to make mountains over millions of years. Earth has survived everything in its time. It will certainly survive us. If all the nuclear weapons in the world went off at once and all the plants, all the animals died and the earth was sizzling hot for a hundred thousand years, life would survive, somewhere: under the soil, frozen in Arctic ice. Sooner or later, when the planet was no longer inhospitable, life would spread again. The evolutionary process would begin again. It might take a few billion years for life to regain its present variety. Of course, it would be very different from what it is now, but the earth would survive our folly, only we would not. If the ozone layer gets thinner, ultraviolet radiation sears the earth, so what? Ultraviolet radiation is good for life. It’s powerful energy. It promotes mutation, change. Many forms of life will thrive with more UV radiation. Many others will die out. Do you think this is the first time that’s happened? Think about oxygen. Necessary for life now, but oxygen is actually a metabolic poison, a corrosive glass, like fluorine. When oxygen was first produced as a waste product by certain plant cells some three billion years ago, it created a crisis for all other life on earth. Those plants were polluting the environment, exhaling a lethal gas. Earth eventually had an atmosphere incompatible with life. Nevertheless, life on earth took care of itself. In the thinking of the human being a hundred years is a long time. A hundred years ago we didn’t have cars, airplanes, computers or vaccines. It was a whole different world, but to the earth, a hundred years is nothing. A million years is nothing. This planet lives and breathes on a much vaster scale. We can’t imagine its slow and powerful rhythms, and we haven’t got the humility to try. We’ve been residents here for the blink of an eye. If we’re gone tomorrow, the earth will not miss us.”

Talk about powerful. I love it.

What are your thoughts? Is this a helpful way to approach discussion, reforming the ideas of “planetary destruction”? Will this help or hurt our causes?

Of course, this is not to say humans are incapable of destroying all sentient life on Earth, but it is to say “we must refine our thinking.”

P.S. I’m open for suggestions.


About tkvogelsang

I'm a people person. I enjoy pointed conversation and mature debate. I admire the great thinkers: those who uplifted reason, scholar, and secondary opinion. I was born and raised in Wichita, Kansas, but find i'm nothing like the people there. I'm liberal, but no Democrat; peaceful, but no pacifist; competitive, but no capitalist; ambitious, but no elitist; a "Buddhist Athiest" (someone who reads and strives to follow the Buddha's teachings, but avid skeptic) raised Christian; and many other dichotomies. In many ways, I'm surprised to be the product I am. I love the outdoors. I love gardening, admire sustainable creation and design, endorse creative thinking and problem solving, and strive to learn as much as I possibly can. I am in a constant search for more travel. Travel, to me, is of utmost importance. It opens the mind and heart. I have many mothers because of it. I have many families that have taken me in and treated me as their own child. It's experiences like these that are not discovered at home, and worth experiencing. Just do. Go. You'll like it.
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1 Response to Are Humans Part of “The Environment?”

  1. I want a reason to bond with the Earth, and this selection encourages me to do so. The more common approach is to explain how interconnected we are to the Earth…how the Earth needs us as much as we need the Earth. How unfortunate. The common approach instead gives us some sort of entitlement, some thirst for power that gives us “domion” of the Earth, as if we have some power over it. Some silly “if we go down, the Earth’s coming with us, sort of thing.” Ha.

    This selection begs to differ. “Grow up. The only power you’re exercising is the power to destroy yourself.” Which…is true. The Earth can take the beating… we can’t.


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