Tuesday, 5 August 2008

Conservation - a waste of time?

People seem to love to imminent prospect of disaster for some reason. What ever the century, since humankind began to be aware of his or her existence, Armageddon has been around the corner. In my youth it was the threat of nuclear holocaust as the Americans and the Russians played out their testosterone induced games on a vast and potentially devastating scale. Now these fears have somewhat subsided, we have the new end of the world, in Global Warming. We are also chastened by warnings of global collapse due to other changes in the environment such as overfishing, habitat and species loss. In the end though, does it matter?

This may be a strange question for someone who is involved in conservation to ask, but I think it is something we all should ask because it is perhaps a better way to understand why we are doing things and what is important to us.

If you believe in a higher being, are the changes that humans make to the environment pre-ordained or are they against the will of God? Are the changes that we make to the environment “sins” or are they committed by those who need to be “shown the right way”. If one believes only in the randomness of cell mutation as the key to life, is environmental destruction just an expression of the “will of the genes”. Perhaps the destruction of the environment (whether God driven or Gene driven) is meant to be. Maybe it is not destruction of the environment at all, but just a link to a new equilibrium. Throughout the Earths history, scientists believe that there have been mass extinctions, driven by catastrophes or varying causes, and yet life has gone on. In some of these events it is believed that 95% of all species were wiped out. What ordained these episodes? and is the world a worse place for them or not. If they hadn’t had happened then humans and many other species may not have existed.

It seems that most of believe that “in the end”, humans will be there to watch the last sunset. Perhaps we are just a passing phase in the earth’s history and what we are doing to the rest of the world’s species is a way to bypass the pre-eminence of humans over everything else. I suppose we would be the first species to destroy themselves, by basically being “too clever for their own good”.

So if it is all pre-ordained, or simply an expression of the genes, why bother conserving anything. Of course, we live in the here and now, and we want our children to be able to support themselves. Who is to say that humans can’t support themselves in a species poor environment? It is assumed that this is the case, but look at the West. Do people not survive in the prairies where there is 1000s of miles of man-made monoculture? Every single cm of the UK has been utilised by humans for their own benefit, and yet we survive, why hasn’t the UK collapsed in a heap of environmental devastation?

I certainly think that environmental battles will only be won when people see that nature is an essential part of existence for its own sake and that life is so much richer for it.

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