Whether it’s ‘’exploiting nature’’ or ‘’getting closer to nature’’, the problem’s the same: we aren’t recognizing that we ourselves are a part of the natural world.
It’s easy to see why this assumption has come about… We’re so different to our Earthly cousins that the fact we’re animals too can easily be overlooked. I mean… Elephants have no opinion on whether facebook timeline is worse than facebook original. Mice don’t know much about the new Tax Budget. Crocodiles aren’t too fussed about the American election and owls don’t give a hoot about the rising price of petrol and Walker’s crisps. We have fast cars, iPhone apps and genetic modification. We’ve got the human genome sussed and we can eat strawberries at Christmas. We’ve been to the moon and back and we’ve seen atoms and galaxies and all this has gone to our head. We don’t just have useful opposable thumbs, we have the all important self-consciousness as well. We’re not content to merely go forth and multiply – we want to do all sorts of stuff that other animals seemingly don’t even consider. So it seems obvious that we’re somehow set apart.
Humanity has been described as the point in evolution where life has become conscious of itself. We can think about our own minds. I don’t have much experience of being any other creature so I can’t tell you for sure, but I think this is a trait humans hold alone. The victory of survival isn’t enough for us, we want more. We want meaning and something to work towards. Progress. Answers. Reasons. Improvement… It must have been our extreme curiosity that gave birth to those rivaling twins: religion and science.
But despite all these differences, we’re very much animals. We’re mammals. In fact aren’t we actually apes? We must eat and drink and breath to live. We respire. We still fight for mates . We get broody even though with all our intelligence we know we collectively have plenty of babies and the race is in no danger of extinction (at least not through lack of breeding!) We have a pack mentality and crave a place in a social circle. We hate being excluded. We have a flight, fight or freeze instinct. The list goes on and on and on. Biologically, we’re not really set apart from other creatures. It’s mainly our thumbs and big brains that are relevant. 97% of a human’s DNA is the same as an orangutan’s. Ninety-seven percent!
I think this common idea that there’s the ‘natural world’ and the ‘human world’ is not only ridiculous but damaging. It oozes disconnection. It makes looking after our environment seem like a charitable cause. And it isn’t. If we could see that we’re all part of the ‘environment’ rather than cut off and separate from it, then we’d see that it’s just looking after ourselves. No one gets all righteous about doing their own cooking and cleaning do they? That’s all environmental work is. Global housework.
Humans aren’t haughty super beings with the right to exploit all lowly creatures for our own ends. That much is true. But we needn’t put ourselves down either. . . I’ve heard people liken humanity to ‘a cancer of the Earth’ and I think that’s a horrible sentiment. We’re not evil by nature.
I think we need a balance…
Humans are unique and conscious animals. We’re natural. Nature includes and envelopes us. The natural world is the only world, and human society is a part of that world. We have a right to live on this Earth, and a responsibility to let other life-forms live here too.