The value of nature: Living on one planet
The minister dismissed her with the wave of a hand, saying: “That’s just a small part of the Savannah. When we ready we can pave the whole thing. There’s plenty more bush in the country.”
So many things became clear in that single statement. Apart from bush being a rural symbol and paving an urban one (speaking not just of the will but the capability and resources), this demonstrates a well-defined attitude to land, to natural resources, and the prevailing desire to get “out of the bush” to civilisation. And so we see house lots in which the house is built with barely any yard, and if there is a “yard” it is paved.
Our relationship to other living things—be they plants, trees or bush; bachacs or tarantulas, pothounds or pitbulls—remains for the large part, unilateral or utilitarian. Do they serve us? Do we need to avoid them? If they are harmful to us, then kill them.
We don’t usually perceive nature as something that we need to fit into, in our daily lives. We seldom think about the most important future resources—water, food and energy.
Nature, you see, has quietly and compliantly allowed us to have everything we need, and more. We clear-cut forests destroying wildlife, fill and change water courses and mine underground mineral wealth, without consideration of repaying or replacing anything.
In the long run, however, our species, whose population has crossed seven billion, may already be paying for disregarding the planet’s finite capacity. According to the World Wildlife Foundation (worldwildlife.org) some 900 million people do not have access to clean water; some 44 million have been pushed into extreme poverty since June 2010 because of rising food prices; and more than 2.7 billion depend on traditional bioenergy (wood, charcoal) for cooking and heating, with serious environmental and health consequences.
Don’t you think it is time to revisit our relationship with the other species with which we share the earth? Might we yet find a way to restore balance on a planet whose tolerances—robust and generous for centuries, millennia—may now be failing us, a highly favoured species.
Some of us are already curious and willing to learn, but the need is more urgent if we wish our children and grandchildren to live as well as many of us do.
To be continued
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