Monday, July 15, 2013

What Is A Human Being? What Does It Mean to Be Human?

In the previous post there was a comment that the article—I posted only the first few paragraphs—or, rather, book extract, was anti-human because it talked in part about the need to limit population.

I think we have to ask what it means to be human: does it mean we do whatever we please, with license, even if it means consuming ourselves into extinction along with most other life on the planet? I don't think so. I don't know about you, but I find this sort of attitude increasingly repellent, along with grief at the waste and the disappearance of the beauty and wonder that inhere in the exquisite life-forms with which we share—or, as in far too many cases—have shared our earth.

Joseph Conrad famously remarked that civilisation was marked by the ability of its members to exercise  restraint. By this standard, we have met the enemy and he and she are us.

There is increasing evidence that human well-being depends on exposure to the natural world—or what's left of it. After all, we ourselves are far more adapted physiologically and psychologically to living in a natural environment than in an artificial one.

As I said in reply to the comment, one of the main reasons I left Alaska was that I could no longer bear to see the destruction of the environment by global warming. No matter what the nay-sayers may protest, however people may fight over the statistics, Alaskans know that global warming is far more advanced than anyone but a handful of people in more southerly latitudes are willing to admit.

Restraint is anti-human? Tell that to the thousands of Alaskans who are going to have to move entire villages where their ancestors  have lived for thousands of years because of rising sea levels and erosion by increasingly powerful storms. Tell that to the Alaskans who can  no longer feed themselves because they are dependent on a life of subsistence and the ice has become too dangerously thin for winter hunting. Tell that to the thousands, if not millions of people whose cities will be swamped, who will starve because of drought—all due to the heedless consumption of a few who claim that this is their God-given right, or just their right, full stop.

Well, it isn't.

Me, I don't care to live in a world without tigers, even though I will never see a wild tiger. I don't care to live in a world without whales—especially the whales who became my friends in Alaska. I don't care to live in  world without amphibians or reptiles, or any of the myriad life-forms that are rapidly disappearing. I want to know that there are still wildernesses where there is silence in the sense of lack of human noise, wildernesses where one hears only the sounds made by the wind, the river, the sea, and the creatures that live there—again, even though I will probably never see them again.

I want to know that wolves are returning to Europe and their former range in America, and white-tailed eagles and eagle-owls to Scotland....

Well, you get my drift. What does it mean to be human? Certainly not to continue this insane drive towards overpopulation. The idea of a growth economy is long dead: it is unsustainable at every level, a fantasy, a psychotic hallucination. The only people who insist that endless growth is necessary are those who don't care about being human—truly human—but only about 'I'll get mine and to hell with everyone else.' 

If I believed in a hell I rather think that hell will be far more ready to welcome them, instead of 'everyone else'.

I'll continue posting the remainder of the book extract in a few days.


Anonymous Hanna said...

I was going to write something but then I came across this picture. It was probably something along those lines anyway.

6:55 pm, July 15, 2013  

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