Friday, December 28, 2007

Moral as well as practical choices

Gary Snyder

I want to call your attention to an essay I just found by Gary Snyder. Here's an excerpt:

The organic life of the planet has maintained itself, constantly changing, and has gone through and recovered from several enormous catastrophic events over hundreds of millions of years. Now we are realising that the human impact on air, water, wildlife, soil and plant life is so extreme that there are species becoming extinct, water dangerous to even touch, mountains with mudslides but no trees, and soil that won’t grow food without the continuous subsidy provided by petroleum. As we learned over time to positively work for peace to head off the possibilities of war, so now we must work for sustainable biological practices and a faith that includes wild nature, if we are to reverse the prospect of continuously dwindling resources and rising human populations.

One can ask what it might take to have an agriculture that does not degrade the soils, a fishery that does not deplete the ocean, a forestry that keeps watersheds and ecosystems intact, population policies that respect human sexuality and personality while holding numbers down, and energy policies that do not set off fierce little wars. These are the key questions.

Many of our leaders assume that the track we’re on will go forever and nobody will learn much; politics as usual. It’s the same old engineering, business and bureaucracy message with its lank rhetoric of data and management. Or, when the talk turns to ‘sustainability’ the focus is on a limited ecological-engineering model that might guarantee a specific resource (such as grass, water, or trees) for a while longer but lacks the vision to imagine the health of the whole planet. The ethical position that would accord intrinsic value to non-human nature, and would see human beings as involved in moral as well as practical choices in regard to the natural world makes all the difference.

Are we going to listen to our prophets like Snyder in time? That is another key question.

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