Our children’s world – don’t touchRichard Treadgold | January 20, 2013
We voice some counter-arguments to the mythical and ideological “pristine state” nonsense advanced by extreme environmentalists to prevent exploitation of natural resources. Then we show how much we agree with the environmental Taleban.
They compare every change to imagined past conditions of “perfection” and their policy proposals are aimed at returning to that pristine state.
It’s nuts, really. Just a moment’s reflection shows how idiotic it is, for the welfare of our children, to avoid changing the world, and instead attempt to pass on to them a world unchanged, still pristine — a fragile wilderness in all its untouched splendour. How wonderful. How sentimental. How useless.
For that is precisely what the Inuit, the Bushmen, the Maori and the Korowai, of New Guinea, along with all other primitive peoples, actively practised for thousands of years until more advanced races happened along.
Because nothing changed, there were no improvements. There was no modern medicine, no engineering breakthroughs, no good dentistry, no deep knowledge of physics, chemistry, biology, astronomy or metallurgy. The history of most tribes was unreliable, as they had no writing. They hadn’t invented the wheel, so even land vehicles were unavailable.
No pristine state left
Those limitations didn’t stop them from destroying native forest by fire and making many creatures extinct by killing them for food or fashion, it just took them longer than it would take now.
Our grandparents didn’t leave the world in a pristine state for us, nor did theirs for them. If we extend that argument logically, we should still be living in caves, and the caves should be in exactly the same state as when they were first occupied.
But, since parents all want a better world for their children, we really can’t leave it the same, can we?
Our extreme environmentalists are fond of praising the natural environment, but they’re not alone. Reasonable people admire the world and appreciate the resources it gives for our welfare and our pleasure without hankering for a dream of the past. There’s nothing wrong with the unity, it’s just the policy that’s wrong.
Changing the world needn’t make it worse. In fact, it frequently gets better. Mining iron and smelting steel produces unpleasant holes in the ground, noise, irritating or noxious fumes, toxic fluids and waste deposits, but the availability of steel allows for sea defences, dramatic flood prevention works, bridges and machines.
We improve agriculture, introduce universal education and wage war to crush the vandals who wantonly destroy and pillage the constructions of the educated. Some of them are called skinheads. As society becomes prosperous, citizens begin to insist on cleaning up the mess that’s been made because nobody likes living in a mess. With our help the earth soon recovers; it’s tremendously forgiving.
Maintaining and improving the natural environment requires the use of natural resources developed by human ingenuity. The modern chemicals, materials, machines and processes we create, used with insight and kindness, let us get more from nature with less damage.
The motive at our heart
We call ourselves humanity, which has come to mean an emotion and a purpose that sets us unmistakably apart from other animals, regardless of how strongly modern biology teaches us that we’re animals first, last and always. In other words, we have no dimension but physical. No law, no ethics, no religion. You’d almost think we had no language.
It’s been so successful that even here at the Climate Conversation, in this liberal air, I expect opposition to “religion” – it’s now so deeply misunderstood.
But our species name – “humanity” – also exposes the authentic harmony with Nature required in demonstrating humanity – a true harmony; unambiguous and beyond simulation.
It’s not possible to be fully human by somehow withdrawing from Nature, by some incredible separation. For to be human means to be everything.
Now there’s a religious concept.