June 07, 2003

Planet Earth: Conquer or Cooperate?

Is there room in the world for Consumptive Man in his billions and a Self-regulating Nature? Probably not, says Bill McKibben... one of the vast number of authors who was pointed out to me by Dr. Higgs upon reading such pieces of mine as "Sunset and Clouds". The End of Nature goes on the long, long list of books to buy and sit in the queue on my heavy shelves of the to-be-read. An excerpt from an MIT review:

McKibben shows how tightly bound up the destruction of the planet is in our lives. Our cars, our houses, plastics, and pesticides are as much a part of the world we know as are the trees, waters, and hills that we live among. McKibben sets forth plainly that the human race will need to decide between our material world -- houses, cars, clothes -- and the natural world. "One world or the other will have to change." McKibben envisions a "humbler world" where our material excesses will seem absurd. In this world, he thinks, human beings could take a less dominant relation to nature, and nature might once again establish itself as independent, constant.

While this vision is fascinating and comforting, McKibben himself does not seem to think it is likely. He recognizes that human beings value themselves and their interests primarily and that these values will likely win out. A "managed world" in which human beings control the climate, genetics, and ecology is the most probable solution short of ecological catastrophe. McKibben values nature for its own sake; this result appeals neither to him nor to the reader.

The ending is rather optimistic, considering that McKibben does not describe in any detail how we will go from our current situation of continued and increasing environmental destruction to either of his two possible worlds. The book does not present a doomsday picture -- nor does it present real solutions. Instead, the book exposes the nature of the environmental crisis and leaves the reader with a lot to think about.

Posted by fred1st at June 7, 2003 06:43 AM | TrackBack

Yep, I know McKibbon from reading "The Witness" - left-leaning social justice/world-responsible writing from Anglicans and others. Haven't read any of his books though. Last night I spent some time in the local Borders bookstore perusing their "Nature and Ecology" section - the reading list sure is getting long!

Posted by: beth at June 7, 2003 08:56 AM

I as well as 1.5 million other people live in close proximity to the Lake Pontchartrain Basin, a 4,700 mi2 watershed. Created by the last ice age, it is one of the largest estuarine ecosystems in the United States. At the center of the Basin is the 630 mi2 Lake Pontchartrain.
Since mans intrusion, the Basin's water quality has declined; its shorelines have eroded; its wetlands have been lost; it has been mined for shells, oil and gas; dead zones have developed; fisheries resources have diminished; beaches closed; and its substantial commercial and recreational values have been damaged.
Natural processes, combined with human activities, have caused the loss of thousands of acres of wetlands and pollution of the lake. In 1962, the first "no swimming" signs appeared along the south shore of Lake Pontchartrain due to high levels of pollution. By the mid-1980's, almost every river, bayou or lake in the Lake Pontchartrain Basin was polluted. Many thought the Basin was beyond recovery. In 1989, the Lake Pontchartrain Basin Foundation (LPBF) was created and has since led a coordinated effort to restore the environmental quality of the Basin.
While there is still much to be done, I am happy to say that after 41 years the beaches along the south side of the lake were reopened to swimming last week. If we care we must make sacrifices and I beleive we care.

Posted by: Liska at June 7, 2003 10:38 AM

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