Gary Patton, a local lawyer, teacher, proponent of local limits to growth and past County Supervisor, publishes a blog called “We Live in a Political World,” which once was called “We Live in Two Worlds.” His underlying theme is that humans live in the human created world, which is separate from the Natural World, even though humans depend on the Natural World for our survival.
My understanding is that we don’t live in two worlds, that there is only one world, the Natural World, in which humans are not only dependent, but are intricately intertwined.
Yes, humans do build an artificial world, both materially and culturally, that humans attempt to manage as if it were separate from the Natural World. But that material world is subject to all of the natural processes and principles of the Natural World, such as gravity, entropy, thermodynamics, geomorphology, plate tectonics, Cartesian and quantum physics, cycles of weather and climate, atmospheric and oceanic dynamics, evolution, population dynamics and disease.
This cultural separation of the two worlds has resulted in management of the human world on the basis of two underlying assumptions: the myth of control and the myth of unlimited growth.
At the University of Wyoming the Engineering building has the following inscription carved into its facade: “The control of Nature is not given, it is won.” I’ve written about this several times on Searching for Balance, for example, HERE, HERE,and HERE.
Recent events have brought the myth of control into sharp focus, as the Covid-19 pandemic has questioned the assumption that centralized control of the world we live in is possible or even desirable.
It seems that the harder we try to control the spread of of the coronavirus around the world, the faster it spreads and the more humans are affected by it. Government responses to the virus have caused more havoc in the lives of people around the world than the virus itself. One wonders if this pandemic had been treated as we treat yearly influenza pandemics, the disruptions to the human world would have been less severe. Humans have evolved with viruses, even to the point of incorporating viral RNA into our body cells, to the point that we are viruses almost as much as the viruses themselves. Perhaps accommodation to the reality of inevitable virus outbreaks would be a more effective and less costly alternative.
One of the contributing factors to the current pandemic is the increasing incursion of humans and their built environments into the natural world where we have come into close contact with new viruses and other diseases that have been present in non-human species unnoticed by humans, who, as a result, have no natural immunity. The myth of unlimited growth is basic to the dominant human culture, such that it is unacceptable for government officials to even consider limits to population or economic growth. Lack of constant economic growth is seen as failure, and reductions in population threaten government funding based on increasing individual consumption and increasing taxes on economic activities.
Observant humans might put 2 and 2 together and come to the conclusion that there is a better way to organize and maintain human societies. Rather than viewing humans as separate from the Natural World and natural processes, why not view humans as part of the world’s natural ecosystems, in which the human built world functions as a critical component of ecosystems that include animals, plants, mountains, plains, watersheds, rivers and streams, oceans and one continuous atmosphere that supports all life on this planet.
Why not recognize that All Lives Matter, human and not human. Why not recognize that cutting down a tree troubles the forest and all that therein lives. Why not recognize that humans are connected with every other living thing through ancient evolutionary processes through which we share the ultimate fate of all life.
Why not recognize that human health and well-being is intimately interconnected with the health and well-being of all life on this the only home for every living thing in the known Universe.
This could be the basis for an ecological human society, in which all other species have a voice in the affairs of the one species that impacts them all.