allisburning (allisburning) wrote,

Ecological Wisdom: Introduction - (28 JUN 2005)

- Ecological Wisdom: Introduction - (28 JUN 2005)

The Code of Ethics and Standards of Practice of the USA's National Association of Realtors (a professional association of "land agents"/"estate agents") begins:

"Under all is the land.

Upon its wise utilization and widely allocated ownership depend the survival and growth of free institutions and of our civilization."

The human lineage diverged from our close relatives perhaps 2.4 million years ago. During over 99% of that span, all human beings lived in intimate contact with Nature. Its rhythms, interconnections, power, and its place as the foundation of all human activities were immediately obvious to all.

All human societies recognized that the health of their environment and institutions which they enjoyed (or the ill-health of which they suffered) was due to the care which had been taken by their Ancestors, and that they had a similar responsibility to transmit healthy institutions and a healthy environment to their children and grandchildren.

But beginning with the Industrial Revolution, an increasing number of humans have lived in superficial isolation from Nature.

High technology and high levels of energy use have permitted many people to live their lives thinking that food comes from a grocery store and that good health comes in a jar, seeing trees more frequently on television than in reality, believing that wastes may be piped or trucked "away" and that all problems have a technological solution, if only sufficient research is done.

In the 20th century, the pendulum began to swing back again, as it became increasingly apparent to many people that humans are not divorced from the environment and in fact continue to be wholly dependent on it.

In 1971 Barry Commoner, in The Closing Circle: Nature, Man, and Technology, popularized these Laws of Ecology:

(1) Everything is connected to everything else.
(2) Everything must go somewhere.
(3) Nature knows best.
(4) There is no such thing as a free lunch.

1, 2, and 4, I would say are undeniable.

There is some discussion about number 3. I think that we can definitely say, with Stephanie Mills: Nature Bats Last -- Although our activities can certainly cause serious disruptions in natural ecosystems, our ability to control or dominate natural processes is severely limited.

Though the widespread application of the Scientific Method, the manufacturing techniques of the Industrial Revolution, and intensive use of fossil fuels, have permitted the human population to skyrocket, and many people to now enjoy luxury previously available only to legendary gods, the distribution of these benefits has been far from equal.

The State of the World
by Stephen R. Shalom. Sept 14, 1999

"This summer, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) issued its annual Human Development Report. ...

in developing countries nearly 1.3 billion people do not have access to clean water, one in seven children of primary school age is out of school, 840 million people are malnourished, and an estimated 1.3 billion people live on incomes of less than $1 a day. ...

Life expectancy was lower in 1995 than in 1989 in 7 of 18 countries -- falling as much as five years since 1987. Enrollment in kindergarten declined dramatically. ...

In 1960, the countries with the wealthiest fifth of the world's people had per capita incomes 30 times that of the poorest fifth. By 1990, the ratio had doubled to 60 to one, and by 1995 it stood at 74 to one. ...

A recent study by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (reported in the New York Times of Sept. 5, 1999) found that the richest 1 percent of (United States) Americans earned as much after taxes as the poorest 100 million; in 1977 the top 1 percent only (!) had as much as the bottom 49 million. The poorest 20 percent are making less today in real terms (adjusting for inflation) than they were in 1977.

The assets of the world's three richest people, notes the Human Development Report, are more than the combined GNP of all least developed countries on the planet. ... The assets of the 200 richest people in 1998 were more than the total income of 41% of the world's people.”

Is progress being made?

In 2003 the annual report of the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) announced that the number of undernourished people was climbing by 5 million a year and that "nearly 850 million people (went) to bed hungry every night, mainly in Africa and Asia."

BBC News, 25 NOV 2003

The time for fantasies of human independence from and control over Nature is past. No feasible level of technology, and no conceivable economic system, will permit human independence from Nature.

Over the next few decades, we will witness the increasing exhaustion of supplies of fossil fuel energy, accompanied by the highest human populations in history, as well as the highest-ever demand for an energy- and resource-intensive lifestyle.

In light of these trends, continuation of current policies will only result in exponentially greater levels of the inequality and misery noted in the 1999 UNDP report.

The 1970s saw the birth of Green parties which formally recognized the primacy of Nature in human affairs. Such consideration of ecological concerns will become increasingly vital over the coming decades.

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