Wednesday, June 11, 2008
I would like to thank Mr. Krossa for giving me permission to reprint this information. I will be publishing more of his work dealing with this subject in the future. I recommend following the Anne Gardiner link. RK
Anne Gardiner presents a good summary of some of the pagan mythology behind modern environmental thought. Alston Chase similarly traces something of the mythological roots of this movement in his book In A Dark Wood.
Gardiner also expresses the great battle for human minds and freedom that this environmental movement is shaping up to be. It is becoming the defining issue of our time- the environmentalist assault on human freedom. Some have suggested that it could become a totalitarianism that would outdo totalitarianisms of the past because it wants to legislate human behavior in constraining detail that other movements did not engage. And it demands a reversal of the human enterprise (and humanity itself) on a scale that few other movements envisioned.
But I am not sure that Gardiner's alternative is up to the task of countering the core mythology of environmentalism. The Christian story is also one of human sacrifice and this does little to effectively challenge the similar pagan call for human sacrifice. Competing against one form of mythology with a similar story does not really resolve anything fundamental. Also, the Christian belief system assumes a fallen humanity which is little improvement on the devaluation of humanity offered by environmental paganism.
At the root of all this mythology is the valuation or perspective on humanity that people hold. This is a critical issue - how do we view and value humanity? What is our place in the overall scheme of things?
I would argue that with consciousness we hold a unique place in nature and a privileged responsibility to humanize nature and life. With consciousness we have awareness of what truly humane reality is about and we are responsible to bring this awareness to our engagement with the rest of life. Easterbrook (A Moment on the Earth) suggests that nature has waited a long time for us and our endowments of mind and intelligence. We can now help nature out of the dead ends that it has gotten into by its blind, random, and dumb processes (e.g. predation, disease, natural disasters).
A related issue here is how we view nature. Nature is not some pristine or pure reality aside from humanity. It has rightly been called a "wicked old witch" or Dark Nature (Lyall Watson). It is violent, disease ridden, and in need of rescue. While enlightened consciousness leads us to respect the rest of life, we should not apologize for our status and responsibility toward life and the Earth; to humanize nature. In fulfilling our responsibility, we ought to feel no guilt over our engagement of nature and our use of its abundant resources.
So nature has no inherent right to supremacy over humanity. Ideologies/mythologies that place something else above free human persons have always led to the neglect and abuse of real people. Such is the history of religious and ideological movements. Whenever people place something above human persons and their rights and freedom, then they fall prey to totalitarianism. This is equally true of this pagan nature worship. One would think it would be clear to most people that a dumb, blind, and randomly driven environment cannot take precedence over conscious persons.
I would suggest that an effective answer to this environmental mythology lies in the proper valuation of humanity or human persons. Each of us will do this in our own way according to our personal worldviews. Let me just note that helpful alternatives have been offered here by people like Joseph Campbell. Few have expressed the wonder of being human as well he has in his books Myths To Live By, The Power of Myth, and An Open Life. Catholic theologian Thomas Sheehan also offers an interesting valuation of humanity in his essay From Divinity to Infinity. He suggests that humanity is the new "marker" (or stand in) for divinity. Divinity, he says, has disappeared into humanity to explore the infinity of human potential in improving life. Campbell similarly offers the perspective that each of us embodies the great Consciousness or Mind of the universe. From such insight it becomes obvious that we are not just another animal subject to nature and its ecosystems (and after all, the story of humanity is one of freedom from natural constraints and limitations). We are so much more than just the 2 percent difference with apes. Others might prefer more secular perspectives on the wonder of being human such as that offered by Julian Simon in Ultimate Resource.
On the primitiveness or paganism of this contemporary environmental mythology I was reminded of a personal experience with a tribal man in Mindanao (Davao Del Norte province, Southern Philippines). He was fishing in a rainforest river. As he stood shivering on the bank holding his fishing spear I noticed that he had placed a piece of bamboo upright in the bank of the river with an egg held in the split top. I knew the mythology behind such sacrifice but I asked him anyway why he had done that. He replied, "So the river spirit will not be angry when I take fish from the river".
Pagan, barbaric, and ignorant? Yes, it's all that. But it is even more unsettling when such primitive thought is promoted by PhDs in our universities. Bill Rees, the father of the ecological footprint concept, had us read The Re-Enchantment of the World and lectured us on Deep Ecology in grad school (Planning) at the University of British Columbia. He had PhD candidates lecture us on nature as Goddess. And he also stated that he would not only halt the human enterprise for taking from nature, but would actually reverse it. Earth can only sustain about one to two billion people, according to him.
You can't discuss science with such people. Once in the grip of a mythology as powerful as this pagan nature worship, you can only let their hysteria run its course. But when that hysteria begins to push its totalitarian solutions on the rest of us, then it is the responsibility of all of us to stand up and refuse to let such insanity undermine human freedom and progress.
Mr. Krossa lives in BC (Maple Ridge), working with the mentally disabled. Trained as an urban planner (UBC), after which he became involved in rural development in the Philippines for some 10 years. Mr. Krossa contributes to several net forums dealing with various issues including environmental. He is especially interested in the foundational ideas behind contemporary environmental ideology. His work can be viewed at www.thehumanspirit.net