6th Mass Extinction, Amazon Deforestation, Capitalism, Climate Change, Commodification of Nature, Corporate State, Ecological Overshoot, Environmental Collapse, Extinction of Man, Lewis Lapham, Loss of Virgin Forests, Mass Die Off
The ever-dwindling numbers of wild animals on planet Earth has always been a gnawing and depressing awareness I’ve carried with me since childhood. Even if mankind were not committing mass extinction by disrupting the planet’s climate equilibrium, the idea of living in a manmade world filled with concrete, steel, and asphalt and denuded of any wilderness all but deadens my spirit. In a recent report, Africa’s lion population is expected to be reduced by 50% if no “conservation efforts” are employed. And the most effective method appears to be fencing the lions off from the human population:
“I would hate to see more of Africa fenced,” Hunter said. “It just takes away from a sense of wilderness.”
Fencing can disrupt the great migrations of herbivores and the movements of free-roaming animals such as the African wild dog or the cheetah, he said. But it may be the most effective way to save lions, he said.
“Whether it’s a fence or some other form of barrier it’s really clear that lions need physical separation from people if we’re going to save them.”
Isn’t that last sentence the tell-all statement about the human species? Habitat destruction by human encroachment is the number one reason for the 6th mass extinction currently taking place. Predators from the animal world are revered in human culture. We name football teams, cars and military aircraft after them, but wipe them off the face of the Earth to build more stadiums, parking lots, and airports.
Did you hear the last sentence in the above video:
If you look at it[deforestation] in the bigger picture as landsat allows us to do, you can see that it is not something we can do forever.
And nothing is going to stop this destruction of the natural world at the hand’s of man until he is forcibly restrained by nature, i.e. climate chaos and resource depletion.
In his essay ‘The Conquest of Nature‘, Lewis Lapham writes:
…Over the course of the last two centuries, animals have become all but invisible in the American scheme of things, drummed out of the society of their myth-making companions, gone from the rural as well as the urban landscape. John James Audubon in 1813 on the shore of the Ohio River marveled at the slaughter of many thousands of wild pigeons by men amassed in the hundreds, armed with guns, torches, and iron poles. In 1880, on a Sioux reservation in the Dakota Territory, Luther Standing Bear could not eat of “the vile-smelling cattle” substituted for “our own wild buffalo” that the white people had been killing “as fast as possible.”
And as observers, they were not alone. Many others have noted the departure of animals from our human world and culture. Between 150,000 and 200,000 horses could, for example, be found in the streets of New York City in 1900, requiring the daily collection of five million pounds of manure. By 1912, their function as a means of transport had been outsourced to the automobile.
As with the carriage and dray horses, so also with the majority of mankind’s farmyard associates and nonhuman acquaintances. Out of sight and out of mind, the chicken, the pig, and the cow lost their licenses to teach. The modern industrial society emerging into the twentieth century transformed them into products and commodities, swept up in the tide of economic and scientific progress otherwise known as the conquest of nature.
Animals acquired the identities issued to them by man, became labels marketed by a frozen-food or meat-packing company, retaining only those portions of their value that fit the formula of research tool or cultural symbol — circus or zoo exhibit, corporate logo or Hollywood cartoon, active ingredient in farm-fresh salmon or genetically modified beef…
…The Renaissance scholar and essayist Michel de Montaigne […] ask[ed] himself, “When I play with my cat, who knows if I am not a pastime for her more than she is to me?” The question placed Montaigne’s customary pillow of doubt under the biblical teaching that man had been made in God’s image, and thereby granted “dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the air and for every living thing that moves upon the earth.”
The environmental casualty reports filed from the four corners of the earth over the last two hundred years don’t leave much ground for argument on Montaigne’s question as to who is the beast and who is the man. Whether attempted by men armed with test tubes or bulldozers, the conquest of nature is a fool’s errand. However it so happens that the beasts manage to live not only at ease within the great chain of being but also in concert with the tides and the season and the presence of death, it is the great lesson they teach to humanity. Either we learn it, or we go the way of the great auk.
Michel de Montaigne also said, “Every other knowledge is harmful to him who does not have knowledge of goodness.” I take this to mean that a technologically advanced civilization which has no respect for his fellow-man, nature, and the sanctity of a healthy environment, is doomed to the fate of omnicide. In today’s end-stage capitalism, money fetishism rules mankind; technology is used to keep the unruly masses in check; and nature is a doormat for industrial civilization. We have evolved in science and technology, but devolved in terms of social and environmental consciousness.
the virgin terry said:
very succinct and well written. sad, but true.
Good to see you feature Lapham’s latest…one of our best higher level thinkers and writers. (wish his magazine wasn’t so expensive)
You’ve reminded me of Summer Rayne Oakes short film “eXtinction”, which she made available to all a few months ago…
Thanks & keep swing’n away
Enjoyed the video.
Here is what I am reading at this moment:
Confessions of a Recovering Environmentalist
Yes, a profound essay. Funny….just yesterday I listened again to Orion’s audio discussion with Kingsnorth – also from Jan ’12. Includes David Abram and Lierre Keith and is a worthwhile companion to the essay…
His Dark Mountain site features very unusual and meaningful pieces, including a Dec ’12 contribution from John Rember – another of my favorite writers…
I loved the Kingsnorth piece. Thanks for the audio talk you linked to. I listened to it on the way home.
I must say that Keith came across as overly militant and one-dimensional, although I still agree with much of what she had to say and the urgency in which she says it. There’s no time to mince words; the house is on fire.
I agree with Abram that true social justice and true environmentalism are inseparable. Social justice does not mean simply getting the material goodies from our current eco-alienating civilization. It means finding and creating a different set of living arrangements and economy from which all of humanity can share and take part in without being dependent on the earth-destroying machine of industrial capitalism. Resource depletion and the destruction of the land base make such a transition mandatory for the survival of mankind.
I also loved the other quirky and dystopic piece you linked to:
THE SONG OF THE SECRET NAME OF DOOFUS THE THIRD
Kingsnorth mentioned the apocalyptic novel entitled ‘Riddley Walker’ which sounds fascinating – something I’d like to read:
gotta pull this all back over to the left…
here’s a nod to Riddley (Captain) Walker…
and here are two really fine essays by Rember from McPherson’s site…