We humans continue to look at the destruction of nature only in terms of how it impacts humans. But the destruction of nature (and us, since we too are nature) is important for its own sake. After all, doesn’t the eagle, the salmon, the orca, the elephant, the mantis shrimp, the bear, the fir tree value its own life too? Don’t all these living beings deserve to live for their own sake?
We must reframe how we look at the world, and see ourselves not at the top of the hierarchy of beings, but rather as part of the web of life, with each living being as important to that web as every other. Humans used to know this, back when we hunted and gathered; it is woven into many indigenous cultures as part of the very fabric of being. And yet, most of us have forgotten. Most of us treat “nature” as property; as something that deserves to be valued only if it is useful to us humans in some way. This perspective on the world and our place is broken, and we need to fix it, or… or this amazing Earth and our belonging as we know it will cease to exist.
A March 23, 2018 article in The Guardian titled Destruction of nature as dangerous as climate change, scientists warn highlights just how fast we are destroying the natural world and the biodiversity that all life depends on. However, the introduction to the article is decidedly human-centric, focusing on the impact to us, rather than on the loss to every living being:
“Human destruction of nature is rapidly eroding the world’s capacity to provide food, water and security to billions of people, according to the most comprehensive biodiversity study in more than a decade.
Such is the rate of decline that the risks posed by biodiversity loss should be considered on the same scale as those of climate change, noted the authors of the UN-backed report, which was released in Medellin, Colombia on Friday.”
This human-centric perspective is echoed again in further comments from the scientists at the UN who sponsored the report. Achim Steiner, administrator of the UN Development Programme, said:
“Biodiversity and the ecosystem services it supports are not only the foundation for our life on Earth, but critical to the livelihoods and well-being of people everywhere.”
We have no chance to develop a healthier relationship with the planet we live on and all the beings we share it with if we do not stop seeing ourselves as supreme. It’s time to take ourselves off the top of the pedestal and join our fellow creatures in the web of life.
Graphic image of the web of life is by an unknown artist.