Human industrial civilization is killing the planet. This we know. How do we know? Because every square mile of ocean has at least 50,000 pieces of floating plastic in it, because we burn 3 million gallons of fossil fuels every minute, because 90 percent of the large fish in the ocean and half of the world’s forests are gone.
When people ask “How can we stop climate change?” what they are really asking is “How can we stop climate change without substantially changing how we live on the planet?” and the answer is: we can’t. That’s like asking how we can save the salmon and the Orcas without removing dams, stopping industrial logging, stopping industrial agriculture, stopping industrial fishing, stopping industrial plastics, and stopping climate change. Again, the answer is: we can’t.
So the right question to ask is not “How can we stop climate change?”, the right question to ask is “Where is my loyalty?” And if our answer to the question “Where is my loyalty” is anything other than “With nature” then we can’t expect life on this planet to go on much longer.
We cannot live and thrive on this planet without functioning ecosystems, without abundant biodiversity, without clean air and a healthy climate, without clean water, without intact forests. When we place our loyalty with nature, everything else falls into place. When we place our loyalty with nature, everything we must do to stop climate change, to save the Orcas, to save the salmon, to save the forests becomes crystal clear. When we place our loyalty with nature, stopping climate change is easy.
We civilized industrial humans abdicated our loyalty to nature a long time ago, when we began extracting more from nature than we give back, in order to accumulate capital. Now-a-days we call this capitalism. We forgot that “nature” is in fact our family, our relatives, our life blood, and began to think of nature as our property. After a while, we civilized beings became so infected with the sickness we know as capitalism that we even wrote laws protecting our right to nature as property. Most people now believe that we have the right to treat nature as our property, which often means we believe we have the right to use it and destroy it. But this “property” — meaning rivers, trees, soil, animals, earth, water, air — is not ours to own. Rivers, trees, soil, animals, earth, water, and air are beings in their own right. They have been here longer than us and they will be here long after we’re gone. They have just as much right as we do — perhaps even more so — to exist and to flourish on Planet Earth.
How dare we treat nature as property!
Upton Sinclair wrote that it’s hard to make a man understand something when his salary depends on him not understanding it. Every aspect of how our current industrial civilization operates on Planet Earth depends on our not understanding that the trees, the rivers, the salmon, the orcas, the air we breathe, the entire living earth, are all our relatives, and that our very lives depend upon theirs.
Well it’s time to wake up. It’s time to pay attention. It’s time to understand. Nature is not our property. We are nature. Nature is our life blood. Nature has the right to exist and flourish. It’s time to place our loyalty with nature.
Image by me. This essay was inspired by Derrick Jensen and Deep Green Resistance.