DebateWhy protecting nature is the wrong story

Why protecting nature is the wrong story

Previous articleTaken hostage
Next articleWhen dimensionality kicks in

Reading time: 3:30 min | As it seems, the Coronavirus’ worst impacts on us humans are retreating in Western countries. Hopefully, the rest of the world will benefit from modern inoculations too, and the pandemic will be history (until the next pandemic).

Many things can be learned from the pandemic, and that would fill a whole bookshelf, even a full-grown library. But I like to look at one particular effect that stroke me and others into landscape conservation early in the pandemic: when humanity caves in nature gains. It didn’t take years of lockdowns to create significant gains in climate gas reductions; it took weeks. The same happened to our fellow fauna. While we were locked up at home, they were thriving outdoors.

The formula when humanity caves in nature gains can be reverse-engineered to when nature should gain humanity must cave in This is a standard policy in nature conservation, proven many times over and over again. The Corona pandemic corroborated such policy even more. The idea follows a simple logic: keep nature alone, and all will be good.

I don’t believe that on various levels. And here is why:

  1. Please qualify good. Nature has no conscience. There’s no good and no bad with nature. Nature is a set of laws that control everything in the universe, humans, the beavers, the kingfishers, and cicadas. Nature killed the dinosaurs, created anthropoid apes (which one species we are), brought the Würm ice age to an end and subsequently eradicated the megafauna 15,000 years ago. And even if we define nature not as a bunch of natural forces but as the environment minus humanity, or human-free habitat for flora and fauna, it didn’t do good to all species on earth.
  2. Not everything in nature (or should I say everyone because, perhaps, animals are subjects like us humans) has the same power to survive. There are weaker and less weak animals or plants that can take over or lose ground until extinction looms. Cockroaches and rats seem to survive anything; the Dodo did not even survive a few decades of human company. I’m sure most of you would prefer the Dodo over rats. But Dodos are gone, and rats are here to stay. That’s unjust and brings us to 3.
  3. Nature and the environment can only be seen through our human eyes. There is no such thing as an objective look at the world that surrounds us. We are, naturally, the measure to things. We can’t help that. Even if we would try really hard, we can’t. For humanity, there is only one vantage point: our human view on things.

Our human eye loves painterly landscapes, romantic cliffs and impressive mountain. We love our dogs but despise the life of billions of pigs we hold in care. We can’t see the worth of dry grasslands or wet peatlands but hug trees. We are ready to kill for the survival of whales but shredder billions of male chickens daily.

We have a very unscientific view of things; our gut misleads us often severely. And if this weren’t bad enough, we add to the mix our sense of competition and the dreadful philosophy of the zero-sum game, developed in the stone ages. With that in the bag, we want to do good things and protect nature. We say it’s us or them (nature). We believe that consequent protection will fix the wrong-doings we brought on the world. We believe, the fewer humans, the better. We even go so far as to tell ourselves the planet would be better off without us. I’ve heard and read that line many times, I’m sure you too.

The sentiment that nature needs protection misses the point because it’s built upon the fictitious idea that humanity vs nature (with flora and fauna) exists in a problematic duopoly. That’s wrong. We’re part of nature. We’re part of the fauna: no othering, no polarisation, no duopoly. We need the flora and the fellow animals to survive as any other animal does. If we accepted that, we would make a big step in the right direction. We would understand that the relationship between humanity and nature is not a zero-sum game. We would realise that nature (in the sense of habitats), which we abused widely, which is more than often in bad shape, which in many cases stopped to be home of diverse flora and fauna, is that: ill. Like we are when we contract the Coronavirus and suffer from Covid-19.

That’s why I suggest stopping talking about protecting nature but start talking about healing nature. We should understand that nature is a living organism of extraordinary complexity. Like any other organism, nature has health, at least from our human scientific perspective (which is the only available, see 3. above). In a self-serving act, it should be our most pressing task to preserve nature’s health and heal nature when necessary. Like doctors do. Based on science. We’ve been tremendously successful in healing ourselves in the last century, accelerating breathlessly. Why not apply that concept to nature and our environment?

Bringing nature into lockdown and abandon it with the hope of relying exclusively on self-healing effects seems to be an odd idea.