Humane Conservation and the Earth as Home
Humanity is exploiting nature recklessly, without attention to the minimal health of ecosystems. Yet various societies are working to preserve animals, species, and habitats. An ecological philosophy is outlined as a basis for the united effort of these societies.Ecology supports the uniqueness of individuals in their life-worlds and the interrelatedness of species in communities. Psychological and geographical studies support the importance of healthy places for human beings. The concept of earth as home is proposed as a metaphor for the development of appropriate attitudes and participation in appropriate ways of living.
The list of animal deaths in the United States (Hoyt, 1984) in 1984 reads like a doomsday book of atrocities: 22,078 North Pacific fur seals clubbed to death; 17 million mammals trapped for fur(303 million throughout the world); 12 million unwanted pets put to death; 70 million laboratory animals used in experiments; 3.5 billion chickens killed for food; 700,000 cattle dead from transport-related injuries; 598,757 animals shot for sport on wildlife refuges.Although species are still being identified at the rate of 8,500 new insects species and 100 new fish species per year (Cousteau et al., 1984), probably 400 species are driven to a premature extinction and 1,000,000 species are threatened every year (Myers set al., 1984). Statistics for habitats are almost incomprehensible.Three billion cubic meters of wood are consumed annually. Twelve million hectares of forest are cleared annually and 10 million hectares are degraded. Marsh lands are filled in; coral reefs are mined; and grasslands are paved over. The human impact is not negligible. Over 450 million humans are chronically malnourished and 40 million die annually from hunger-related disease (Myers set al., 1984).
Yet people are ignorant of these facts and detached from the consequences of their personal actions. In a national study of American attitudes towards animals, Stephen Kellert (1983) found that the prevalent attitudes were humanistic (anthropocentric)and negative (either the affection for or avoidance of individual animals, usually pets), and moralistic and utilitarian (concern for the treatment or use of animals). The natural and ecological views were less prevalent.
Results regarding recognition and knowledge of animals indicated that Americans were most knowledgeable about animals known to inflict injury and about domestic animals. Endangered species were least known. On wildlife issues, 32 percent of the respondents had never heard of the baby seal controversy. More that 70 percent of the people questioned about the Tellico Dam/Snail Darter issue were unaware of it.
We are distanced from what we cannot see--whales, otters, microbes--and from what we cannot understand--the Amazonian forest. So much is outside our experience. We are incapable of responsibility.Helpless, afraid, we become more detached. We cannot express what is wrong.
Language has always had difficulty describing actions and things in the world. If each unique thing or action were named, speaking would become a burdensome impossibility. Paradoxically, in being spoken, language avoids being an inert catalog; it progresses outward from the body of the speaker toward the world, metaphorically.The concept of metaphor has been defined and used for over twenty centuries. Metaphorical attitudes toward nature were changing.Where Wordsworth saw consolation, joy and wisdom in nature, Tennyson saw nature "red in tooth and claw." If, for Shakespeare,our bodies were gardens tended by will, many saw their bodies as machines.
The advent of the machine made processes of order more amenable to description. Although only a closed system, the machine was a fruitful metaphor for living systems. The theory of the living organism as a mechanical contrivance explained biological phenomena from the physiology of an organism to the processes of cells.From the mechanical machine to the cybernetic machine, the metaphor was successful at explaining detailed processes without answering fundamental questions of meaning.
According to Thomas Kuhn (1970), there is no methodological evolution of science; rather, normal science progresses by a succession of paradigms, which he described as noncompetitive and open-ended.He states that paradigms are the traditions described by historians under rubrics such as: Ptolemaic or Copernican astronomy; Aristotelian or Newtonian dynamics. These examples include law, theory, application,and instrumentation together, and provide models from which the traditions of scientific research spring. In his view, science proceeds by working out problems uncovered by each current paradigm.Should problems occur that can not be ignored, suppressed or resolved,then a revolution occurs to replace the paradigm. The new paradigm has to include all the old data as well as the new problematical data. Metaphoric systems are the core of structural coherence.For Kuhn, a metaphor is the vital spirit of a paradigm.
Science makes use of the metaphorical process to construct its models. Bacon referred to true metaphor as "the footsteps of nature." "Man is an animal" (Pribram). "Man is a system" (Laszlo). "Man is a computer" (Arbib).Kenneth Boulding offered the perfect machine metaphor for the operation of the earth: as a spaceship. As a metaphor, it suggested the limits of earth and the value of a limited life-support system.Machine metaphors for the body, animals, the earth, and the solar system, were illuminating for a while. But they have been extended too far. The body is not a machine; animals are not devoid of consciousness.
The technological paradigm has reached its limits. Data and information developed by hard studies have undercut the paradigms that guided their investigation. When a paradigm shifts, perceptions change. There was a paradigm change in metaphor from machine to organic system that undermined atomism and animism alike in developmental biology. The notion of organicism can be traced from Taoism through Leibnitz, Goethe, Whitehead, to Naess (1972) and the deep ecology movement.
Deep ecology forms part of a new metaphor that is more appropriate to the unity and interrelatedness of the earth. Lack of a proper metaphor can lead to illness (Shepard, 1982). Deep ecology can provide a healthy metaphor for living. The metaphor of the earth as home. Humane and Conservation societies have already pointed the way.
As animals have been exploited, the humane movement has sought their protection from cruelty and 'needless suffering.' All animals--domestic,captive, and wild--have been defended by the Humane Society. It defends the 'welfare of pets, livestock, laboratory animals, and wildlife.' Its members speak for creatures that otherwise would be victims of abuse 'in the arenas of sport,' research, and farming.The traditional humane movement is based on the assumption that when an animal comes under human domination, it is entitled to fair treatment. Because of the 'pandomination' of humanity, humane ideas have been extended to wild animals. The society extends its umbrella to animal hunting, experimentation, and neglect,as well as the human poor and war victims.
He concludes that the first three arguments are not sufficient to save animals. Animals are inefficient; substitutes for their products can be created chemically. "Ecologically, all the creatures in ecosystems are not equally necessary to it ... although it cannot be proved that their presence does not add a little to the efficiency or the stability of the whole." Shepard says the ethical argument is not new; its application is ambiguous because 'unlimited rights' will conflict with human interest.
Shepard's defense of nonhuman life is "minding animals".It is not dependent on changing technology or idealistic ethics.Animals present us with related otherness. The human mind needs animals in order to develop and work. Animals are code images for ideas; they shape cognition, self-identity, self-consciousness.This is a good argument, but incomplete. Plants, rock, and water shape us; and wind and fire. As for economic value, it is a function of our state of knowledge; penicillium was just mold before Flemming amplified antibiotics from it; wheat was a natural before hybridized with a weed, goat grass. Animals and plants are the source of economics. The ethical argument will be expanded shortly.
Many humane magazines present animals abstracted from any natural setting. They concentrate on animals that are cute or are symbolic of human virtues. Animals perceived as ugly, microfauna and microflora,responsible for organic recycling, are ignored. Animals need to be considered in communities.
The Defenders and Care for Species
Through speciation, orders of animals and plants probe the environment.A species is thought of as a morphological extension of its niche,but the niche extender enriches nature. The species that enlarges its niche also enlarges the ecology as a whole, it expands the environment for itself and others. An expanding whole is created by diversification and enrichment of the parts.
Paul Colinvaux (1978) states that species result from the process of avoiding struggles for existence. Yet they are still related.Alan Watts developed a metaphor of species on earth as heads of a hydra; each has some autonomy and finite life, but is part of a longer-lived whole (referred to in Klopfer). The notion of human separateness may be an illusion of imperfect senses or an underdeveloped brain. Speciation is a great invention of nature.Although individual species, and certainly individual animals,may not be necessary to its functioning, the richness of nature depends on complexity.
The Defenders of Wildlife organization sponsors an endangered species campaign. In a recent issue of their regular magazine,the Defenders presented the plight of the red-cockaded woodpecker,a native of the pine forests of the Southern United States. This bird is a highly territorial, highly social bird, with a very narrow range of habitat. Colonies of the bird are so territorial that relocation after nest abandonment occurs in less than one percent of observed cases. Unfortunately, the habitat is coveted by developers and military bases alike. The species cannot behaved unless the habitat is saved.
Argument for Species
Shepard (1978) argues that we cannot show that large mammals and endangered species are really indispensable to their ecosystems."Elephants could be removed from the productive lands of Africa and bred in zoos." He continues by pointing out that the habitat does not die; the communities are intact. "Ecology cannot prove that the whole requires any one, or ten, species of large animals for its continuation." He claims that species rework their reciprocities others vanish.
That argument is fallacious. For example, elephants are grazers by choice, but their browsing activity, which breaks or tears up bushes and thickets, actually opens up the bushland in a way that is beneficial to grass. Without elephant activity, a diverse mosaic would be thick scrub (Eltringham, 1979). Elephants can also destroy trees, making them more susceptible to fires, and prevent regeneration of woodland. Elephant relationships with plants are highly cyclic, also. Without elephants, the whole range of species would shift to those preferring scrublands.
Perhaps it would be better to say that all species are necessary but not sufficient to a system. That is, the system can survive as a system without large species, but it is reduced accordingly.Hippopotami and crocodiles are necessary to theirs also. Hippopotami support fish populations in lakes and rivers with the minute animals in their excrement. As hippos are eliminated, the fish population dwindles, and native human populations have less protein. Similarly,alligators play an important role in the equilibrium of the Florida Everglades. The alligator creates pools by digging in damp soil;these pools become lairs of fish that eat mosquito larva. The pool also serves as a refuge to more species, including birds,in times of drought. Every species is "useful" in nature:as expressions of variety, niche makers, and feeling beings. According to Eugene Odum (1972), any heterotroph that consumes autotrophs and excretes matter (with inorganic ions) contributes to the circulation of nutrients and minerals in proportion to its respiration. It contributes to the energy flow of the system. It is an interlinking the chain or net or web. By killing off select species, humans are changing the character of ecosystems, possibly reducing stability and diversity. Fox (1980b) states that "No species is more--or less--important than another, even if the ecosystem were to remain relatively unchanged in the absence of one species ..."
Shepard considers a human association devoted to each species of wild animal, so that every creature on earth would have a human constituency. If land and water use were required to face review by survival committees for each organism, no other environmental safety system would be necessary. Leagues dedicated to single species would accomplish little, however. Animals live in communities and are parts of food chains. Emphasis on endangered species does not address habitat; often, it does not consider other species or individuals.
International Union and Care for Habitats
Earth is a mosaic of cells of communities; the cells have boundaries like rivers or climates that occasionally break down and allow invasion and transformation. It is possible to define close but not exact subsystems, that is, ecosystems. The vast number of interrelationships between systems keeps them open. For example,grassland is affected by climates, soil conditions, fires, surrounding communities, and human agents. Each locality supports a segment of the total species population in a unique context, with a particular set of predators, competition, food, physical habitat.
The goal of the World Conservation Strategy of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN)is to identify important biological areas that do not have adequate protection. Priority habitats include tundra, desert, Antarctic ice cap, tropical deciduous forest, and islands. Large areas of representative ecosystems should be preserved to insure natural processes and diversity. Recent IUCN Bulletin Supplements have addressed the conservation strategies of Zambia, Nepal, and the Philippines. Yet national conservation has a nagging reputation as an elitist plot by industrial powers.
Argument for Habitats
Unlike a cat or dog, or panda or coyote, a desert or rain forest does not evoke sympathy. Worse, many habitats are perceived as useless or dangerous, composed of sand or wet leaves, harboring leaches and snakes. This is a public image difficulty, not a cosmological constant. The problem is more typical of industrial peoples, who draw raw materials from a variety of systems (compare Dasmann's idea of ecosystem people versus world people). The majority of people are still directly dependent on an ecosystem, and their view of it is different.The Mbuti pygmies view their Congo forest as generous and friendly.The Pueblo Indians see their American desert as a providential home, because of attachment and knowledge. Saving habitats means saving large areas of land. It means placing wilderness, which is support for cultivated and industrial areas, as well as natural communities, off limits to development and perhaps any use.
Shepard concludes that the consequences of technological civilization are either exile or sanctuary; and sanctuary is the only solution available to the humanitarian ideology. The idea of sanctuary recognizes the multiplicity of factors necessary for viable populations.But, although there are sanctuaries for frogs and ferrets, it would be impossible to establish one for every creature. Shepard discounts the humanitarian objective as considering only "worthy species. If all species were considered, the whole planet would end up as a sanctuary. He considers a 19th century political solution,when space was unlimited. He describes sanctuary as an unfeasible arrangement, in evolutionary terms as allopatric (life not occurring together). Shepard states that exile (extirpation or extinction)and sanctuary are allopatric choices--Allopatry from the base word for fatherland. Throughout, the etymologies of words trace traditional thought--is consistent with the tradition of personal property, domination of nature, and model of the nation state.
What Shepard has overlooked is that humanity was never sympatric.It never lived together (the meaning of sympatry) with major carnivores.So allopatry is consistent with the nonexploitation and nondomination of nature as well. Sanctuary as personal property or as nonhuman property is a moot point if habitats are saved from destruction.Domestication and enslavement are sympatric forms. A conservation program, despite Shepard's argument, cannot be based solely on sympatry, although at the planetary level, all beings are sympatric.Not all species occur together in the same place. Sympatry describes only those that do. At the habitat level, allopatry is "intelligent"use of available resources by animal communities. Large herbivores,such as elephants and rhinoceros, may choose poorer quality food and avoid competition with smaller animals and exploit an untapped food source. Many interactions between different species contribute to the mutual benefit of the members of the community, as well as the community itself. Humanity must be allopatric with most wild species and allow them to develop independently in their own places.
Competition was once considered the basic interaction between individuals and species. The better adapted organisms survived and reproduced; others died, after violent struggles. Darwin (1964)also perceived nature as violent. "Thus, from the war of nature, from famine and death...the production of the highest animals, directly follows." Nature is seen as a pyramid of death, a slaughter of all by all, even by contemporary philosophers and biologists (Rodman, Lehmann, Birch). The processes of nature considered inhumane. They see nature clearly, in Tennyson's words,'red in tooth and claw'. But it is not so.
Cooperation is as an effective strategy as competition, and as necessary. Survival of the fitter is correct only up to a point;beyond that it is survival of the more cooperative. Neil Evernden(1981) notes that organisms, unlike the standard Darwinian description of them, go to absurd lengths to avoid direct competition. What are recognized as species are a rainbow of attempts to avoid competition,to share the life-base. Diversity enhances the potential for survival.Arne Naess (1972) states that "live and let live" is a more powerful principle than either/or.
A number of old and recent studies in ethology have stressed the use of cooperation instead of struggle. Herman Reinheimer(1910) characterized organisms as bioeconomic traders, that put cooperation before competition. P.A. Kropotkin (1972), in his work, concluded that the element of cooperation in animal life,even between different species, was more impressive than instances of competition. Many more recent studies stress the primary use of cooperation as opposed to struggle: K. Lorenz, M.W. Fox, and G. Schaller. L.L. Whyte (1965) considered even genetic inheritance to occur by rules of cooperation.
The mycologist Heinrich deBary coined the word "symbiosis"in 1876 (or 1879) to describe "living together." (from the Greek word sumbioein, meaning 'to live together.' Etymologies of words are used only to trace traditional thought.) It defined a constant and intimate relationship between two dissimilar species.Such economy of effort is very common in nature. Living together is convenient for food and protection. Symbiosis has considerable ecological importance. Herbivores, such as cattle or sheep, depend on intestinal microflora for digesting grass--for survival. Two species that live together closely enough are biologically symbiotic.Symbiosis acts as a higher level store of genetic information;a lichen is fungus plus algae, where each is part of environment for the other. It may benefit the individual (Lincicome, 1969).There are elements of symbiosis in wolf-deer predation. In one sense, all interactions are positive and symbiotic on the planetary level. Symbiosis is a necessary and beneficial relationship.
Cooperation is a natural rule. It creates communities, living entities in ecological balance. There is a wisdom of life, a "biosophy"in Stephan Lackner's (1984) words. In spite of the emphasis on competition and survival from predation, Lackner notes that there are peaceful habitats; the predator less islands that Darwin knew,African lakes filled with flamingos. Lackner notes that the largest mammals--elephants, hippopotami--are vegetarian; the smallest insects--gnats, mayflies--are too small to be preyed upon. George Schaller (1972) estimates that less than ten percent of the grazing animals on the Serengeti die of violence. Karl Popper (1982) conjectures that besides the theory of the hostile environment (passive Darwinism),there is a complementary theory of the friendly environment. Many organisms are active explorers, searching for new, friendly environments.Birch and Cobb (1981) consider that the richness of the world and the freshness of response are matters of novelty.
No interaction can dominate without sad consequences. If all plants were symbiotic and none were competitive, there would be no trees or flowers. Most of these interactions are not simple, but are complex and paradoxical. For example, parasitism on an individual level may have benefits on a species level. The predator/prey pair are not excluding opposites, but generate a whole unity,an autonomous domain where there is complementarity, stabilization,and survival values for both. There is no real opposition in natural systems.
Waddington (1960) said that the "general anagenesis of evolution is towards what may be crudely called richness of experience."The goal of all creatures is to come into the fullness of being(spontaneous flowering). For Whitehead, all living things have three urges: 'to live, to live well, and to live better' (from The Function of Reason: Living better is being more attuned, stimulated,integrated, receptive, and spontaneous).
Adolf Portmann (1964) shows that every form of life appears as a gestalt with a specific development in space-time. All living forms develop an image of their environments. Genetics provides the proper image choices for some--frogs, for instance. Others must learn what is valuable using their senses. Animals have their own universes that are strange and fascinating. Reality is immeasurably greater than the human idea of it. Jakob von Uexkull (1957) suggests representing the unfamiliar world of animals with bubbles to denote the self-world or phenomenal world of an animal. According to von Uexkull, perceptual and effector worlds form a closed unit,the umwelt. "Figuratively speaking each animal grasps its object with two arms of a forceps: receptor and effector. With the first it invests the object with perceptual meaning, with the second operational meaning."
The world--life-image--is what has meaning for an organism.It is a focus. The first principle of the life-image theory is that all animals from the simplest to complex are "fitted to their unique worlds with equal completeness." A simple world corresponds to simple animal; a well-articulated world to a complex animal. Von Uexkull implies that the human world is only one of the many possible. Animals are not suboptimal beings relegated by evolution to second-rate habitats. They are optimally fitted.
Equality of Experience
The human mind usually gives direction to the process of evolution.Evolution is considered a building up of complexity, when it should be regarded as an unfolding of patterns. Evolution is not a hierarchical ladder or escalator going up and up, but a series of adapted forms;the goal of each is fulfillment. Darwin wrote a note for himself(Singer, 1981), "Never use the words higher and lower."He did not want anyone to believe that evolution was a purposive movement toward a goal. He considered it the result of natural forces. Recently, Hobart Smith (1984) has considered the categories of higher and lower, with their connotations of superior and inferior, as anachronistic. Although there may be chronological differences in the development of species, each surviving species is well-adapted to the environment.
Animals and plants radiate through the environments. Evolution does not have just one direction. It can be regarded as varieties of styles of life, as the "pattern mixed-upness" of Merleau-Ponty (1968, perhaps based on the "mixed-up-ness"of physicist Willard Gibbs). Rather than relying on evolution for metaphysics, Merleau-Ponty called for a kind of "phenomenal topology" of things as they loom upward bodily around us.All forms fit themselves into a changing environment. In a strange and complex earth, other species fit in places that humans cannot.Naess (1972) offers a biospherical egalitarianism, where all beings have an equal right to live and blossom. Rejecting human superiority entails an egalitarian doctrine of species impartiality.
Ecology: Knowledge of the Home
The study of life in place is ecology (from the Greek word oikos,a dwelling place or house. 'Economy' derives from oikonomia, household management.) Ecology is knowledge of the house, as economy is its management. Although economics provided the model for ecology,few ideas on environmental limits and interdependence were taken from ecology. Ecology is not a division of economics; if anything,economics is a division of ecology. Ecology deals with the relationships of organisms to environments. It is not a reductive discipline,and not amenable to easy quantification. The joy of ecology is variety. In nature variety emerges spontaneously, as the capacities of new species are tested by the environment. Its basic premise is interrelatedness. The interpenetration of boundaries makes humans less discrete, less alone.
Human Symbiosis with Earth
Our bodies contain the ashes of stars; human cell structure is shared with trees; human brain patterns are shared with reptiles,birds, and mammals. We share our bodies and land with hundreds of species of bacteria, fungus, insects, that are beneficial.As Lewis Thomas (1973) shows, our human bodies are living communities,hosting amoeba in the blood, mitochondria in the cells, bacteria in the intestines. We are connected to the largest and smallest beings. We are part of a food chain (Soleri, 1983). Naess (1972)rejects the image of man-in-environment for the relational, total-field image. He characterizes organisms as knots in the biospherical net, a field with intrinsic relations. The relationship with other beings is part of the basic constitution of a being. Fitness has more to do with cooperation in complex relationships than with the ability to kill or suppress.
Under a broad definition, human activities such as planting trees, growing corn, raising camels, qualify as symbiosis. Without suitable places for livestock, or with cruelty to animals, the symbiotic element disappears, and the human relationship is parasitic.With care, domestic animals benefit from association. The same can be true of pets, bats, owls, coyotes, rats, and cats. Humanity is part of the system. The earth is a loosely formed spherical organism, with all its working parts in symbiosis. Leopold described conservation as an attempt to harmonize civilization with the land towards a "universal symbiosis" (Leopold, 1949).Dubos (1980) sees "humankind and Earth as constituting a diversity of systems of symbiosis that constantly undergo adaptive changes and thus contribute to a continuous evolutionary process..."
Humanity is embedded in the earth (Merleau-Ponty, 1968). From the oldest language we know, the Indo-european tongue, we took the word for earth and turned it into humus and human (earth-born,dhghem=earth-->humanus in Latin-->human in English) Yet the word for man was shaped into man-image, world (Indo-European wiros=man-->weorold in O. English-->world) One word progresses from earth to human, the other from human to earth. We cannot be any closer to the earth and its processes, since the parts are combined in us. We are indissolubly one with nature. The German poet Novalis (Bly, 1980) equated man and metaphor, as the blueprint of the world. "Man=Metaphor," stated Novalis. "We are looking for the blueprint of the world--that is what we are ourselves."
We mistakenly conclude that our skin is the boundary to ourselves.But intuition also senses the interdependence of nature. We extend the boundaries of personality to other things and people. The human skin is like a pond surface, according to Paul Shepard.The skin's interpenetration enobles and extends the self--the beauty and complexity of nature are continuous with ourselves.We know subjectively that we are not separate from the earth,that wolves are capable of love and tenderness, that trees are beautiful. Edward Wilson (1984) argues that the essence of humanity is inextricable tied to life on the planet. Biophilia is the natural affinity for life, and central to the evolution of the mind.
Our species has been shaped by the earth. The desire to save forests,wetlands--all natural ecosystems is a expression of deep human values or perhaps a more basic survival instinct. Experience of wildness lets us capture some of our own wildness and authenticity.Our emotional response to the unfathomability of the ocean or luminosity of the desert is an expression of aspects of our fundamental being that are still in resonance with these forces. We know these things.John Fowles (1979) judged experience "quintessentially wild,"irrational, uncontrollable, and incalculable. It corresponded with wild nature.
Perception of the body as landscape and of natural terrain as a body is as fundamental to psychology as it is to mythology.We depend completely on the natural environment, physically and psychologically. D.O. Hebb has conducted experiments that show the effects of a limited environment. Cut off from external stimuli,the mind becomes strange. The external world is needed to keep us alive and sane. This world is composed of remote occurrences,on polar icecaps and distant stars, as well as immediate personal events. The person is inextricably woven with the world. This bond of betweenness constitutes the foundation of an understanding of other species. What is impaired in the absence of a rich ecology is the individual's knowledge of himself, not only as a person,but as a member of a species.
Mental health can be related to the quality of the landscape,as Dubos, Passmore, Shepard, and others have done. The ecological health of civilization depends on an environment that is healthy,that is, has sufficient wilderness to renew air, water, genetic resources. For Skolimowski, Ecophilosophy entails health-consciousness.Humans are complex fields of force that are maintained through effort. To be healthy is to be on good terms with the earth. In the taoist view, also, sickness is a symptom of disharmony with the universe. Taking care of health means taking responsibility for the focus of the universe that is the self.
Participation in Existence
John Rodman (1977) offers a participatory image of humanity, as an integral part of food chain and part of an organic cycle of birth and death. Humans need to recognize that they automatically participate in everything, and that they cannot unparticipate by choice. We know that from the quantum level, through the ecological and cultural. Human nature does not find meaning in an absurd world, but discovers its structure through interaction with the ultrahuman order. Human identity exists partly in relation to nature; the destruction of one involves the other. An act of 'ecological resistance' is an affirmation of the integrity of the naturally diverse self and world. The meaning of such an act is not exhausted by success or failure in linear sequence of events. One is aligned with the ultimate order of things by ritual action, by the affirmation of value.
Humans use an incomplete source of value for nonhuman beings;the source is human need. Human need shapes facts. As Goethe recognized,all fact is theory, a blend of perception, imagination, and needs.Abraham Maslow (1968) established a hierarchy of human needs,beginning with food and continuing through social acceptance to self-actualization. Vital human needs are based on the health of the earth. Human needs could be extended to include a foundation of wilderness. Nature, which is self-supporting and self-managing,is a life-support system. Human systems depend on natural ones,for recycling of wastes, water, and air.
Skolimowski (1981) identifies a new moral order to address values. One should behave to enhance life, as a condition of evolution,to enhance the ecosystem, and to enhance capacities of the highest form: consciousness, creativity, and compassion. Arne Naess (1972)presents a deep movement alternative to the shallow fight against resource depletion and pollution. Deep ecology is inspired and fortified by ecological knowledge derived from experience, not logic. Its tenets are normative. Its value system is only partly based on scientific research. The movement is ecophilosophical;Naess offers the term ecosophy, which means 'wisdom of the house.'Ecosophy is a philosophy of ecological harmony. It contains both value judgments and hypotheses.
Ecology can expand the narrow human-centered evaluation and see things from viewpoint of nature. Lovejoy's Great Chain of Being traces the deductive order in classical nature from Greeks to German idealism. But Lamark inverted the chain in his theory of transformism; mind is immanent and can determine transformations.Although the hypothesis of inherited characteristics was rejected by Darwin, who shared that hypothesis but denied mind as an explanatory principle, both Lamark and Darwin inverted the value of life.By inverting the great chain of being, Lamarck escaped the directive that the perfect must precede the imperfect. The result of Elton's(1966) food chain was the realization that the bottom link--plants--is the most important.
Francis of Assisi was the exception to the general attitude of Christianity: compassion to man only. He tried to unite the compassion of Christianity and the animistic sense of union with the natural world. Natural processes take on an expression of significance of their own without reference to man. All things have an inhuman value of their own. St. Francis tried to depose man from his monarchy and set up a democracy of all God's creatures.In parallel, the Taoists saw that we were indistinguishable from other creatures; if we seemed distinguishable, it was through our feelings of self-importance. Lao Tse turned pyramid of human values upside down. As there are more commoners than aristocrats,there is a net gain to the success of the community (Welch, 1966).
Humans have stripped the world of qualities and significance and claimed them for themselves. By valuing humans alone, we make value subjective and end up without value. Ecological philosophy reclaims value by placing it at the center of life. Whitehead as stated that existence is the upholding of value intensity;for itself and shared with the universe, from which it cannot be separate. Everything that exists has two sides: its individual self and its signification for the universe. Each aspect is a factor in the other. Whitehead (1967) finds: "Remembering the poetic rendering of our concrete experience, we see at once that the element of value, of being valuable, of having value,of being an end in itself, of being something which is for its own sake, must not be omitted in any account of an event... "Human values come from knowing what is valuable in nature. Values usually encode information having survival or prestige importance.Perhaps the most valuable thing is living time. Then experience of life--aesthetics, from the Greek meaning perception--is also valuable. This may be why humans value walking in the woods or observing the production of art. Natural processes are their own purpose and constitute their own value. A growing tree is; it does not have to demonstrate or prove.
Perhaps we should not argue that things have value in the human system. Let us just respect the nonhuman system. Bees have bee value; wolves have wolf value. Wolves are not efficient at binding nitrogen; neither are humans. Lichen are poor predators, but they break apart rock better than bighorns. From a functional point of view, all beings are equal. In ecocentric perspective, all beings have intrinsic value and are equally important.
Every being has an intrinsic value, before any utilitarian value to humanity. Associations of plants and animals are just as unique as their components. The value of wild nature is its independence and wildness. If we can admit the independence of nature, that things continue in their own complex way, we may feel more respect.We can contemplate with admiration, sense as well as manipulate.The emergence of new moral attitudes depends on a more realistic philosophy of nature.
Reverence for Life
Albert Schweitzer thought that ethical thought had been developing since prehuman history and that it culminated in the principle of reverence for life. Schweitzer (1957) challenges ethics: "Letit dare, then, to accept the thought that self-devotion must stretch out not simply to mankind but to all creation, and especially to all life in the world within reach of humanity. Let it rise to the conception that the relation of man to man is only an expression of the relation in which he stands to all being and to the world in general." Our attitudes are grounded in a belief system that constitutes a particular world view. The system constitutes a coherent whole. With Schweitzer, the system began to shift toward a biocentric outlook. The concept of reverence (Ehrfurcht, meaning honor-fear in German) offered some respectability for nature through a proper attitude. Schweitzer proposed an ethics derived from Christian ethics (but really larger) that affirmed the world.But reverence for life sometimes conflicts with the Christian paradigm, which is just a particular manifestation. And it can lead to an instrumental ethic.
But Schweitzer's reverence entailed a constant effort to make excruciating decisions. His attitude was a noblesse oblige toward lesser species, based on a Christian idealism and on a mistaken image of nature as brutish and dumb. During human evolution, the circle of responsibilities widened, from the family, to tribe,nation, humanity, and now toward all life. Although Schweitzer noted that the circle of knowledge was widening, also, he felt the streams were divergent, that ethics had nothing to gain from understanding nature, and furthermore, that there was no hope of finding meaning in natural phenomena. His ethic was not based on ecological knowledge. His reverence for life principle acquires a new aspect when it is restored to ontologically and ecologically firm ground.
Ethics and Knowledge
The effectiveness of ethics, however, depends on a scientific knowledge of the way the world works. The Aztecs based an ethic on imperfect knowledge of the sun, and suffered disastrously.Julian Huxley stated that knowledge of ecology is necessary for responsibility for the future of the earth. The correction for ignorance of ecology is knowledge of the home system. The correction for nonacceptance of death is a generalized concept of reverence for life. Death is a part of life, but not a driving force. The reverence for life has to be based on an ecological ethic, that understands the necessity of predation as well as altruism. Killing as well as saving. Reverence for life must include awareness of natural laws. Wolves need deer and mice to survive, as much as they need wolves to be healthy. Human intervention into natural communities must be responsible, not sentimental. The concept of reverence allows the center to be everywhere.
Knowledge by itself, however, merely permits a more efficient utility. That utility can be seen in Singer, the animal rights philosopher, as well as in Hoyt, the Director of the Humane Society,who referred to animals as (1984) "one of our nations' most precious natural resources..." The problem with utilitarian ethics is that it permits the use and exploitation of any natural object, including human beings. Based on a limited science, the ethic failed to see those beings and communities for which no use was known.
Knowledge cannot be the sole basis of decision making. It is always incomplete and therefore cannot describe all aspects of the earth that bear on human life or environmental quality. Knowledge must be humane. Abraham Maslow (1971) saw the organism as having biological wisdom; it can be trusted as autonomous, self-governing and self-choosing. To examine organisms, and nature in general,we must shift to a taoistic approach, asking rather than telling,observing rather than manipulating; receptive and passive, not active and forceful; "nonintruding," and noncontrolling.It stresses noninterfering observation rather than controlling manipulation; it is receptive rather than forceful. This is part of the paradox of duality; it is detached yet concerned; free yet committed; and independent yet responsible.
Classical objectivity may be contrasted with taoist, which is another path to objectivity with greater perception. Loving perception provides kinds of knowledge not available to non lovers;this is especially true in ethological literature. Maslow cites his own work with monkeys. Lorenz, Tinbergen, Schaller, Van Lowick-Goodall,and Fox have found it to be true. This is the way a good psychotherapist,teacher, scientist, parent, or friend functions.
Ethics are assembled inductively, from experience in living places. Because of the uncertainty of human actions, ethics has to encompass the far past and distant future. No one knew that when DDT killed mosquitoes, it would concentrate to kill birds.Values are time dependent, and ecological time can be very long indeed. The futures we invent are viable only if compatible with constraints imposed by evolutionary past. An ecological ethic recognizes all human endeavors as part of nature. We have a moral obligation to leave the world habitable for future generations of humans. An ethics that requires a long-range responsibility also requires a new humility. Our technological power exceeds our ability to foresee its consequences.
Leopold has proposed a conservation ethic, dealing with human relationships to land, plants and animals. The land ethic Leopold had in mind was a sense of ecological community between man and other species. When we see land as community to which we belong,we will use it with love and respect. Such an ethic would change the human role from master of earth to plain member of it. Leopold(1949) describes the extension of ethics as "actually a process in ecological evolution. Its sequences may be described in ecological as well as in philosophical terms. An ethic, ecologically, is a limitation on freedom of action in the struggle for existence.An ethic, philosophically, is a differentiation of social from anti-social conduct. These are two different definitions of one thing. The thing has its origin in the tendency of interdependent individuals or groups to evolve modes of cooperation."
An evolutionary ethic suggests that humans avoid tampering with complex evolved systems, not because they are good, but because they are the basis of life at this stage of development. Ecological ethics is situational. Because ecology is the study of a changing system. The morality of the act is determined by the current state of the system. Adaptive modes should conform to ecological patterns.An ecological ethics is based on attributes of ecosystems and human compliance with ecological laws.
The aim of an ethic must be harmonious to the total ideas of the world's population of living beings. Fox (1980a) proposes a biospiritual ethic as a unifying set of principles, ethics and values that will bring about a nonconflicting state of one earth, one mind.The ethic is based on the biological fact that all humans and living beings are kin and that life is spiritual--love is stronger than violence. It arises from seeing humanity in an ecological perspective.
Reverence must include all natural and artificial beings and things and fields, from atoms to weeds, computers to galaxies.Atoms, molecules, and organic cycles are parts of humanity. We must revere all the arrangements of earth stuff. The greatest human dignity follows from respectfulness of everything as meaningful as ourselves. Such a reverence would treat all substances of the earth as precious, to be used carefully, if at all--and certainly not for the flood of mass-produced consumer items. It would include all human artifacts, manufactures, and societies. It would promote a society where individuals would live in close contact with natural support systems. It would provide each with the aesthetic necessities of life, to develop all capacities. Reverence can only be felt at the alienness of nature, not its comfortable conquest.
A new metaphysics, that is genuinely nonanthropocentric, would be the best foundation for ecological concern. St. Francis calls for a radical rejection of anthropocentrism. This implies a rejection of technological domination and fosters an attitude of letting beings be. Rather than ask the purpose of existence, we should accept that it exists, in place, in an ecological whole. Every being has a right to be and express itself and to seek fulfillment.
All organisms, including human ones, are continuous with nature.In ancient philosophies, being was the ground of ethics. Modern philosophy divorced the two. But a revised image of nature reunites them. Ethics is ultimately grounded in the order of things, the ordo creationis. Being is universal; everything has value in itself by virtue of its existence. Therefore every human action that affects the ultrahuman world has significance. There is nothing that does not have value. For Plato, knowledge and value were combined. Therefore, every human action has ethical consequences.
The basis of all value is being (the verb form). It is reality undistorted by human needs. Of course, humanity can still enhance nature with its presence, in a nonexploitable manner. The reverence for beings as they are is the law of noninterference. In nature,the law of noninterference means 'letting be' (Heidegger), 'letting alone' (Wilson), and 'not killing for pleasure' (Fox). Noninterference is not indifference, which is diffuse. It is caring. Noninterference will not lead to chaos, poverty, and stagnation. The technocratic vision strives for "life under control," but the earth is self-managing, productive, efficient, and orderly.
The human ordering of the world makes places from wilderness.A place changes qualitatively; it becomes structured. Natural complexity decreases as the human increases, although the two are not mutually exclusive. Fitness is achieved after slow progressive reciprocal adaptations; it requires a stability of relationships between societies and the place. Human places are complex integrations of nature and culture that develop in particular locations. The place precedes knowledge of it. The knowledge of place is one of the first links in chain of knowledge. This knowing is essential to our existence. Being human is having and knowing a place. Only learning flowing from hospitable presence can promote life and enhance human existence.
Shepard (1967) suggests that for each individual the organization of thinking and meaning is intimately related to specific places.Experience focuses on a place, which acts as the background for specific events. The features of world are experienced meaningfully.The place is a matrix for ordering experience. The specificity of place is important. The earth extrudes itself into particular plants and animals; flexes mountains; and sweats weather. Places animate (from the Latin anima, meaning 'inspire') people. The inspiration of the sentiment of dependence is called impregnation.Animals and humans are imprinted early in life to particular places(philopatry). Each difference in the landscape has meaning, as when the aborigines of Northwest Australia perceive physical differences and even a symbolic landscape. In fact they structure space according to myth, where Europeans use buildings and roads.Every place has a unique identity, a persistent sameness as a result of combinations of factors. Topophilia (Tuan, 1974), love of place, is the recognition that all human beings have affective ties with the material environment.
The attachment to a place is rootedness. Von Uexkull describes the importance of rootedness in his concept of life-world. Simone Weil (1955) regarded rootedness as "perhaps the most important and least recognized need of the human soul." Rootedness arises from participation in a place. It is the need for order,liberty, security, status, and responsibility. A deep relationship with a place is necessary. Without it, existence loses much of its significance. Caring for a place involves concern and responsibility.This attitude is similar to one described by Martin Heidegger(1960) as caring (Sorge).Care is the recognition that a human being is a participant in the world. It is tolerance for the essence of a place; absorption in a place; concern, the willingness to not change or exploit.
One ecological benefit of rootedness is that people will take care of a place if they realize they are going to be there for a thousand years. Having a place means that the inhabitant has stock in it and participates in its unfolding, through planting and caring. Detailed understanding of plants in a locale allow gathering of food and medicine. People cultivating a sense of place are people in place. Their work can be appropriate; appropriate growing, logging, mining, or building. People in place acquire a sense of community, nonhuman and human; a shared set of values and concerns; health and spiritual benefit.
Portmann observed that insects and animals displayed a powerful attachment to places; that it was best understood as home. What does it mean to be at-home? The fundamental ambiguity of existence is that humans have different capacities for feelings and awareness.Some feel strongly about a place or home; others never do. Several metaphors have been used to describe the human place on earth.The earth is a storehouse, property, a spaceship. But the earth is not a spaceship or storehouse; it is home. Victor Ferkiss (Fox,1980b) proclaimed that: "The world and humanity are one entity,one system in equilibrium. Earth is humanity's only home; humanity is one people in relationship to the earth."
There are a wide variety of meanings of home. It is a place of family residence, the family social unit, habitat, and place of origin. The word 'home' comes from the Middle English (word hom and Old English ham, Old Norwegian heimr, Greek kome, and Sanskrit kayati ) meaning village or home.The Old Norwegian word for home meant village or world. The word can be traced through the Greek to the Sanskrit, which meant 'he is lying down.' Its spectrum of reference is enormous. The word is used to describe house, village, city, bioregion, cultural world, and the earth.Its content is also ambiguous. Home can hold a single person,family, relatives, pets, domestic food animals, neighbors, and others.
Home living is simultaneously on different levels; the importance may shift from city to nation, or nation to state, or house to bioregion, or state to habitat. Each level is a metaphor for the next. There are parallels between nature and a house, as the basis for home. solar space is like the landscaping; wilderness is the foundation; conservation areas form the shell and provide services;and each bioregion is a unique room. The analogy cannot be carried too far. But it shows that a house is not, as Le Corbusier said,"a machine to live in." It is a matrix for home. Home is not just a house, either; it is a complex of significant events centered in place. It is the foundation of our individual identity on one level, and our role in the community, on another. What makes home different from house? Participation in making, commitment.People invest parts of themselves in a place, to make a home.
The concept of home has a mixed reputation. Paul Shepard (1974)finds humanitarians obsessed with the 'homelessness' of stray pets and wild animals. He points out how the fixation on shelter is taken over by the advertising of wood industries, who describe their meager reseeding efforts as 'creating a home for wildlife.'He sees protective organizations swaying to the tunes of propagandist lullabies. Perhaps he is partially right. But that is a misunderstanding of home. a home is not the house, not an undifferentiated place.Animals accustomed to rich woodlands are not at home in a replanted clearcut. The use of the word is a cheap advertising device; yet,it shows the importance of the meaning. A home is living, a house is not.
A home is a part of the environment claimed by feeling. Emotion creates an 'in-place'. A place must be found and made. Humans,like plants and animals, identify greatly with local environments.Maybe this is a function of the limbic system of the brain, a function we share with territorial mammals. Human emotion creates an 'in-place.' So far, no psychologists have studied what happens when a person sees her/his place, their very context, destroyed.These catastrophes may be the basis for diseases, depression,or cancers.
The word nostalgia was coined by Johannes Hofer a Swiss medical student, in 1678 to describe an illness characterized by insomnia,palpitations, stupor, fever, and persistent thought of home. The disease could result in death. For the Northern Aranda in Australia,as well as for emigre Russians, it is not possible to stay away from home indefinitely and still live. Nostalgia can be a fatal disease. Thus far, the sense of place cannot be gleaned from an analysis of the nervous system. Yet a place shapes the nervous system, somehow.
In English the term for dwelling is to stay. This is the symbolic opposite of moving or changing. It means to withstand time. Dwelling resists and persists. Permanence is important element in idea of home. The Royal Commission on Local Government in England and Wales found that people's attachment to 'home area' increased over time (Kaplan, 1983). Gaston Bachelard (1969) has written much about the significance of home: "For our home is our corner of the world. As has often been said, it is our first universe".The home was a springboard to understanding the universe.
The Poetic Species
Richard Rorty (1982) called humanity the poetic species, "the one which can change itself by changing its behavior--and especially its linguistic behavior, the words it uses." Sewell (1960)claimed that biology needed poetry rather than mathematics to think with. Ecology requires a combination of aesthetic perception and disciplined thinking, as does poetry. Elton (1966a) remarked in his work on animal ecology that there is more ecology in Old Testament or Shakespeare than in zoological texts.
Ecology contains a secret: attention to detail. A metaphorical ecology has more than a scientific or political meaning. The whole can be seen by the part, because it is implicit in every part--this is why hologram can be reconstructed from a small piece. Blake wrote of seeing the world in a grain of sand; that is the secret expanded. Rilke sees that if we leave our locked-in interior and use imagination to see a tree, we grant the whole world its being(Bly, 1981). Intimacy does not necessarily require details.
Poetry is communicative of the quality of things. Like philosophy and science, it discriminates the unsuspected in the commonplace.Poetry has an ancient, ontologically mythic function. Not different from science, but more diffuse; not better than science, but more comprehensive. It pulls in; showing is not simply mirroring. The poet accepts ontological parity; aspects of the world are not negated or reduced by one another. The poet is willing to grant consciousness to trees and hills or other living creatures. A poetic language could go a way to including a view of the infinite interpenetration of all existence in a sublime ecology.
A conquered world is no good for humanity; conquest is boring--there would be nothing to live with. The connection to otherness has been severed. In the living universe there is no boredom, because everything is alive and active; danger is inherent in every movement.Contact between things is wary and keen; wariness is a kind of reverence. Nothing can be taken for granted. Life itself consists in a live relatedness between man and animals, flowers, rocks,and stars.
Poetry is a tool for comprehending partially what cannot be totally known: feelings, aesthetic experiences, moral practices,and spiritual awareness. People need to be made aware of the power of self-determination, and the possibility. The poet celebrates the unity of existence by sharing it with everyone. The poet reconnects the real world and the thought-world (or perhaps heaven and earth)in a poem. The poet creates new forms and myths to make the earth sacred again. The richness hidden in thoughts, places and beings is revealed. We need to feel the immensity of nature. People need to feel things, before they can act on them. Poetry can help them feel themselves as part of the web of life, or on an oasis in space. Poetic ecology is home-making on earth. As Bachelard stated,the poet's occupation makes the universe into a habitable cosmic house. Only when we are comfortable can we know the house and manage our part. A creative language can express a new vision of humanity and nature, based on ignorance and feeling, as well as knowledge and thought--a poetry of the earth.
Humans arise from the matrix of the earth. They make places that are home. Poetry is making. Yet this is done together with other species, in a broad symbiosis. This coevolved activity is an ethos, an abode together. Living together creates an ecos,homes. The survival of society now depends on an expanded ecological consciousness, an awareness of the global system in its complexity and connectedness. The spirit of humanity depends on an ecological consciousness that would place humanity in a proper relation to the wild places of the earth, taking what it needs, but letting the rest be.
Theodore Roszak has identified the needs of the person and those of the planet as one. We need a wild universe to live fully.We need wild animals and plants to be fully conscious. When we understand our roles in nature, then we will not be stewards or managers, but participants and sharers of experience. If we are not sure how, then we will have to act as if we were wise, as was recommended by Hans Vaihinger (Salk, 1973). Let the first step be an acknowledgement of fellowship with animals. There is a prayer in the Liturgy of Saint Basil that reads (Niven, 1967):"O God, enlarge within us the sense of fellowship with all living things, our brothers the animals to whom thou hast given the earth as their home in common with us. We remember with shame that in the past we have exercised the high dominion of man with ruthless cruelty, so that the voice of the earth, which should have gone up to Thee in song, has been a groan of travail."
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*accepted by the Journal of Animal Problems