10 April 2009

Loss and freedom

James Lovelock has an unsentimental view of nature. [1] "Gaia", as Lynn Margulis put it, "is one tough bitch". Yet he too mourns what is being lost (see previous post). Another view comes from N J Collar [2]:
The diminishment of nature is the diminishment of man. Extinction is the negation of the possible; it creates poverty in the mind. Our capacity to experience, to imagine, to contemplate, erodes with the erosion of nature, and with it we forfeit piecemeal — landscape by landscape, site by site, species by species — the freedom of mind which yet we cherish as ultimately the greatest feature of our human identity. This is not to say that we should never seek to provide justifications for conservation based on precise, measurable benefits to mankind at whatever scale. It is, however, to say that we should also and primarily have the courage and honesty to assert that the reason biodiversity matters is because it confers on us an imprecise, unmeasurable and immeasurable well-being that is located in the spirit rather than in the wallet.
One of the ways to think about the significance of human impacts on the biosphere, then, may be in terms of the blowback on human capabilities.


[1] In his most recent book Lovelock repeats that, in his view, 'nature' will be fine in the long run. We should, rather, worry about saving ourselves.

[2] Beyond value: biodiversity and the freedom of the mind (2003). Thanks to Tom Bailey for reminding me of this.

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