The past century, specially the latter half of it, showed humanity’s growing concern over the destruction that it has wrought upon the environment. Habitat loss, ecosystem destruction, species extinction and endangerment, and pollution are among the many concerns raised by environmentalists and like-minded people.
At the start, those who espoused these concerns were voices in the wilderness, literally and figuratively. Policy-makers largely ignored them. Later on, environmental advocacy gained many adherents, and policy-makers could no longer ignore their calls.
Now, there is global concern about the environment, what with the perceived escalation of human-caused environmental problems that threaten to accelerate climate change and threaten the very survival of the human race.
The survival of the human race is the core of the issue.
While we mouth slogans about saving the environment and nature, what we are really doing is trying to save ourselves.
This planet we call home has already witnessed many cataclysms that have radically altered its environment. These cataclysms include several ice ages, global warmings, meteors that affected the entire planet, and a host of other changes that we could only imagine.
Climate change is constant, and has been happening since the beginning of Earth.
The constancy of change has caused the extinction of species, and the evolution of others able to adapt to the changing environment. In fact, our species, Homo sapiens, has evolved because of these changes. Other species, humanoid ones included, became extinct as they failed to adapt to environmental changes. The dinosaurs are a well known example of this phenomenon of extinction.
All the creatures on Earth are part of the environment. We all play a part in the evolution of the planet, either as causes of the ever-happening-change, or products of it as we adapt to the changes. If we fail to adapt, we become extinct, or we evolve into another being altogether to be able to survive in the changed environment.
Nature and the environment can very well take care of themselves. Even if humanity unleashes its most destructive activities on this planet, nature and the environment shall go on. Many of the species as we know them might become extinct, and the human race might itself become lost, but life in this planet shall go on.
The direction of the evolution of life is always to improve upon existing species. Should humanity succeed in destroying the planet as we know it, we might become extinct as a species. But even if we do become extinct, life shall continue on this planet, and new forms of life shall appear. Humanity itself might evolve into another race more adaptable to the changed conditions. Perhaps this planet will even become a better place with us out of the picture.
If we continue to make this planet inhabitable for our species, we are threatening our survival as a race.
This is the reason why humanity is now concerned with the environment. It is only in the interest of self-preservation that we are overly concerned, even if only belatedly, about environmental destruction.
We are not saving the environment or nature. We are simply trying to save ourselves.
If we fail, we shall merely become extinct like the dinosaurs and the dodo. In our absence, nature shall continue, and surviving species shall continue evolving.
Our species has only existed for less than a hundred thousand years. If we manage to engineer our extinction, our presence in this world would be a very tiny speck in the billions of years that the Earth has existed and the additional few billion years that it shall continue to exist when we are gone.
This space does not say that we should stop being concerned about the environment. On the other hand, we can never be overly concerned about it. Let us find ways to keep it habitable for our species, for, as is oft repeated, it is the only planet we call home.
Let us try to save ourselves, hopefully for a time long enough for our race to do away with our frailties, hopefully for a time long enough that a better human species evolves from our flawed existence.
But we should not delude ourselves into thinking that nature or the environment needs us.
Nature and the environment have survived before humans walked this Earth, and this planet shall survive even without us.
by Gary Pekas, November 2011