June 25, 2006

The Length and Breadth of Life

It's been quite a week. I feel like I have been struggling through it with work and argument (in the blogosphere), accumulating quite a bit of negativity along the way, culminating in yesterday's post, which, as Thud correctly pointed out, was unclear.

What I should have emphasized is not that the inconvenience of conservation must be stressed, but the education and foundation of new traditions in our country, and how difficult that process will be with the challenges in communication that science itself faces. I don't think the problems are as insidious as I made them sound, but then again, I don't share all of Al Gore's optimism either.

Another thing I wish to make clear, if only to myself, is that conservation (mostly the protection of wild places) lies outside of politics for me. I wake up every morning astounded at the complexities of the ecological systems visible just outside my second-story balcony, the internal systems that have evolved to process the caffeine in my coffee or the grain in my cereal, or the incredibly dense populations thousands of miles away I can only read about at this time.

It connects each and every one of us to a legacy stretching over 3,600 million years of evolution, from sulfur-eating Archaea to the mitochondrial machinery of eukaryotes, from mother's yolk to mother's milk and from the pure will to replicate to the deep, contemplative consciousness of humans and other mammals.

Natural history is foundational. It represents the glory and uniqueness of life to a degree that no philosophy or religion could for me personally. In the same breath, however, I do not feel the need to pull upon the natural world or its literal interpretation (science) to found a belief system. I think that anthropomorphizing natural phenomena distorts the beauty of reality, just as incorporating elements of science into theology can distort the psychological beauty of myth.

I believe natural, wild places need to be protected because life has grown up here, on this planet, and I want to see life continue to grow, with human beings taking the roles of observers and recorders not only of our own history, but also of the long history of life. The planet's consciousness has only just evolved 250,000 years ago or so, and has only been permanently recording history (accurately, at any rate) for little more than 400 of those years (and even that is debatable).

I do not wish to see human beings become the next great cataclysm to extinguish much of life on earth. A meteorite does not have a conscience. It did not choose to obliterate the dinosaurs 65 million years ago, it was merely following a chance trajectory into the earth. Human beings do have a choice whether or not to become agents of mass extinction. We can make changes to both technology and moral will.

This is not only a task for scientists and environmentalists, either. This is a task for everyone. The green movement can be a unifying element for all cultures and peoples across the globe, to finally realize how little difference there actually is between the different races in our one species.

So I apologize to everyone for seeming so negative. I hope this post clarifies the basis of my arguments and genuinely represents my position.


  1. You really didn't come across as being negative to me, more as realistic. But I guess that's a matter of perspective for each individual, eh?

    Anyway, I thought I'd let you know that something is throwing your columns out of whack when viewed with IE, but it all looks fine with FireFox. I still can't find the BLOG VILLAGE vote link anywhere, but maybe it's there and getting messed up with the coding problem. Email me if I can be of help.

  2. Thanks DB.

    I don't know what could have caused the issue... The link is to BLOG VILLAGE is up, however. Is that the vote link you're talking about?