Nature

Varuna wrote a very interesting post last week on how the environment – nature – is hostile to humans-

This might sound absurd, but I’ve learnt that the natural environment is not only about pretty trees and flowers, birds and butterflies. It’s also harsh, tyrannical and frightening. So much so that existence here is still a primitive battle against nature and the elements.

[…]

This is Mother Nature, who does not need me to save her.

The same week Martin Wright wrote a “Nano is bad” article in the TOI, emphasizing sustainable development and “green energy”-

The news that GM India is poised to launch a ‘twolakh’ car took me back to an incident in Lucknow in March last year.

I had almost tripped over a scooter lying on its side in the dust, its front wheel still spinning. Moments before it had been carrying a family of four, plus chicken. Now, they were all on the ground, except the chicken which had run away.

[…]

Does safer, smoother travel for middle-income Indian families have to come at the price of the planet? Do we always have to choose between protecting the environment and lifting people out of poverty? Not a bit of it. There’s growing evidence that smart innovation can make life sweeter as well as more sustainable. Forwardlooking think tanks like Malini Mehra’s Centre for Social Markets, or Forum for the Future in the UK, argue that the best hope to win public support in the fight against climate change is to focus on this ‘opportunity agenda’.

and Mazoomdaar, again writing in the TOI, while providing “pragmatic” solutions to the environmental “problems” that we face-

Frankly, should we have a blanket policy for development projects inside protected areas? What we need is objective cost-benefit comparatives for each project proposal so that informed decisions are possible. Even a few acres of a pristine forest are much more valuable than many hectares of an already degraded stretch. A road that can well do with a few kilometres of detour may not be allowed inside a sanctuary, but there might be logic in allowing the lifeline of a highway through a marginal forest area.

We cannot reverse the conservation clock just by wishful thinking. Those who hit the streets, demanding 5,000 wild tigers in the next five years, should understand that we do not have viable forests to hold even 2,000 tigers. And anyone who dreams of 33 per cent forest cover should start promoting kitchen gardens in each and every service balcony.

started off with “There are, as an old joke goes, two shades of green activists: the rabid and the romantic.”

The joke, however, is hardly a joke. The more I see it – the green movement – the more nihilistic it appears. The environmentalists are either the rabid “planet before people” ones who believe that humans are polluting the Earth replacing real jungles with concrete ones, heating up the planet causing glaciers to melt, and killing off polar bears and a thousand other species at unprecedented rates etc etc etc, or romantics for whom “natural” is anything “unspoiled” by humans; they draw the line at the “sigh” forgetting the fact that humans are just as “natural” as pigs or bats or elephants and that if buildings built by humans “spoil” something, what about ant-hills, and dams built by beavers, and nests built by birds? Why the double standard? The third category of environmentalists – the “sustainable development” ones either suck at economics, or believe in scientific voodoo, or both. For example, Wright wants to replace petrol engines with electric powered ones. The electricity, of course, will be from a clean source – solar power. I don’t mind “clean power” – anything that gets rid of smog and noxious fumes is good. But there is something known as ROI (how many environmentalists will park their money with a firm that offers to double their wealth in 25 or 50 years?), plus people’s time is valuable-

So, how could this apply to the Nano? Petrol-powered, it’s a great social revolution, yes — but an electric Nano could be all of that and an environmental one, too. It would be ideally suited to the sort of short, urban hops that will constitute the vast majority of its use, so its limited range wouldn’t be a problem. It could be recharged by solar power while its owner is at work or even out in the fields. Standing idle, the Nano’s battery could trickle power into the grid — helping to smooth out the network’s notorious instability.

If someone manages to discover a technology to charge cells quickly, and cells with increased capacity, I have no doubt the market will reward him handsomely. But I don’t see any such thing on the horizon. So, what will “really” happen is the electric Nano will be recharged using power from a thermal power station.

I am digressing. I am writing about this because I found a quote from “Human Action” on the Mises blog yesterday which exposes the mentality behind nature worship and the deification of the peasant-

Romanticists condemn the economic theories concerning land for their utilitarian narrow-mindedness. Economists, they say, look upon land from the point of view of the callous speculator who degrades all eternal values to terms of money and profit. Yet, the glebe is much more than a mere factor of production. It is the inexhaustible source of human energy and human life. Agriculture is not simply one branch of production among many other branches. It is the only natural and respectable activity of man, the only dignified condition of a really human existence. It is iniquitous to judge it merely with regard to the net returns to be squeezed out of the soil. The soil not only bears the fruits that nourish our body; it produces first of all the moral and spiritual forces of civilization. The cities, the processing industries, and commerce are phenomena of depravity and decay; their existence is parasitic; they destroy what the ploughman must create again and again.

Thousands of years ago, when fishing and hunting tribesmen began to cultivate the soil, romantic reverie was unknown. But if there had lived romanticists in those ages, they would have eulogized the lofty moral values of the hunt and would have stigmatized soil cultivation as a phenomenon of depravity. They would have reproached the ploughman for desecrating the soil that the gods had given to man as a hunting ground and for degrading it to a means of production.

In the preromantic ages in his actions no one considered the soil as anything other than a source of human well-being, a means to promote welfare. The magic rites and observances concerning the soil aimed at nothing else than improvement of the soil’s fertility and increase in the quantity of fruits to be harvested. These people did not seek the unio mystica with the mysterious powers and forces hidden in the soil. All they aimed at was bigger and better crops. They resorted to magic rituals and adjurations because in their opinion this was the most efficient method of attaining the ends sought. Their sophisticated progeny erred when they interpreted these ceremonies from an “idealistic” point of view. A real peasant does not indulge in ecstatic babble about the soil and its mysterious powers. For him land is a factor of production, not an object of sentimental emotions. He covets more land because he desires to increase his income and to improve his standard of living. Farmers buy and sell land and mortgage it; they sell the produce of land and become very indignant if the prices are not as high as they want them to be.

Love of nature and appreciation of the beauties of the landscape were foreign to the rural population. The inhabitants of the cities brought them to the countryside. It was the city-dwellers who began to appreciate the land as nature, while the countrymen valued it only from the point of view of its productivity for hunting, lumbering, crop raising and cattle breeding. From time immemorial the rocks and glaciers of the Alps were merely waste land in the eyes of the mountaineers. Only when the townsfolk ventured to climb the peaks, and brought money into the valleys, did they change their minds. The pioneers of mountain-climbing and skiing were ridiculed by the indigenous population until they found out that they could derive gain from this eccentricity.

Not shepherds, but sophisticated aristocrats and city-dwellers were the authors of bucolic poetry. Daphnis and Chloe are creations of fancies far removed from earthy concerns. No less removed from the soil is the modern political myth of the soil. It did not blossom from the moss of the forests and the loam of the fields, but from the pavements of the cities and the carpets of the salons. The farmers make use of it because they find it a practical means of obtaining political privileges which raise the prices of their products and of their farms.

Its only people who have experienced the city life who find beauty in nature – its a matter of aesthetics, a case of the grass being greener on the other side.

I will end with one of Swami’s articles on the environment and the environmentalists-

It is often said that humans are the biggest threat to the environment. True. But it is also true that the biggest threat to humans is the environment. The Gujarat earthquake has shown, like hurricanes and droughts before it, that nature is a ruthless mass killer.

Charles Darwin would have told you that you do not need earthquakes or hurricanes to understand that mass killing is the very ethos of the environment. In your back garden, various rival grasses and weeds, rival insects and worms, are battling for space and survival. If the temperature goes up a couple of degrees, that helps some species overcome others. If humidity goes up a bit, that helps some other species. A deadly war to the death is going on under your very eyes, under cover of what looks like a peaceful green lawn. Only the fittest survive.

Nature’s law is: Eat or be eaten. Wild animals know that well. Actually, nature’s law is even more deadly: Eat and be eaten. For even the victorious who eat their rivals today will one day die and then be eaten by others. That’s nature.

[…]

Nature’s selection was ruthless. Those who died were the very young or old, the sick, the crippled. There was no mercy for the weak. Only the fittest survived. Nature is elitist and anti-welfare: It favours the strong over the weak and handicapped. How ironic that so many socialists have become nature-lovers.

[…]

I watched in dismay as one mocking bird pecked at the thin excreta of an iguana, trying to salvage some moisture from the diarrhoea. Having come so far to see nature’s glories, one also had to witness nature’s cruelty. It used mass starvation for social engineering, systematically killing the weakest and letting only the strongest survive.

I have always been amused by the notion of romantic pastoralists that nature provides enough for everybody’s need, but not for everybody’s greed. This implies that nature is bountiful while man is a greedy over-consumer. Please try telling that to the creatures on the Galapagos Islands. Try telling it to those killed by the Gujarat earthquake or Orissa cyclone.

While debunking ecological romanticism, one must not debunk ecology wholesale, or condone environmental damage caused by humans…Let us not behave as badly as nature does.

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Comments

  • Saurabh Gupta  On June 21, 2009 at 3:43 am

    I wonder which other creature you can actually make listen – In ref. to – statements post ‘nature provides enough for everybody’s need, but not for everybody’s greed’

    • Aristotle The Geek  On June 22, 2009 at 8:56 pm

      # “I wonder which other creature you can actually make listen”
      I wonder if you can actually make “people” listen – sapience doesn’t seem to be an attribute that is common to all humans. That explains the creature called the environmentalist who would rather kill people than animals.

      There is no point talking about nature in terms of ethics – morals imply volition, which nature and most living creatures are incapable of. Swami is simply trying to compare the actions of “benevolent” nature and “parasitic” humans – any “Act of God,” if done by humans would have invited worldwide condemnation by environmentalists.

      Once it is understood that resources are created by the human mind – iron and silica did exist even in the Stone Age – and that humans are capable of exploiting the Earth allowing billions to live a good life while at the same time protecting the ecosystem and profiting from it, the people vs. nature debate would end. But then I am building castles in the air…

  • yet_another_hindu_infidel  On June 23, 2009 at 12:04 am

    i read somewhere that climate change human induced

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