A week or two back I had someone put forth the idea to me that the world would be better off without people in it. This is something, I just can’t agree with. Here’s the way it seems to me:
When we say we want a healthy environment it isn’t really the health of the environment that we’re concerned with. It’s how well suited the environment is for keeping us alive that we’re actually concerned with. If we weren’t here the environment would not be Better Off. Nature doesn’t care about what we’re doing. Nature invented rat’s asses just so it could not give them about us. Pretty much nothing we do can harm nature. We can only harm us.
People might argue “But humanity is causing pollution which upsets the balance of nature” and I say “nope”. Nature is never actually balanced, it is just forever in the act of balancing. The makeup of the atmosphere is certainly different because of what we’ve pumped into it, but nature will, over time, get used to that. Species will adapt to the new atmosphere and thrive. Ages ago the atmosphere had much more oxygen because God wanted giant bugs around, but now we’ve got less oxygen. Nature goes on in spite of these changes and what we’re really worried about is how well nature can support us.
People may argue “But humanity’s influence has caused a ton of species to go extinct and that upsets the ecosystem” and I say again “nope”. When you think about it, far more species have gone extinct from your ice ages and your asteroid strikes and your freakin’ whatever caused the Permian-Triassic extinction event. When it comes to wiping out animal life, humanity just Can Not Compete with Mama Nature.
People may argue “But when nature causes something to happen, it’s natural, when we do it its unnatural” and I say once more times “nope”. Even though in the paragraphs proceeding this one I drew a line of distinction between humanity and nature, we really are as much a part of this planet as any other life form. Let us say that, in prehistoric times, some predator species crossed a land bridge somewhere and got into an ecosystem and wiped the floor with the competition and changed the whole scene, would you say that nature would be better off without that species or would it be cool because they’re animals and, unlike us, they don’t know any better? Well this sort of thing has happened nonstop over millions of years and nature still got us here. And if you’re saying that we’re supposed to know better, I say “why”? If nature seems to be fine with a constant change of ecosystems, why would it be Better if we defy that? Isn’t going against nature the exact thing you’re accusing us of?
My point here is that saying the environment would be Better Off without humanity is like saying a hospital would be easier to keep clean if you didn’t let patients in. You’d end up with a cleaner hospital, sure, but what would be the point of that? We should certainly be working hard to maintain an environment that keeps us alive. But not for the sake of the environment, but for the sake of humanity.
This is a pretty good essay, Pat. I would’ve stopped, though, right at the very first sentence – the person you’ve been speaking with needs to define “better off” and explain why we should accept his definition of “better”.