The Core Issue

Many people have some level of awareness of the harm we are inflicting on this world.  In theory, they realize that if we degrade our landscapes, we will have no way to safely produce the food and raw materials we need to survive.  We employ modern fixes, such as green technologies, to both limit the ecological devastation and help us feel less depressed about humanity’s current situation.  Unfortunately, using industrial technology to fix problems caused by industrial technology is an ineffectual system of reversing ecocide—it can only slow the injury (at best).  This idea, that technology will save the day, demonstrates a fundamental misunderstanding of the root of the problem.  And, we cannot seriously work toward solutions without recognizing this.  So what is the foundational issue we face?   Is it agriculture?  Or capitalism?  Maybe it is global population?  Perhaps political or religious fanaticism?  No, it is none of those things.  While they are all facets of modern living that contribute to the ecocide the planet is experiencing, they, too, are merely the logical outcomes of the actual underlying issue—we see ourselves as separate from the earth.

This particular egocentric view can be shown to inspire many of the difficulties we face.  Instead of participating in the natural world as hunter-gatherers did, we seek instead to control and manipulate it.  While it is certainly true that hunter-gatherers tended the landscape and made modifications to it, these changes mimicked other processes that were occurring on those landscapes and were for the benefit of all the people involved (not just a few who were afforded higher social or economic status).  Once an attitude of separation has permeated a culture, it will be willing to do horrific things to other-than-human beings for the simple reason “they are not us”.  This attitude eventually becomes “they are not worthy of the status we afford us” and sooner or later it is applied to other humans who practice different lifeways.  Separation from the natural world (i.e., nature divorcement) is the core issue that must be addressed.

Understand, when people visualize the world as a complex mega-organism that they are part of, the poor treatment of its parts (whether that be other humans, other living beings, or even abiotic components like rivers and mountain chains) is not possible.  This would amount to a person treating their left arm worse than their right one, damaging it beyond function, and still considering themselves to be a healthy individual.  It is only through the recognition that people were intended to be wild beings that function as integral parts of the earth (not as organisms separate from and with dominion over it) that many of the problems we experience will fade.  We must participate (rather than exploit).  Conscientious foraging is one of those ways (among many) that we participate.  When we gather in a way that ensures continued life of the plants we eat, we leave the forests standing, we do not add pollution to the lakes and rivers, and we contribute to our personal health (which protects the resources that much more).  Participation in local ecology enables a reunion of domesticated humans with their intrinsic wildness.  Letting go of control ideologies (egocentrism) and embracing participation ideologies (ecocentrism) is the essential paradigm shift needed to heal the earth and humans.  The health of one is inextricably linked to the health of the other.