The divide between modern humans and nature

In Lynn White’s article entitled “The Historical Roots of Our Ecologic Crisis,” she argues that the primary reason behind climate change is that Western science, which is globally considered most significant, is based in a Christian context where man is dominant over Nature. Because of this, White’s overarching claim and conclusion is the ecological crisis is a religious issue, and as such, it cannot be remedied with more science and technology, but rather with a momentous change in “religion.”

Through White’s historical examples, especially those of the “new” plow Northern peasants began to use in the 7th century Europe that “attacked the land with such violence”(3) and the Christian story of creation, I believe she makes a sound argument (although I may be partial because I agreed with everything she covered before I read the article). I do take issue with science. Not science in itself, but the aspect of Western science that requires acting upon discoveries (what White refers to as “technology”). Generally, modern humans have tried to make things “better” by taking action. This has led to humans taking action without fully understanding the consequences. An example of this is monocropping, which was useful in feeding an ever-growing population. However, monocropping led to the erosion and nutrient depletion of soils, including topsoil, which is imperative to our ability to grow anything at all. In reality, the best solution would have been to halt population growth, but with the ideals of (Caucasian) human domination and superiority, that would have proven difficult. 

White’s article brought up more questions in me than answers, such as: is there a specific invention, time, idea that created a divide between humans and nature? I suppose the most obvious answer is the invention of agriculture – domesticating wild plants so we did not have to forage. Agriculture was originally used to supplement foraged foods in difficult years, which seems like it would have little effect on the environment, especially since it was on such a small scale. I suppose a follow-up question is: did agriculture, in the form it first originated, benefit the earth? Agriculture tends to create an environment less biodiverse than Nature, even when practiced in the most sustainable and regenerative way, so it seems, in itself, to have a neutral to negative impact on the planet. But, again, on such a small scale, it probably would have little effect on the environment. But with a larger population (even one significantly smaller than we are now), the human race is actively reducing biodiversity through agriculture on a mass scale.

I would argue then that the largest divider of humans and Nature is not agriculture, but the sheer size of the human race, along with the desire of modern humans to, out of greed, desperation, or power complexes, exploit the Earth for profit. I agree with White that to save the current environment, a shift in religion, beliefs, and ideals is necessary.

White, L. (1967). The historical roots of our ecologic crisis. Science, 155(3767), 1203–1207. https://doi.org/10.1126/science.155.3767.1203

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