Christopher X J. Jensen
Associate Professor, Pratt Institute

Go mutualistic or go home?

Posted 15 Aug 2015 / 0

The Chronicle of Higher EducationThe Great Extinction

I agree with this article’s overall perspective, which is that it is a bit weird to view humans as unnatural. What we are is unprecedented as a single species that defines a geologic time period (albeit what is likely to be a very short one). I also like the idea that that “nature is indifferent”. Really, we are the only ones who can project any sort of goal of preserving a particular state of nature. As this article nicely points out, it is really only our own welfare that should motivate us to preserve the earth in a particular state.

The idea that our conservation goals are Noah’s Arkish is also really interesting to me. It is definitely the case that we fetishize a particular configuration of nature. This fetish is most clearly on display when we talk of invasive species, implicitly bad because they haven’t stayed where they ‘belong’ and threaten species that are ‘in their right place’. But I wonder whether we can say that the love of nature as we used to know it is such a bad starting place for conservation. After all, the species configurations we are messing with today are the very combinations that fostered our great success in recent evolutionary time.

Perhaps the most interesting idea about this article is the ultimatum that large-scale human societies not make to both smaller-scale human societies and to other species: cooperate — or at least become commensal — with us, or perish. It is not that the entire human species is so dominant, but rather the (admittedly numerically dominant) industrialized segment of our species that puts all the pressure on the rest of the natural world. The idea that a mutualistic relationship with the human-industrial complex is required to survive this is era is scary… but compelling apt.

A Minor Post, Anthropogenic Change, Articles, Biodiversity Loss, Commensalism, Population Growth, Subsistence, Survival, Sustainability

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