Have we reached the end of nature?Our relationship with the environment is in crisis



I recently came across a thought-provoking expression: “God is dead, Marx is dead, and I don’t feel very well either.” Is it time to update it by adding “nature is dead”?

Has nature, framed as something separate from humanity, lost its relevance? As the eminent biologist E.O. Does it cause us to have “contempt for lower forms of life”?

Globally, we have entered the Anthropocene, where humans are the dominant force driving change in all ecosystems. Because of our overwhelming influence on the atmosphere, hydrosphere, and biosphere, no ecosystem is safe from our influence.

Read more: The Anthropocene raises the risks for democracy and a planet without us

Ecosystems that remain unchanged, whether due to colonial redistribution of species, habitat loss, the multiple forces of climate change, over-extraction, plastics, permanent chemicals, or reactive nitrogen and phosphorus pollution. does not exist. As some of these forces of change combine, ecosystems are moving beyond the tipping point of collapse at a faster rate.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, the emergence of reverse zoonoses, in which humans become carriers and sources of infection for domestic and wild animals, is raising questions about how the fate of all living things that share the biosphere with humans will change. I emphasized how connected they are.

Crisis of the Anthropocene

As a result of the Anthropocene (a period in which human activities are having a profound impact on the planet), global biodiversity is at risk, with species extinction occurring 1,000 times faster than in pre-human times. I am. Dealing with this crisis is one of our biggest challenges.

The Half-Earth Project claims that only by conserving 50 percent of Earth’s surface habitat can we save 85 percent of our species. However, setting aside land for nature, such as parks and reserves, often means taking land from indigenous peoples, rather than respecting and prioritizing their role in conserving the biosphere. there was.

While the expansion of protected areas (to 17 per cent of land and 10 per cent of ocean by 2020) is encouraging, the effectiveness of their management in conserving biodiversity remains largely unknown.

Drone photo of blue and aquamarine sea
Only by conserving 50 percent of Earth’s surface habitat can we save 85 percent of our species.

Biodiversity support

But we recognize that biodiversity can be supported everywhere and in everything we do. Urban landscapes can support greater biodiversity, such as pollinators, and agricultural landscapes can contribute depending on the intensity of agriculture.

School children are no longer taken on trips into nature, but instead learn in an environment where they develop interactions with the land and the living world.

British poet Gerard Manley Hopkins wrote:

What will happen to the world once it is lost?

Wet and wild? leave them alone

Oh, keep them wild and wet.

Weeds and wasteland still live long.

Relationship with nature

In a breakout discussion group at the Regeneration Canada conference I attended, I was asked to describe our “community.” Many described their urban or rural communities. I talked about my academic community: my students and colleagues.

A young Mohawk man began describing the birch scrub on his land as his community. For the rest of us here, “men” have been overrepresented when talking about community. For essayist and philosopher Sylvia Wynter, the invention and overrepresentation of the non-natural human (a category born out of European rational thinking) is a fundamental part of what has made possible a history of colonialism and racism. It is a concept.

Some scholars have realized the serious effects of climate change and have declared that the wall between human history and natural history has now been broken. As historian Dipesh Chakrabarty proposed in his famous essay “The Wind of History: Four Theses,” the collapse of this chronology means that key motifs of modern human history, such as the struggle for freedom, are now This means that it is closely tied to the fate of the sphere.

Historians therefore need to combine the study of modern history with the study of our longer history as one species among many.

birch thicket
Rebuilding our relationship with nature is an important step in tackling the human-induced environmental crisis.

Ecologists recognize that it is pointless to “otherize” the natural world and that the study of natural processes must include processes that have been modified by humans. In fact, some believe that the idea that we are distinct from all non-humans is the root cause of the current global crisis.

Given this deepening understanding, isn’t it time to move beyond “nature” as a concept external to humanity? Instead, it could foster a deeper understanding of biodiversity and communities as a shared long history and future destiny of human and non-human life forms.

This modified paradigm is closer to the indigenous perspective of community, where land management is done in collaboration with our relatives within all ecosystems.

Have we reached the end of nature in a traditional sense different from ours? Rebuilding our relationship with nature will deepen our approach to these man-made environmental crises This is an important step.

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