Devastating the Planet is Insane

So okay, here is a multiple choice question for you: Which of the following is most likely to survive lost and alone in the wilderness until rescued?

  1. experienced hunters
  2. former members of the military
  3. physically fit bikers
  4. skilled sailors
  5. small children

The correct answer, according to Laurence Gonzales in Deep Survival is small children (under the age of seven). Why? “If it gets cold they crawl into a hollow tree to keep warm. If they’re tired they rest. If thirsty, they drink. They try to make themselves comfortable, and staying comfortable helps keep them alive.” In other words, they do what they need to do, rather than run themselves ragged doing what some mental map (which may or may not be accurate) tells them they should do.

Sustainability work, of course, is different because we must plan to save ourselves, rather than wait to be rescued. Nevertheless, sustainability, at its core, is all about survival. So I think there are some important lessons in this little story. One is to concentrate on those things we actually need to be comfortable. But another is to stop trying to fight the natural environment and learn once again to relax into it – to realize it is our home – in a realistic, not a romantic way.

Of course there are inconveniences, there are dangers, and even – gasp! – limits to work within. But imagine for a moment shrugging off the “shoulds” of our present industrial culture and relaxing into a home where you are as valued as every other member of the great web of life on Earth and can learn to be just as capable of adding to the abundance and diversity the planet offers to all. Imagine being a really productive member of the life of this beautiful “big blue marble” instead of – as humans are now – a scourge and destroyer.

As Thomas Berry says in The Great Work, “Healing the Earth is a prerequisite for healing the human. Adjustment of the human to the conditions and restraints of the natural world constitutes the primary medical prescription for human well-being. We depend upon the Earth for existence, functioning, and fulfillment.”

“For a species to remain viable it must establish a niche that is beneficial both for itself and for the larger community. To seek benefit for humans by devastating the planet is insane. A human economy can only exist as a subset of the Earth economy. An extractive economy is by its nature a terminal economy.”

So maybe, just maybe, we could be happier and better off if we learn to use our mature judgment and extensive learning to find our way home, while holding tight to our “inner child’s” love of comfort, and forget spending all this effort on trying to outdo each other and dominate nature.