Environmental Ethics Essay, Research Paper
Would the earth be better off without humans? The expected response from a member of today’s society would be a resounding yes. However, those who are quick to come to such a conclusion may not be completely correct in their response. The world is a natural thing, with only earthly inhabitants, and so long as all of these inhabitants are of earthly origins, all are natural. We as humans are natural, and therefore any consequence of our existence, be it good or bad is natural. Now, this creates an extraordinarily broad realm of what is natural, but this point is essential to any argument for the existence of humans.
The Earth itself is a remarkable planet. The fact that life exists at all is an amazing feat. This planet and all of its complexities are attributes to a natural process that is billions of years in the making and is still going strong today. Evolution, is a fact of life, and is the only reason that we as humans have come to exist. Long before there were people, there were reptiles, before them there were fish, before them were invertebrates and before them there was microbial lifeforms. This path of development over time was used to disprove the stance held by Christians that their “God” created all that is present on this Earth.
Evolution is responsible for all forms of life as we know them. The entire natural world of this planet is directly linked through evolutionary processes. Over time, those species that were best fit to survive remained, and those that were unfit for continued existence became extinct. The reasons for survival are varied, and can be downright confusing, but the fact remains, no species on this planet was ever given a free ride. Each has to have done something right in the evolutionary process to remain in existence today.
Humans are part of this very natural process. We evolved from other species just like all of the other natural beings, and have managed to survive just like everything else present in the natural world. We are part of this natural process just as much as any other species on this planet. It is not important that we are only recent members of the natural world, what is significant is that we are a part of these processes and therefore are a part of the natural world. Therefore, we can say that humans are in fact natural.
III. Humans Affect Earth’s Ecosystems
Humans have destroyed more than 30 per cent of the natural world since 1970 with serious depletion of the forest, freshwater and marine systems on which life depends (Brown). Brown is correct in his observation that humans have affected the ecosystems of the planet adversely. He even overlooks some other very important aspects of the human impact on the natural world. Take for example the incident involving the Cuyahoga River flowing through Cleveland, Ohio, in which the river was inadvertently set on fire (Keller 299). Can you imagine what humans must have put into the river in order to enable it to burn? This is not the only instance of humans ruining the natural world. We have done it in various other areas as well. Some of our ills have nothing to do with the planet itself, such as the trend in global warming that is threatening to cause huge changes in the global climate. Consider that 80 percent of the Increase in global temperature over the past 500 years has occurred since 1750, and we have strong evidence that humans are somewhat responsible for the temperature increase. It was right about 1750 that the industrial revolution began, and we began the large-scale burning of Fossil fuels. Such burnings produce huge amounts of greenhouse gases as well as carbon dioxide (Associated Press), both of which are thought to cause global warming. So, we have pretty much messed up the Earth’s water and air, but what about the other organisms? Well, when we mess up one thing, we tend to screw everything else up as well. The extinction rate has skyrocketed during the period which humans have been dominant on Earth. The number of species that have ceased to exist during our time on this planet is disgustingly high.
There are many who, when looking at examples like those above, hold that the Earth would be much better off if Humans were to no longer exist on this planet. There would be no pollution, no deforestation, basically the Earth would be a peaceful, quiet place, unlike the dirty, smelly, dangerous place that it is in today’s human dominated world.
IV. The Earth Would Not Be Better Off Without Humans
The ecosystems of the earth are being disrupted more and more each day. Just look out the window of a car as you are driving down a freeway, you will see dead animals littering the roadside, just more casualties of the human existence. But are those very animals, despite their unfortunate fate, not part of the same natural world that we came to evolve out of? Are we not just as natural as any other species on this planet? The answer to both of those questions is yes. We as humans are as natural as the whales in the ocean; we are part of the natural world on Earth.
If we are a part of the natural processes, why can we not disrupt these natural processes in order to create an advantage for our species? Humans have gone through the same rigorous evolution of every other organism on the earth, and so if humans can adapt to their environment, or adapt their environment to their needs, why shouldn’t they? Other organisms make their environment more suitable to their needs, some even do it at the expense of other species. Take Mistletoe for example, it feeds on other plants the point that it ultimately kills the other plants. Do you see anyone campaigning for Mistletoe to stop exploiting trees? No, it is an absurd idea to have a species stop doing something that is crucial to its survival. Lets face it, we as humans can say that we have relied more on our brains than on our brawn when looking at our continued existence in the natural world. Part of our existence relies on our ability to manipulate our environment, be it good or bad. This is what separates us from Primates; we have the ability to greatly change our environment to better suit our ability to exist as a species.
The ability we have is not a bad thing, and the results of our changes to the natural processes are not by any means against nature as some people claim. The actions we take and the effects they produce should be accepted without question. For we are natural, as is everything else, which exists on this planet, so like all other existing organisms, anything we do is also natural.
V.The Opposition and Its Flaws
The opposition to the view that has been presented is enormous. The names of those opposed would probably make a list longer than the average highway, but all of them are incorrect. No matter what they cite as reason, they cannot be correct to assume that the earth would be better off without humans.
Leopold and Callicott cite the aesthetics of nature as a necessity for its preservation (Armstrong/Botzler). The Clergy of the Catholic church say that we must preserve the natural world in order to ensure our own existence, and those who hold the non-anthropocentric view believe that the world is not ours, it is all of nature’s to inhabit. All of these views have one major similarity, they are all wrong.
Who are Leopald and Callicott to say that beauty must be preserved? There are those who go so far as to say we are sick and therefore the land is sick because we no longer know its beauty (Daniel). How do they know what beauty is? Who is to say that a nuclear winter would not be beautiful? We may not be around to witness it, but it surely would have a great aesthetic quality to it. Then there is the whole religious opposition, those who say we have a duty to god to protect his creation. Darwin refuted these arguments years ago when he came up with the theory of evolution. The basis for their entire argument is fallacy; therefore the resulting argument is completely false. Those who claim that we must protect the Earth for future generations must not be familiar with the history of the earth. Is the earth not extremely different today than when our ancestors inhabited it? A good way to look at it is, what happens this week is more important than what will happen in the distant future(Meadows). Who knows, we might all die tomorrow. And what about those people who say that we are on our way to destroying all life on the Earth, including ourselves? These people just do not get the whole picture. If they had some semblance of intelligence they would realize that reptiles (dinosaurs) flourished before us mammals, and it was only through their mysterious extinction that we human were able become the dominant species on the Earth. They who say we will kill everything are wrong, something will survive. What exactly that something will be is too hard to say, some guess it will be an insect, but this has little relevance. What is of importance is that life will find a way to survive despite anything we do. And it is through this survival that a whole new branch of evolutionary development will arise, and from that branch will arise a new dominant species, and all will be well with the Earth once again.
All life on this Earth is derived of one single organism that came into existence billions of years ago. We are ancestors of it, as are all other organisms, which inhabit the planet. Throughout our existence we have speed up a few evolutionary processes, disrupted a few ecosystems, and caused the extinction of a few species. All of these points have no bearing on the larger picture.
We as humans evolved into our place at the helm of the natural world. We did not just step in and take this position overnight, it happened gradually over time through natural processes. All life on the earth depends on evolution for survival. Humans have gone through the same evolution as every other living thing on the planet, so just because we have evolved technologically more than everything else, does not mean that we are acting against nature. On the contrary, we are acting towards nature, because we are nature.