Wilson Edward O. 1993
The Biophilia Hypothesis, Island Press/Shearwater, Washington DC, ISBN 1-55963-148-1
NOTE: This extract is included as an essential reading for transforming the world. You are requested to purchase the book yourself as it is, without question, essential reading material.
Extract from Love it or Lose It: The Coming Biophilia Revolution David W. Orr.
I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing: therefore choose life, that both thou and thy seed may live. Deuteronomy 30:19
The Roots of Biophilia
We relate to the environment around us in different ways, with differing intensity, and these bonds have different sources. At the most common level we learn to love what has become familiar. There are prisoners who prefer their Jail cell to freedom; city dwellers, like Woody Allen, who shun rural landscapes or wilderness; and rural folk who will not set foot in the city. Simply put, we tend to bond with what we know well. Geographer Yi-Fu Tuan describes this bonding as "topophilia," which includes "all of the human being's affective ties with the material environment."10 Topophilia is less rooted in our deep psychology than it is in our particular circumstances and experiences. It is closer to a sense of habitat that is formed out of the familiar context of everyday living than it is a genuine rootedness in the biology and topography of a certain place. It is not innate but acquired. New Yorkers have perhaps a greater sense of topophilia than do residents of Montana. But Montanans are more likely to feel kinship with sky, mountains, and trout streams. Both, however, tend to be comfortable with what has become habitual and familiar. E. 0. Wilson suggests a deeper source of attachment that goes beyond the particularities of habitat. "We are," he argues, "a biological species [who] will find little ultimate meaning apart from the remainder of life." We are bound to living things by what Wilson describes as an innate urge to affiliate which begins in early childhood and "cascades" into cultural and social patterns. Biophilia is inscribed in the brain itself, he says, expressing tens of thousands of years of evolutionary experience. It is evident in our preference for landscapes that replicate the savannas on which mind evolved: "Given a completely free choice, people gravitate statistically toward a savanna-like environment . Removed to purely artificial environments and deprived of "beauty and mystery," the mind "will drift to simpler and cruder configurations" that undermine sanity itself. Still, biophilia competes with what Wilson describes as the "audaciously destructive tendencies of our species" that seem also to have "archaic biological origins." Allowing those tendencies free rein to destroy the world "in which the brain was assembled over millions of years" is, Wilson argues, "a risky step."
Yet another possibility is that at some level of alertness and maturity we respond with awe to the natural world independent of any instinctual conditioning. "If you study life deeply," Albert Schweitzer once wrote " its profundity will seize you suddenly with dizziness."16 He described this response as "reverence for life" arising from the awareness of the unfathomable mystery of life itself (The German word Schweitzer used, Ehrfurcht
implies more awe than the English word reverence.) 17 Reverence for life is akin, I think, to what Rachel Carson meant by "the sense of wonder." But for Schweitzer reverence for life originated in large measure from the intellectual contemplation of the world: "Let a man once begin to think about the mystery of his life and the links which connect him with the life that fills the world, and he cannot but bring to bear upon his own life and all other life that comes within his reach the principle of Reverence for Life .11,8 Schweitzer regarded reverence for life as the only possible basis for a philosophy on which civilization might be restored from the decay he saw throughout the modern world. "We must," he wrote, "strive together to attain to a theory of the universe affirmative of the world and of life."19
We have reason to believe that this intellectual striving is aided by what is already innate in us and may be evident in other creatures. No less an authority than Charles Darwin believed that "all animals feel wonder." Primatologist Harold Bauer once observed a chimpanzee lost in contemplation by a spectacular waterfall in the Gombe Forest Reserve in Tanzania. Contemplation finally gave way to "pant-hoot" calls while the chimp ran back and forth drumming on trees with its fists. No one can say for certain what this behavior means, but it is not far-fetched to see it as a chimpanzee version of awe and ecstasy. Jane Goodall and others have described similar behavior. It would be the worst kind of anthropocentrism to dismiss such accounts in the belief that the capacity for biophilia and awe is a human monopoly. In fact, it may be that we have to work at it harder than other creatures. Joseph Wood Krutch, for one, believed that for birds and other creatures "joy seems to be more important and more accessible than it is to US. And not a few philosophers have believed with Abraham Heschel that "as civilization advances, the sense of wonder almost necessarily declines .1123
Do we, with all our technology , still retain a built-in affinity for nature?
I think so, but I know of no proof that would satisfy skeptics. If we do have such an innate sense, we might nevertheless conclude from the damage we have done to the world that biophilia does not operate everywhere and at all times. It may be, as Erich Fromm once argued, that biophilia can be dammed up or corrupted and can subsequently appear in other, and more destructive forms:
Destructiveness is not parallel to, but the alternative to, biophilia. Love of life or love of the dead is the fundamental alternative that confronts every human being. Necrophilia grows as the development of biophilia is stunted. Man is biologically endowed with the capacity for biophilia, but psychologically he has the potential for necrophilia as an alternative solution.
We also have reason to believe that people can lose the sense of biophilia. In his autobiography, Darwin admits that "fine scenery ... does not cause me the exquisite delight which it formerly did." It is also possible that entire societies can lose the capacity for love of any kind. When the Ik tribe in northern Uganda was forcibly moved from its traditional hunting grounds into a tiny reserve, their world, in Colin Turnbull's words, "became something cruet and hostile," and they "lost whatever love they might once have had for their mountain world. The biophilia the Ik people may have once felt was transmuted into boredom and a "moody distrust" of the world around them and matched by social relations that Turnbull describes as utterly loveless, cruel, and despicable. The Ik are a stark warning to us that the ties to life and to each other are more fragile than some suppose and, once broken, are not easily repaired or perhaps cannot be repaired at all.
Much of the history of the twentieth century offers further evidence of the fragility of biophilia and of philia. Ours is a time of unparalleled human violence and unparalleled violence toward nature. This is the century of Auschwitz and the mass extinction of species, the age of nuclear weapons and exploding economic growth. Even if we could find no evidence of a lingering human affinity or affection for nature, however, humankind is now in the paradoxical position of having to learn altruism and selflessness-but for reasons of survival which are reasons of self-interest.
In the words of Stephen Jay Gould: "We cannot win this battle to save species and environments without forging an emotional bond between ourselves and nature as well-for we will not fight to save what we do not love. And if we do not save species and environments, we cannot save ourselves who depend on those species and environments in more ways than wc can possibly know. We have, in other words, "purely rational reasons" to cultivate biophilia.
Beyond our physical survival, there is still more at risk. The same Faustian urges that drive the ecological crisis also erode those qualities of heart and mind that constitute the essence of our humanity. Bertrand Russell once put it this way:
It is only insofar as we renounce the world as its lovers that we can conquer it as its technicians. But this division in the soul is fatal to what is best in man.... The power conferred by science as a technique is only obtainable by something analogous to the worship of Satan, that is to say, by the renunciation of love.... The scientific society in its pure form ... is incompatible with the pursuit of truth, with love, with art, with spontaneous delight, with every ideal that men have hitherto cherished.
The ecological crisis, in short, is about what it means to be human. And if natural diversity is the wellspring of human intelligence, then the systematic destruction of nature inherent in contemporary technology and economics is a war against the very sources of mind. We have good reason to believe that human intelligence could not have evolved in a lunar landscape devoid of biological diversity. And we have good reason to believe that the sense of awe toward the creation had a great deal to do with the origin of language and why early hominids wanted to talk, sing, and write poetry in the first place. Elemental things like flowing water, wind, trees, clouds, rain, mist, mountains, landscape, animals, changing seasons, the night sky, and the mysteries of the life cycle gave birth to thought and language. They continue to do so, but perhaps less exuberantly than they once did. For this reason I think it is impossible to unravel natural diversity without undermining human intelligence as well.
Can we save the world and anything like a human self from the violence we have unleashed without biophilia and reverence for the creation? All the arguments made by technological fundamentalists and by the zealots of instrumental rationality notwithstanding, I know of no good evidence that we can. We must choose, in Joseph Wood Krutch's words, whether "we want a civilization that will move toward some more intimate relation with the natural world, or ... one that will continue to detach and isolate itself from both a dependence upon and a sympathy with that community of which we were originally a part."30 The writer of Deuteronomy had it right. Whatever our feelings, however ingenious our philosophies, whatever innate gravity tugs at us, we must finally choose between life or death: between intimacy or isolation.
From Eros to Agape
We are now engaged in a great global debate about what it means to live "sustainably" on the earth. The word, however, is fraught with confusion-in large part because we are trying to define it before we have decided whether we want an intimate relation with nature or total mastery. We cannot know what sustainability means until we have decided what we intend to sustain and how we propose to do so. For some, sustainability means maintaining our present path of domination, only with greater efficiency. But were we to decide with Krutch and others that we do want an intimate relation with nature, to take nature as our standard, what does this mean? We must choose along the continuum that runs between biophilia and biophobia, intimacy or mastery, but how can we know when we have crossed over from one to the other? The choices are not always so simple nor will they be presented to us so candidly. The options, even the most destructive, will be framed as life-serving, or as necessary for a greater good someday, or as simply inevitable since "you can't stop progress." How, then, can we distinguish those things that serve life well from those that diminish it?
Biophilia is a kind of love, but what kind? The Greeks distinguished three kinds of love: eros, meaning love of beauty or romantic love aiming to possess; agape or sacrificial love that asks nothing in return-, and philia, the love between friends. The first two of these reveal important aspects of biophilia, which probably begins as eros but matures, if at all, as a form of agape. For the Greeks eros went beyond sensuous love to include creature needs for food, warmth, and shelter as well as higher needs to understand, appreciate, and commune with nature. 31 But eros aims no higher than self-fulfilment. Defined as an innate urge, biophilia is eros: it reflects human desire and seif-interest, including the interest in survival.
Biophilia as eros, however, traps us in a paradox. In the words of Susan Bratton: "Without agape, human love for nature will always be dominated by unrestrained eros and distorted by extreme self-interest and material valuation." What we love only from self-interest we will sooner or later destroy. Agape tempers our use of nature so that "God's providence is respectfully received and insatiable desire doesn't attempt to extract morc from creation than it can sustain." Agape enlarges eros, bringing humans and the creation together so that it is not possible to love either humanity or nature without also loving and serving the other. Agape in this sense is close to Schweitzer's description of "reverence for life," which calls us to transcend even the most enlightened calculations of self-interest. Would not respect for nature do as well? I think not: it is just too bloodless, too cool, too self-satisfied and aloof to cause us to do much to save species and environments. I am inclined to agree with Stephen Jay Gould that we will have to reach deeper.
What, then, do we know about deeper sources of motivation-including the ways in which eros is transformed into agape-and what does this reveal about biophilia? First, we know that the capacity for love of any kind begins early in the life and imagination of the child. Perhaps the potential for biophilia begins at birth, as Robert Coles once surmised, as the newborn infant is introduced to its place in nature. If so, the manner and circumstances of birth are more important than usually thought. Biophilia is certainly evident in the small child's efforts to establish intimacy with the earth-Jane Goodall, age two, sleeping with earthworms under her pillow,35 for example, or John Muir "revelling in the wonderful wildness" around his boyhood Wisconsin home. 36 If by some fairly young age, however, nature has not been experienced as a friendly place of adventure and excitement, biophilia will not take hold as it might have. An opportunity will have passed and thereafter the mind will lack some critical dimension of perception and imagination.
Second, I think we know that biophilia requires easily and safely accessible places where it might take root and grow. For Aldo Leopold it began in the marshes and woods along the Mississippi River. For young E. 0. ("Snake") Wilson it began in boyhood explorations of the "woods and swamps in a languorous mood ... [forming] the habit of quietude and concentration."37 The loss of places such as these is one of the uncounted costs of economic growth and urban sprawl. It is also a powerful argument for containing that sprawl and expanding urban parks and recreation areas.
Third, I think we can safely surmise that biophilia, like the capacity to love, needs the help and active participation of parents, grandparents, teachers, and other caring adults. Rachel Carson's relation with her young nephew caused her to conclude that the development of a child's sense of wonder required "the companionship of at least one adult who can share it, rediscovering with him the joy, excitement and mystery of the world we live in." For children the sense of biophilia needs instruction, example, and validation by a caring adult. And for adults, rekindling the sense of wonder may require a child's excitement and openness to natural wonders as well.
Fourth, we have every reason to believe that love and biophilia alike flourish mostly in good communities. I do not mean necessarily affluent places. In fact, affluence often works against real community as surely as do violence and utter poverty. By community I mean, rather, places in which the bonds between people and those between people and the natural world create a pattern of connectedness, responsibility, and mutual need. Real communities foster dignity, competence, participation, and opportunities for good work. And good communities provide places in which children's imagination and earthy sensibilities root and grow.
Fifth, we have it on good authority that love is patient, kind, enduring, hopeful, long-suffering, and truthful, not envious, boastful, insistent, arrogant, rude, self-centered, irritable, and resentfull (1 Corinthians 13). For biophilia to work I think it must have similar qualities. Theologian James Nash, for example, proposes six ecological dimensions of love: beneficence (kindness to wild creatures, for example); other-esteem, which rejects the idea of possessing or managing the biosphere; receptivity to nature (awe, for example); humility, by which he means caution in the use of technology; knowledge of ecology and how nature works; and communion as reconciliation, harmony, koinonia, shalom" between humankind and nature. I would add only that real love does not do desperate things and it does not commit the irrevocable.
Sixth, I think we know with certainty that beyond some scale and level of complexity the possibility for love of any sort declines. Beneficence, awe, reconciliation, and communion are not entirely probable attitudes for the poverty-stricken living in overcrowded barrios. With 11 or 12 billion people on the earth, we will have no choice but to try to manage nature, even though it will be done badly. The desperate and the hungry will not be particularly cautious with risky technologies. Nor will the wealthy, fed and supplied by vast, complex global networks, understand the damage they cause in distant places they never see and the harm they do to people they will never know. Knowledge has its own limits of scale. Beyond some level of scale and complexity the effects of technology, used in a world we cannot fully comprehend, are simply unknowable. When the genetic engineers and the nanotcchnologists finally cause damage to the earth comparable to that done by the chemists who invented and so casually and carelessly deployed CFCS, they too will plead for forgiveness on the grounds that they did not know what they were doing.
Seventh, love, as Erich Fromm once wrote, is an art, the practice of which requires "discipline, concentration and patience throughout every phase of life."40 The art of biophilia, similarly, requires us to use the world with disciplined, concentrated, and patient competence. To live and earn our livelihood means that we must "daily break the body and shed the blood of creation" in Wendell Berry's words. Our choice is whether we do so "knowingly, lovingly, skillfully, reverently ... [or] ignorantly, greedily, clumsily, destructively."41 Practice of any art also requires forbearance, which means the ability to say no to things that diminish the object of love or our capacity to work artfully. And for the same reasons that it limits the exploitation of persons, forbearance sets limits to our use of nature.
Finally, we know that for love to grow from eros to agape something like metanoia-the transformation of one's whole being-is necessary. Metanoia is more than a paradigm change. It is a change, above all, in our loyalties, affections, and basic character that subsequently changes our intellectual priorities and paradigms. For whole societies the emergence of biophilia as agape will require something like a metanoia that deepens our loyalty and affections to life and in time alters the character of our entire civilization.
The Biophilia Revolution
"Is it possible," E. 0. Wilson asks, "that humanity will love life enough to save it?"42 And if we do love life enough to save it, what is required of us? At one level the answer is obvious. We need to transform the way we use the earth's endowment of land, minerals, water, air, wildlife, and fuels: an efficiency revolution which buys us some time. Beyond efficiency, we need another revolution that transforms our ideas of what it means to live decently and how little is actually necessary for a decent life: a sufficiency revolution. The first revolution is mostly about technology and economics. The second revolution is about morality and human purpose. The biophilia revolution is about the combination of reverence for life and purely rational calculation by which we will want to be both efficient and live sufficiently. It is about finding our rightful place on earth and in the community of life; it is about citizenship, duties, obligations, and celebration.
There are two formidable barriers standing in our way. The first is the problem of denial. We have not yet faced up to the magnitude of the trap we have created for ourselves. We are still thinking of the crisis as a set of problems which are, by definition, solvable with technology and money. In fact we face a series of dilemmas which can be avoided only through wisdom and a higher and more comprehensive level of rationality than we have yet shown. Better technology would certainly help, but our crisis is not fundamentally one of technology: it is one of mind, will, and spirit. Denial must be met by something like a worldwide ecological perestroika predicated on the admission of failure: the failure of our economics which became disconnected from life; the failure of our politics which lost sight of the moral roots of our commonwealth; the failure of our science which lost sight of the essential wholeness of things; and the failures of all of us as moral beings who allowed these things to happen because we did not love deeply enough and intelligently enough. The biophilia revolution must come like an ecological enlightenment that sweeps out the modern superstition that we are knowledgeable enough and good enough to manage the earth and direct evolution.
The second barrier standing in the way of the biophilia revolution is one of imagination. It is easier, perhaps, to overcome denial than it is to envision a biophilia-centered world and believe ourselves capable of creating it. We could get an immediate and overwhelming worldwide consensus today on the proposition "Is the earth in serious trouble?" But we are not within even a light-year of agreement on what to do about it. Confronted by the future, the mind has a tendency to wallow. For this reason we can diagnose our plight with laser precision while proposing to shape the future with a sledgehammer. Fictional utopias, almost without exception, are utterly dull and unconvincing. And the efforts to create utopias of either right or left have been monumental failures, leaving people profoundly discouraged about their ability to shape the world in accord with their highest values. And now some talk about creating a world that is sustainable, just, and peaceful What is to be done?
Part of our difficulty in confronting the future is that we think of utopia on too grand a scale. We are not very good at comprehending things at the scale of whole societies, much less that of the planet. Nor have we been very good at solving the problems utopias are supposed to solve without imposing simplistic formulas that ride roughshod over natural and cultural diversity. Except for certain anarchist varieties, utopianism is almost synonymous with homogenization. Another part of the problem is the modern mind's desire for drama, excitement, and sexual sizzle-which explains why we don't have many best-selling novels about Amish society, arguably the closest thing to a sustainable society we know. How do we keep the need for meaning and variety while discarding some of our most cherished fantasies of domination? How do we cause the "change in our intellectual emphasis, loyalties, affections, and convictions" without which all else is Moot?43 When we think of revolution our first impulse is to think of some grand political, economic, or technological change: some way to fix quickly what ails us. What ails us, however, is closer to home, and I suggest that we begin there.
The Recovery of Childhood
I began by describing biophilia as a choice. In fact it is a series of choices, the first of which has to do with the conduct of childhood and how the child's imagination is woven into a home place. Practically, the cultivation of biophilia calls for the establishment of more natural places-places of mystery and adventure where children can roam, explore, and imagine. This means more urban parks, more greenways, more farms, more river trails, and wiser land use everywhere. It means redesigning schools and campuses to replicate natural systems and functions. It means greater contact with nature during the school day, but also unsupervised hours to play in places where nature has been protected or allowed to recover.
For biophilia to take root, we must take our children seriously enough to preserve their natural childhood. But childhood is being impoverished and abbreviated, and the reasons sound like a curriculum in social pathology: too many broken homes and unloving marriages, too much domestic violence, too much alcohol, too many drugs, too many guns, too many things, too much television, too much idle time and permissiveness, too many off-duty parents, and too little contact with grandparents. Children are rushed into adulthood too soon, only to become childish adults unprepared for parenthood, and the cycle repeats itself. We will not enter this new kingdom of sustainability until we allow our children the kind of childhood in which biophilia can put down roots.
Recovering a Sense of Place
I do not know whether it is possible to love the planet or not, but I do know that it is possible to love the places we can see, touch, smell, and experience. And I believe, with Simone Weil, that rootedness in a place is "the most important and least recognized need of the human soul."44 The attempt to encourage biophilia will not amount to much if we fall to create the kind of places where we might become deeply rooted. The second decision we must make, then, has to do with the will to rediscover and reinhabit our places and regions, finding in them sources of food, livelihood, energy, healing, recreation, and celebration.
Call it "bioregionalism" or "becoming native to our places." Either way it means deciding to relearn the arts that Jacquetta Hawkes once described as "a patient and increasingly skillful love-making that [persuades] the land to flourish.", it means rebuilding family farms, rural villages, towns, communities, and urban neighborhoods. It means restoring local culture and our ties to our local places where biophilia first takes root. It means re-weaving the local ecology into the fabric of the economy and life patterns while diminishing our use of the automobile and our ties to the commercial culture. It means deciding to slow down-hence more bike trails, more gardens, more solar collectors. It means rediscovering and restoring the natural history of our places. And, as Gary Snyder once wrote, it means finding our place and digging in.
Education and Biophilia
The capacity for biophilia can still be snuffed out by education that aims no higher than to enhance the potential for upward mobility-which has come to mean putting as much distance as possible between the apogee of one's career trajectory and one's roots. We should worry a good bit less about whether our progeny will be able to compete as a "world-class work force" and a great deal more about whether they will know how to live sustainably on the earth. My third proposal, then, requires the will to reshape education in a way that fosters innate biophilia and the analytical abilities and practical skills necessary for a world that takes life seriously.
Lewis Mumford once proposed the local community and region as the "backbone of a drastically revised method of study."+7 Study of the region would ground education in the particularities of a specific place and would also integrate various disciplines in accord with the "regional survey," including surveys of local soils, climate, vegetation, history, economy, and society. Mumford envisioned this as an "organic approach to knowledge" that began with the "common whole-a region, its activities, its people, its configuration, its total life. The aim is to educate citizens, to give them the tools of action," and to educate a people "who will know in detail where they live and how they live ... united by a conu-non feeling for their landscape, their literature and language, their local ways."
Something like the regional survey is required for the biophilia revolution. Education that nourishes a reverence for life would occur more often out-of-doors and in relation to the local community. It would confer a basic competence in the kinds of knowledge that Mumford described a half century ago. It would help people become not only literate but ecologically literate, understanding the biological requisites of human life on earth. It would confer basic competence in what I have called the "ecological design arts"-the set of perceptual and analytic abilities, ecological wisdom, and practical wherewithal essential to making things that fit in a world governed by the laws of ecology and thermodynamics. 50 The components for a curriculum in the ecological design arts can bc found in recent work in restoration ecology, ecological engineering, conservation biology, solar design, sustainable agriculture, sustainable forestry, ecological economics, energetics, and methods of Ieast-cost, end-use analysis.
A New Covenant with Animals
The biophilia revolution would be incomplete without our creating a new relationship with animals-one, in Barry Lopez's words, that rises "above prejudice to a position of respectful regard toward everything that is different from ourselves and not innately evil." We need animals, not locked up in zoos, but living free on their terms. We need them for what they can tell us about ourselves and about the world. We need them for our imagination and for our sanity. We need animals for what they can teach us about courtesy and what Gary Snyder calls "the etiquette of the wild. The human capacity for biophilia as agape will remain "egocentric and partial" until it can also embrace creatures who cannot reciprocate. And, needing animals, we will need to restore wild landscapes that invite them again.
A new covenant with animals demands that we decide to limit the human domain in order to establish their rights in law, custom, and daily habit. The first step is to discard the idea we got from Rene Descartes that animals are only machines incapable of feeling pain and to be used in any way we sec fit. Protecting animals in the wild while permitting confinement feeding operations and most laboratory uses of animals makes no moral sense and diminishes our capacity for biophilia. In this respect I think Paul Shepard is right: to recognize animals and wildness is to decide to admit deeper layers of our consciousness into the sunlight of till consciousness again.
The Economics of Biophilia
The biophilia revolution will also require national and global decisions that permit life-centredness to flourish at a local scale. Biophiliacan be suffocated, for example, by the demands of an economy oriented to accumulation, speed, sensation, and death. But economists have not written much about how an economy encourages or discourages love generally or biophilia in particular. As a result, not much thought has been given to the relationship between love and the way we earn our keep.
The transition to an economy that fosters biophilia requires a decision to limit the human enterprise relative to the biosphere. Some economists talk confidently of a fivefold or tenfold increase in economic activity over the next half-century. But Peter Vitousek and his colleagues have shown that humans now use or coopt 40 percent of the net primary productivity from terrestrial ecosystems. What limits does biophilia set on the extent of the human enterprise? What margin of error does love require?
Similarly, in the emerging global economy in which capital, technology, and information move easily around the world, how do we protect the people and communities left behind? Now more than ever the rights of capital are protected by all the power money can buy. The rights of communities are protected less than ever. Consequently we face complex decisions about how to protect communities and their stability on which biophilia depends.
Biophilia and Patriotism
The decisions necessary to lead us toward a culture capable of biophilia are finally political decisions. But our politics, no less than our economy, has other priorities. In the name of "national security" or onc ephemeral national "interest" or another we lay waste to our lands and the prospects of our children. Politics of the worst sort has corrupted our highest values, becoming instead one long evasion of duties and obligations in the search for private or sectarian advantage. "Crackpot realists" tell us that this is how it has always been and must therefore always bc: a view which marries bad history to bad morals. Patriotism, the name we give to the love of one's country, must be redefined to include those things which contribute to the real health, beauty, and ecological stability of our home places and to exclude those which do not. Patriotism as biophilia requires that we decide to rejoin the idea of love of one's country to how well one uses the country. To destroy forests, soils, natural beauty, and wildlife in order to swell the gross national product, or to provide short-term and often spurious jobs, is not patriotism but greed. Real patriotism demands that we weave the competent, patient, and disciplined love of our land into our political life and our political institutions. The laws of ecology and those of thermodynamics, which mostly have to do with limits, must become the foundation for a new politics. No one has expressed this idea more clearly than the former Czech president, Havel: "We must draw our standards from our natural world.... Wc must honor with the humility of the wise the bounds of that natural world and the mystery which lies beyond them, admitting that there is something in the order of being which evidently exceeds all our competence. Elsewhere he writes: Genuine politics ... is simply a matter of serving those around us: serving the community, and serving those who will come after us. Its deepest roots are moral because it is a responsibility, expressed through action, to and for the whole, a responsibility ... only because it has a metaphysical grounding: that is, it grows out of a conscious or subconscious certainty that our death ends nothing, because everything is forever being recorded and evaluated somewhere else, somewhere "above us," in what I have called "the memory of being."
Beyond Utopia Erich Fromm once asked whether whole societies might be judged sane or insane. After the world wars, state-sponsored genocide, gulags, McCarthyism, and the "mutual assured destruction" of the twentieth century there can be no doubt that the answer is affirmative. Nor do I doubt that our descendants will regard our obsession with perpetual economic growth consumption as evidence of theologically induced derangement. Our modern ideas about sanity, in large measure, can be attributed to Sigmund Freud, an urban man. And from the urban male point of view the relationship between nature and sanity may bc difficult to see and even more difficult to feel. Freud's reconnaissance of the mind stopped too soon. Had he gone further, and had he been prepared to see it, he might have discovered what Theodore Roszak calls"the ecological unconscious," the repression of which "is the deepest root of collusive madness in industrial society."59 He might also have stumbled upon biophilia. And had he done so our understanding of individual and collective sanity would have been on more solid ground.
The human mind is a product of the Pleistocene age, shaped by wildness that has all but disappeared. If we complete the destruction of nature, we will have succeeded in cutting ourselves off from the source of sanity itself. Hermetically sealed amidst our creations and bereft of those of The Creation, the world then will reflect only the demented image of the mind imprisoned within itself. Can the mind doting upon itself and its creations be sane? Thoreau would never have thought so, nor should we.
A sane civilization that loved more fully and more intelligently would have more parks and fewer shopping malls; more small farms and fewer agribusinesses; more prosperous small towns and smaller cities; more solar collectors and fewer strip mines; more bike trails and fewer freeways more trains and fewer cars; more celebration and less hurry; more property owners and fewer millionaires; more readers and fewer television watchers; more shopkeepers and fewer multinational corporations; more teachers and fewer lawyers; more wilderness and fewer landfills more wild animals and fewer pets. Utopia? No! In our present circumstances this is the only realistic course imaginable. We have tried utopia and can no longer afford it.
God Gaia, and Biophilia - Dorion Sagan and Lynn Margulis
EVER SINCE THE human species evolved some 4 million years ago it has been expanding, first by nomadic hunting and gathering, then, in civilized times, by agriculture and industry. As our numbers have grown we have changed the environment. At this late juncture we have come to see that there is no way we can expand indefinitely without imposing indefinite unpleasant changes on the environment. We have walked on enough concrete, smelled enough air pollution, eaten enough processed food to realize that the sort of comfort afforded us by technology in the long ran differs from, and is less sustainable than, the green fruit tree paradise of our simian ancestors. Our evolution has brought us beyond a point of no return.
The new high regard for earth is not unlike the feelings of customers at a fabulous small restaurant that is getting big. As word spreads of the restaurant's outstanding quality, more and more people come until the restaurant expands, new management comes, and the restaurant is no longer superb and small but lousy, perhaps even part of a national chain. Likewise, owing primarily to the fortuitously evolved manipulative skills of certain grass-walking African mammals, humans have always fed well on the victuals of earth. We have transformed local ecologies into technology, killed animals for clothing and meat, grown plants for food, shaped rocks and trees into shelter and tools. Like the small restaurant that was so good it became lousy, earth was so paradisiacal and susceptible to technological plunder that we plundered it-and are now faced with the results. Unlike the restaurant, wc have no place else to eat.
In this essay we attempt to show how our technological plundering of the planet has forced us to revalue our biological connections to other species and living beings. This revaluation is forcing us to see the collusion in our way of life of traditional Western religion, which has provided an impetus for our technological plundering. Moreover, this same judeo-Christianity still undergirds the assumptions of much "secular" science.
The renewed focus on the positive aspects of our connections to other living things has lately been called biophilia, from the Greek words for love and life. But as we can see from the use of the word lousy above-an adjective derived from a parasitic clinging insect-our connections to other lifeforms are not always positive. In fact, the emotional palette of our responses to life-forms is rich, labile, and complex. Specific life-forms "push our buttons"-they elicit strong, relatively constant responses varying from disgust (maggots, bacterial infection), care (kittens, puppies), horror (spiders, snakes), awe (tigers), and well-being (magnolia trees, actinobacteria with their woodland scent) to longing or envy (birds in flight). As E. 0. Wilson has suggested in his coining of the term biophilia, our intrinsic love for life can be used to help preserve crucial reserves of planetary biodiversity. He has further suggested that our positive affections, such as our appreciation for lush greenery, may be inbred-genetically based on the importance such early life-forms held for us. Other sensations, such as our instinctive avoidance of butyl mercaptan, the noxious ingredient in skunk spray, seem to benefit other organisms by keeping us away. We are, like many insects and other mammals, manipulated by our love of sweets and fresh colors, which over the millennia have induced us, for example, to eat cherries and hence act as couriers of the immobile cherry tree's seeds.
The point is that there is no simple biophilia, no unconditional, unchanging love for members of other species. Some men love racing cars and, indeed, may be attracted to the curvaceous bikini-clad women advertisers portray with such cars. We are attracted to bright colors, as well, an attraction whose application to painted automobiles comes long after the evolutionary crucial biophilia of primates to trees with brightly colored fruits. So not only is our love for life impure, not only do we have mixed feelings toward other life-forms, but our affection is also changeable, plastic.
With such complexities, such an admixture of feelings both positive and negative, and subtler states in between, a mixture which can moreover be changed and applied to more recent technological objects, it is difficult to speak monolithically of biophilia, a simple love of life. Perhaps it would be better to speak of prototaxis-the generalized tendency of cells and organisms to react to each other in distinct ways. Ivan E. Wallin defines prototaxis in Symbionticism and the Origin of species as the "innate [that is, genetic] tendency of one organism or cell to react in a definite manner to another organism or cell." Let us think then of both positive and negative biophilia (sometimes called biophobia) as aspects of global prototaxis. The principle of prototaxis ought to be perceived as intrinsic to living beings, all of which have distinct lineages and combinations of genes. Like Wallin's profound conclusions on the role of symbiosis in the origin of species (Mehos 1992) and in embryogenesis, this notion of prototaxis is not well known.
Biologists define pioneering species as those which spread rapidly throughout an environment but quickly saturate it and reach their limit. Pioneer species are the first to come-like the customers in the restaurant parable. Although the term usually applies to plants, a case can be made that human beings, combined with our technology, are the global equivalent of a pioneer species. We may now have reached our saturation point, the limits of our growth; if so, we may be detecting signals from our living environment that it is no longer able to support continuous growth.
In the pioneering stage people told themselves stories that made it seem as if it were our destiny to endlessly plunder the natural environment, converting animals, plants, and rocks into extensions of ourselves. In retrospect these stories, which center, in the West, on the monotheistic conceit that humanity is Numero Uno for whose benefit God has made all other life-forms, were the rallying cry of a nomadic tribe. But the tribe, having become sedentary on all the continents of the globe, is no longer nomadic. Nonetheless, as often happens in cultural evolution, information continues to flow long after it is useful. Moreover, this data lag can be seen not only in the prescientific histories of religion, but in the scientific sagas that replaced or supplemented them. And, of course, the most compelling of these scientific supplements is the story of evolution. But evolution no more evolved from nothing than God did. It, too, appeared within a social setting and cultural milieu. A telling marker of what might be called cryptotheism-a lingering of theological thought in scientific discourse-can be found in much present-day evolutionary biological, ecological, and environmental discourse. This marker is the prevalence with which even the most Darwinian of naturalists reserve some favored trait to distinguish humanity from the rest of life on earth, the rest of what was once called "Creation." Thus we are told by turns that humans are uniquely superior due to our upright posture (allowing us to think of ourselves as literally "above" other species), our opposable thumb (man the tool user), our linguistic abilities (man the symbol user, the storyteller), our super-animalistic soul (Descartes' ploy), our self-awareness, our moral superiority (even in the absence of God), one of the most recent and desperate euphemisms: our "big brains." Even Stephen Jay Gould, an ardent foe of the idea of progress in evolution (1980), would have us believe (and he is by no means alone) that all other organisms on the planet are shackled to the ancient system of natural selection whereas humans, and humans alone, can evolve through "cultural selection." Of course, Darwin's very term, "natural selection," was coined in comparison to the "artificial selection" of animal breeders. Darwin wanted to show the evolution of all species from a common ancestor. But he also had to make evolutionary theory palatable to a monotheistic populace. The acceptance of evolutionary theory required that it take over many functions of Judeo-Christianity-and in doing so compromised from the start the potential for a biophilia which would have seemed natural considering the kinship Darwin demonstrated between human and other life-forms. If we believe that other animals have feelings, that we have no intrinsic superiority over them but are part of a global nexus of life, we are confronted with a moral crisis. This is the crisis of the animal rights groups and those who believe that humans are compromising the welfare of planetary life. As our growth and exploitation of resources force us to reconsider our relationship with other life-forms, we may find new value in systems of beliefs either dismissed by Christianity or absorbed by monotheism. The animism, theriomorphism (totem worship), pantheism, and polytheism that preceded the advent of monotheism as Judaism, Christianity, and Islam may contain powerful sources for present and future action and reflection. Culturally, biophilia and biodiversity arc scientifically sanctioned catchwords calling for us to attend seriously to nature and our responses to nature-forms of attention already more fully developed in traditions less nomadic and technologically expansive than those of the West. If the love of life and the preservation of biodiversity are to become planet-scale education projects, Western countries should certainly lead the way-and by example, not by preaching. Ethically speaking, the West, which has led the way in environmental destruction, has the greatest obligation to restore biodiversity.
Yet nature is already saved and, moreover, largely out of our hands. If once we thought all organisms were for our benefit, and later we thought we could with bombs kill off all life on the planet, it is once again a mark of our hubris to think that we may now save the biological world. It is true that the current rate of extinction on the surface of the earth is comparable to major losses-the so-called mass extinctions-of life in prehistory. Indeed, the current rate of extinction is estimated to be the greatest since the end of the Cretaceous. A planetary catastrophe (implicated in the demise, among many other life-forms, of all the dinosaurs) may well have been caused by a bolide (meteorite, comet, or planetoid) landing offshore the Yucatan peninsula in Mexico.
The recent mass extinctions are claimed to differ, however, in that they arise not from an outside force but from within, as the result of human expansion. Some would have us think that the wreaking of such havoc on the environment is unparalleled in earth's long history. This is a kind of negative theology making us, if not God's chosen ones, then his prodigal sons, in any case, as good guys or bad, we remain the stars of the evolutionary show. The deflating fact, however, is that we have been preceded in our massive ecocide by other life-forms.
Because of the limited materials on the earth's surface, organisms have been competing for resources, polluting environments, and feeding on unprotected corpses and living bodies for over 3 billion years. The whole change over of the atmosphere-from an anaerobic one suited for organisms poisoned by oxygen to an oxygen-rich one suitable to our ancestors occurred as the result of a pollution crisis. Before we bow down in fear to our shadows as the grim reapers of evolution, let us remember that the Chinese ideogram for crisis combines the sign of "danger" with that of opportunity" and recall, too, that other organisms have dangerously altered the planetary environment before us. Two billion years ago cyanobacteria, newly evolved microorganisms that used the hydrogen of water for photosynthesis, plunged the biosphere into crisis mode. Their "waste"-the free oxygen that sent thousands of varieties of organisms to early graves-altered the previous planetary habitat forever. From the point of view of anaerobes, the global environment was ruined. But for the oxygen-tolerant and oxygen-respiring forms among which are to be counted our remote bacterial ancestors, this ecocide, this destroying of the planetary home, made life possible.
Chaos mathematics, disequilibrium thermodynamics, and complexity studies have shown how certain structures, which seem fragile, amorphous, or dangerously out of balance, are as often as not at a bifurcation a turning point or critical juncture on the way to still more complex structures. Planet Earth with its global human-fostered technology may presently be undergoing such a difficult transition period. The case history of cyanobacteria is worth thinking about when people, scientists among them, sound the alarms for us to gather round and "save the planet." By innovatively using light to split water, and rampantly growing wherever they could, cyanobacteria altered the atmosphere and poisoned large numbers of its inhabitants, not least of all themselves. Our hunting of animals for food, our razing of trees in lush species-rich Amazonia, and our urbanization of landmasses have also degraded the environment in a major way. People have every right to care about such degradation and loss of species, to fight against it and organize Brazilian mutual funds or whatever it takes to preserve biodiversity. There are, as many have pointed out, aesthetic, pharmaceutical, genetic, historical, and other reasons for saving the environment. The most important of these, and least often mentioned, may be the relationship of certain lush regions of the earth and the present bio-geochemical regime-not just global climate, but global chemistry-that supports human beings.
But let us not kid ourselves into thinking we are saving life on earth as a whole. For all we know the demise of human beings may accelerate the appearance of some new complexity as far beyond primate intelligence as primate intelligence is beyond rodent responsiveness. After all, without the decline of the reptiles, mammals might never have been able to come into their own. So let us cut through the salvationist hyperbole and sec that talk of saving the world really means saving that part of the planetary environment which has traditionally and comfortably supported human beings. It is fine to urge the salvation of the environment in which our species first flourished, but in fact even this cannot be done. Any return to green pastures, flowering fruit trees, bubbling brooks, and rolling glades will be a turn not of the circle but of the spiral. Or, as the Buddhists say, all beings are already saved.
Although the loss of charismatic large animals such as elephants, giraffes, and tigers from the surface of the planet would represent a tragedy comparable, on a smaller scale, to the murder of members of one's own family, it is not true that our rapidly multiplying, change-engendering life-form is the only one ever to cause mass extinctions of fellow organisms. Only a sort of well-wishing, or perhaps a deep guilt combined with an equally deep repression, can make us forget life's inescapably murderous legacy. Onc hears a Christian, even a Puritan, echo in the talk of our need to save the planet. In fact, we cannot stop evolution. We can, and probably should, try to stop certain global human activities among which may bc counted overuse of plastics, rain forest destruction, and soil erosion. But to think that by doing so or not we are either going to kill off life on earth or save it is a form of unscientific self-aggrandizement. Such egotism smacks of the dated Christian notion of people being one step above the beasts and two steps after the an gels below God. In terms of biophilia and biodiversity, we believe it is better to think of ourselves as all just a part of Gaia and not even, in any way, the most important part.
What is Gaia? Although memorizable phrases may be inadequate and specious we can try to convey the power of Gaia as principle and being.
First of all, on the cultural level, as a conscious taking of the name of the ancient Greek earth goddess and mother of the Titans, Gaia disturbs, perhaps even cancels out, the lingering theology of an external male god who has made humanity in his image and then narcissistically countenanced us to use the rest of creation to be fruitful and multiply ourselves. Roughly, Gaia is the nexus and nest, the global life and environment, the planetary surface seen as body rather than place. Recognizing prototactic living organisms such that they, in their patchy environments, themselves become selective agents is essential to the Gaian view of life on earth. The 3 tO 30 million species of protoctists (protists: ciliates, foraminifera, algae, amoebae, and their largo descendants), fungi, animals and plants, and the entire bacterial continuum of gene-exchanging microbes together with their physical surroundings prevent the rampant exponential growth of populations: simply put, Gaia is Darwin's natural selector. All of these organisms have a tendency for population explosion. That this enormous population potential falls to be reached is Darwin's lesson. There are checks upon growth at all times throughout the life cycles of all organisms. Gaia, the sum of the interacting organisms of the biosphere, checks growth and therefore acts as the natural selector.
The Gaia hypothesis claims that, on earth, the atmosphere, hydrosphere, surface sediments, and all living beings together (the biota) behave as a single integrated system with properties more akin to systems of physiology than those of physics. The traditional Darwinian view is a linear scheme in which organisms are affected by the environment and the environment in turn is the result of chemical and physical forces. This linear scheme may owe much to the Victorian era of science in which Darwin worked, an era in which, to make evolution acceptable to a religious populace, Darwin had to give it a credible, detailed mechanism. Since the most respected science of the time was the physical discoveries of Isaac Newton, Darwin tried to portray evolution as the result of blind principles and mechanical interactions, just as Newton had portrayed gravity. Gaia has a different view of the environment. It is seen less as matter interacting blindly than as a superordinated collection of living things. The environment, far from being a static backdrop influenced only by physical and chemical forces, is highly active and biologically modulated.
The environment is an integral part of the Gaian system of the living earth as seen from space. The Gaia hypothesis asserts that the temperature and aspects of the chemical composition of the earth's surface are directly regulated by the metabolic, growth, and reproductive activities of a vast biota. Gaia theory, first formulated by British inventor and atmospheric chemist James E. Lovelock in the late 1960s, has been developed in the scientific literature for more than twenty-five years (Margulis and Lovelock 1989). Recent forays into Gaia science have been boosted by continued space exploration: views of the entire globe from orbit in comparison with other planets greatly influence all of us: clearly life on the planet is some kind of interacting unity. If symbiosis is defined as the living together in protracted physical continuity of different kinds of organisms then, as Hinkle (1992) asserts, Gaia is simply symbiosis seen from space.
In its stronger forms, the Gaia hypothesis claims that the mean global temperature, the composition of reactive gases in the atmosphere, and the salinity and alkalinity of the oceans are not only influenced but regulated, at a planetary level, by the flora, fauna, and microorganisms. This regulation, as we have seen, is not completely homeostatic. It is not like the thermostat of a house set at a single temperature for all time. It is homeorrhetic-regulated around what systems engineers call a moving set point, a set point which can change, as when global oxygen rose from a trace gas to a major constituent of the earth's atmosphere some 2 billion years ago. If we look at the development of a human body, from fertilized egg through blastula and embryo to child and adult, it becomes clear that the regulation of living systems is far more complex and fascinating than anything so far engineered. The chemical reactions of a physiological system. unlike those of an inert physical (geological orgeochemical) system, are under active biological control. In the absence of the global physiology postulated by Gaia, variables such as global mean temperature, atmospheric composition, and ocean salinity would be deducible directly from Earth's position in the solar system. These aspects of the planetary surface, responding to changes in the energy output of the sun, would conform to the known physical and chemical laws.
Yet an examination of Earth's surface shows that such aspects vary widely from what would be expected based on the principles alone of physics, chemistry, and other non-biological sciences. These principles predict that Earth should have reached a chemical steady state with carbon dioxide and nitrogen as compatible gases, as on Mars or Venus, for example. Chemically, however, Earth is extraordinarily anomalous: oxygen, methane, and hydrogen coexist in the atmosphere carbon dioxide is in decorative carbonate rocks instead of in the air; iron is found in huge bands from kilometer-wide to micron-scale patterns; ancient gold is intertwined with long stretches of organic carbon in locales few and far between: Witwatersrand, South Africa, and Michepecoten, Ontario. Such planet-wide disparities are what led Lovelock to propose the Gaia hypothesis that the earth is a physiological system.
The Gaia hypothesis has been criticized because of its controversial claim that the earth behaves like a living being. Some believe that Gaian views lend credence to the idea that Earth-the global biota in its gaseous and aqueous environment-is a single gigantic organism. Since this notion resonates with ancient beliefs and, relative to Western secularism, leads to a radical re-enchanting of the world, it has come in for suspicion, especially from the Neo-Darwinian biologists whose non-chemical view of life Gaia threatens to make irrelevant by comparison. Nonetheless, an organism-like response of the planetary environment and its biota is clearly detectable-a behavior distinguishing Earth from Mars, Venus, Mercury, and any outer planet or its moons. The evidence in support of the Gaian idea that the earth's surface behaves as a macrobody includes the realization that the atmosphere is an extension of the biota. If the earth's surface were not covered with oxygen-emitting bacteria, algae, and plants, as well as methane and hydrogen-producing bacteria and countless other organisms, its atmosphere would long ago have degenerated to the same carbon dioxide-rich steady state that today can be found on Mars and Venus (Margulis and Olendzenski 1991).
Another strong argument for Gaia comes from astrophysical models of the evolution of stars. Early in its history the sun was some 30 to40 percent cooler than it is at present. Yet fossil evidence shows that life has existed since just after the earth's formation. (The Earth-Moon system is 4-.6 billion years old and the first fossil communities, domed rocklike structures called stromatolites, left their record at least 3.9 billion years ago.) The more control on the global scale is analogous to that within the human body. Biological homeostasis might be accomplished by myriad interacting mechanisms-all products of the evolutionary process. Ocean salt regulation may even be achieved, at least in part, by the formation of evaporate flats. We know these structures result from activities of microbial communities and we know they can tic up great quantities of salt. Lovelock (1988) has even argued that life has influenced the movement of continental crust to the tropical regions, where rapid evaporation occurs. If this is the case then even plate tectonic movement is encompassed within the sprawling realm of life.
Gaia has evolved by prototaxis coupled with continuously checked exponential growth. Earth's atmosphere maintains an anomalous amount of oxygen (abOUt 20 percent) in the presence of gases that react with it; the surface atmosphere has a mean mid-latitude temperature of 18'C; the pH of the lower atmosphere and oceans is slightly greater than 8. All of these values have been relatively constant for millions of years, and all are within ranges permissive to life. Such persistent and drastic differences between Earth and its neighbours reinforce the Gaian view of planet Earth and its recognition that biota and environment-biosphere-form one planet-wide homeorrhetic system. Prototaxis of the individual components leads the system to respond with alacrity to tendencies of the physical and chemical surroundings toward excursions beyond the limits to life. One predictable response includes the rapid growth of populations of metabolically and morphologically distinctive organisms whose interactions stabilize the whole.
Biodiversity is essential, therefore, to the physiology of the planet and perhaps we "biophiliacs" sense this. Sensitivity (and therefore prototaxis), biodiversity, and exponential growth rates of populations are intrinsic to Gaian physiology, but therein lies the rub. Gaia persisted long before people described or even worshipped her. Gaia, with or without humans, is likely to generate more diversity and continue to persist long after the extinction or speciation of humans, perhaps even after the atmosphere is depleted of the carbon dioxide needed to cool itself in the face of an increasingly luminous sun. Gaia, radiating forms of diversity as yet only dimly conceivable to us, may even survive the predicted explosion of the sun into a red giant, a final magnificent sunset which will boil away earth's oceans.
Let us try to come to grips with this evolutionary becoming that swamps the human species no less than the march of generations tramples an individual animal's life span. Evolution is a planetary phenomenon of thermodynamic disequilibrium: powered by the sun and, so far as is known, confined, until very recently, to the surface of the earth. (One of us would argue that Apollo, Soyuz, Viking, Mariner, Voyager, and other such missions represent the beginnings of a planetary budding, organic in nature, that will culminate in the extravagant reproduction of offspring biospheres; Sagan 1992.) The strongest argument for biophilia (and for the hypothetical outcome of biophilia's disciplined practice, biodiversity) is not ethical. Our reaction to other life-forms may be highly negative-as it is with cockroaches, spiders, maggots, snakes, rats, indeed virtually any organisms that reproduce rapidly or threaten to harm our person. Biophobia and biophilia are part of a finely differentiated prototaxis that extends throughout not only the animal but also the plant, fungal, protoctist, and bacterial kingdoms. Although plants, for example, do not have emotional reactions, their chemistry, their smells and visual attributes, draw to them and keep away certain very specific others. Fungi, too, elicit strong emotional responses through chemistry alone, as in the human aversion to toadstools.
The presence of biophilia suggests we not only love birds and flowers but also have an inbred contempt, distaste, and perhaps hatred of certain other life-forms. Even if we were to obey Kant's categorical imperative and treat all beings, starting with humans, as ends rather than means, cultivation of biophilia in the broad sense would lead us not to preserve biodiversity but only favored plants and animals. "All organisms are equal,"we seem sometimes to want to say in the discourse on biodiversity, "yet some animals are more equal than others." Not surprisingly these "more equal" beings are often large mammals either like us or like those found in the savanna in which human primates first evolved. One of the reasons for the decline of the aesthetically pleasing and emotionally resonant beasts such as African elephants and Bengal tigers is that human beings in our agricultural prowess have found shortcuts in the trophic line. From the vantage point of the charismatic vertebrates, and our love for them, this is very sad. But from the view point of an evolving biosphere it maybe analogous to the cost trimming" that goes on in an expanding corporation.
If we were truly serious about saving all other organisms, we would follow Jainist principles and filter our water to save the paramecia. We would surgically implant chloroplasts in our skin in order to photosynthesize ourselves and not uproot lettuce or carrot plants. We certainly would not cavalierly flush away our solid wastes that serve as a breeding ground fore. coli and other gut bacteria. This reductio ad absurdum shows the hypocritical element implicit in the rhetoric of ecological salvation. In fact, part of the reason a predator lie the Bengal tiger is so physically arresting is that it feeds at the top of the trophic chain; it is a carnivore, a killing machine, a king unfairly taxing plant and animal pawns. It has been said that all great poems contain an element of cruelty. Perhaps the same may be said of animals in the biosphere.
Nor is the strongest argument for biophilia practical. Preserving the Amazonian rain forest may serendipitously preserve a tree or insect species from which we can derive a valuable new drug or food or fiber. Such economic incentives may make the difference for a pragmatist, an industrialist trying to reduce quality to quantity on the spread-sheet of profit. For us, however, the strongest argument for a directed biophilia leading to a general if not all-encompassing biodiversity has to do with survival-not the abstract ethical survival of all sentient entities, but our own survival, the preservation of a certain quality of human life.
All life on earth is a unified spatio-temporal system with no clear-cut boundaries. Encouraging our biophilia, preserving blocks of biodiversity before they are converted to concrete skyscrapers and asphalt parking lots, is a way of enhancing the possibility that human beings will persist into the future. This future may be indefinite, as some few species do not become extinct but "scale back" and become symbio-genically attenuated and reintegrated into new forms of life and patterns of living organization. If we consider, for example, the ancestral oxygen-respirers that evolved into the mitochondria of all plants, animals, and fungi, we would have to say that this mitochondrial "species," co-dependent as it is, has resisted extinction, surviving and spreading (and still going strong) in multifarious forms for some 2,000 million years. Humanity seems to have been presented with an opportunity, rare in evolution, to do likewise. By allying ourselves more closely with once distant life-forms, by affiliating ourselves biophyletically, not only with the plants and animals whose ongoing demise weighs so heavily at present on our memory, but also with the waste-recycling, air-producing, and water-purifying microbes we as yet take largely for granted, we may be able to aid in the flowering of earth life into the astronomically voluminous reaches of space. Like the ecocidal rampage exacted by the violently fast spread of ancient strains of photosynthetic bacteria, our expansion across the surface of the planet has created environmental havoc, and wholesale biological destruction, in our wake. Like those cyanobacteria we have polluted, we have murdered, we have slaughtered with laughter and pride. Like them, we are not good or evil. Like them, the planetary changes effected by our explosive population growth have prepared the way for strange new living things. In a process of negative feedback not unlike that illustrated by the expanding small restaurant, the worldwide propagation of human beings has led to a planet ever more inhospitable to human life. As earth becomes increasingly polluted and overcrowded, as the global commons of atmosphere and ocean are spoiled as surely as the common grazing areas of small towns were once destroyed for all, self-sufficient environments at home and abroad, in space and beneath the ocean, become more attractive. Future human settlements may be like Arizona's Biosphere 11: materially closed but informationally and energetically open systems of bio-affiliated life-forms that replenish water and air and indefinitely return their wastes into food, clothing, and shelter. Such biodiversity-containing artificial biospheres, materially separated from the global ecosystem, could also persist in orbit or on the surface of other planets without the need for re-supply from earth. Because the tendency of all life is to reproduce, and in so doing spoil the environment, such enclaves would provide insurance against global environmental deterioration. Artificial biospheres and closed ecological systems are analogous to aerobes that flourished in the wake of the environmental destruction wreaked by the cyanobacterial spread 2 billion years ago. And, crucially dependent for their existence on both biodiversity and biophilia, they represent the only currently imaginable means of completely recycling wastes into food away from earth. This suggests yet again that the greatest level of living organization yet to evolve is Gaia.
Although Gaia's biodiversity is currently spread across the planet, the thought experiment of biospheres shows how Gaian biodiversity may be individuated" or concentrated into independent units: Gaian offspring. One criticism levelled against Gaia is that earth cannot possibly be an organism, since it has no little ones. Yet the creation of recycling chambers with humans, such as Biosphere 11, currently housing eight humans, food species, and technology near Oracle, Arizona, represents the first wave of an ultimately natural process of Gaia producing little ones. In far more sophisticated, as yet almost inconceivable forms, perhaps such systems will preserve biodiversity after humanity and the death of the sun. From the human perspective biospheres are communities, but from the Gaian perspective they are propagules.
The "technology " needed to cut the material umbilicus to earth, to truly migrate and live independently in space, is nothing other than other life-forms. Only select samples of earth's biodiversity, natural systems with soil bacteria, recycling fungi, food species, and many other organisms can support people in space. Probably nothing else so clearly illustrates that Gaia is not just a metaphor. To survive in space we require thousands of other living beings, entire ecosystems. They are not lower but essential to a life-form of which we are a mere part. Ultimately, we may be a dispensable part. Moreover, despite the great technological accomplishments of the human species, we are not yet close to recreating photosynthesis in the laboratory, let alone miniaturizing it as cellular life does. Gaia's photosynthesis, nitrogen fixation, and other chemical production and waste management abilities are still far ahead of modem technology.
Can we, as humans, destroy the environment we love and yet remain hopeful and festive? Population growth has decimated the earth. An ecologically correct alternative is to rally the peoples of the earth together into an enforced state of stasis, onc in which population growth and exploitation of the living environment for human ends are tightly controlled. Certainly what most environmentally minded persons advocate-conservation-itself seems to accord with the precepts of the Judeo-Christian tradition, from the rhetoric of salvation to responsible stewardship over nature. But even assuming that the nationalistic economies of the world could be convinced of the dangers of growth (a doubtful proposition), even assuming that the world's governments could be persuaded to confine themselves to their borders and leave other nations alone, can one truly imagine such retrenchment enduring indefinitely? Would not the stage be set for defectors?
Life on earth is a complex, fractally individuated, chemical system whose basis is a mostly green layer of photosynthetic matter as bacteria, algae, and plants. This layer makes its own nutrition from air, water, and sun. This layer continues to grow and tempt any life-forms that would "cheat" and make use of it (or each other) rather than build themselves from scratch. What with solar radiation impinging on the surface of the earth, and its storage in the sediments as energetically exploitable matter, it seems inevitable that "unfair players," either cheating bands of humans or new species of organisms, will evolve, willing to transgress the enlightened growth-curbed policies of any hypothetical ecologically correct humans. Conservation on an evolving planet is ultimately a lost cause. Truly considered, this is a very difficult, even a dangerous, thought-indeed, most would rather not think it, as it seems to admit of no solution save a fruitless resignation to the endless murderous quality of life in an energetic universe. Maybe other beings have thought similar thoughts, and that is part of the natural antipathy, revulsion, and embarrassment-all forms, by the way, of biophobia-we sometimes feel face to face with our "ancestors," be they an unhip parent in polyester leisure suit, the fornicating apes Bishop Wilberforce could not admit were his relatives, or the microbial gunk in the sewer. And yet over against this instinctual distaste there is awe that we have come from such and are going-where? Often the strength and the weakness of something can be one and the same. The Judeo-Christian ethical perspective is a mental safety net protecting us against the onset of a Dionysian nature madness induced by a lack of guidelines. But it can also be an iron gate barring access to visions of the future as well as a clear grasp of biology's amoral status quo.
Once we disabuse ourselves of the ecologically correct inheritance of Jean-Jacques Rousseau's liberal nostalgia for a pristine (good, unpolluted, tranquil) past which in fact never existed, we will be in a better position to appreciate our present situation as mere humans trying to survive within a biosphere that our own agricultural and technological manipulations have irreversibly altered. Our very self-centeredness has led us to reproduce without concern for the environment around us. But now our past has caught up with us. We arc stuck in the delicate position of having to undo our ecological karma. At the same time, the epidemic global spread of technological humanity has whittled away the oral traditions of native cultures with specialized knowledge of local ecologies. Elsewhere in this volume, Paul Shepard focuses our attention on the cultural narcissism of the human species which prefers its wild animals caged and has rendered domestic pets into genetic "goofies" incapable of independent survival. One should note, however, that many other organisms in the history of life have been rendered chronically dependent as a result of inter-specific alliances. Although the ancestors of mitochondria were free-living, independent organisms, their descendants are totally incapable, even in nutrient media, of survival outside the host cell. Thus a movement from, say, free-living wolves to urban dogs dependent on regular servings of pet food may be lamented, but it is hardly unique.
Indeed, if global biospheric relations are undergoing a major reorganization due not so much to the interference of humanity (this would again be the epitome of the shallow-ecological view, since it keeps people apart from nature) but rather the development within the biosphere of the human phenomenon, it is perfectly natural for us as sentient beings to feel distress in the presence of such sweeping changes. What is in question, however, is the assumption that we know that the planet is sick and can fix it by bringing it to some sort of environmental stasis. Without being dismissed as technophiliac, we would like to suggest that the decline in species diversity may be balanced by an increase in technological diversity-a trade-off that may ultimately enhance the longevity of the biosphere.
In 1973 the Soviet biologist M. M. Kamshilov (1976) performed a controlled experiment in which he added harmful phenolic acid to a series of laboratory communities, each more complex than the last. The first ecosystem consisted only of bacteria-the only kingdom of life whose members are varied and biochemically versatile enough to completely recycle foods into wastes without the aid of members of other kingdoms. By themselves the bacteria were able to break down the phenolic acid, but not as quickly as the more complex systems. The second vessel, which contained not only bacteria but aquatic plants, was able to neutralize the toxic acid more rapidly than the bacterial ecosystem. Following in this trend, the third system, to which was added molluscs, was even more effective. And the fourth, which incorporated fish, molluscs, plants, and bacteria, removed the phenolic acid at a quicker rate still. Notice that the model systems that recycled fastest were not simply the most complex assemblages but those that incorporated more recently evolved organisms into a base of ancient life-forms.
The appearance of dramatically new life-forms may cause an initial period of destabilization and discomfort as they rapidly spread. But for a newly evolved life-form to survive in the long run it must integrate itself into the global ecosystem of which it forms an increasingly large part. The global ecosystem is far bigger and more metastable than any single life-form, including the most disruptive. This statement applies emphatically to technological humanity-a species now confronting with greater responsibility than ever before (out of sheer necessity) the consequences of its pioneer stage of rapid proliferation and settlement. If this is the case, then the present concerns for the environment need no more signify planetary pathology than they indicate robust global health. Indeed, they may be more lie the pains of some strange animal which, in sensing the culmination of its difficult pregnancy, takes conscious care to eat well and procure extra rest.
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