Saturday, February 6, 2010

Humanity and Our Environmental Progression

I had an extremely interesting conversation with T-bone this morning, while driving to Sacramento for one our shows.  T-bone has always been an avid outdoorsman, and I had always been curious why he had such an affinity for nature.  When I asked him, he said that the main reason he liked nature, why he liked backpacking into the middle of nowhere for a few weeks, was that it allowed him to get back to what the world was like before Man.

Now I thought this was an amazing thing to think about--what the world was like before Man came about to cultivate it.  I thought back to Genesis 1, which details God creating the world and everything in it.  He creates the oceans, the birds, fish, animals, plants--everything is in its place...then God creates man and woman.  And the one thing He commands both of them to do, is to lovingly rule over all He has created.  God entrusts His entire world into the care of mankind.

It's interesting that of all the creations on this earth, humans have the highest capacity to think and organize.  There's an amazing talk by primatologist, Robert Sapolsky (which I'll include at the end of this entry) which talks about the cognitive and biological distinctions between humans and the rest of life.  One of his main contentions is that humans have an incredibly deep capacity to think--about life, about the creation of communities, about emotions, complex math, etc.  The reason I bring this up, is that if you look at the facts--the human ability to think, we really are the most qualified to govern this earth (or so it seems).

Let's go back to Genesis for a minute.  Later on in the narrative, Adam and Eve eat the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge (which God commands them not to do), and are expelled from the Garden of Eden because they disobeyed God.  He had created a world for Adam and Eve to govern--a world in which He established rules for them to follow, so that things would be done correctly.  So when Adam and Eve disobey God (went against how he intended things to be), there were undesirable consequences.  The point I want to make, is that I think mankind has been given a responsibility (in light of the mental capacity with which we were created) to tend to our world.  There is a right way and a wrong way to go about doing this, and how we choose to do so creates positive or negative repercussions.

Now let's take a look at the progression of humanity over the centuries.  If we examine the development of mankind, we find the overarching trend to be that we progress more technologically than we do morally.  Of course there are developments in philosophy which change the way we think about a whole spectrum of particular issues.  But the main axioms of how people desire to be treated (we like to be loved, we desire friendships, we don't like people killing us, etc.) have been intact for centuries.

On the other hand, technology has been changing as far back as we can trace.  Stone tools progressed to iron, steam to gasoline, candlelight to electricity--humanity is always progressing to another level of technology that enables us to achieve new and unprecedented things.

I think we can all gather how morality has changed the world.  We find that when societies treat each other with mutual respect and love, the tendency is that the community is influenced positively.  And when these general elements are not there, and people treat each other badly, communities are negatively affected.

But how does this technology affect our world?  If we look at the progression of the earth, it seems that one major ability which technology has given us, is more ways to adversely effect the environment, on an increasingly greater scale.  For instance, the Egyptians had a huge culture, and no doubt had their negative affects on the environment.  But that effect was localized and contained by the parameters placed upon them by their technology.  They didn't have airlines, cars, plastic, styrofoam.

But today, our technology allows us to put massive holes in the ozone, our trash dump sites are larger and more frequent that they've ever been, and the amount of people using technology is greater than ever before.

Now it's not that technology is a "bad" thing--in fact, it seems that each new development in technology solves a current problem, but also (in many cases) creates a new dilemma.

Thus, I find it extremely interesting that the way in which humanity has developed over the centuries, caters more towards harming our world than making it better.

I don't want to seem completely pessimistic by pointing this out, but I think it's a real and important issue that we must face--that we have a responsibility to our world, and that the odds are kind of against us to manage the earth in a positive way.

But the point I'd like to finish with, is the old saying "With great power, comes great responsibility".  Humanity has been given a great power to think, create, and govern, and we must be wary of how we choose to use the amazing things that spring from human ingenuity.

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