When Environmentalism Becomes Anti-Humanity

‘Give the earth back to the animals. They deserve it infinitely more than we do.’ – Columbine Shooter

21 August 2018

At one point in our lives, we’ve all heard someone say, ‘the world would be better off without humans.’ Maybe you agreed with the sentiment; maybe you were the one who said it. Regardless, the idea appears to come from good intentions, which is probably why it has endured for so long. It’s an assumption rooted in the truth that humanity is having a detrimental impact on the planet.

Indeed, our unsustainable existence, as it is now, may be damaging the world in a way that puts all of our fellow lifeforms at risk.

But the solution to this issue will never be the reduction of human effort or our ability to thrive on this planet. Merely entertaining the idea is wrong on a moral and logical level. While the thought may just be a hypothetical, we must realise that it’s a deeply dangerous one which promotes a nihilistic outlook.

It is unproductive. It is anti-human. It is simply not right to ruminate on the extinction of mankind for the ‘good’ of the world. If we want to get any closer to solving the issues facing us and our home, we need to squash this perspective right now. Humans are the only species on this earth that could possibly put it in danger, but we’re also the only ones who could save it from a disaster.

I’m not even sure where to begin with an idea like, ‘the world would be a better place if humans didn’t exist.’ On a surface level, those who espouse it may seem sharp and even selfless, as if they’d be willing to give away their life and the lives of everyone they’ve ever loved in order to protect flora and fauna.

Now, I’d hate to get overly philosophical, but there is a fundamental problem with any thought exercise which requires you to perceive a world in which you don’t exist—a world which can’t be perceived. Every concept ever hypothesised has come from human brain power and perception.

How would the world be ‘better’ without humans if ‘better’ is a human ideal? Perhaps more natural is what these people want, but why exactly is that better? What is the point of an ‘untouched’ coral reef or forest if its subjective beauty can’t be realised?

What proponents of this idea want is absolute equality between all things and beings, where nothing reaches the top of the food chain so nothing can dominate or preserve what is beneath it. Now that’s unnatural, pretending the world is a harmonious and peaceful place, to begin with.

When people say something along the lines of, ‘humans are the only animal that raises life to kill it,’ they’re pretending that a lion wouldn’t do the same to a gazelle if it could. We’re predators, and the key difference between us and other animals is that we can. We’re the most evolved species on the planet, and as a collective, we consume the most. The only problem now is that we might be consuming unsustainably, too much and too fast.

At its core, environmentalism is not a selfless endeavour. It is the pursuit of a better and cleaner world in the way we envision it, which ultimately makes for a better home for us. What’s good for our long-term survival and viability just happens to be good for other species and lifeforms as well. That’s why we should continue to develop sustainable technologies and industries that can replace the old ones and give us more time to realise our potential on this earth.

Before we can do that though, we need to convince more citizens and legislators of the need for sound environmental protection. This won’t happen if we continue to speculate on the supposed greatness of a world without humans, because frankly, that’s a nutty and villainous idea pulled straight out of a comic-book movie. 

We’re not ‘destroying the world’ as some people might have you believe. We’re destroying our ability to see a long-term future on it. That’s an issue which affects humanity, not just the animals and plants which occupy the earth alongside us. Environmentalism is more than just feeling pity for other beings, it’s about protecting our own ability to survive on a planet we have so far thrived on.

To say something so reductionist like, ‘the world would be better off without us’ is to ignore mankind’s own status as a treasured form of life.

10 comments

  1. Beavers cut down trees in order to dam Rivers. It’s what they do. If beavers developed the ability to grow their own trees in order to cut them down, would that make them bad? Would the world then be better off without beavers?

    Humans use tools and try to create order out of disorder. It’s what we do. It seems completely illogical to say that beavers or lions or leeches are natural and good while humans (who got here the same way they all did) are bad.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Really, it’s as if people are upset about how advanced humanity has become. Our whole notion of ‘natural’ is based on a human way of thinking. If a higher force or alien life were to come inspect the planet, they’d see no difference, in utility, between a building and a bird’s nest.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Let’s work to end the overfishing of the oceans, that if not stopped will lead to largely lifeless oceans (as to fish) by mid century – that is within the life expectancy of the millennials. (Many of us won’t be around to see it.) Let’s stop the destruction of habitat in Africa for so many species of beautiful animals. We can do this if we have the political will.

    Liked by 1 person

    • A lot of this is about fighting apathy. We need to get more people to care about environmental issues as if they were humanitarian issues.

      Like

  3. Would that there were a succinct statement to which I could respond. Instead, you present a mixture of ideas that opens further questions. For instance, differences between natural, unnatural, manmade, synthetic, etc. has no meaning if the totality of what occurs on the planet is subsumed within natural, biological, and geological processes. As the term “manmade” is commonly used in environmentalism, it refers simply to effects that would not obtain had we humans not fundamentally altered the chemistry and thus the historical course of the planet. True, all species affect their environments. The difference is the size of those effects.

    Similarly, the notion that “the solution to this issue will never be the reduction of human effort or our ability to thrive on this planet” fails to consider differences between maximizing, minimizing, and optimizing our activities, which would necessarily mean restraining ourselves from doing as much damage as we now do. It’s a complicated balance to strike, and we’re sorely out of balance, leading to self-extinction. Observing that basic fact may give rise to nihilism and fatalism for some and an earnest desire to extinguish humanity before we knowingly or inadvertently kill off the entire planet. Frankly, solution seeking is begging the question: assuming that a solution exists yet to be discovered. The track we’re on would suggest otherwise.

    Like

    • Yes, but by optimising our activities and achieving intertemporal efficiency, we’re not technically ‘reducing’ our efforts, are we? In fact, it would take a great deal more work to ensure that we can sustain national economies while maintaining a viable future on this planet. Reducing our ability to thrive would mean ceasing our use of fossil fuels, for example, without investing in a cleaner alternative.

      The problem is that we’re currently living an unsustainable existence on this earth that if not corrected is sure to cause disaster. Like you said, acknowledging this issue has brought a ‘rise to nihilism and fatalism for some and an earnest desire to extinguish humanity.’ That’s what I’m arguing against: the nihilistic attitudes which have caused some to believe that wiping out the human race is the answer to the deteriorating environment.

      But if to save the environment is not for the ultimate purpose of prolonging mankind’s existence on this earth, what else is it for? To maintain a level of aesthetic beauty that only humans can appreciate anyway? Save the animals by killing 7 billion other animals?

      Like

Leave a Reply to The (Formerly) Unfortunate Virgin Cancel reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s