The failure of the “liberty movement” to address reality-based environmentalism is one that disappoints me a little more with each passing day.
I’m a fan of Toronto-based clinical psychologist, Jordan Peterson. A terribly smart man. Absolutely brilliant. When I began to explore his lectures, however, I had zero faith in his ability to take environmentalism seriously or to remove it from the shadow realms of leftism as its own very real concern. I assumed he would lump wildlife preservation in with radical leftism, which he did not do exactly, but in classic Jordan style he wrote it off as pessimism. A consequence of postmodernism. Which is fine, because that’s Jordan’s schtick.
In one video on YouTube, a he answers a question from a fan about overpopulation and his feelings on the subject. Jordan states that biologists and economists have a drastically differing view on the problem. Biologists, he says, are pessimistic and believe that humanity is breeding far to quickly to sustain itself. Although he did not say it, it seems to me that consumption and economic tolls on the environment are just as much a concern to the biologists I’ve read. And then Jordan explains the economist’s view, which he tells us he shares. And it’s this: Nah, we’re super smart and resourceful so we’ll save ourselves from our own incredible appetite for destruction before it’s too late.
Now, as I said. This is a highly intelligent man. I do not claim to be some intellectual superior to him. And I cannot say that he does not know wilderness, either, since he grew up in a small town in Northern Ontario in a boreal surrounding that essentially is the same as my own in Northern Minnesota. But it’s precisely that fact that confuses me so much. As someone who has to have witnessed the dramatic and devastating changes logging corporations bring to boreal forests and observed the long-last effects of draining wetlands, a man so intelligent… how on earth can he come to the conclusion that we will somehow turn this train around in time to save not only ourselves, but as he seems to imply, most of the planet’s wilderness? One might think this seems to fly in the face of his core message, that most of us can’t even “clean our rooms”, much less save the planet from a force as unbelievably strong as economic-industrial momentum. If we were so clever, as Jordan seems to be implying here, then why the battle cry to save the West? Why take up the cross, as he implores us to do, when we are sure to fix our issues anyway? Surely taking up our cross is a noble message, and I agree wholeheartedly. But why stop at environmental issues? Could it be because inside of even the brilliant-minded is a grim fear that the Western concept of wealth must diminish in order for Nature to thrive as she is created to? Could this notion be the unspeakable abyss that industrial culture in both hemispheres is terrified to look at directly? Are we bucking at something so ubiquitous because it threatens the very foundations of what drives our civilization?
At one point in the video, Jordan states something that is obvious to anyone who has studied ecology and humanity’s effects on wild animal populations. It’s that we will most likely wipe out the large predators by the peak of population growth, which he believes will then decline. He does not state that we will wipe out some large predators, but seems to imply what many biologists and those pesky dreaded activists have already been telling us for decades: we are in real danger of destroying all of our wild super predator populations.
An ecologist would scoff at the idea of destroying something as imperative to the earth’s structural biological integrity without destroying most everything else with it. Because they have observed and listened to Nature. And Nature has given us the predators to control the populations of the prey. And the prey controls the presence of plant life. And the plant life becomes our soils, and the soils have a direct effect on our climate in so many ways it would take a book to begin to touch on all of them.
Many of us have heard of the story of the Yellowstone Wolves, in which the reintroduction of a pack of gray wolves were released into Yellowstone in an attempt to control grazer populations. A cascade of positive effects took place and in dramatic timing. One of them being the slowing of river erosion due to loss of grasses and plants in those areas from overgrazing. It was an example of a process that occurs constantly in nature, right under our noses, but it received so much press because it included our anthropomorphized canine mythos-identity: the wolf. But when it includes more mundane things, like ants, beetles, and a cherry tree, we tend to ignore the interplay of wild elements. Romantic wilderness has always captured the human imagination. The subtler wild places, however, go almost wholly unnoticed by the majority of us.
The first principle of any real “environmentalist” movement is to recognize the interconnectedness of all things. Without this admission we are hopeless. This physical and spiritual connection to Nature is to indigenous culture as Jordan’s logos is to the West, and there’s something very keen to be said of that. The Eastern axiom that all thoughts and actions ripple into our universe is something that many people in our ultra-modern world typically believe, or pretend to believe, and Western society has, in many places, accepted the axiom as it has the golden rule, with a bit of salt pinched between our fingers. But we still hesitate to accept the modern biologists’ warnings: environs not far displaced from the scale of our own are physically and often directly affected by events in other environs on other scales. Every tire chucked into the ocean is still there. The top soil we removed from millions of acres of our tallgrass prairies is still gone. The passenger pigeons aren’t coming back. What is done is done, and still happening.
The economists and technologists give us a lot of high falutin’ talk. But that’s all they’ve given us, aside from many more ways to pollute. We create “green” efficient technologies, this is true, but we must create at the speed of capitalism. Nature does not abide by capitalism. Nature does not abide by our will, at all. We believe she does, but she does not abide. We simply beat her into submission.
The second principle of environmentalism should be to not use that term anymore- environmentalism- because it implies that caring for our natural resources and the life on our planet is somehow ideological. It is not. It is the base modus operandi for humanity and has been for thousands of years. And the argument that technological progression was democratically and organically arrived in all the cultures it has pervaded is historically wrong, continues to be wrong, and will be wrong until the last indigenous culture is rutted from its hard and beautiful home to adapt the purgatorial existence that so many indigenous peoples across the globe face every day. The purgatory that is swallowing our earth entire, and thanks in part to lax attitude of our most brilliant minds. My question is whether or not we will leave this purgatory ascending into heaven, or walk out the back door and take the stairs, seven flights down to hell.