A variation of this argument comes up a lot, whether it be in conversation with environmentally conscious people or in movies like the Matrix where humans are fighting for their right to exist, so I was not surprised when it came up again the other day. “He’s angry with the world today”, a friend told me, “he knows full well that the human race is the cancer of the Earth, and there are some days in which the evidence of this is particularly striking, so he’ll be in a bad mood all day”. These people are Italians, so there was no point in bringing up George Carlin to her, but I find his response to this often sought out argument particularly fitting.
The planet has been through far worse than us, that is for sure. Earth survived a meteor the size of a fucking island crashing into it, the earth will survive us too. I am not so arrogant as to consider our species a cancer, maybe a particularly annoying fly the planet will have no problem shaking off if it really comes down to caring enough.
I can already hear the ghost voice of my friends’ dissent
But those are all naaatural things, what we’re doing is not natural
Another supreme form of arrogance, that we are somehow not part of nature. That the universe is on some sort of cosmic predestined path and we’re fucking it up and derailing some ultimate cosmic plan for how things are going to proceed. That anything and everything we do is somehow special, divorced from the natural order, put on a higher pedestal, and that with our immense power comes the great responsibility to curb what is on that pedestal.
Here come the voices of dissent again
So what are you saying? Just give up? Not give a shit? Forget global warming, or toxic dumping? What’s the point of any of it, right?
Nope, that’s not what I’m saying at all. I agree with being environmentally conscious, but for entirely different reasons.
If there is one way that our species is special, it’s that we seem to be the only species alive that can have a direct, conscious control over the extinction of our own species. We should do what we can to curb global warming and toxic dumping not because the planet would suffer, but because we will suffer. It is entirely within our own self interest to keep the planet as pleasantly inhabitable as possible. Why am I even making such a seemingly arbitrary distinction?
Because I think that bringing the tone of the discussion away from the empathetic and more towards the selfish could help bring the cause to many people. Many people don’t give a shit about the planet, mostly because deep down they don’t believe that the planet is all that delicate as we try to make it out to be. Many see this “save the planet” spiel as utter nonsense, meant to tug at the heartstrings that only tree-hugging hippies seem to possess for the green-spotted liver snail that might go extinct if they don’t recycle their plastic bottles. At the end of the day let’s be really honest, it’s not about the snails. It’s about us, about the conservation of our habitat to suit us. Start talking in terms of our children, our children’s children, who will not have to suffer debilitating diseases or famine or thirst if we get our shit together and start changing our ways now.
Let’s face it, the planet will be here long after we’re gone, but I think I know humans, and I think humans are going to want to stick around as long as possible.