The healthy fear we once had for Nature has been replaced by society’s distorted view of progress. It is the fear we once had of Nature that led to our ability to build better shelters, more efficiently obtain food and water, and successfully move across the land with greater efficiency. Protecting ourselves from the elements, ensuring an adequate supply of food for energy, and the ability to migrate and explore our land are commendable, key marked traits for any species. A healthy fear of Nature also drove our development and advances in science. Gifted individuals throughout history were aware that fear is not knowing, and by understanding our world better through the lens of science, we can develop a healthy fear, and hence a more harmonious relationship with Nature. A respect for the world we live in is achieved and rooted in a healthy fear of the Nature which we share time with on this Earth.
When the idea of progress was replaced by the belief that we have control over Nature, an imbalance developed and a disconnect between our societies and Nature was put in to motion. The point in our history when this took place is open to debate. More than likely, it was a gradual process of misguided actions that culminated to stain our relationship with our environments. Regardless of when and where our disconnect with Nature took place, a healthy fear among society and Nature disappeared in a cloud of perceived power and dominance over the land, the rest of its species, and even other human races. A respect was lost.
Our homes, the manner in which we obtain food and water, and transportation sources now are no longer moving us in a direction of progress. They are pushing us to the edge of global environmental destruction, and science, as it always has, is serving as our lens to view and understand the drastic changes happening around us. Neglecting the valid, real science that is in place and revealing how our far reaching, over abundant lifestyles are adversely affecting the only planet we are capable of surviving on is nothing short of ignorance, and shameful. To further dramaticize our predicament as a species here, the individuals that have remained true to themselves and their land, and acknowledge their place in Nature through an unspoken respect by living within reasonable means of themselves, and the Earth, are at a disadvantageous number. Thoreau once said that “the mass of men live lives of quiet desperation.” There are simply too few of us leading our own lives, and too many of us being led by a society that has gone astray, chasing after a distorted view of progress.
This is not to say that our worldly affairs and individual predicaments are purely a result of our own making. Most of us are in a state of quiet desperation, longing to escape from a system preconceived by a small percentage of individuals through history that have been short sighted in their actions and orders, and deployed power without moral or ethical understanding. The result is a society that sells us on the idea that we need certain things in our lives to thrive. We are led to believe that incorporating new things into our lives is necessary and representative of progress.
Convenience, and many “conveniences” that our first world societies find themselves with, and, I would argue, find themselves encumbered with, are a result of this distorted view of progress. Take, for example, the role of bottled water in many individuals’ every day lives. When the idea of selling bottled water was first introduced, it was initially received as comical. Overtime, as corporations, and eventually, society, continued to push the convenience of bottled water on us, consuming an adequate amount of water each day and consuming it in plastic bottles became synonymous in much of the public eye. Today, what we are left with is a society addicted to single use plastics and a growing environmental threat to our oceans, waterways, and the biologic community as the dangers associated with plastic and its chemical components are being better understood.
The single use plastic issue that has swept environmental organizations and the “green” community by storm is only the tip of the iceberg (pun intended) when it comes to convenience, perceived progress, and how the ethics and immoral power behind them are leading to overwhelming environmental, political, and human affairs, and a chaotic, threatening change in climate. It is one problem in a sea of many. It is on the same spectrum of our environmental issues, but on the complete opposite side of that spectrum when it comes to climate change.
The argument here would be that the conveniences, such as bottled water, are necessary in today’s busy, crowded world. I would counter this allegation by pointing to the faced paced, unreasonable time constraint we’ve created for ourselves as technology has infiltrated our lives. “The systems underpinning today’s global financial markets, businesses, militaries, police forces, and medical, energy and industrial operations are all dependent upon networked AI of one type or another,” a report written by Janna Anderson, Lee Raire, and Aley Luchsinger and published by the PEW Research Center. The report addresses the rise of artificial intelligence and potential consequences that may unfold as AI continues to increase. The report details a conference that took place this past summer, in which nearly 1000 technology pioneers, innovators, developers, business and policy leaders, researchers and activists were posed the question: “As immerging algorithm-driven artificial intelligence continues to spread, will people be better off than they are today.” A similar question most of us have had to arbitrarily mull over at some point in the past decade or two.
The consensus among nearly all correspondence in the report was that each and every single one of us must ask ourselves what kind of world we want to live in. Barry Chudakov, founder and principal of Sertain Research, says that “AI and related technology systems constitute a force for a moral renaissance. We must embrace that moral renaissance, or we will face moral conundrums that could bring about human demise.” Batya Friedman, human computer interaction professor at University of Washington’s Information School, stated, “our scientific and technological capacities have and will continue to far surpass our moral ones – that is our ability to use wisely and humanely the knowledge and tools that we develop…At stake is nothing less than what sort of society we want to live in and how we experience our humanity.”
AI, I would argue, is largely responsible for the conveniences of today, and it has sped up our lives to the point that we are being forced to live in a time constraint which the rest of Nature is unfamiliar with, and separate from. James Scofield O’Rourke, a contributor to the PEW report and professor of management at the University of Notre Dame says that “the answer to whether we’ll be better off depends entirely on us.” Quoting a Shakespeare line he states, “the fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars, but in ourselves.”
Nature’s loudest voice, that which is screaming at us to halt the over indulging, disconnected lives we’re leading comes in the way of our latest understanding of climate and how it is changing. As our climate changes, we will be forced to change many aspects of our lives. It then will be apparent that the power we believe we can exert over Nature simply exacerbates the situation, as it is already beginning to demonstrate. Our practices are out of balance with the rest of Nature. Earth, though, is capable of finding a balance, and it does so through a medium every individual past, present, and future experiences. That medium is weather. Nature’s means of balancing out imbalances. Our planet, Nature is telling us that we’re no longer progressing. We are regressing, and at some point we will again acknowledge the absolute necessity of having a healthy land when our resources are not enough and our ability to thrive is jeopardized.
At some point, when will we ask ourselves how convenient is too convenient? As a species, we think of ourselves as having evolved to such an extent that our advances exceed that of any other on the planet. But those advances led to more and greater conveniences, which, over time, have resulted in our inability to thrive in the absence of those conveniences. Our modern day conveniences have bred modern day individuals that are tasked with the challenge of thriving with modest tools and conveniences. The challenge presents itself because many of the skills necessary to thrive with a modest approach to life have largely been lost as the idea of progress has been distorted.
As a society, we must all revisit the idea of progress and drastically adjust our lifestyles and ethics if a balance is to be achieved and our current state of affairs is to be mended. As individuals, we must demand ethic from those making the decisions that are having direct impacts on this planet and those inhabiting it.
The “we,” “us,” and “our” here is not all encompassing, but references society as a whole, and there are certainly individuals and other societies around the globe that know modesty and have managed their conveniences wisely. They thrive with the land. Being the smaller percentage of the population, unfortunately it is the mass of men and their unsustainable view of progress that will continue to provoke the escalating number of environmental and human affairs should the practices of today go unchecked.