Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Ecosophy... got one?

What do you get when you philosophize about the environment and the natural world we all live in? You get ecosophy; the combination of ecology and philosophy. Ecology is the study of the environment and philosophy is the love of wisdom, so by putting the two parts together you get environmentally centered wisdom. That's a rough definition of ecosophy, and whether you understand it or not, we all have an ecosophy; whether we know it or not.

Nature, and how one believes we as humans should relate to her, is the crux of any ecosophy. Traditionally, there are two ecosophical views that represent two extreme ends: human-centric ecosophies vs. nature-centric ecosophies. Here's the skinny on each of them.

Some people view nature (by nature I mean everything living & non-living which makes up all that is Earth) as a mindless bunch of germs, mountains, and critters that are only good for scientific research, economic growth, or delicious food. This approach to nature is human-centric; meaning we humans are the most important part of the relationship, and we call the shots. This human-centered ecosophy says, "There's oil under that wildlife preserve and them critters ain't usin' it so let's start pumpin' boys. Billy club that baby seal." Basically, human-centered ecosophies are more concerned with humanity's comfort first and foremost; the Earth comes second, if at all.

If viewing nature as nothing but a huge collection of exploitable resources isn't your bag, then you might have a more nature-centric ecosophy. Where the previous view might be personified by a ten-gallon hat wearin' Texan, this second view is best personified by the unshaven (or showered) tree-huggin' hippie. Nature-centric ecosophies prioritize nature's health over human comforts. On the extreme end of this ecosophy you'll find eco-terrorists who have been known to spike trees, endangering loggers' lives while preserving the trees'.

Of course the two above characterizations of Texans and Hippies are just exaggerations for the sake of illustrating the extreme ends of opposite ecosophies. So if anyone is offended, don't be.

Most people do not fit into either of these categories or have such extreme environmental views. Personally, I don't think any of us actually seek to destroy the Earth by our actions; it just so happens that a lot of the actions we do everyday end up harming the Earth: like driving our car the grocery store less than a mile away; or spending 30+ minutes in a hot shower. Neither of these activities constitute a slapping the Earth in the face, it's just that there's better alternatives to both activities -like riding a bicycle to the store, or only taking a 5-10 minute long shower. These simple and reasonable alternatives keep us in shape and save gas money; which in the end, reduces the amount of CO2 (carbon dioxide) being pumped into the atmosphere. [CO2 is a greenhouse gas which absorbs more solar heat than other atmospheric compounds, thus raising the Earth's temperature and upsetting bio-feedback loops.]

So what's my ecosophy? Well I'm still working that out. But I do believe that as a human being, I am just one member of an animal species called homo sapiens, and as such I must share the Earth with a wide assortment of other species. These other species are not under my control, and they did not evolve into their present form for my benefit and use. Each of us -and by "us" I now mean "living beings"- affect the environment we live in; and because of this we should do all we can to care for the Earth which we cannot replace or live without.

We are all part of a vast and extremely complex web life; and a broken link anywhere in the web effects the whole. More on ecosophy in future posts.
Here's a video of Stephan Harding speaking about Gaia: the interconnectedness of all living and non-living things. Please enjoy: