Much has been said about the relationship between man and nature. This topic relates to a number of sciences simultaneously. This is certainly: the geography, biology, ecology, astronomy and many others. Numerous books, research papers and articles have been written on this subject. Not to mention the transnational organizations which were established on the basis of the “right” attitude to the nature by humans and also a number of international agreements. But is everything studied as well as it seems at first glance?
Traditionally there are seven major environmental problems which affect the health and quality of life of mankind:
- Deforestation: every two seconds a forest the size of a football field disappears;
- The destruction of the ozone layer: the number of people with skin cancer and cataracts increases;
- The extermination of species: more than ten thousand every year;
- Water pollution: about 1400 children die every day;
- Overpopulation: 7.4 billion is an incredible number for large chordates mammals. For comparison: cows — the second largest massive mammals, have a 1.4 billion population. Though, perhaps there is a problem of a harmonious coexistence of humans with the nature as well as the allocation and use of resources, rather than the quantitative superiority itself.
- Land degradation: reduction in the number of fertile land;
Vladimir Vernadsky wrote: “Man is the most powerful geological force on the planet.” So, in today’s world people affect the nature and geology of the planet more than the natural Earth phenomena.
In the history of the relationship between man and nature four stages are usually distinguished:
- Primitive communal. Primal people were engaged in elementary types of hunting, fishing, gathering and so on.
- The emergence and development of agriculture and cattle breeding. Humans are trying to produce something instead of simple gathering.
- Middle ages. Ideological foundations are changing the relationship between man and nature. Interestingly, the idea that humans are spiritual while nature is not is born during this stage. It is believed that respect for nature begins to emerge only at the end of this period.
- New times. The main human challenge is the development and adaption of nature to ever-increasing needs of human society.
The mentioned stages are present in the so-called Soviet geographical school (in Russian-speaking countries) and also in the global environment. Unity on this regard was reached during the UN conference which dealt with the idea of “sustainable development of Environment” in 1992.
Briefly becoming familiarized with studies of environmental issues the very existence of these problems is unclear as well as their worsening in recent times. Either the people involved in the environmental activities do not have enough power or too few people are engaged in the problems and the general public simply does not care about it. All this sounds very depressing, but let’s look a little deeper in the problem.
It should be noted that the solution to the problems is not as actively searched as required due to the fault of mankind. Human is a quite selfish creature and it is not a secret. Therefore, any improvements on the issue of environmental protection are mostly associated with the improvement of the living conditions only for the humans. Inattention to millions of other species around us shows results.
Probably it is obvious that humans always preferred to communicate only with spiritually close people. So, a human always chooses in his environment these individuals which fit his system of moral values and attitudes, which act in this case as his mirror. This is how small groups are formed in the society. Perhaps this happens for genetic or evolutionary reasons, perhaps due to the environmental or educational influence. In any case in this sense human motives and desires have a certain predisposition and determinism. Probably for this reason the favorite pets among us are conventional pets (cats, dogs and even horses and cows), while spiders and rats are negatively perceived or are seen as an exotic pet.
Thus, a person is closer to pets in the spiritual and philosophical sense than say reptiles and insects. A historical factor of living together only strengthens that love. So now, I suggest to take a look at a number of animals which are closest to humans in every sense in order to get the required effect, as humans were the cause of extinction of these species.
The last specimen died in 1627. Extinction is associated with deforestation and active targeted hunting.
The last exemplar was killed in 1768. Cows loved to swim slowly in shallow water and, in spite of the impressive power and force (weight from four to eleven tons — more than any elephant) of the animal, people have adapted to injure the cows using harpoons. Most animals died in the sea not even getting in the people’s hands.
The last specimen died in the zoo in 1936. As a result of an uncontrolled shooting the wolf population has declined sharply. It was believed that the animal hunted sheep and that was partly the reason for the extermination. However, later it became clear that the charges were unfounded (the jaws were underdeveloped), but it was too late.
The animal was partly tamed and was used to protect herds from predators as it noticed them much earlier than others. Quagga shouted loudly “kwa-ha-ha” — one reason for such its’ given name. Also, people used the animal skin to make all kinds of wineskins. The last specimen died in the Amsterdam’s zoo in 1883.
It is believed that the animals have become extinct because of hunting and the plowing of the steppes. The majority of the population has disappeared in the early XIX century. The last tarpan died in 1918.
Human used to raid the animal, but the main cause of extinction is considered the processing of land in the habitat of the animal’s fodder.
Under the threat of extinction are about half of the reptiles and insects today as well as about 70 % of the plants. Of course there is such a thing as the natural extinction which was carried out in the course of the history in waves. It is considered that the existing species are only 2–3 % of all that ever existed on the planet. But even this data cannot justify human activity on the Earth. No wonder it is said about the artificial destruction of the living world.
Being a part of nature, humans became a separate force which affects the ecosystem. And for some reason this part can be more characterized as unconscious. Despite the presented chronology of the relationship between man and nature a lot of facts above tell us that the human civilization cannot realize the importance of environment, even if we are talking about saving the human race.
In order to call the society conscious in this regard it is either required to make the majority of humans conscious or that conscious people should have real authority to affect the situation. Unfortunately, there is no result on both issues as we are not talking about the popularity of the problem and discussions with the population, but about real purposeful activity: the transition to alternative energy sources, the increase of the quantity, quality and size of protected environmental areas as well as improving the culture of each individual. The rate of extinction of species in today’s world does not allow us to hope for a good future for humanity, even if it will affect us in a hundred or a thousand years.
It is always extremely difficult to change something especially when one generations flows smoothly into another. But sometimes we can observe in history dramatic changes of social consciousness in a relatively short period of time. Such changes should be controlled as well as the status and the number of endangered species. What is called natural and what is artificial is a more philosophical question, but after spreading across the entire planet and continuing the destruction of the living environment for many species we are not able to absolve ourselves from the responsibility for the death of those populations which ceased to exist because of our fault.
Many animals kill others for the sake of food, but the scale of destruction is simply meaningless to compare even without taking into account the indirect harmful effects of mankind. And since man is the only kind in the world which is able to calculate the future state of the most complicated systems, it is he who should take everything under the control on this planet. The appearance (in whatever way it may happen) of a complex and developed brain obliges us to at least prolong the existence of humanity and biodiversity.
Despite this we are not witnessing a very different picture. One gets the impression that whether a person would be a four-legged wild omnivorous predator which could only hunt and scream incoherently in case of danger, we would have held much longer on this planet. Is the feature of the most complex creatures — the imminent extinction of the entire population as a result of the desire to live in comfort and not willing to thing about anything?
At this moment there is only one lonely, but incredibly diverse and lively part of the Universe, which we would like to save on the basis of biological, aesthetic, philosophical, scientific, religious, personal and moral principles: a unique, beautiful and a wonderful home for many kinds of creatures under the name Earth.