Why On Earth Is This Not News?

19:55Ciaran McCormick

The definition of 'news' is stretched daily and recently we have been treated to wall to wall coverage of the new royal baby in Britain. However, I want to ask why we are not talking about the environment more. It never makes the news unless they can spin it as a human tragedy or in the rare cases of the latest summits, reports or treaties. It is often said, though rarely truly digested, that climate change and environmental degradation is the greatest threat to our civilisation. Politicians like David Cameron can claim to have an green agenda without systemically integrating it into the heart of their policies. See the cartoon for my view on that. Fundamentally, though, I want us to look beyond the politicians and policies and think about the attitude we have towards nature. It will never be news, but our arrogance towards our surroundings should be something to which we pay more attention.

'Political Goals' courtesy of Chaowzee

The attitude problem of the overwhelming majority of people in the developed world is that we treat nature as a thing to be used.
When problems arise, we try and mitigate disaster so that we can continue using it. For example, we are asked to turn off our light switches and keep our televisions off standby to save the planet. But this doesn't re-connect us with the nature we are trying to preserve, it just breeds resentment. However, our attitude problem isn't just about the abuse of nature but also the way we 'use' it.

Anthropologists point to many other societies that do not separate nature from humankind. The Aboriginal peoples of Australia explain their belief that they are a part of nature and everything in nature is part-human by referring to their Dreamtime creation mythology. It is important not to tar cultures with a broad brush and use their relationship with nature as a way of treating them as different or more primitive to us. Nonetheless, it is very different to the way that we colonise nature in the West. Indeed, the atomisation of modern society, where we become isolated individuals rather than communities, is making matters worse. I personally feel that in the narrowness of modern life saturated with technology, we lose touch with nature. The countryside is now a commodity, turned into a tourist resort and the fringe of the suburban escape. It is one of my life ambitions to properly re-connect with nature on both a physical and spiritual level.

I try to think about nature in a different way. This means getting beyond the economic trap of seeing nature as resources to be exploited. Let us take an example from the real world. The plight of endangered whales is a well-known example of how human exploitation and the failure to co-ordinate internationally damages the environment. Commercial whaling has been banned since 1986 but thousands are still killed for whale meat. Iceland cancelled whaling in 2011-12 because its Japanese market collapsed but have resumed this year. It should not be a question of whether whaling is necessary or not, but why we are driving a species off the cliff of extinction. Indeed, the use of military sonar blights the lives of sea creatures like whales, who use their hearing to find food and other whales. This is not respect for the worth of animals and the human needs are put first.

I would describe my personal views as deep ecology. Whilst I do not pretend to have authority on the endless debates and shades within this school of thought, I can tell you what it means to me. It makes me think about the worth that all living things have and respect the fragile balance that links them all together. Just because humans are conscious does not mean that we can see ourselves as superior. This political movement has panned out in some mainstream and more controversial ways. The idea that we should preserve the wilderness is a fashionable one, such as the massacre of the rainforests for human use.

Other ideas that are suggested as a solution to the bad attitude problem are more controversial. The idea of living more simply goes against the unwavering march of technology, which is a difficult tide to challenge. The idea of controlling human populations is problematic because of its authoritarian overtones. However, whilst we can disagree over the ethics of these policies, they reveal a harsh reality. We have an attitude problem. It is time to solve the many environmental crises because they deserve to be solved, not because we want to preserve the world for our grandchildren.

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