i (i) wrote,

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I am a liberal. I am an environmentalist. I am to some extent a socialist. I am all these things because, like every other human being, I am selfish. A contradiction in terms? I don’t think so. I help people because it makes me feel good to help people. I avoid hurting people because it hurts me to hurt people. If someone did something horrible to someone I love, I would probably want to hurt them because it would make me feel good. I wish the Glen Canyon Dam didn’t exist, not because the ecosystem would be “better” without it. I am by no means qualified to make such a subjective judgement about nature. I wish it didn’t exist because I like natural canyons better than man-made lakes. Glen Canyon Dam is no more devastating than the seven lava flows that dammed the colorado 100 miles downstream 2 million years ago, filling half the Grand Canyon. 2 million years from now, nature will have largely forgotten it. I don’t like living in Phoenix because I prefer desert to asphalt, moutains to skyscrapers, saguaros to palm trees (except in the tropics where they “belong”). Paving over a valley is no different than a beaver dam flooding a meadow. From our point of view, there is a difference of scale, but nature is infinite. The beaver has a devastating effect on the local environment, wiping out plants, insects, mammalian habitats. It also creates a breeding ground for other insects, a home for fish, food for a different type of birds. I don’t believe it is possible to make a qualitative comparison between the two. The same is true of a city. The “natural” environment is paved over, new plants are introduced, human waste abounds in many forms. This new environment creates a habitat for other species who thrive on that which humans create. We may not like cockroaches, pigeons, rats, mosquitoes, and the like, but nature has no preferences. Nature doesn’t care. Nature doesn’t care about the brown cloud hanging over Phoenix. Nature will adapt. We could have a nuclear war, and nature would adapt. We already know that life exists in the most inhospitable environments. It might take billions of years to reach “intelligence”, but life tends towards complexity, so it will. The only reason to save the whales, or the rain forest, or the dolphins, or to clean up the air, or the water, is because we prefer our world to be clean and we want to share it with those creatures. There is no selfless motive, and anyone who says otherwise believes that because it makes them feel good to believe it.

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