According to a growing body of experts, environmentalism is failing, especially the war on invasive species. The current approach to conservation with its emphasis on weeding the world is damaging the environment and harming people. And there is no end in sight.
Dr. Peter Kareiva, chief scientist at The Nature Conservancy, is one of the newest voices in the scientific community auditing current conservation practices and calling for a new environmental approach for the 21st century.
In your recent exposition of today’s failed conservationism, discussed excellently in the revelation, you should read the article titled, “Conservation in the Anthropocene.” He argues that nature is resilient and not fragile and easily destroyed as typically described, and argues that environmental policy must consider people’s needs, rather than try to exclude people. People are not the enemy, he reasons, but part of the solution.
As Dr. Kareiva says, “… (w) we need to recognize that a conservation that only has to do with the fines, the limits and the distant places that only a few can experience is a losing proposition. Protecting nature that is dynamic and resistant, who is in our midst rather than far away, and who supports human communities: these are the paths to follow now “
(More details, on video) “Failed metaphors and a new environmentalism for the 21st century”. “Go to Youtube.com.)
So here is The Nature Conservancy calling for a new environmental approach. As we respond to the request for alternatives to manage the environment, it would be useful to consider how we manage our most intimate environment: our bodies.
Each of us is a world unto itself, made up of various ecosystems analogous to forests, deserts, wetlands and caves. Our bodies are inhabited by hordes of bacteria that fight for survival on our human planet, living among fungal plants and yeast gardens brushed by mites and lice and countless microscopic creatures.
The way we manage our body’s environment is called health care. It is a personal environmental management. And it can tell us a lot about how to manage the environment outside of our bodies.
What would be an invasive species in terms of our bodies? Is there a medical model that describes an invasion of species that threaten our fragile bodies, comparable to the invasion biology model that sees invasive species invade the fragile environment?
Actually, we already have a model for that. It is called germ theory. According to this theory, our personal microflora of bacteria, yeasts, etc. It coexists as a fragile ecosystem under the constant threat of attack by invading microorganisms. These invasive species, which we call pathogens, can sometimes get a foothold and start taking over the body.
In essence, then, the germ theory is the same as the invasion biology theory. Germ theory dominates medicine as invasion biology theory dominates environmentalism.
Germ theory leads people to frequently sterilize their hands and use antibiotics to prevent and treat infections. Invasion biology theory leads people to frequent weeds and the use of pesticides and herbicides to prevent and treat infestations.
Antibiotics are the same as herbicides and pesticides. In fact, the word antibiotic means anti-life. They are all poisons from living things.
Human and environmental medical care, then, have a similar approach and some of the same treatments. For both, treatment consists of fighting the host organizations with antibiotics.
Of course, there are many people who oppose the current medical model. Alternative medicine emphasizes encouraging health over illness. It maintains that a healthy body can resist germs, which are only a problem when the body weakens. In fact, exposure to germs makes the immune system even stronger. So, to fight and prevent disease, one must strengthen the body and trust the body’s ability to heal naturally.
Applied to the environment, we would not be concerned that introduced species would become potentially invasive, but rather ensure that the environment is healthy, so there is no place for harmful species to move. This actually works, especially in the garden. Gardeners know that a healthy garden is a living system that can keep pests out.
This alternative approach would also discredit the use of antibiotics. Often these poisons harm both the body and the target. They also kill harmless bacteria and can create resistant germs that may be a bigger problem in the future. Similarly, spraying pesticides and herbicides often results in worse problems than before, killing harmless species and resulting in resistant weeds and pests.
Conversely, an alternative health care approach would encourage the introduction of beneficial species to improve and help healthy body function. Probiotics in healthcare include bacteria, such as L. acidophilus in yogurt, that people consume to increase their bacterial flora in the gut to aid digestion. In environmental health care, it may include mangroves to clean the water, or an ornamental plant that feeds bees when other flowers are not in bloom, or frogs to eat insect pests, or fruit trees that provide food for wildlife, or sheep to eat vines and weeds and provide meat for predators, hunters, and their families.
It is an emphasis on the positive, not a focus on the negative. It is probiotic, not antibiotic.
An alternative environmental health care would be looking for ways to improve and protect environmental functions. We would allow change to occur and we will trust Nature’s ability to resist change and adapt and evolve. Just as our bodies know how to heal from disease, so does Nature.
A healthy environment needs to adapt and adopt if it is to survive. That goes for a lifetime.
A healthy environment such as a healthy body can be used. Life must be lived, and the environment must be used and enjoyed.
This approach would also hold that humans are part of the environment. That is necessary for a holistic understanding, since humans certainly have an impact and we cannot ignore it. This is in stark contrast to the current environmental approach which is misanthropic and considers humans to be the root cause of environmental problems.
Less emphasis would also be placed on restoring native ecosystems, except in the context of a living museum. Restorations are really attempts to invest time. Most are never successful, and if they do, they require constant upkeep and maintenance.
Of course, there will be times when you need an antibiotic to overcome an unpleasant infection, or when you need to use herbicides or pesticides to kill a plant or a harmful insect. There are times for war. But this should be the last resort.
Living systems have defense mechanisms to maintain their integrity. We need to respect that power and not be quick to declare war and unleash its deadly methods.
Germ phobia has created a huge industry of cleaning and sterilizing products. This great industry promotes a phobia of germs. Both go hand in hand and hands are pre-cleaned with hand sanitizer. Invasive species phobia is also a product of the poisonous chemical industry. Both have turned our culture into a group of alienated, isolated and sterilized people living in sterile and polluted worlds.
Given the alienation of our culture from nature, it is not surprising that we have had an environmental approach that focuses on exotic species. In psychological terms, this is called projection.
Meanwhile, the environmental model of cutting and poisoning is damaging our own personal environment, since the distinction between our personal world and the world around us is really an illusion. Exposure to pesticides is one of the leading causes of human illness and death. When we spray the world for weeds, we are also spraying ourselves, our water, our air, our food, and we are destroying our health.
So what we need is a new healthcare paradigm with which to shape our lives and our world. We have to stop waging war on nature, despite pressure from eradication beneficiaries to proceed. We need to treat our bodies and the world in a healthy way so that we don’t have to treat it due to illness. And we must respect the inherent ability of humans and the environment to heal.