Tuesday, June 28, 2011


I believe that our attitudes towards people are mirrored in our attitudes toward nature, and our attitudes towards nature are mirrored in our attitudes towards people.

If we think people are "disposable," that they just constitute numbers, that their "utility" needs to be maximised, that some will lose at the benefit of others, that the worth of a human life is his or her ability to contribute to the economy, well, then we will think that nature is "disposable," that nature is just a bunch of numbers (of trees, of parts per million of our pollutants), that the only use of nature is for our aggregate utility, that our mountains and forests here in the "rich" parts of the world will be preserved at the expense of the nature in "poor" parts of the world, that the worth of nature is its ability to contribute to the economy (see for example this article about biodiversity and tree loss). Similarly, if we are willing to blow up the top of a mountain for coal, if we can sleep at night knowing that our pesticides are causing frogs to become hermaphroditic, if we are willing to dam rivers and block their progress, well, then we won't mind blowing people up in the name of "peace," we will allow people to ingest and work with those pesticides, and we will be willing to block indigenous peoples from fighting for their rights and their land.

What this means is that if we are to stand any chance of a less ecologically destructive future, we must come to a peaceableness with other humans. If we are to stand any chance of living in a world in which we respect other humans, we must respect nature. I hope to have conveyed over the past months that there is actually no difference between environmental issues and social issues. They are one and the same. Committing violence against people is the same as committing violence against the land, air, and water. Violence towards land, air and water is the same as violence towards people; it does not take a logical leap to make the connections.


  1. Hi Darshan - Good post. I agree about the interconnectedness of environmental and social issues. Do you think though that there are those focused on social issues but don't necessarily "get" that environmental issues also impact social issues and vice versa? Some of our actions have consequences that are difficult to "see" - hope you understand what I am trying to say here. People probably need to grasp this concept and then they will change (hopefully).

  2. Hi Tanny,

    Absolutely. I think you are right on. There is no way we separate society from the environment, because whether we like it or not, we live in an environment. And the ways societies function are within the context of the environment. And so, dealing with "social" issues (like poverty, like abortion) has environmental implications, and of course, dealing with "environmental" issues (like deindustrialisation, like climate change) changes the very nature of our society.

    In the end, *all* of the issues that face us are just different manifestations of the same deeper moral and ethical issues.