Saturday, October 20, 2012

Viewing Our Place

The problem is the way we see our place in the world is what shapes the way we act. If you look at our history as a species, for 95 per cent of our existence, we were nomadic hunter-gatherers. And as a hunter-gatherer, you know damn well that you're absolutely embedded in, and utterly dependent on, nature for your survival and well-being. 10,000 years ago – the last five per cent of our existence – we discovered agriculture; if you're a farmer, you know very well that the seasons, weather, climate directly affect your ability to survive or not. They know that winter snow is directly related to how much moisture you have in the soil in the summer; that insects – yes, some are pests – but they're absolutely crucial for pollinating flowering plants; that certain trees and plant species can take nitrogen and fix it as fertilizer in the soil. Farmers know that we are part of nature.

What's happened is a fundamental shift in the last 100 years that now blinds us from being able to see our place on the planet. 85 per cent of us in Canada now live in big cities. We've been utterly transformed in 100 years from being a farming animal to a big city dweller. And in the big city, people think, “As long as we have parks out there, where we can go camping and playing in, well who needs nature? My important thing is my job; I need a job in order to be able to go out and buy the things I want.”

So, from an urban perspective, then, the economy becomes the source of everything that matters to us. And when you're living in that world – where the economy is elevated above everything else – then of course you'll say, “We can't stop clear-cutting – it'll destroy the economy. We can't stop dragging huge nets across the bottom of the ocean, because it's bad for the fisheries. And we can't stop injecting carbon into the atmosphere, because that'll shut down the fossil fuel industry.” The economy, then, trumps everything else because that's our highest priority in the city. It becomes very, very difficult to see the real world. And it's becoming increasingly more difficult as children spend less and less time outside.

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