(FFF, Ethics)

“Regarding our relationship with the planet and other species of life, the following sign, at the entrance to Yala National Park in southern Sri Lanka, captures it best.



This should clearly be our approach to all of the world’s ecosystems and species, not just to Yala!

We should - we must - learn to respect the rights of other species, instead of selfishly caring only about our own. The rest of the life on earth has been caught in a trap by our rapid population growth and voracious appetite. The seemingly unstoppable evolutionary process of increasing diversity, which has been underway for billions of years, and which is responsible for the phenomenal natural beauty of the planet, has effectively been reversed. All of the species that have suffered need a respite from our pressure. Indeed, they need our assistance, so they can quickly regenerate themselves.

In an ideal world, and in the world we must, and will, create, the entire planet would - it will - be turned into a park. And by this I mean that massive expanses of natural habitat will be preserved, and restored, and allowed to be subject only to the forces of natural law and the patterns of natural evolution, i.e., without any human tampering or interference. The means to this end will be environmental activism, voluntary control of our population and consumption, and well-reasoned land, agricultural, industrial and technology planning.

Also, as this says, nature itself clearly should be left subject to natural law. We, because of our abilities, need our own ethic: one based on those abilities - on reason and not selfishness. But this does not mean that we have the right to alter the ethics of other species, or to apply the manipulative abilities which derive from our reason to them, for instance, to shape their behavior, or genes.

The lifeline of our planet, of any planet that bears life, is a string of species. Our lifeline, our string, is now some three billion years old, and both hopefully and likely it will continue for another such period. Therefore, any species in such an immense string is, by definition, no better than any other. Each did their job as a species: each stayed alive long enough to evolve. (Even those species which failed to evolve served a purpose, by forming part of the overall ecology and therefore, directly or indirectly, supporting those which did.)

Currently, we may be the most well-adapted species on earth, meaning with the best chance to survive and evolve, or we may not. It is impossible to say with certainty. Hopefully, many, many species - millions of them - also are sufficiently well-adapted to survive and evolve. And, to the extent that they are, there is no possibility of judgement between us and them. Indeed, other lines may prove to be more durable, over the long-term, for whatever reasons. They will ultimately be the links, the right links, that lead life forward, which in fact makes them better.

But, even if we do prove to be the most well-adapted, you cannot even say that we are the best at this moment, i.e., until we hand over to our successors. We could actually prove to be the best by taking away - by destroying - the ability of other species to adapt and evolve, by taking away their lives, which in a sense - certainly to them - actually makes us the worst.”


© Roland O. Watson 2001-3