No one is quite sure how nature and the human race were created. No matter how either came about, one thing is certain, nature is fragile. Humans are destructive by nature, and because of their destructive acts toward nature, the human race now has the sole responsibility of caring for it and salvaging it as best they can.
Nature can be defined as anything that is not man-made. By this definition, the earth would be considered nature, before the human race appeared on it. Nature itself has a delicate equilibrium among all of its inhabitants, excluding humans. Each being, whether it is a plant or an animal, has a purpose in relation to nature. For example, a big animal may kill and eat a small animal for food before being killed and eaten by an even bigger animal. Nature is self-sustaining, and provides the environment for all the creatures in it. Until the human race came to inhabit the earth, nature took care of itself and everything was in balance.
Garret Hardin once said, “In nature, the criterion is survival. Is it better for a species to be small and hideable, or large and powerful? Natural selection commensurates the incommensurables. The compromise achieved depends on a natural weighting of the values of the variables.”[i] Hardin believes that natural selection, or “survival of the fittest” maintains the natural balance of nature. Humans were the first creatures to knock the earth out of its natural balance through the killing of animals that nature would have dealt with, and through industrious activity, which does not belong in or around nature. The human race must take care of nature by trying to recreate its natural equilibrium because the earth now needs humans to preserve it.
- Richard Niebuhr described responsibility as having four parts: response, interpretation, anticipation of reaction to our reaction, and social solidarity.[ii] In applying nature to this theory, assume that the human race killed too many of a certain species of animal. This, in turn, would throw off nature’s equilibrium. Assume then that the prey of that animal began to overpopulate because the animal that the human race almost drove to extinction was not there to equalize the amount of the prey. The logical response to this would be to think about how to solve this problem. Being responsible, the human race would anticipate that nature may destroy itself unintentionally without help from them. Finally, the human race would realize that the responsible action to take would be to stop killing the predators, and possibly re-introduce some deteriorating predator species. The human race has done exactly what was described, but on a much larger scale. The human race has killed off many natural predators and destroyed millions of acres of land, creating overpopulation among the predator’s prey in small areas of land. Nature is ubiquitous, meaning that any time the human race develops land for some industrial function, all of the animals in that area and their natural habitats are destroyed. Niebuhr’s Theory of Responsibility would suggest that the human race analyze the damage it has caused, and find a way to reverse it.
The Omnivore’s Dilemma, by Michael Pollan, shows how the actions of the human race affect nature and its equilibrium.[iii] The main problem is that society today is becoming increasingly fast-paced. This has led to the creation of fast-food. Farmers who produce food for these fast-food restaurants are hurting nature. The farmers level huge amounts of land and prepare it to facilitate the growth of the food that the fast-food restaurants sell. The same products, and or animals, are raised over and over on the same piece of land, draining the ground of all of the essential nutrients. Then, only bits and pieces of the final products are used by the fast-food restaurants; the rest of the food is disposed of. Not only is this wasting food and draining nutrients from the area, it is also destroying the natural habitat of the animals that used to live there. This affects the surrounding areas because the animals that are now homeless must move into the territory of other animals, leading to overpopulation.
In the movie The Day After Tomorrow, a group of scientists are drilling for samples of ice in Scotland when one of the scientists drills too deep.[iv] This causes a massive chain reaction that disrupts nature’s natural equilibrium. A colossal sheet of ice separates from Iceland and melts, increasing the water level of the earth, which then disrupts the temperature of the water. All of this leads to the beginning of a new ice age. Snow covers the whole northern part of the United States, killing millions of people. This scenario could actually happen. Roland Emmerich, the director and producer of The Day After Tomorrow, most likely created this movie to raise awareness on the effect that humans have and potentially could have on nature.
Immediate actions need to be taken so as to stop the destruction of land, stop the overpopulation of animals, and allow nature to be left alone. As of right now, there are many environmental conservation groups working hard to save as much land as they can in order to preserve the natural habitats of all of the animals on the earth. There are also laws that were created in an attempt to balance animal populations by hunting. To this day, hunters must be granted access to hunt certain animals in certain areas, at certain times. This is a reasonable attempt at controlling animal population. In regards to the animals near extinction, there are many man-made nature preserves where humans are attempting to breed the animals to increase the population of each once again.
Nature has its own balance which the human race upset at some point in earth’s recent history. The human race’s careless destruction of land and animals has led to many problems in nature that need to be fixed as best as possible. The movie The Day After Tomorrow shows what can happen to the earth if it is not taken care of. Nature is self-regulating and could return to normal with a little help from the humans that need it to survive.
[i] Garrett Hardin, The Tragedy of Commons. 1-12.
[ii] Niebuhr, The Meaning of Responsibility, 87-91.
[iii] Pollan, The Omnivore’s Dilemma, 102-105.
[iv] Emmerich, The Day After Tomorrow.