Our natural environment is under serious threat

Today there was important news on the latest and perhaps most comprehensive study thus far about the poor state of our planet’s natural environment. Earth’s diversity, beauty and balance is being marred at the hands of ever-expanding and ambitious human systems. There are many titles for this dangerous revolt against nature: modernism, imperialism, westernization, globalization, capitalism, humanism, industrialism, materialism and Protestantism*. But let words be as they may; the essence is in what is happening and how it can stop. The study goes into dreadful detail such as the loss of 100 million hectares of forest from 1970 to 2010, the endangerment of 25% of all animal and plant species, the explosion of urban population/middle class and the consumption that goes along with it, the pollution of global waters with 300-400 million tons of industrial waste (including plastic) every year, and the decline of natural ecosystems by 47% on average. The authors, who penned a summary for politicians and leader, warn that a transformation in our way of life and thinking must occur before the decline can be controlled. More particularly, they advise that the notion about what constitutes a “good quality of life”, usually is determined by quantity of consumption, must change, as also related notions about the “limited paradigm of economic growth” that seeks to elevate everyone into an equal level of supposed prosperity. The authors add that “Then we must restore nature and drive innovation. Only then will we leave future generations a healthy and sustainable planet.”

This is a document desperately needed to alarm and propel the world to action. And yet, in spite of earlier warnings, the world still seems to go its own way. Then there is a hidden truth: the West, which consumes most of the world’s resources, is doing  well to protect its own natural environments, while causing other poorer nations to destroy their natural environments either to provide for Western consumption or to compete with Western standards. The high Western demand for Palm oil that is destroying many forests in Indonesia is an example of the former and the Chinese obsession with economic growth and the middle class is an example of the latter. How will this end? I doubt that “innovation” will help; it sounds like a decorated excuse or a expedient means to maintain the status quo and avoid serious reduction of comfort. Even worse, I am afraid that more innovation will lead to more complications of the original problem. Far better is changing the mentality about what a “good quality of life” means and instituting serious policies that go beyond the short-term ambitions of political parties and leaders. And surely the spreading of polytheism, along with its inherent veneration for the natural world, can greatly contribute to the effort. I hope this futile wrestling with the Gods ends, because it will only cause our own misery, if not extinction when things go too far. I had rather have myself, my progeny and all other people live on for many thousands of years to come, in harmony with nature and at a basic level of subsistence**, than to enjoy everything we desire for a few centuries or decades. To ensure this legacy must become our foremost duty and priority. The Earth, with all its manifold divinity, is eternal and can bring forth other life if we rebel and threaten her well-being continuously.

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* Monotheism would be too general a term here, especially considering that the earliest Jews and Christians held views that opposed civilization. The story of the Tower of Babel, though unknown in polytheistic tradition, matches with the shared story of the Deluge. Utnapishtim is the Mesopotamian equivalent of Noah. Later monotheism took on an imperial character, chiefly at the hands of the Christians and afterwards the Muslims. But it was the species of Protestantism that did the most harm precisely because it was driven by the middle class what with all its innovations and energy. Hence the “Protestant work ethic”. And yet we have the irony that the revival of polytheism owes a great deal to this Protestant diligence.

**Which was consistent with historical conditions. Nowadays it is called “poverty” with heavy connotation in order to encourage the wealthy to allow others “less fortunate” to share their high position. Perhaps the opposite direction is wiser? Or even better, meeting at the middle somehow. In any case, great (uncomfortable) action will be needed.

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13 thoughts on “Our natural environment is under serious threat

  1. Yewtree

    Great article!

    I spotted a typo… you wrote “Utnapishtim is the biblical equivalent of Noah” but meant either that Noah is the biblical equivalent of Utnapishtim, or that Utnapishtim is a polytheist equivalent of Noah.

    It’s interesting that there are several flood legends from polytheist sources — Deucalion and Pyrrha, Utnapishtim, and more. And also the legends of inundations from Turtle Island (North America).

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    1. Melas the Hellene Post author

      Thanks! The oversight has been corrected. As for the flood myths, the correspondence of the narratives strongly suggests some common historical event. Some believe it to the end of the last Ice Age, when the thawing of vast areas led to flooding. Who knows? Something of such a magnitude will certainly happen again as a natural process, but we can try to mitigate rather than aggravate the danger.

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      1. Yewtree

        Flooding after the end of the last Ice Age makes sense. And yes, I am compiling a giant thread of climate change on my Twitter account and it is basically flooding, fires, and mass extinction— terrifying stuff.

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    1. Melas the Hellene Post author

      I’ve heard of him as an author on paganism, but it seems he has written about ecology and the environment also. I will look into his popular blog. Thanks for the reference.

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      1. K

        You won’t find any disagreement about the environmental situation from me. It is not exactly the imminent doom that some exaggerate, but it is going to be rough in the centuries to come. I actually talked about this to someone I worked with today, an atheist. They said that it does not concern them because it will be someone else’s problem, they will die first. This is very typical of Christians too. I don’t expect dying to be an automatic escape from this problem. The damage has been done, I am not sure if the consequences can be avoided at this point.

        I have been getting more and more weary of the nationalists(European and American ones) and especially of the new right or alt-righters, to tell the truth. I am even getting weary of the anti-Islam camp, if they just now realized this problem they are a bit late. The environmental issue is one big reason. Almost all of them(especially the Christian ones or Ortho-Catholic wannabes, but even some pagans) are in love with the idea of “the West” as this overarching industrial culture with worldwide power. Many of them just want to “go back” to when there were a few dominant European colonial empires. It’s that whole “civilize the world” white man’s burden all over again, as if we need more of that. The metric they use to judge a culture is almost always based on this kind of achievement. I have seen it asked and been asked(when questioned on my heathenism) “how many empires have pagans built?” Or they will take credit for industrialization and technology. They want to take credit for “the modern world”, usually to bolster Christianity, but sometimes some other ideology. All this industry is made possible by limited fossil fuels, and I am skeptical of alternative energy sources. They certainly will not be able to maintain what we have now with alternative energy, and I don’t expect a miracle to happen to let us ignore resource limits. Industrial civilization as we know it has an expiration date at some point. Too many of these nationalists talking down about modernity subscribe to a very modern system of values when it comes to looking at cultures and societies. A very strange modern view is that humans exist to “advance” technology, as if we existed for the sake of our own tools.

        I have made a point of gathering as much as possible on northern hunting cultures of Eurasia, from Scandinavia(Nordic and Finnish), to Russia, to Japan(Ainu). Every one of them has the concept that both humans and animals reincarnate in some sense. The soul structure and belief in a sort of “family luck” type of soul is pretty much identical to the Norse concept. Almost all have rituals to ensure that the animals will want to come back. The idea is that if the animals are mistreated, and certain rules are not followed with regard to hunting, the spirits embodied in the animals will refuse to come back here, or the gods might even withdraw them as a punishment of the tribe. Many of the things they do as part of their customs and taboos just happen to be sensible for preserving animal species and the natural environment. Though this is getting harder and harder for many of them to do, what with outside pressures.

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      2. Melas the Hellene Post author

        Well said. It’s worth exaggeration, but I doubt the calls amount to that. I’m afraid there’s too much indifference and meekness about the whole disaster. And some people care only about the present, either because it seems hopeless or because they are short-sighted individualists inclined to hedonism. My suspicion is that humankind won’t stop this “progress” until they are forced to do so, and that will be too late.

        No wonder the alt-right, whether of the Christian or Pagan (Roman empire) kind, promote imperialism. I was debating just yesterday with a fanatic French follower of Evola, who did the same. I met with him on Survive The Jive’s FB page, which I have been frequenting lately to observe & engage (he’s the best of the New Right crowd, but still can improve here and there). My arguments about Vercingetorix, slavery, environmentalism, and the short-lived nature of empire naturally went over his head. For these imperialists, anything bigger and more complex is better. There needs to be a limit; polytheism has a little of this problem too (with the likes of Genghis Khan and Caesar being worshipped). I remember reading once that Richard Spencer said something to the effect that “we whites should aim at colonizing space”. So laughable and so sad at the same time. This linear view is really destructive. No wonder the “primitive” people of old had a cyclical view, in the case of ancient Siberians, reincarnation, which is akin also to vegetation Gods who die and are reborn. In fact, some of the most “primitive” hunter gatherers like Bushmen understand that they shouldn’t hunt female or young animals, so as not to affect the herd numbers. They also leave a part for vultures and bury the bones ritually. To an imperialist or an alt-right person, this is merely evidence of “low IQ” and an inability to “advance”. These hunter gatherers in Africa have some unbroken lineages that go back 100,000 years and they’ve been able to survive and live in harmony with their world, while also maintaining happy lives free of the socio-economic problems that plague modern societies. That is an example of real advancement. Other ancient societies advanced in different ways, and these should be acknowledged, but the pride of some people will always make them dismissive towards anything that doesn’t fit their toxic anthropocentric dreams.

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      3. K

        I remember back in 2000 or so hearing about how climate change was supposed to kill us all by 2025-2030. That is the type of imminent doom I am talking about. 40 or 50 years ago, it was a new Ice Age that was supposed to begin. All these failed predictions hurt the credibility of other environmental claims. It is a problem that there is a lot of data and the public (Americans in particular) is not well informed. Some people are very cynical about any claims about the environment because they see it as a big scam. Even someone I knew for a fact to be very educated in this particular field was skeptical of new claims simply because he suspected the interests behind some of them. The honeybee die off had him worried, though. That was like 8 years ago now.

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      4. Melas the Hellene Post author

        You are right to point out that there is sharp disagreement between the Ice Age side and the Global Warming side. Sometimes they act like factions, which I notice and your friend understands. Either way it will be disastrous unless great action is taken. Many like Trump and his followers are totally misinformed about what is happening and are using existing skepticism to further their own interests or view of the world. If it were left to me, I would talk far more often about environmental degradation and population control than the vague “climate change”.

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  2. Rajat

    I personally think that the way we look at many areas of science and technology will undergo a complete sea change if and when polytheism reclaims the world.

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    1. Melas the Hellene Post author

      This is to be hoped. Polytheism is more careful of the natural environment than monotheism, but not necessarily in its imperialistic form. Let’s all work diligently towards reviving polytheism and changing minds!

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