"I'd like to share a revelation that I've had during my time here. It came to me when I tried to classify your species. I realized that you're not actually mammals. Every mammal on this planet instinctively develops a natural equilibrium with the surrounding environment, but you humans do not. You move to an area, and you multiply, and multiply, until every natural resource is consumed. The only way you can survive is to spread to another area. There is another organism on this planet that follows the same pattern. A virus. Human beings are a disease, a cancer of this planet, you are a plague, and we are the cure."
- Agent Smith: The Matrix.
Thanks mahesh2k that is a very good summary of my feelings.
There's a fundamental flaw in that quote. The fictional character of Agent Smith categorizes human beings as a cancerous virus while proclaiming his own "race" of machines as the cure for that cancer. Yet it is the machines who are enslaving, killing, and leeching off of the humans for their survival. That was not a symbiotic relationship. And I'm sure the machines had no need for rain forests, animals or natural beauty. Isn't that ironic?
It is all very well to say that humans are basically good. Most people I meet are kind, considerate, helpful in the extreme and thoroughly moral. There are very few people who seem not to be concerned with the destruction of the rainforest, mass extinctions and the awful pollution and physical devastation of the world.
The trouble is these sentiments don't inform the way people actually live (me included). Just as an example of where I live: I live in a beautiful oasis of apparent nature set aside as a National Park on a very crowded island (Britain). It all looks idyllic and everyone that comes here is impressed. What very few people realise is that the landscape as we see it today is wholly man made and is very little to do with nature. Gone are the forests, diverted are rivers and streams (which incidentally are polluted with chemical fertilizers and in some cases lead from a romanticised industrial past where children were forced to work in all weathers 14 hour shifts from the age of about 10). Every inch of the area is farmed in one form or another - even the wild open moorland (which impresses visitors with its wild bleakness) is farmed so that rich people can bring their shotguns and shoot grouse that have been especially reared for the privilege. Visible nature has suffered enormously (or to many eyes improved!) but there is a far more insidious effect on nature and that is that practically every wild animal is butchered to protect farming - badgers are gassed, foxes exterminated, rabbits infected with myxomatosis, stoats and weezles are trapped, moles are killed and strung along barbed wire fences, jackdaws are shot from the skies (and their carcasses hung in gardens to dissuade other jackdaws from coming near) ... the litany goes on and it is all purely to protect sheep farming. The moorlands are even worse treated. Practically anything that competes with the mega-buck grouse industry is exterminated - even birds of prey that have protected status, having been reintroduced by conservation groups, are deliberately poisoned.
As I say every single person (almost without exception) that do these truly awful things love where they live and would hate to see it 'spoiled', they love and care for their families, are good friends and neighbours and are thoroughly nice people.
I find it difficult to understand how it is so easy for you to deem human beings worthy of extinction while at the same time defending pests that, without keeping their population in control, will damage nature even more.
The rate at which humans are consuming resources, breeding and destroying natural resource that we depend on (such as bees which are rapidly becoming extinct world wide and without which we don't get any food) means that humanity will be extinct or extremely impoverished leading to extinction in the foreseeable future. We have no one to blame but ourselves and the problem is intractable because there are simply too many vested interests who won't allow change - and generally they consume the most anyway.
The funny thing about nature that you seem to think doesn't apply to humans is that it has a way of balancing itself out eventually. Whenever the wolf population gets too large and kills too many deer, there is a lack of food and the wolves die of starvation. It may take many years for the deer population to recuperate, but it will, and then the wolves will be back to start the cycle again. Are wolves any more restrained in their consuming of natural resources than humans are? And it's not just wolves. Even an overpopulation of deer could wipe out certain flora in the area.
You seem to recognize this with the statement below:
As for the rest of the natural world it will recover, things will change. New species will emerge, the will be a geological remnant in 400 million years that a future species will dig up and ponder over as they find pockets of plastic - now that will be a challenge for any future species interested in geology to decode! I'd like to be there to see that.
If you truly believe that humans are just evolved monkeys, animals ourselves, then why are we excluded from nature? Why are we not allowed the right to survive as a species? Isn't that what evolution is all about, "survival of the fittest"? Isn't evolution a part of nature? If so, then isn't it natural for "unfit" species to be eradicated to make way for the fittest?
But of course, we're not just animals. There's definitely something that makes us unique compared to animals. From what I understand, we're the only species who actually protect the old, sick, handicapped, or otherwise "weak" members of our species. We have compassion on each other and the earth's inhabitants. We have compassion to a fault, trying to meddle in affairs "for their own good" when we have no idea how to properly take care of things.
You bring up a good point by mentioning national parks. In the U.S. we've messed up the ecobiology of Yellowstone National Park so many times by protecting wolves and trying to get rid of them and other things like that. If we can't even figure out how to take care of the flora and fauna of an area set apart as a national natural reserve, how can we think we know what's best for the world? Or what species should live and die? It's this mentality of "I know what's best for everyone/everything" that's getting us into many of the current abhorrent situations we as a world are currently in.
It is often our compassion and our desire to do good that leads us to coddle and care for everything around us. We imagine this perfect Utopian world where no one has any problems. Where there are no struggles, no difficulties. Everything is abundant for everyone and everything. We attempt to protect everything--people, plants, animals, landscapes, etc.--as if we were trying to protect innocent and unspoiled infants.
But that's not how nature works. Nature needs struggle to survive. And I think it's hypocritical to say that it's wrong for human beings to make plants and animals extinct and in the same sentence say that the best thing for the planet and every other lifeform is the extinction of the human race. As you mentioned before, extinction isn't a new phenomena brought on by mankind.
I, for one, don't take too kindly to being called a cancer and being told that the world would be better off if I didn't exist. And I can't see how you can honestly believe yourself to be cancerous to the world and want for your own destruction, unless you're having mental struggles with depression and suicidality. And please don't take that the wrong way. I've been there before as well. Just two months ago I had a struggle with deep depression and feelings that my life was meaningless and that, at the least, the world wouldn't be any worse off without me. But that's a lie, and that's why depression is considered an illness that needs to be cured. You just aren't thinking straight when thoughts like that occur. The truth is that I may not have personally changed the world, but I would be sorely missed, if only locally, were I to suddenly become extinct. I'm not a great, amazing person, but a part of the world (again, even if only this local area) would be worse
off had I never been born.
My contribution is small, and I bring my own problems with me, but I do what I can and it is good.