Human ecology: living with and not against nature

Human ecology: living with and not against nature
2017. “La Ventosilla” where the farming methods used by our grandfathers before industrialisation are kept up. © Joaquin Araujo

Human ecology: living with and not against nature

Lucretius, following Epicurus, reminded us that “everything has to do with everything”. As the repeated word in that sentence is the least definite I know of, let’s try to explore the intermediates, which are much more important. Let’s focus, then, on “has to do with”. Because, indeed, every day we need to do more and better, to do with many more realities than our senses usually appreciate, our senses being frayed by our overworked civilisation. A civilisation which, to its own misfortune, is based on emasculating anything seen as contrary to it, when we have so much to do with what is around us. When we are, in fact, only possible because our surroundings allow, assist and shelter us.

Nature, that is to say the sum of the landscape, its processes, cycles and the other neighbouring living things, really works as on of its forgotten meanings tries to explain. Because for the few remaining and mistreated members of Rural Culture, nature is also the placenta. Food and shelter, therefore. This metaphor is not in the least unscientific. It informs us of the links between what we are and that whole which we have almost completely domesticated. We have modified it in such ways, to such an extent and so intensely that if it is still at our service, it is showing too many symptoms of exhaustion and danger for its tamers. The relationship now cannot be more complex and fraught with uncertainties. To clear the way we can count on human ecology. This places us in the middle of our environment, analyses the ways and models of using it and activates a diagnosis of the consequence of this relationship. It is therefore essential to evaluate who we are and what we are doing.

Ecology, I insist, is the exploration, identification of links. It studies how they function and how they lead to what lives and can live thanks to them. Without excluding what humans do and undo to live, of course. And we create landscapes, almost always by destroying those that went before us. We create ideas, religions, art. No less than all its opposites.

In fact, we can now define this civilisation as the pile up of the ugly, easy and fast. So what becomes centripetal and degrading for nearly everything else, including human beings.

Ultimately, it is no longer about adapting our surroundings to our needs for survival, but rather about the fact there will be no survival unless we adapt to the limits of the biosphere, for which we must clearly also adapt, and in the short-term, to the changes we ourselves have provoked in the cycles and processes of the climate.

Human ecology is now completely indistinguishable from the most pressing and difficult of the tasks undertaken by our species. Living with and not against life.

These rectifications will be impossible if we have nothing to do with our surroundings. What is more, seeing this correctly is seeing it panoramically as human ecology teaches.