As technology advances, man tries more and more to apply it in various ways to the world around him. As a whole, we seek to control our surroundings, quite often to the devastation of the pre-existing natural systems. In his book One-Dimensional Man, Herbert Marcuse puts forth his belief that should civilization gain the technological means, we should protect Nature from itself. While this is a worthwhile idea, as we are now, man does not have the technology, will or unity to try to ‘protect’ Nature. Also, ideas like this often sound good on paper, but are next to impossible to execute.
Looking at humanity’s track record regarding the use of new technology, it is easy to see that we usually have to experience the destruction that comes with its use before moving to fix it. A perfect example would be here in
With currently technology advancing so quickly, it is hard to keep up with how each new device effects nature. With the reality of nanotechnology just around the corner, man has the ability to pose an even greater threat to nature. Bill Joy expounds on this in his essay “Why the Future Doesn’t Need Us”. In the essay, Joy makes a point of explaining how nanotechnology could easily get out of hand with replicating assemblers destroying wrecking havoc on a natural system before anything could be done to stop them. Another point Joy frequently returns to is how humans tend to find it easier to militarize any given technology than put it to constructive use.
Along with the dangers approaching with nanotechnology is the growing number of nations with nuclear capabilities. As an increasing number of nations gain access to nuclear weapons, the chance of a Blade Runner-esque world grows. If we ever do experience a “World War Terminus,” then by the time humanity has the technology and will to protect Nature, it could be too late.
Instead of trying to subdue or pacify nature, we need to learn how to live side-by-side with nature. Throughout the ages, nature has its own way of balancing everything out. Since the start of life on earth, there has existed a natural balance between predator and prey. Left alone, these cycles would continue in harmony. Occasionally, a system is altered by the appearance of a new species or a disease that devastates one already in the cycle. Both instances occur naturally and without human interference. If, however, we add careless, unthinking humans to the system, the system can be severely damaged before we realize what we have done.
Take, for instance, the odyssey of the gray wolf in the American Midwest. As settlers moved west they destroyed the bison, elk, moose and deer that the wolves relied on for food. With their natural food source nearly gone, the wolves turned to the livestock the settlers had brought along. Turning on the livestock only made the wolves a more immediate target of the settlers and ended up nearly extinct. Fortunately, we have learned from this experience and have been able to stabilize the system and restore some semblance of balance to the cycle. But who knows if we will be as lucky the next time.
Humans need to realize that we are just another variety of life on earth. While we have the largest capacity for thought and rational thinking, humans might not be the smartest animals. Instead of living in balance with nature, we try to impose our will on it, harming whatever natural systems already exist in the area. Before we can transform nature using the power of Reason, we must learn to exercise that Reason as it applies to humans.
Mercuse’s believes that in order to save nature we must subjugate it. To me, that means we must assume full responsibility for everything that occurs, keep a constant eye on every animal in every corner of the world, and take care not to disrupt any natural systems in the process. In short, the whole planet would become a gigantic zoo. Given that we still know relatively little about organisms living at amazing depths, deep in jungles or other extreme locations, this is simply impossible. I do not think it should even be attempted given how difficult running even a city zoo can be.
Not only is Marcuse’s belief impossible to realize, but for the good of nature, it should never be attempted. Humanity does not have the resources or the will to make such a system work without first destroying the very thing they are trying to protect: Nature.