Whew, beware, this is a long post.
There's a side of me that loves what you write, and what inspires you. I too grew up playing in nature and it was discovering Thoreau as a teenager (he's not well known in the UK) that got me thinking.
But there is a huge, huge problem with so much of what you write and I think Typist has been hinting at it. A concrete Dell headquarters is nature just as much as Blackland prairie is.
I'm not saying that you might have an individual preference for prairie over Dell - many would share it with you. But you cannot make preservation of some aspects nature into a universal ethic. Everything is nature; a computer headquarters is as much Gaia's creation as a rainforest - this is the holistic view.
You talk about holism a lot, and yet with everything you write you actually separate humanity from nature in a way that is completely unjustified. You are also making constant divisions where none can be made - not least, you seem to think that there is an actual division between life and not-life when the division is a purely intellectual one.
Of course, and I agree somewhat. I do distinguish between human and non-human environments. The separation isn't strictly that simple, though. It's, I hope, a little more refined.
The environment of asphalt and concrete is uninhabitable for most life. You don't want to stay there long, anyhow, even if you're a human being. There's no food or water, just hot (or maybe cold if you're further north), dry, barren man-made wasteland. Really, if another race had created such an environment at such a scale, we'd all be dividing nature up between what they create and what they don't. The problem with Dell Headquarters and other places like it is simply that it's an unpleasing environment both from the perspective of habitability and beauty. The little life you find in places like that are small monocultures, who's existence is managed at great cost of resources. These monocultures are not sustainable, they'll die off once the vast amount of energy required for their well-being is no longer available (for whatever reason). There's no such thing as an "ecosystem" in a business center, urban area, parking lot, or warehouse. You could say that these are part of a larger ecosystem, and ecologists call this the "human ecosystem". My criticism of this is simply that it's yet another unsustainable monoculture that doesn't really offer a lot of depth to the overall picture and yet comes at too high a price.
Your conceptual distinctions between nature/humanity and life/not-life seem to be so arbitrary that I can't help but worry about the hideous perverted actions they might lead you to entertain in the name of conservation. By relegating human colonies and nests to something 'sub-natural' I dread to think what you might have in store for them in order to preserve 'nature'.
Oh, I don't consider humans "sub-natural". We're distinct because that's the perspective we're coming from (unavoidable), and we are really at the core of this issue. It's the idea that we're separate from nature that disturbs me. Of course, just because we're a part of nature doesn't mean that we can't distinguish between human and non-human activities anymore than we can distinguish between beaver and non-beaver activities. Our actions just have much farther reaching consequences than beavers.
For what its worth, I think that unless we learn to accept, with equanimity, the ever-changing face of the planet without always calling everything 'man's destruction' we are doomed to pursue ham-fisted interventions that will make us feeling even worse. It is only by learning to love nature so deeply that we love our own place in it, Dell headquarters and all, that we might achieve a tranquility that, who knows, means that we don't feel the need to be chasing around in 'polluting' automobiles. I know this sounds very Taoist, but by not trying always to save the planet we might end up with the outcome that we wanted to achieve.
The most memorable belief in Taoism that for me were the concepts of yu-wei and wu-wei. Maybe you're familiar with them, but the basic lesson is that doing too much is actually harmful. The secret to living in harmony with nature and those around you is to simply not do too much. I think there's great wisdom in this, but I'm in a country that would vehemently disagree with me (and the Taoists, I imagine). Capitalism demands doing too much, and rewards those who do the most. Businesses couldn't survive in a capitalist market under the principals of wu-wei. They would be stomped under the feet of competition, either being bought or going bankrupt. How can you convince such a system to slow down? It's no easy task, but it certainly involves a little action along the way. A lot of environmentalism isn't this enlightened, though, like the kind you'll see in government programs. These tend to be more harmful than good, which goes to show you that you can't fight yu-wei with even more yu-wei.
Many worry about the fate of the human species more than they do the planet. Earth shall survive, they say, but I can't bear the thought of our children's children dying out. With this too, we must learn to accept the mortality of our species with the same serene acceptance as our own individual mortality. If we don't we're going to end up squabbling anyway over who is polluting more than others - at an international level there is already signs of this happening.
Well, it would be sad if this is how we had to go, as a species. I'm remaining optimistic, but realistic. There are solutions out there, we just have to be willing to accept them. I don't think that many of the lessons we need to learn are new. We have just forgotten them in our rush for comfort and convenience.
If thousands of years of work in every culture across the globe have shown we can't create a philosophy that will prevent us from killing each other, upon what basis do we conclude we can create a new environmental ethic philosophy that will prevent us from killing the environment?
That's simply not true. I pointed to a very specific Western line of thought in identifying the problem. It was more specific than it might have appeared, leaving out environmental thinkers such as St.Francis of Assisi or Rousseau.
There are examples, all over the world, of cultures that have environmental philosophies. In fact, it's more of a "default position" for humanity. The strange thing is that we don't still have one today, thanks to our unique Western heritage.
I can't possibly name all of the environmental cultures around the world, but to stress the fact, I'll name a few; Lakota, Ojibwa, Maori, Hawaiian, Taoist, Yahgan, Ancient Greek, Koyukon, Tukano, Hinduism, Islam, Buddhism, Kayapo, Yoruba, Confucianism, Jainism, and many others even including some interpretations of the Judeo-Christian tradition.
The truth is that there are over 6,000 languages still alive in the world today. 90% of these languages are spoken by less than 1,000 people. So, the idea that these ideas don't exist is largely based on our own ignorance. I mentioned a culture probably no one here would recognize, the Yahgan, of which only two native speakers (both grandmother) survive. Their culture has a tragic history, but they were around just long to help inspire Darwin to reconsider our relationship to nature. Modern ecologists are also turning to native cultures for inspiration, as they have a lot of the answer we're seeking.
If we actually go out in to nature, and try to really experience wildlife, we will see that thought is the obstacle that's in the way.
I disagree. That is, I think thought is important. I do agree that it isn't the only
or even best
method of understanding.
Same thing here. Explosive growth in our area over the last 40 years. What used to be "way out in the country" is now the center of town. Sometimes I'm happy to be pushing 60, because I'd rather not be here to see Florida 40 years from now.
What's amazing is that I'm half your age and have seen the exact same thing in 20 years. This expansion is exponential, and that troubles me.