ho wants to see the living world destroyed? Who wants an end to birdsong, bees and coral reefs, the falcon’s stoop, the salmon’s leap? Who wants to see the soil stripped from the land, the sea rimed with rubbish?
A lovely article that is also very accurate. Wonderful to see such important matters addressed. Biophilia, love of nature, is not the reserve of hippies and ner-do-wells . . . . it is woven through our genetics and our hearts. The rapacious economic storm troopers have it too, but have allowed themselves to denounce their birthright by supporting ideologies they know are false, but well, it’s paying the bills so way too much cognitive dissonance to actually fess up. I agree that this should come right up front in our political discussions, because biophilia should be at the core of our economic ideology. We all win.
Perhaps because the current Pope spent time in South America where Indigenous teachings respectful of Mother Earth-Pacha Mama are so important, he demonstrates that love that has otherwise been expunged by patriarchal capitalism.
It’s no surprise that the same fools who push for wars and restrict women’s rights identify so strongly with the macho idea that a male god gave white males dominion over nature (and women, and persons of color):
"Among Pope Francis’s opponents is the evangelical US-based Cornwall Alliance for the Stewardship of Creation, which has written to him arguing that we have a holy duty to keep burning fossil fuel, as “the heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament proclaims his handiwork”. It also insists that exercising the dominion granted to humankind in Genesis means tilling “the whole Earth”, transforming it “from wilderness to garden and ultimately to garden city”.
While it’s refreshing to see a British male speak of LOVE, Mr. Monbiot takes pains to never link nature with the Great Mother or come to any analysis that links the dominator creed of patriarchy with its religious roots in the Bible. Pity. But that level of truth interrupts the flow of the singular authoritarian white Anglo-Saxon male voice that purports to speak for all, when not limiting options and calling its control of frame: freedom.
It is about love or should/could be. The writings of those who loved nature have been an inspiration to me even when I had no contact with anything other than a city for most of my life. Thank you Farley Mowat, Loren Eisley, Faith McNulty, Stephen J. Gould, Carl Sagan, Annie Dillard… for awakening the expanding mysteries of nature for me.
Thank you George Monbiot for this article and I will look for the book you mentioned, The Moth Snowstorm, when it comes out in paperback. I’m too old to handle the hardback ones and e-books are so unsatisfying, a bit like feasting on a video for dinner instead of food.
VERY NICE…we need to discuss this everywhere …every month…thanks
Is there such a thing as love? Or is it lust, the need to spread our genes? The need to protect our genetic progeny? Or the need to save the nature we “love” because we realize we cannot survive without it?
Do animals feel love? Do animals appreciate natural beauty? Or are they attracted to beautiful nature because its diversity provides abundance? Because beauty signifies health and good genetic material?
Is love a romantic human construct that could be better described as need?
If love is beauty and beauty is truth, do we love truth because it keeps us healthy? Where does “spirituality” come into the picture?
How did I get myself into this argument anyway?
Yes, environmental issues will probably reach middle classers/liberals much better than Pope Francis’ talks about our treatment of our poor. Still, even this issue has a significant barrier in the US. Our leading contribution to climate change is our excessive use of privately owned motor vehicles – something that virtually defines the middle class. Even among today’s liberals, the poor are regarded as something less than people. Poor people walk, or if they’re among the more fortunate (those with jobs), take the bus. Our middle class have fought every effort to invest tax dollars into creating an affordable, Euro-style mass transportation system. Every day, millions of Americans start their cars, pouring massive amounts of soot and oil particles into the air. It’s these soot and oil particles that are the cause of catastrophic climate change. Now expand the excessive use of privately-owned motor vehicles to much of the modern world, and you can grasp just how grave this problem is.
Love, in a very restricted manner, is a reality. That is, we love a few people who are in our lives. Broader love for humankind/life is an ideal that is, frankly, beyond our grasp. Our culture centers on competition, and we do not love those against whom we must compete for (what we perceive as) limited resources. If you get the job, and I don’t, I will suffer because of your good fortune. We can “love people” in theory, but altruism is absolutely not an element within our culture. This is obvious not only from our policies, but from “the public forum.”
It’s true that we need massive investment in public transportation to help curb greenhouse gas emissions from motor vehicles, the second biggest contributor to the current state of affairs, but coal-burning power plants are the number one cause. I am amazed by the number of people who don’t know where their electricity comes from: coal, nuclear, hydro-electric, or sustainable which really makes a difference when one is trying to reduce their carbon footprint. I would like to know what percentage of greenhouse gas emissions from motor vehicles is produced from private use compared to commercial/public use. We have government and military fleets, trucking and shipping fleets, construction fleets, etc. No matter how hard we try as individuals to conserve, business and military interests will likely undercut any advancement we make, unless the freaking government creates an energy policy that actually addresses all the actors.
Many years ago, in my “past life” as an activist “for the living Earth”, as I would say, one of my main messages in speeches, articles, my books, and even workshops was that we absolutely must fall in love with the Earth. To me, this was the main thing because, as I would explain, when we love - as we love our children, our spouses, lovers, whomever - we want the best for them. We do what we can, in our imperfect ways, to make their lives better. Yes, we make mistakes. Sometimes horrible mistakes. But once we realize the mistake, since we love, we do what we can to right it. We at least stop what is hurtful so healing can begin.
In my experience, people are more willing to make hard changes in their lives when they are acting out of love than almost anything else. Probably not everyone. But certainly enough so that if we loved the Earth and acted out of that love as much as absolutely possible in our daily lives the change would be dramatic. First small changes then larger and larger ones. Acting out of love is contagious as well. And children naturally get it.
Because love is energy and energy is a real, tangible thing that can cause changes in the real, tangible world, I believe policies would change to follow suit. Habits would shift. Being consumers would no longer by our reason for being. For example, we would demand more public transportation in places (like where I live in rural Maine) where now nothing exists. We would be so appalled by the pain and suffering our industrial systems are causing that we would prioritize finding better options, safer, cleaner, more humane and compassionate options. These changes would force a different politics, a different economy, a different way of being and living on the Earth (or I should more accurately say, “in” the Earth because that’s really the way of it).
The economy was created by human beings and therefore can (and must) be totally transformed by human beings who are awake and aware and who LOVE not only their family and friends, but the Earth. I believe that if enough people were to fall in love with the Earth, and make changes out of/based on that love that things could change rather quickly.
The problem with current environmentalism that always deeply frustrated me when I considered myself an environmental activist, is that we felt we had to talk in the language of the destroyers in order to be taken seriously. Since policy makers and politicians only seem to understand the language of economics and statistics, then that was how we had to approach them. This is how the whole figuring out the monetary value of “ecosystem services” came about - so that these externalities could be factored into the bottom line. But you can never factor in enough because even with a huge monetary value attached, that did not mean that they still wouldn’t be destroyed because some greedy person or corporation decided it was to their best advantage to do so. Unlike a road or building that can be replaced if it’s destroyed, as my father used to say about losing forests and productive fields to development, “once it’s gone it’s gone.”
Love is an emotion and emotions are supposed to stay out of policy and economic decision-making. But greed is also an emotion and it’s number one right now when it comes to policy and decision-making. Environmentalists are extremely careful to hide their softer emotions when it comes to “talking at the table” with the powers that be. I always argued against that. Emotionalism was and is considered a weakness and weak people do not win. This must change because it is not overstating it to say that our lives, or at least our grandchildren’s lives, depends on it. Do we love them enough to open our hearts, minds, and spirits to loving the Earth? That is the real question.
Excellent article with an unique perspective. Simply economics is not the best basis for an argument for sustainability and environmental care. The economic argument implies that protecting the environment is only valid and meaningful if there is an economic savings, which isn’t always the case. A basis of “love” is more substantial and lasting. Love suggests the natural world has intrinsic value, value in its own right, apart from any material advantage we may take from it.
This “love” perspective is very close to that of the Pope and traditional Christianity, as the article hints, which also recognizes the intrinsic worth of the environment, with a major point of difference.
The Christian perspective says the natural world’s value finds its basis in the premise that it is God’s creation and therefore deserving of our love and respect.Thus, the term “creation care” is used by many circles in Christianity to describe our responsibility to the natural world. Christianity would say the universal experience of love mentioned in the article has its transcendent origin in God, the Creator of us all. The intrinsic value of the physical world is repeatedly affirmed in Christian scripture, and ultimately in the incarnation of Jesus Christ, who gave his life for its healing and redemption. This view has its roots deep in orthodox, traditional Christian belief. The view of the evangelical group mentioned in the article, unfortunately too common, should be seen as a capitalistic aberration of Christian orthodoxy. For what it’s worth…