Taming The World

J.B. MacKinnon fears we've neutered Mother Nature:

Guiseppepenone1The natural world feels like a spiritual respite: a literal sanctum, where we are safe  to reconnect to what is larger than ourselves. Compared to the cosmic rhythms of mountain, sea, and sky, it is ordinary daily life—driving at rush hour, punching security codes, navigating a shape-shifting digital culture—that seems hostile.

Yet there is a serious problem with our idea of sacred nature, and that is that the idol is a false one. If we experience the natural world as a place of succor and comfort, it is in large part because we have made it so.

Only 20 percent of the earth’s terrestrial surface is still home to all the large mammals it held five hundred years ago, and even across those refugia they are drastically reduced in abundance. The seas have lost an estimated 90 percent of their biggest fish. For decades there were almost no wolves, grizzly bears, or even bald eagles in the lower 48, and modern recovery projects have brought them back to only a small fraction of their former ranges. Scientists speak of an “ecology of fear” that once guided the movements and behavior of animals that shared land- and seascapes with toothy predators—an anxiety that humans once shared. In much of what’s left of the wild, that dread no longer applies even to deer or rabbits, let alone us.

(Image from The Hidden Life Within by Guiseppe Penone, via My Modern Met)