Mankind’srelationship with the natural world
Mankind’srelationship with the natural world
Manand nature have coexisted for many years. However, question has beenraised on whether the current relationship between man and nature issustainable. This is due to the level of destruction and degradationof nature experienced in the modern times. Due to the changes insocial and economic systems, man has become obsessed withmaterialistic goals and search for pleasure. As a result, man hasexploited nature without moral restrain or consideration of theimpacts of his action. As a result, nature is becoming increasinglyunable to sustain and support life. Due to human activities, naturalresources such as water resources, air and soil have been pollutedseverely resulting into disastrous consequences (Raven et al, 2012).For example, Li et al (2015) notes that in the last century, theglobal mean temperatures have increased at a worrying rate. This hasresulted into global warming and climate change that had directlyimpacted on the hydrological cycle. There are numerous attempts bythe global society to stop and reverse the environmental degradationwhich has threatened the ability of the earth systems to supporthuman life. Although this was not the case several decades ago, thereis an increased acceptance by individuals, societies and nations thatpolluting the environment and destruction of natural systems isimmoral and irresponsible. This is because the impacts ofenvironmental degradation mainly air, water and soil pollution,deforestation and encroachment in natural ecosystems are becomingvisible in the modern world. For example, it has become increasinglydifficult for the natural systems to sustain agricultural activities,which has threatened food security. Since food is a basic need forhuman survival, the increased food insecurity in many parts of theworld due to harsh and unpredictable weather conditions hasthreatened human life. It is becoming clearer that irresponsiblerelation between man and nature has a direct impact on human kind andthe unborn generations. This has resulted into increased advocacy forenvironmental ethics and laws that govern how man relates with nature(Raven et al, 2012).
Itis important to appreciate the fact that human relation with naturehas existed throughout the human civilization. For thousands ofyears, human society has interacted with nature. The ancient societydepended on nature for livelihood, without some of the human impactsexperienced in the modern society. For example, majority of ancientsocieties did not clear forest for extensive agriculture or humansettlement. They depended on nature in its natural form withoutinterfering with the ecosystems. However, this is not the case in themodern economic systems. In the modern times, human population hasincreased tremendously, in addition to multiple changes inlifestyles, social and economic systems. As a result, it would beunrealistic to expect that human relationship with nature will be thesame as the relationship two thousand years ago. Needless to say,some of the human impacts on the environment are undesirable andirresponsible. In the modern times, human have explored every inch ofnature, from the sea, to land to air. People take nature the way theywant, with no regard to the impacts on their actions of the naturalsystems. Although nature has everything all humans would need tosurvive, it cannot satisfy the greed motivated by the materialisticnature of the modern world. Greed had been linked to all aspects ofman relation with nature that has negative consequences.Environmental and natural problems such as wildlife poaching, factoryfarming, gluttony, consumerism, pollution, overfishing, thedissipation of natural resources, urban sprawl, industrialization,anti-veganism, the anti-green, and deforestation have been linked togreed (Raven et al, 2012).
Themodern relationship between nature and man did not exist somecenturies ago. Perception and attitudes that guide theserelationships have been changing over the years due to scientificdevelopment, changes in religions and social ideologies. For example,the Greeks relations with nature are very different from the modernrelationships. The classical thoughts industrial and technologicaldevelopment and enlightenment of are some of the most importantfactors that influence the modern concepts of nature. Increasedknowledge and technological advancements in the modern world hasincreased man control of nature. Traditionally, societies such asTangkhul Nagas considered the natural ecosystems and the life theysupport an important part of nature that should be preserved andconserved (Varah, 2013). Their religious and cultural ideologiespromoted good relations between nature and man since it was criticalfor survival. Although these religious and cultural ideologies havebeen eroded by modernity and changes in social structures, they haveecological significance. The tradition view of nature as the originof life has been embedded in the modern attempts to conserve andrespect nature. The practices and traditions are also an importantsource of knowledge and information on how man and nature can coexistand sustainable use of natural resources. The unity between man andnature promoted by cultural and religious traditions are recommendedin the modern society (Varah, 2013).
Accordingto Bar-Massada et al (2014), through interactions with nature, manhas left his footprints on the ecosystem. Although all ecosystems areadversely affected by man activities, the terrestrial ecosystems aremore affected by footprints of humanity. This is mainly due to thereason that man is terrestrial. It is also important to note thatthroughout human civilization, the most important impacts of humanityon the environment have been attributed to human settlements. Humansettlements have led to clearance natural terrestrial ecosystemsleading to the establishment of urban centers. Bar-Massada et al(2014) argues that the wildland urban interface has the highest levelof interaction between humanity and nature. This is because it is aunique social ecological zone where there is direct interactionbetween man and the ecosystem, due to multiple abiotic and bioticprocesses that are directly associated with human activities. As aresult, majority of human initiated processes that negatively affectsthe natural environment diffuse from these zones.
Thereare several ways through which man impacts negatively on the naturalenvironment. The central economic concept that results intoinappropriate relations between man and nature is market failure.This results from inefficient allocation of scarce resources,resulting into wastefulness. Thus, all human have some impacts onnature. Technological advancements, agricultural activities, energyproduction and distribution, settlements, mining and manufacturing aswell as transport have an impact on nature. However, there are somehuman activities that have received more attention due to theirexaggerated impacts on nature. These activities includeindustrialization, overdependence on fossil fuels and extensiveagriculture. This is due to the ability of these activities to alterthe natural environment in large scale. As a result, policies andinterventions have targeted these important determinants. Forexample, global initiatives have aimed at conserving endangeredspecies, reducing greenhouse gas emissions by adopting clean energyand economic regulations such as taxes and quotas that promotesenvironmental friendly economic activities (Muthukrishnan, 2015).
Thereare several aspects of the modern society that defines therelationship between nature and humankind. The changes in social andeconomic systems, especially globalization of economies have changedthe way man relates with nature. For example, a result ofglobalization, a resident of New York City can have an impact onhuman nature relationship in the remote Congo Forest in CentralAfrica. This is because the products of deforestation are likely tobe shipped to other countries. This is as opposed to the situationfive hundred years ago where hunters and gatherers in the forestdefined the only interaction between man and nature. According toAl-Amin et al (2008), globalization refers to a phenomenon in themodern world were nations and economies are able to interact moreeasily and efficiently. Globalizations involve “economicintegration through trade, investment and capital flows, politicalinteractions, information and information technology and culture”.It has been arguing that globalization of societies and economies arethe most important characteristic of human development andadvancement. However, it has accelerated undesirable relationsbetween man and the environment by increasing the scale of humanactivities that have direct adverse effects on the environment.
Advocategroups concerned with human impacts on nature and the environmenthave focused on the effects of globalization on natural systems. Thisis because international trade, which is directly linked toglobalization, has resulted into overuse and overexploitation ofnatural resources. The natural resources in a country are used tosupport livelihood in other parts of the world. Environment advocatesand lobby groups have argued that irresponsible use of naturalresources and degradation of the environment has been proportional toincrease in international trade. All aspects of globalization have adirect or indirect impact on the environment. Globalization resultsinto changes in economic and industrial structures as the economytries to produce more. This results into increased destruction ofnatural environment and pollution. Globalization also enhances marketfailures and negatively affects environmental policies in a country,resulting into negative impact on natural systems. Most importantly,the liberalization of the market and increased scale of exploitationof natural resources has direct environmental impacts. According toAl-Amin et al (2008), the consequences of environmental and naturalsystems destruction due to human activities will have impacts onsustainable development of human societies. It has been confirmedthat human activities are the main causes of global warming beingexperienced today. According to Al-Amin et al (2008) report, it wasprojected that as a result of globalization of human societies,carbon dioxide emission will increased by over 100 percent, makingthe Kyoto targets unrealistic. Nonetheless, there is no doubt thatthe modern society cannot do without trade. Therefore, there is aneed for sustainable use of emerging technologies to increase thesustainability of economic activities, adoption of clean energy andreduction of environmental degradation. According to Khan et al(2009), emerging technologies can also be used to enhance therelationship between humans and nature.
Asthe debate on the effects of human activities on the environmentranges, the negative impacts of the undesirable relationship betweenman and nature is taking effects. For example, the phenomenon humandevelopment that has characterized the 19thand 20thcentury was accompanied by extinction of over eight hundred speciesand threatened over eleven thousand more species with extinction(Hoffman & Sandelands, 2005). Although the economic developmentand globalization is the most important human factor, there arebehavioral as well as cultural factors that have influenced theundesirable relationship between man and nature. Social and culturalvalues define what is right and what is wrong. The values define howindividuals within a culture or society relate with the environment.These social and cultural values influence individuals’ behaviortowards nature and the environment. As results, environment debatesare increasingly focusing on how social, cultural and behavioralfactors influence the relationship between man and nature. Some ofthe most common thoughts about nature is the modern society areeither anthropocentric or ecocentric. Anthropocentric refers thoughtsthat put more emphasis on human needs and less emphasis on the needsof nature. Ecocentric thoughts focus more of the needs of nature. Allindicators suggest that these extreme thoughts are inadequate indealing with the environmental challenges facing the modern world. For example, it is becoming increasing difficult to balance betweennature and human activities resulting into serious issues such ashuman wildlife conflicts. Some environmentalists have proposed areligious dimension to the conflicting nature and human needs in themodern world. The theocentric view of relation between man and naturehas been viewed as an alternative to the unending conflict. Thisschool of thought proposes that man should use knowledge and reasonas well as religious values in order to improve his relationship withnature. Religiously, man has spiritual primacy over nature, butshould be responsible and moderate on how he deals with nature(Hoffman & Sandelands, 2005).
Bourdeau(2004) also argues that policies and behaviors that guide theinteraction between man and nature must be guided by ethicalconsideration. Humans are increasingly adopting activities that havehad negative effects on the environment, without considering theirimpacts. As a result, the earth is at risk of losing its ability tosupport life. This means that although the ethical principles shouldbe considered in defining man relationship with nature, the issues atstake should be given due consideration. Rather that dominatingnature, there is an increased need for man to adopt a steward role inhis relationship with nature. As a result, the Earth Charter andother national and international policies on environment are based onethical considerations as well as the magnitude of the issue.Otherwise, the existence of species, including man, on the earth isat risk. According to Staffen et al (2015), human societies need toincorporate the need for good relations with nature and maintainingthe earth systems in human developments. Scientific evidence suggeststhat there is an increased impact of human activities on thefunctioning of the earth systems. This has significantly affected theabilities of the earth systems to support life. Staffen et al (2015)identified three planetary boundaries that are directly influenced byhuman activities and if they are passed, the ability of the earthsystems to support life with be altered. These planetary boundariesinclude “climate change, stratospheric ozone depletion, and oceanacidification”. Policies and political decisions that guide theglobal approach to environmental issues should consider theseimportant planetary boundaries.
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