As readers of SHS know, I believe that human exceptionalism is under profound assault from many different directions, including utilitarian bioethics, animal liberation, and philosophical materialism. But also, some in the environmental movement have turned the conservation ideal on its head, threatening to transform environmental awareness into an explicitly anti-human quasi-religion, sometimes called deep ecology.
Deep ecologists attack human beings as a “vermin” species that threatens the living planet Gaia. Paul Watson, the founder of the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society has just issued such an explicitly anti-human screed. He contends we are in the midst of a mass extinction event–due to the horrible humans:
We are the ruthlessly territorial primates whose numbers have soared far beyond the level of global carrying capacity for the deadly behavioural characteristics that we display.
This did not happen yesterday because we suddenly became aware of the dangers of global warming. It began 50,000 years ago when a relatively hairless primate stumbled out of equatorial Africa and began wiping out the megafauna of the time. Wherever this creature (our ancestor) went, their arrival was followed by large die-outs of megafauna. Primitive hominids were well-organized, efficient, slaughter crews. As they advanced, the mammoth, sabre-toothed cats, cave bears, giant sloths, camels, horses, and wholly rhinos fell to their stone weapons and deliberately set fires. The extinction of all of these great mega-species is directly attributable to “primitive” human hunters. The hunting down of the mega-fauna was followed by the advent of agriculture and the domestication of selected animals. Domesticated cows, goats, sheep, and pigs grew in numbers and denuded large areas of grasslands. Irrigation systems began to toxify land. Then agriculture was followed by industrial activities, and finally, by the burning off of vast amounts of fossil fuels.
One would think this was just evolution in action, human beings acting to propigate the species and help it thrive. Indeed, elephants utterly destroy their habitiats without a peep of protest from the likes of Watson–but of course, that is because unlike elephants, we are exceptional and possessed of concepts of right and wrong. But I digress.
The answer to our malign presence, is a quasi-human extinction:
The planet’s ecosystem is a collective living organism and operates very much like the human body…Humans are presently acting upon this body in the same manner as an invasive virus with the result that we are eroding the ecological immune system. A virus kills its host and that is exactly what we are doing with our planet’s life support system. We are killing our host the planet Earth.
I was once severely criticized for describing human beings as being the “AIDS of the Earth.” I make no apologies for that statement. Our viral like behaviour can be terminal both to the present biosphere and ourselves. We are both the pathogen and the vector. But we also have the capability of being the anti-virus if only we can recognize the symptoms and address the disease with effective measures of control.
Then he gets to the eugenics. Our population should be radically cut to under 1 billion. This would require mass killing, which he doesn’t address. But he does promote that only the few be allowed to have children, people who would be “professional” parents, who would all home school. But here is the kicker, that reveals the viciousness to which anti-human exceptionalism leads:
Curing a body of cancer requires radical and invasive therapy, and therefore, curing the biosphere of the human virus will also require a radical and invasive approach.
Of course, only the “AIDS species” even cares about the extinction of other species. Be that as it may, such self-loathing and nature worshipful attitudes if acted upon, would not, in the end, “save the planet,” but could instead unleash a genocidal utopian viciousness against the most weak and vulnerable humans. At the very least, you can bet that Mr. Watson does not perceive himself as one of the human vermin to be exterminated in defense of the earth’s flora and fauna.
HT: Bob Hiltner