FacebookTwitterRedditEmail

The Great Danger of Anthropocentricity

Photo by Himanshu Nagar | CC BY 2.0

Evincing an almost unbelievable ignorance of environmental science, last week Scott Pruitt, President Donald Trump’s head of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, told reporters “we know humans have most flourished during times of warming trends. So I think there are assumptions made that because the climate is warming that necessarily is a bad thing. Do we really know what the ideal surface temperature should be in the year 2100, in the year 2018? That’s fairly arrogant for us to think that we know exactly what it should be in 2100.”

This is the same Scott Pruitt who shocked the public, the scientific community and employees of the EPA when he announced shortly after stepping into his new job that humans were not yet determined to be the major contributing cause of global warming.

But of course humans are not the only inhabitants of the planet. And therein lies the great danger of framing environmental and ecosystem health strictly in terms of human existence. Chief Seattle is widely credited to have said in an 1854 speech: “This we know: the earth does not belong to man, man belongs to the earth. All things are connected like the blood that unites us all. Man did not weave the web of life, he is merely a strand in it. Whatever he does to the web, he does to himself.”

Here in Montana, it’s often said we still have all the native species that were here when the Lewis and Clark expedition passed through more than two centuries ago. Indeed, the grizzly bear still roams the wild Rockies, the lynx haunts thick forests in its search for snowshoe hare and the fluvial arctic grayling still can be found in a few cold headwater streams. But it would be a grave mistake to think these fellow travelers on the planet Earth abound as they once did. The truth is they are hanging on, many by the thinnest of threads, as the rapid pace of global warming destroys historic food sources and the ecosystems — the “web of life” — upon which native species rely.

Moreover, it’s a mystery where Pruitt pulled his contention that “humans have thrived” in warmer climatic conditions when the climate has been relatively stable for the past 11,700 years. We are left to wonder if Pruitt discovered some prehistoric tome detailing warmer climatic conditions or, as is vastly more likely, he simply made up some alternative facts to fit his narrative that increasing human impacts on the environment and subsequent global warming could be good for humans.

Perhaps Pruitt should take a look at the polar bears starving as sea ice disappears. Or the ominous changes occurring in ocean currents — the very currents our present human society relies upon for a livable climate. Or the droughts threatening large sectors of humanity and fueling planet-wide wildfires while the permafrost melts and releases vast quantities of methane into the atmosphere.

Pruitt, who described himself as a “leading advocate against the EPA’s activist agenda,” can fool himself that humans will “thrive” while the rest of Earth’s ecosystems are destroyed. But the truth is that we all need clean air, clean water, healthy soils, vibrant oceans — and so do the multitude of animals and plants living on Earth. We are part and parcel of this planet and the great danger of anthropocentrism, as so vividly illustrated by Pruitt, is thinking we are somehow separate from the “web of life” that surrounds us — or can ignore Chief Seattle’s warning that whatever we do to the web, we do to ourselves.

 

More articles by:

George Ochenski is a columnist for the Missoulian, where this essay originally appeared.

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550
Weekend Edition
August 23, 2019
Friday - Sunday
Paul Street
Notes on Inauthenticity in a Creeping Fascist Nuthouse
Rob Urie
Mr. Trump Goes to Kensington
Jeffrey St. Clair
Deep Time and the Green River, Floating
Robert Hunziker
Earth 4C Hotter
Kenneth Good
Congo’s Patrice Lumumba: The Winds of Reaction in Africa
Andrew Levine
Recession Now, Please
Pete Dolack
The Realism and Unrealism of the Green New Deals
David Rosen
The White-Nationalist Great Fear
Kenn Orphan
The War on Indigenous People is a War on the Biosphere Itself
L. Michael Hager
What Netanyahu’s Travel Ban Has Revealed
Ramzy Baroud
Jewish Settlers Rule the Roost in Israel, But at What Price?
Evaggelos Vallianatos
Is Environmental Protection Possible?
Josue De Luna Navarro
What It’s Like to Grow Up Hunted
Ralph Nader
They Don’t Make Republicans Like the Great Paul Findley Anymore!
Gary Olson
Whither the Resistance to our Capitalist Overlords?
Dean Baker
On Those Downward Jobs Revisions
Rev. William Alberts
Beware of the Gun-Lover-in-Chief
Helder F. do Vale
Brazil: From Global Leader to U.S. Lapdog
Laura Finley
Educators Actually Do “Work” in the Summer
Jim Goodman
Farmers Need a Bill of Rights
Tom Clifford
What China’s Leadership is Really Worried About: Rising Debt
Daphne Wysham
Saving the Planet Means Fighting Bipartisan Corruption
Tierra Curry
Amazon Fires Put the Planet at Risk
Nyla Ali Khan
Kashmir: Decentralize Power and Revive Regional Political Institutions
John W. Whitehead
American Apocalypse
George Wuerthner
How Agriculture and Ranching Subvert the Re-Wilding of America
Daniel Murphy
Capital in the 21st Century
Jessicah Pierre
400 Years After Slavery’s Start, No More Band-Aids
Kim C. Domenico
Finding the Comrades: Maintaining Precarious Sanity In Insane Times
Gary Leupp
“Based on the Fact She Won’t Sell Me Greenland, I’m Staying Home”
John Kendall Hawkins
The Chicago 8 Trial, Revisited
Rivera Sun
Tapping into People Power
Ted Rall
As Long as Enemies of the State Keep Dying Before Trial, No One Should Trust the State
Jesse Jackson
The Significance of the “1619 Project”
Thomas Knapp
“Nuance” in Politics and Public Policy? No Thanks
Christopher Brauchli
Trump and Endangered Species, Wildlife and Human
Mel Gurtov
China’s Hong Kong nightmare, and the US Response
Ron Forthofer
Sick of Being a Guinea Pig
Nicky Reid
Why I Stopped Being White (and You Should Too)
Jill Richardson
As the School Year Starts, I’m Grateful for the ADA
Seth Sandronsky
Rethinking the GDR
Adolf Alzuphar
Tears / Ayizan Velekete
Stephen Cooper
General Jah Mikey: “I Just Love That Microphone, Man”
Louis Proyect
Slaves to the Clock
August 22, 2019
George Ochenski
Breaking the Web of Life
FacebookTwitterRedditEmail