There have been times when I get pretty worked up about the environment and the impact that humans have on it. But sometimes I wonder if I’ve gone too far and am clinging. The Buddha taught that clinging to something, particularly when that something is changing (as everything does) is one of the main causes of human use suffering. Sometimes I’ve wondered if, when thinking about saving endangered species, is this a form of clinging?
Surveys show that many people feel that it is important to leave a healthy environment and to save endangered species for a variety of reasons (for future generations, because they believe nature has intrinsic value, spiritual reasons, etc.) I certainly do too. In general, I think the idea is that many people think that they would be worse off if these happened, and so assume that future generations will be worse off if the same things happen. But this may not be a very good assumption, because no one now can imagine what the perspective of future people will be. Am I really any worse off because the dodo bird and sabre toothed tiger are extinct? It would be incredible to see a live one, but a lot of that is because they can’t be seen. I love the Appalachian Trail but I don’t really miss the American Chestnut because I never saw it. I can see the pictures and think, “Wow, those are incredible trees” but would I necessarily want to snap my fingers and have the Chestnuts around rather than other trees that have grown in their place? I don’t know; I think the current trees are just fine with me. Perspective changes everything. Future people may not really care at all if some our endangered species go away.
The universe is always changing. This planet is always changing. Life on this planet is always changing. Always evolving. We can’t hope to stop it at any one point in time. If we are in the midst of one of the fastest mass extinctions, what does that really mean? Does it really truly matter in any ultimate sense? Hard to see that it does. Of course, that doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t try to lessen our impact on the environment or other species. It just means it’s up to each person to figure out if and what they want to do about it. And nobody should get too caught up in anything in particular that is going on.
If we really care about the environment and other species, we would simply get rid of humans. As George Carlin notes, “the planet is fine, the people are f@^&*d.” Watch to the end and join me in being thankful for being part of “the big electron”…for a little while.
Now go get off your ass and do something you love!