THE ECOLOGICAL USE OF TECHNOLOGY
I have tried, thus far, to deal with a number of tangible, clearly objective issues: the possibility of eliminating toil, material insecurity, and centralized economic control.
In the present section, I would like to deal with a problem that may seem somewhat subjective, but one which is nonetheless of compelling importance:
the need to make human dependence upon the natural world a visible and living part of culture.
The problem is unique to our highly urbanized and industrialized society.
In nearly all pre-industrial cultures, man’s relationship was well-defined, viable… sanctified by full weight of tradition and myth.
Changes in season, variations in rainfall, the life cycles of the plants and animals on which humans depended for food and clothing…distinctive features of area occupied by community.
All familiar, comprehensible, evoking in us a sense of religious awe, of oneness with nature…more pragmatically: a sense of respectful dependence.
Looking back to the earliest civilizations of the Western world, we rarely encounter a system of social tyranny so overbearing and ruthless that it ignored this relationship.
Barbarian invasions…more insidiously, development of commercial civilizations… may have destroyed the gains achieved by established agrarian cultures, but the normal development of agricultural systems, however exploitative they were…rarely led to the destruction of soil and terrain.
During the most oppressive periods in the history of ancient Egypt and Mesopotamia, the ruling classes tried to keep the irrigation dikes in good repair and promote rational methods of food cultivation.
Even the ancient Greeks, heirs to a thin, mountainous forest soil that suffered heavily from erosion, shrewdly reclaimed much of their arable land by turning to orchardry and viticulture.
Throughout the Middle Ages the heavy soils of Europe were slowly and superbly reworked for agricultural purposes.
Not until commercial agricultural systems and highly urbanized societies develop is the natural environment unsparingly exploited.
Some of the worst cases of soil destruction in the ancient world were provided by the giant, slave-worked commercial farms of North Africa and the Italian peninsula.
In our own time, the development of technology and the growth of cities has brought human alienation from nature to a breaking point.
Western human…we find ourself confined to a largely synthetic urban environment, far removed physically from the land, far from relationship to the natural world.
Not only do we lack familiarity with how most of his goods are produced, but our foods bear only faintest resemblance to animals and plants from which they were derived. Boxed into a sanitized urban milieu (institutional in form and appearance), we moderns are denied even a spectatorial role in the agricultural and industrial systems that satisfy our material needs.
We are pure consumer, an insensate receptacle.
It would be cruel to say that we are disrespectful toward natural; the fact is that we scarcely knows what ecology means or what our environment requires to remain in balance.
Balance must be restored…not only in nature but between human and nature.
Unless we establish some kind of equilibrium between human and the natural world, the viability of the human species is placed in jeopardy.