A natural catastrophe always raises the uncomfortable question about human involvement.
Some will say that such horrible events have nothing to do with human behavior, while others will link them to climate change and our effect on the planet.
In a recent Project Syndicate article titled “Hurricane Sandy and Climate Change,” Professors J. Marshall Shepherd (Director of the Atmospheric Sciences program) and John Knox (receiver of the National Weather Association’s highest research award) of Georgia University, write the following:
There is growing evidence of links between climate change and sea-level rise, heat waves, droughts, and rainfall intensity, and, although scientific research on hurricanes and tornadoes is not as conclusive, that may be changing.
Indeed, recent reports by the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and other scientific literature suggest that the intensity of hurricanes will increase as a result of warmer waters. And our atmosphere and oceans are, indeed, warming…”
Thinking we might be contributors to the devastation brought upon us by Sandy is indeed startling, and as the professors say, “the scientific research needed to prove or disprove such a connection must still be conducted.”
But while scientists are hesitant to give us a definite answer, Sandy serves as a grim reminder that regardless of how well we understand it, we are all little pieces within the bigger puzzle of nature. And we all depend on nature.
In modern times, we have grown accustomed to seeing ourselves as a separate and superior part of nature. We feel we are entitled to use, consume and manipulate natural systems to satisfy our needs and serve our desires.
Those natural systems, on the other hand, operate in harmony, where all the elements follow the law of homeostasis through interdependence and interconnection.
Our human society, while being a part of nature, is following opposite rules. “Every man for himself,” “it’s none of my business,” “whatever,” “who cares” and “me, me, me” have become standard, acceptable ways of thinking in modern society. So our contrast to nature starts at the most fundamental level. “Nature’s ideology,” if you will, is opposite to ours. But it doesn’t end there.
Human Society Vs. Nature: 5 Things To Consider
1 Many scientists today accept the Earth is a single, interconnected, living ecosystem.
2 This ecosystem, as any other living system, thrives on harmony and homeostasis which is the foundation of life. Evolution is also characterized by creating greater and more intricate ties that can maintain balance.
3 There is no question that human beings are a vital part of this ecosystem, with even our biological bodies being governed by the same laws of balance and homeostasis. When this balance is broken, we get sick or even die.
4 Despite the above knowledge, we, as a species, are in discord with the rest of nature. While other creatures and organisms are in balance with their environment, consuming and taking only what is necessary for their existence, we take a lot more than we need.
5 Within the last century in particular, we have created the artificial bubble of “the growth economy,” which creates an ever increasing overproduction and overconsumption of unnecessary and mostly harmful products. By doing so, we are exhausting both the natural and human resources, and are now driving ourselves into a dead end.
So at present, our behavior could be compared to that of a cancerous organism within the vast surrounding natural system. And that natural ecosystem around us has fine tuned laws that work to preserve life.
Undoubtedly, nature is a nourishing, harmonious system, which is infinitely greater than us – a human species existing within it and completely dependent on it. And quite possibly, the earth can react toward imbalance as a healthy body would react to a disease or a foreign organism within it.
Therefore, if we want to appease nature, and if we want to thrive as a species, we should start by learning how to follow the basic laws of nature, and its homeostatic inter-relations.
We should promote the understanding that as any other living species, we are part of a vast self-regulating natural system, infinitely greater than the human species. We ought to discard the misunderstanding that we are above nature and have the power to manipulate it as we wish.
It is time for us to grow out of the irresponsible perspective that natural laws do not apply to us or that we could override them with technological advancement.
Hurricane Sandy and other natural disasters, when people can neither properly predict nor defend themselves, are timely reminders of our imbalance with nature’s laws. A more predictable and sustainable future is possible if we settle into the interconnected natural system as its partner, adapting to its laws and principles.
The Change Starts Between Us
“The world will need more cooperation in the coming years, as climate change begins to interact with and exacerbate extreme weather events, in order to gain the lead-time needed to prepare for disasters. We will also need the collaboration among governments, the private sector, and academia that often leads to improvements in forecasting.” (Professors Shepherd and Knox)
As part of our connection with nature, we are also connected to each other and dependent on each other. And there is no doubt that disasters like Sandy stress the need for better human connection and cooperation.
It seems that while animals are balanced with nature by instinct, we humans have to exercise our unique capacity for conscious adaptation. We have to do it of our own accord.
How do we align our actions and relations with nature? By consciously adjusting our social values so as to achieve balance in human society and balance with the natural environment.
The natural system is not going to change its homeostatic laws. It has to maintain its integrity and balance.
But we can choose to embrace these laws and assume responsibility for each other and for the environment. The question is whether we will choose to do it as a result of more disasters, or through a pleasant, healing process of inspiring social change.
Image: “Question Mark Phoenix” by Roy Blumenthal from Flickr