Both Laozi and Zhuangzi tell us that Heaven is inhumane. This, too, is the View from Dao. We are not the center of the Universe; God doesn’t have his eye on us; the Earth convulses without regard to what ‘harm’ it might do; we are not special. But we are, of course, special—to ourselves; just as all other things are special to themselves within the range of their instincts and awareness. This too is affirmable. We have every right and reason to care about and for ourselves, for this is what it is for us to be. For humanity, human needs come first, just as a lion’s comes before those of a wildebeest and the wildebeest’s before those of the lion.
So, let us then despair. For these natural impulses have merged with our collective dysfunctionality and threaten to drive us to extinction well before our time. And if not that, they threaten to condemn us to a world without birdsong and clear open skies. Like mold on an orange, we cannot stop until we’ve covered the earth and eaten it all. Or can we?
Nothing that humanity has thus far done to slow its destruction of the environment has even begun to stem that tide. Our use of fossil fuels is warming the planet, so we erect some solar panels and clamor for the oil and gas beneath the melting ice. Against great odds we spare the spotted owl, while as many as 200 species pass into eternal extinction each and every day. Today we top 5.5 billion and will likely reach 8 billion by 2020. That’s 100 million more mouths to feed, bodies to house and keep warm, and consumer expectations to meet—every single year. Ah, growth!—the great engine that keeps the economic wheels a-turning. Though an estimated 1 billion people depend on seafood for their everyday protein intake, the total world fishery is expected to completely collapse into unsustainability by 2048. One in five people does not have safe potable water. And it’s getting scarcer. We genetically modify our foods, test them in the environment and declare them safe decades before we could possibly know. The oceans are filled with our plastics, the sky, rivers and earth with our toxins. Yet hope dawns eternal; or is it just apathy?

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