With the growth of human population and the commencement of the Industrial Age came an awareness of the need to conserve the resources that were already being rapidly depleted. This was especially in the case of forestry. Europeans had already decimated their own forests and North Americans were well on their way to doing the same. In the case of the former, it was seen that the exploitation of these resources in the colonies should be better managed to insure sustainability.
This was certainly a necessary and positive first step. It does, however, clearly demonstrate an anthropocentric perspective that sees humanity as fundamentally separate from Nature, and Nature as there for humanity. Nature is a resource and as such has no inherent value apart from its usefulness for humanity. This point of view, as we shall later argue, is fundamental to the trajectory of environmental exploitation to the point of the possible destruction of the entire biosphere. We can trace its philosophical roots all the way back to the Book of Genesis where God, having newly created human beings, instructs them to “go out into the world and subdue it”. Humanity is unique in God’s creation having been created in “His image”, and just as God lords it over His creation, so too are humans to act in a similar manner as His deputies. To do otherwise would be to disobey His commandment. The act of creation itself connotes manipulation through power, domination and possession. The gravest sin possible is the confusion of the Creator with His creation. The only true value resides in the Creator; all other value is contingent and derived. As God’s special representatives, human beings have an inherently greater value than all else in creation and can therefore make use of it as they see fit.


  1. “As God’s special representatives, human beings have an inherently greater value than all else in creation and can therefore make use of it as they see fit”.

    Are human beings really acting much different than other creatures of nature? I think of the wolf, doesn’t it feel greater value than the sheep while devouring it? Is not what you are pointing at the nature of all things, each within their own world-sphere that revolves around survival?

    1. Yes, it is the nature of things to take care of themselves and their own. From the Introduction: “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.”

      Lions, however, have not taken over the globe so as to exterminate all wildebeest. Since we have achieved an imbalanced dominance, our own continued survival depends on a more holistic perspective, one that allows for humanity and its environment to both flourish. Left to our unchecked nature, we will destroy the possibility for both.This is walking two roads–to be discussed anon. Scott

  2. Good point. I like how you bring to attention “walking two roads”. With nature (ours), we seem to interact with two roads. One is to rediscover and let spontaneity arise, while the other is to keep it in-check and as you say, seek another more holistic perspective.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *