we don't need to change how we do conservation, we need to change why we do it

Can Humanity KNOW ITSELF without Knowing the GREAT GOD PAN? Part-3: Learning Intimacy from the God-Of-All-Tribes,

The last section of Darwin, Dogen, and the Extremophile Choice begins.

PART V —The Extremophile Choice

The rewilding of the tortoise in its ancient habitat represents not only the species’ slow drift away from extinction, but an overall movement toward a more plentiful world. What the bolson tortoise reminds us is that it is ultimately less important to choose a baseline than it is to choose a direction. —J. B. MacKinnon [1]

The Earth is the cradle of mankind, 
but one can’t stay in their cradle forever. 
—Konstantin Ziolkovsky

… reforestation is gradually returning 
the [Sudbury] area landscape
to its natural state. 
Using both surface and under-ground greenhouses, 
Inco grows some 250-000 seedlings each year 
for reforestation purposes. 
—Inco [Mines] website, 2008

This is how a human being can change: 
there’s a worm addicted to eating grape leaves. 
Suddenly, he wakes up, 
call it grace, whatever, 
something wakes him, 
and he’s no longer a worm. 
He’s the entire vineyard, 
and the orchard too, 
the fruit, 
the trunks, 
a growing wisdom and joy 
that doesn’t need to devour. 
—Rumi, The Worm’s Waking [2]

A short selection from Essay Forty in Darwin, Dogen, and the Extremophile Choice.

Sweet, sweet, sweet, O Pan ! Piercing sweet by the river ! Blinding sweet, O great god Pan !  The sun on the hill forgot to die, and the lilies revived, and the dragon-fly came back to dream on the river. —Elizabeth Barrett Browning [3]

I won’t pretend this vision of our distant future https://www.extremophilechoice.com/about-extremophile-choice/ is anything more than a working hypothesis based on some very general ecological principles; nevertheless, whether this vision can truly help us “choose a direction”, as MacKinnon recommends (see quote at the head of this section), or it’s just foolish, it is my hope at least that we can gain a more empowering view of ourselves from the light of our ‘two trees’ analogy, and by framing the consequences of our very existence in this bold way. The artifice of anticipating the future (or of analogical thinking for that matter) doesn’t make us more intelligent than Nature, nor our art, more spiritual. But in the light of friendly inquiry a student might learn from a personalized Nature what is hidden from a doctrinaire master. At the very least, we might learn to respect the creative power of unmediated human intimacy, and open ourselves to a less claustrophobically calculable human future.

On the other hand, I am absolutely confident when I say that our visions, and even those passions and predispositions that have been Pan-piped into our animal bodies by an older and wiser master, evo-ecology’s gene-shuffling God-Of-All-Tribes, are provisional props that won’t betray us if only we see through their passing and inconsequential bodily shadows. I’ve watched this process unfold, in myself and in others, on the cushion and off, as I’ve grown older. The message itself is old, and the process might be more natural than I’ve made it out to be, at least for some of us.


1. MacKinnon, J. B. 2013. The Once and Future World: Nature as it was, as it is, as it Should be. Toronto: Random House of Canada. (Vintage Canada Edition, 2014), p. 72.

2. Rumi. 1996 in Coleman Barks, trans. With John Moyne, The Essential Rumi. New York: HarperCollins, p. 265 (“The Worm’s Waking”).

3. Browning, Elizabeth Barrett. 1860. Stanza VI from the poem, A Musical Instrument.

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