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

About the Extremophile Choice

“The latest news of the world is haunted by the politics of fear. But this won’t motivate to any good end, because humans thrive only when we believe in ourselves. Clearly the environmentalist sales pitch has this same problem, and I propose that it’s our knowing what it means to be human in the Natural world, not our fear for the loss of ecosystem services, that will save the ‘mother tree’.” —from Darwin, Dogen, and the Extremophile Choice

The Extremophile Choice is a philosophy of Humans and Nature that goes a step beyond the school of thought known as ‘environmentalism’. Insofar as environmentalism assumes human beings are part of the ecological totality of co-adapted species, it locks us into a false understanding of our relationship to the Natural world. This conclusion follows logically from a somewhat technical evo-ecological hypothesis which, simply stated, says the evolutionary dynamics of technological systems and ecological systems are two essentially immiscible creative forces.

If we accept this reasoning, we find ourselves with a very clear view of two possible futures. Future one: as long as we fail to understand that fast evolving (and politically capricious) technological intelligence has no place in an authentic ecosystem, that it’s role must be to lessen our reliance on resources that were adapted to efficiently serve only slow evolving evo-ecological intelligence, then the moral authority of Human-kind, along with overall species and genetic diversity, will continue to erode.

In sober ecological terms, recognizing that the harmony of genetically co-evolved body forms is a prerequisite for stable ecosystems, we can’t claim that our harvesting and displacement of wild systems is ultimately “sustainable”, and that technology makes us the King of Opportunists. If augmenting our bodies makes us anything ‘ecological’ at all, it makes us Adaptive Extremophiles.

So let us choose the other future while there is still enough wild Nature left to teach our children how to create beautiful human worlds. This Extremophile Choice works toward a future based as far as possible on non-invasive “containable” human systems within a rewilding world. Many will say this vision is unrealistic, given the momentum of current population and economic trends. How do we get there from here? But if knowing who we are is the most powerful motivating force in our cultural pantheon, then real, and perhaps surprising, changes must come from asking penetrating questions with answers supported by evidence-based science; such as, “What is technology for?” Because when we finally understand What it Means to be Human in the Natural World, human nature will undoubtedly unfold as it should.

Darwin, Dogen, and the Extremophile Choice: Fifty Short Essays on What it Means to be Human in the Natural World

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