“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 current environmentalist narrative 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
What I am calling “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 one-philosophical-step-beyond-environmentalism follows logically from a somewhat technical evo-ecological hypothesis which, simply stated, says the evolutionary dynamics of technological systems and of 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 overall species and genetic diversity will continue to erode — as will the moral authority of Human-kind.
In sober population-ecology terms, recognising 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 thinking about this; from learning what our technology “is for”. If a non-sentimental understanding of What it Means to be Human in the Natural World can be achieved — based on the most recent and non-controversial lessons learned from human anthropology and non-human population evo-ecology — then both human nature and wild Nature will undoubtedly unfold as they should.