Earth is not a Garden

Yesterday, I came across an article that touched upon technology efforts in the name of conservation: Algorithmic Wilderness: Robo-bees and drone-seeded forests: can technology mend our broken relationship with the natural world?

It was not so much the idea to develop drones doing the work of bees that puzzled me. Or the idea to plant a billion trees a year using unmanned aerial vehicles – the goals may be noble, but the approach worries me. Saving the world with technology? Nonetheless, this was not the painful part of the essay. The following sentence was more concerning:

Wilderness no longer exists. Humans have … irrevocably altered the conditions of life for almost every species on the planet.”

That realization hurt.

It was obvious to me that national parks are just some small protected islands that give us a glimpse what nature can look like. Most parks are too small to maintain a healthy ecosystem without human interference, and the human impact cannot be denied. However, some sparsely populated places like Alaska, Siberia, and Mongolia I thought would still be largely untouched by human activity. Apparently not so. I can see how climate change is affecting regions globally and our continued and renewed expansion into formerly protected areas, like the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, certainly does not help the cause. It actually supports the notion of modern conservationist that tell us to give up the romantic idea of true wilderness, untouched by humans.

I must have lived under a rock. I had not heard of Green Modernists, or New Conservationists, Post-environmentalists or Eco-pragmatists until yesterday. These schools argue that we should embrace our planetary lordship and consider Earth as a giant garden. A garden, where we decide what grows, what gets harvested, and what gets eradicated. We are the gardeners calling the shots…

There is a flaw in this thinking: A garden is small enough in scale that we can control most parameters. We can even trick the weather, to a degree, using irrigation, green houses, artificial lights etc. When it comes to our planet however, that analogy fails. We cannot control nor trick the weather, and I am very doubtful that drones are suitable gardening tools to solve global problems. They also will not  change the tide of our current thinking that we can fix everything with smarter, better, and more efficient technology.

We simply need to become better stewards of the land. So much for today.

Find more details here:

Earth is not a garden

Some of the world’s most powerful conservationists are giving up on wilderness. They are making a big mistake.




7 thoughts on “Earth is not a Garden

  1. Great post and abstract composition. I hadn’t heard about these ideas before either, they sound impractical. But I do believe things will get worst, before they get better. Humans tend to only learn the hard way.

  2. Perhaps I am a little old-fashioned when it comes to technology. There is no doubt in my mind that global warming exists and that polar icecaps are shrinking every day/month/year, but to suggest that Wilderness does not exist (in the article), is surely premature.

    To state that wilderness areas are shrinking rapidly and some bird, animal and insect life are facing extinction is also true. Much wildlife is now extinct and the numbers continues to grow year by year at an alarming rate.

    I believe that there is still a chance to save the planet – it just needs massive effort, money and resources to rectify the detrimental effect modern man has had on the environment. Governments need to change their priorities. Governments need to put laws in place which ban plastic bags and plastic food packaging for starters. A small act, but one of many that can be done.

    Countries like Bhutan where cutting down trees is banned and there is a conscious effort to keep the environment as it has been for hundreds of years show that it can be done.

    Iceland, Switzerland, Norway, Finland have also shown sustainable environmental practices. There are other countries. My country, Australia, falls way behind and I feel ashamed to admit that.

    It’s all very well to hold summits on climate change, but talk is nothing without action and changing the way we all live, especially in urban areas.

    And it needs to happen today, not by 2015 or 2020. It all comes down to education and Governments willing to pour money into restoration of forests, lakes, rivers and breeding programs of our rare species.

    People forget the Power of One. Every man, women and child can make a difference.

    Modern technology may create jobs and better communication but unless its balanced by restoring the natural world, there won’t be a planet or population to use it (modern technology).

    • Well said. Where are those politicians and leaders? Or a critical mass that would support those old-fashioned ideas that we need wild places. It seems to me that most people don’t understand that we cannot keep growing indefinitely. Until this fundamental issue, amongst others, gets traction we are heading for disaster.

  3. I have been told since I was a kid – for 50 years now – that technology will provide the solution to… It hasn’t. It won’t. Meanwhile, sure, we can survived with 7 billion, 9 billion, 12 billion people. But with human numbers that high, there’s simply not room for much else.

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