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Global Imperative: Harmonizing Culture and…

Global Imperative: Harmonizing Culture and Nature

by Chris Maser

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Firstly, Chris Maser has written a very valuable book about the natural world and its problems which are worse now (2016) than when the book was published in 1992.

He's concerned with habitats and species and says (P33), “... the notion is that species continue to evolve until they at last occupy all available habitat niches in the biosphere, which keeps changing, so that species must continue adapting.”

Some habitats offer more possibilities than others and he highlights the extraordinary richness of the world's tropical rain forests quoting biologist Louise Emmons, with regard to the Gabon African rainforest; “You can stand anywhere and be surrounded by hundreds of organisms that are all “doing something”, going about their living in countless interactions – ants carrying leaves, birds dancing, bats singing, giant blue wasps wrestling with giant tarantulas, caterpillars pretending that they are bird droppings, and so on.”

Then he shows how humans are destroying natural habitats at an accelerating rate, becoming the principal cause of extinctions and evolutionary leaps. Like he says (1992), Each year, an area 80% the size of the State of Oregon burns in the Brazilian Amazon alone”, and this is a lot, considering that tropical rainforests are one of the world's oldest ecosystems, occupying only 7% of the Earth's surface but home to more than 50% of all the Earth's species.

His point is that human beings approach nature in a manner formed by their past. For most of their history they were an insignificant part in its vastness, and actually threatened by it – hence the memes of “carving out the new frontier”, “taming nature” etc. which are all wrong now that the tables have turned.

Maser shows that intensive chemical based agriculture is seriously removing fertility from soil around the world as green cover is removed along with he natural cycle of dead organic matter returning to the earth (also covered in Peter Andrew's excellent book “Beyond the Brink”).

He does show a growing awareness of the problem and engages in a very interesting argument (P186) contrasting Ethos with Law. Ethos is something that puts down deep roots into society and moulds it from the bottom up (in other words it IS society). In contrast Law is much more superficial concept that without Ethos it is easily circumvented, as for example with dead letter Environmental Laws routinely ignored by special interests. Like he says, “This is not the doing of the scientists, foresters, rangers, and others at working levels the agencies. It reflects decisions made by higher authorities in the executive branch of government i.e. They know they can get away with it because most of the population don't care.

Maser could have suggested how to internalize (build an Ethos) of sustainability in the general population, but it's a difficult problem and this is still a great book. Five stars so far and I have decided to ignore the negatives.


The author somehow feels the need to link the foregoing to CCP (Counter Cultural Progressive) activism without considering that the CCP's are much more interested in activism than the environment.

So we get:

“The native Indians viewed the land as something Holy to be revered” (Most larger animals in the Americas disappeared with the arrival of Native Americans 10-11.000 years ago).

“Shackles of our European heritage”, West vs East = Linear vs Cyclical thinking (China is in fact Nº1 in wasteful resource extraction, pollution and lack of regard for the environment + Chinese oligarchs have allied with corrupt SE Asian governments and Japanese buyers to lay waste to SE Asian hardwood rain forests + Latin Americans is doing a good job of destroying the Amazon.)

“Unsafe, dirty nuclear energy”. (In fact it's notably safe and clean, and nature lives from the radiation of the sun's billion year old nuclear reactor that's still working fine).

In fact on P179 he admits that, Cultural Capacity (what the land can produce in an environmentaly-sustainable way) is a Conservative Concept (i.e. nothing to do with a Neoliberal world free for all).

A recommended book. ( )
  Miro | Aug 21, 2016 |
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