What’s with Ozymandias?

Roman-era historian Diodorus Siculus, who described a statue of Ozymandias, more commonly known as Rameses II (possibly the pharaoh referred to in the Book of Exodus). Diodorus reports the inscription on the statue, which he claims was the largest in Egypt, as follows: “King of Kings Ozymandias am I. If any want to know how great I am and where I lie, let him outdo me in my work.” (The statue and its inscription do not survive, and were not seen by Shelley; his inspiration for  [the sonnet]  “Ozymandias” was verbal rather than visual.)  http://www.poetryfoundation.org/learning/guide/238972   View Shelley’s sonnet here.

This paper is a commentary on the book; Keeping the Wild:  Against the Domestication of Earth

The book is Edited by George Wuerthner, Eileen Crist, and Tom Butler. Published by the Foundation for Deep Ecology in collaboration with Island Press, 2014, Washington D.C.



With Friends Like These, Wilderness and Biodiversity Do Not Need Enemies

David Johns


“Those orchestrating and profiting from the ever-growing transformation of the natural world into commodities have always had apologists.”

In this essay, David chooses five of what I think are the most outrageous pronouncements by major figures in the HCC crowd.  He starts with:


1)         Wilderness and biodiversity protection goals must be curtailed and clearly tied to human interests in order to be achievable. 


Johns responds with an explanation of how foreign this statement must sound to those who have understood the science findings of how the planet takes care of itself and how much work in cooperation has already been achieved.

I am irritated to see such a blatantly pragmatic and anthropocentric statement.  Earth is not all about humans. How much wilderness is left has no bearing on the intrinsic value of habitat undamaged by humans.  As for biodiversity, it should not be coupled with wilderness.  Biodiversity is our name for the fecundity of the planet.  Even if we don’t understand the whys, recognising its existence as a celebration of Earth’s energy is enough to merit working with it rather than wiping it out as a by-product of our colonisation of all life.


2)         Humans have always been everywhere, [ridiculous, blatantly false.  We are a recent and deadly result of what we call evolution.] have fundamentally changed virtually every place on Earth, so there are no pristine lands (wilderness) to protect.  [Again false, humans have not fundamentally changed anything.  Fundamentally, all we see around us IS the Earth.  We have only diminished Gaia’s health and eliminated much of Gaia’s protection implementations.  Yes, we have destroyed but not fundamentally.  The non-existence of wilderness is a worn, tired and thoroughly bashed concept whose day has come and gone.  Just because the wilderness of history has been abused almost beyond recognition doesn’t mean that we have to cease all effort to reserve adequate habitat for other-than-human beings.  Johns devotes several pages refuting this statement.


3)         Humans are part of Nature [this is absurdly obvious unless one believes that we are aliens or that we have been genetically modified by aliens] and so our effects on other species, our efforts to dominate, and our attempts to turn the world into a garden are all natural.

I find this attitude almost complete unbelievable.  It seems to me that it must have been issued from the ravings of insanity – seriously.  This is tantamount to the following belief:  Thousands upon thousands of humans kill other humans; humans are part of Nature, so killing each other is natural.  I could go on with other examples but they are too absurd to write down.  We have sound environmental ethics that are accepted by subject matter experts as sound and in tune with an ecocentric worldview.  No other living being kills and destroys out of what we have labelled as greed.  Rapacious, especially insatiable killing is not and never has been seen as natural; let’s don’t go there!!!


4)  Humans are part of Nature, and reserves of various sorts separate us from the natural world.

This statement seems to me to be rather weak.  Violent fathers are separated from their wives and children so they will not be harmed or killed.  Humans who kill, rape and steal are separated from the innocent and peace-loving others in a society.  I recently saw a photo of what was claimed to be the last remaining West African black rhino.  It seems obvious that black rhinos were NOT separated from humans soon enough.  I think I’ve made my point.


5)         Human wants must take priority over needs of other species, even to the point of extinction.

Well, this takes the cake.  Perhaps this is why Michael Soule, as I interpret his statements, does not consider HCC as a conservation group.  I fully agree.  That’s why I say that they are a human centred conservation group. I suppose I’m meant to come around to the idea that being natural, I should expect to encourage people to have as many children as they like because that is ‘natural.’  Being that we are natural, then it follows that we should grab every available square inch of planetary surface to house and feed our children.  Then if one goes further with this hubris and sees oneself at the pinnacle of Evolutionary development and decides that humans are the hope of the planet or that humans are Gaia’s way to become aware of itself. [I’m at a loss for words here as our language is confined to a subject being a person, place or thing and our grammar 3rd person singular as a he, she or it. Where do you fit a living, loving, conscious planet?  He, she or it?]

So, being natural does not justify an attitude that it is acceptable or right livelihood for us to crowd out so many other beings.  For that matter, we do try to crowd out our gut and stomach microbes that are essential to our health.  We swallow medicines that indiscriminately kill both harmful and beneficial microbes instead of looking at the whole system as a balanced, living organ and working with it rather than poisoning it.

Before I continue digging a hole for myself, I must go back to the idea of justifying our behaviour.  Morals and ethics are human concepts.  When we preserve a human centred perspective, then it is logical that we promote human centred morals and ethics.  However, over the last 500 years or so, our scientific evidence points out that we have essential dependencies, unavoidable dependencies.  We don’t even know how our heart keeps on beating.  We don’t cause it to beat.  In fact, we might even start to question whether there is actually a ‘me’ in our body controlling everything. Peter Russell, an evolutionary futurist http://www.peterrussell.com/index2.php] wrote a paper that I once possessed which contained a fascinating thought experiment as follows:  Suppose you placed your five senses in one room and the rest of your body in another room.  Now where are YOU?  Our body is composed of several highly developed organisms made up of highly specialised cells and millons of microscopic beings living both within these cells and swimming around outside them both inside our bodies and outside on our skin.  Where is the controller located?  Where is the me?  I don’t know and even if I did know, we have not developed a language for me to explain it.  Why, because we are caught in an inadequate worldview that doesn’t incorporate our 21st century spiritual and scientific experience.  When HCCs advocate human priority over other species, do they consider that that priority shift might take the form of eliminating necessary beings that make up the cooperative venture we call ‘my body’?  Furthermore, what’s with ‘my body’?  What gives us ownership of these millions of beings and complex organisms?  Enough said.


David johns closes with a brilliant quote from D.H.Lawrence:


“We are bleeding at the roots, because we are cut off from the Earth and the sun and the stars, and love is a grinning mockery, because, poor blossom, we plucked it from its stem on the tree of life, and expected it to keep on blossoming in our civilized vase on the table.”

‘A Propos of Lady Chatterley’s Lover’, in Phoenix II, ( London: Heinemann, 1968), 504.  Johns continues:


“This is the great sacrifice we have made, and it need not be.”