As humans, we find ourselves housed in an organism. This place we term Earth exists on so grand a scale it is incomprehensible to man. Philosophies years in the making explain only our relationship to the planet. Nothing attempts to evaluate Earth on the merits it holds outside of its position as a human vessel.
Individuals enveloped since birth in societies that approach life as a series of interactions between organisms should look upon the Earth and see it as another organism they will interact with on a daily basis. People brought up to believe life consists of these relationships ought to conclude that correctly interacting with the planet requires treating it as an equal.
As with interactions between humans, an equal relationship also demands that each participant understand the intrinsic worth of the other. Earth does not function on our level of introspective intellectualism, so an equal relationship between man and the planet requires that we understand its worth beyond what it can provide for us.
Gaining this level of comprehension requires society to discard the current view it holds of the globe’s usefulness. Viewing it as the purveyor of natural resources makes an improper distinction between the natural and artificial. What we term artificial resources are in fact natural resources molded by our particular species into forms most advantageous for our use. Those products conceived by man are completely natural in the sense that human intellect is natural and those things that it imagines are based somehow in the Earth’s processes.
Tempting as the prospect of continuing today’s level of consumption well into the future without fear of an eventual sealing of the spigot may be, alternative sources of energy will not solve the environmental problems we face. New methods of using the world’s resources are still methods of using them for our benefit. Conserving the Earth for the purpose of lengthening its use as our tool does not change its status as our servant. True conservation requires not that different resources be used but that all resources are made use of less.
There is no reason to conserve a drill or screwdriver or hammer or wrench. Something purchased from the local home improvement store for a few dollars functions as a tool and finds its worth only in the ability it maintains to serve its master. Diamonds acquired through years of saving and planning are worth not what they can do for their owner but for the intricacy and beauty of their cut. When this planet becomes not a drill but a diamond, conservation will finally end. Treasured preservation will take its place.
Andrew Hamner is a freshman majoring in journalism. He may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.