The great entomologist E O Wilson’s The Diversity of Life (Harvard University Press, 1992) should be required reading for all who care to understand the complex web of life that we all are part of.
What is urgently needed is knowledge and a practical ethic based on a time scale longer than we are accustomed to apply. An ideal ethic is a set of rules invented to address problems so complex or stretching so far into the future as to place their solution beyond ordinary discourse. Environmental problems are innately ethical. They require vision reaching simultaneously into the short and long reaches of time. What is good for individuals and societies at this moment might easily sour ten years hence, and what seems ideal over the next several decades could ruin future generations. To choose what is best for both the near and distant futures is a hard task, often seemingly contradictory and requiring knowledge and ethical codes which for the most part are still unwritten. (page 312)
Many years ago I had read a book by Mark Epstein called Thoughts Without a Thinker, which is about psychotherapy from a Buddist perspective. I enjoyed the book immensely of course, but there is something in the first chapter that I cannot resist quoting in full.
“If you have an apple and I have an apple and we exchange these apples then you and I will still each have one apple. But if you have an idea and I have an idea and we exchange these ideas, then each of us will have two ideas.” — George Bernard Shaw
Here is a thought experiment. Imagine yourself in a commercial jetliner cruising at 500 knots 37,000 feet above the earth’s surface. Who on earth created the contraption which gives you the ability to do something so awesome? Humans. And out of what? Stuff that came out of the earth. You can trace every bit of that plane to its origin, the earth. The metals, the glass, the plastics—you name it—every bit of that aircraft was once in the earth. The raw material has been around for billions of years but only in the last few centuries have humans developed the ability to work the raw materials into sophisticated shapes and forms that extend the reach of humans in unimaginable ways.