During my meanderings around the internet ether the other day I came across the name George Monbiot. He’s a leading environmentalist. Mr Monbiot published an article late 2014 on BBC.com, in which he extols the virtues of getting back to Nature (capital N) http://www.bbc.com/earth/bespoke/story/20141203-back-to-nature/index.html
Mr Monbiot believes we are now all too linear in outlook when it comes to life, the universe and everything. This one-way attitude means we teach young children (who are not linear) to walk, for example, in straight lines on the pavement, when all they want to do is wander about all over the place, as an animal does in the wild. We should all behave like those young children when it comes to Nature, he argues; perhaps forgetting that not sticking to the pavement usually results in a probable car-related death.
Let’s go back in time a bit. Your average life expectancy in the Palaeolithic period was 35.4 years for men and 30 years for women. Time travel to the Middle Ages and average life expectancy had actually dropped to 31.3 years (men). Rush headlong into the Regency period and it’s 40 years, rising to 48 if you happened to be a Victorian. In 2015 we’re at 85 years for men and 87 for women. How did this extension in life expectancy come about? Well, unlike Mr Monbiot, mankind decided, one particularly gloomy and rather drizzly day, that Nature isn’t all it’s cracked up to be – and got the hell out.
The environmentalists, naturists, ecologists, gaiaists (Earth worshippers) all advocate a return to Nature, citing the fact that civilisation has trapped us within a Matrix-like existence that is completely separate from the exciting, life-enhancing and rather spiritual world that is Nature – untamed. ‘Civilisation is BORING’, is the strident claim of Mr Monbiot. He advocates a thrilling and unplanned meeting with a wild bison as just the thing, should you ever visit Poland and go on an otherwise boring (i.e. safe) woodland trek. Better still is to hurl yourself into the Welsh sea upon a 9 foot swell, perched on nothing but a tiny kayak, and then find yourself stranded out there whilst a shark fin circles in a predatory fashion. These wild experiences, Monbiot promises, will fill us with exaltation and an unspecified primordial yearning (presumably for death.)
But that’s the human race for you isn’t it? Never satisfied. Just as we get to the stage where we don’t have to wave goodbye to planet earth prematurely, the Nature lovers decide that all the hard won benefits of civilisation – the little things like antibiotics, vaccination, farming, nice warm houses instead of cold, damp caves, are an affront to the planet – that mankind is a kind of systemic virus that needs to be eradicated – ASAP.
The problem with all that nature loving mumbo-jumbo is that they leave out one important fact….yes, we need to care like mad about the planet, but the planet doesn’t give a damn about us.
Right now there’s a giant volcano, masquerading as an American national park, just waiting to blow us all to kingdom come. The oceans, every so often, like to throw the occasional tsunami at us. The volcanoes in Iceland like nothing better than to spew up tons of volcanic ash and ruin that transatlantic holiday. Floods, wildfires, avalanches and earthquakes – the earth has some great shock and awe weaponry in its human-hating arsenal, and that’s without adding the humans, who hate the other humans, into the mix.
Remember childhood walks in the country where a stinging nettle rash and a case of third degree sun burn featured heavily? Trips to the seaside fraught with the danger of jellyfish/sea urchin/Portuguese man-of-war stings, not to mention accidentally imbibing several litres of filthy ocean. And then there’s the outdoor picnics, in fields filled with killer wasps and acres of animal excrement.
What’s the first thing adventurer Bear Grylls does when he finds himself out there with mother nature – extricate himself as quickly as possible, that’s what. Bear knows that your average natural environment is where the wild things are – and they don’t care whether you’re a meat eater or a vegan, they’ll take a bite out of you just the same; if the freezing cold/boiling hot temperatures don’t get you first that is.
Your average suburban garden would as soon kill you as look at you. The Legionella longbeachae bacteria likes hanging around in soil and compost before relocating to its new home – your lungs. Ditto the water borne Legionella pneumonophilia (Legionnaire’s disease.) A myriad spores, bacteria and fungi are just waiting for you to breathe them in and wreak havoc on your respiratory system. Tetanus can’t wait to jump into that open wound. Those rats urinating all over your herbaceous border are teeming with Weil’s disease and the sap and hairs in your pretty hanging baskets can cause blistering, rashes and nasty burns.
Never mind lions, tigers and bears, Oh My! – it’s your average household pet you should be looking out for. Their weapons of choice being rabies, toxoplasmosis, tapeworm, ringworm, hookworm, roundworm – they’ve pretty much cornered the market where evil worms are concerned.
Charles Darwin hit the nail on the head when he observed the “clumsy, wasteful, blundering low, and horribly cruel works of nature.” Mr Monbiot is welcome to go back to Nature – I quite like living in the civilised world.