April 25, 2007
John Muir and the Happiness of Alligators
How John Muir, often called "father of American environmentalism," rejected the human-centered view back in the 1860s:
The botanizer's answer, so foreign to his time, was this: "Nature's object in making animals and plants might possibly be first of all the happiness of each one of them, not the creation of all for the happiness of one. Why should man value himself as more than a small part of the one great unit of creation?" Without using the words inherent worth or intrinsic value, Muir writes in the journal at his side, "Though alligators, snakes, etc. naturally repel us, they are not mysterious evils. They dwell happily in these flowery wilds, are part of God's family, unfallen, undepraved, and cared for with the same species of tenderness and love as is bestowed on angels in heaven or saints on earth."
"The world, we are told, was made especially for man," Muir once wrote, "a presumption not supported by all the facts."
And now my nature-writing class is almost over, and we never got to Arne Naess and deep ecology. Every time I teach it, it goes a different direction.
Ragged hat-tip: Killing the Buddha.