Humans destroying the environment is part of Nature

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Humans destroying the environment is part of Nature

Having only become atheist in recent years my view of the world is still somewhat clouded by conditioning of my religious upbringing. In this case I'm referring to the idea that humans are separate, distinct from, and "above" all other creatures on Earth. We're "special". Intellectually I know that's not true but I still have this emotional sense that I'm distanced from the rest of the creatures on Earth, and even Earth itself. My husband, on the other hand, has been an atheist his whole life so his way of viewing the world has not been so tainted by religious dogma.

We were watching Alaska Expedition tonight, which is a show about researchers looking for evidence of global warming in remote areas of Alaska untouched by humans. As they were finding evidence of climate change my husband said something about it being perfectly natural that we're changing the climate. It's just part of Nature. I, being taught that I'm separate and almost artificial compared to Nature, don't see it that way. To me, we're like alien parasites causing a plague on the Earth. But to him humans are just part of Nature so everything we do is perfectly natural and part of the natural world and part of the Earth's natural evolution. Even cities he doesn't see as artificial. Our cities, our homes, to him, are just our "nests" built in the unique way that the human species builds its nests. To him cities altering the landscape is as natural as a beaver altering the flow of a river by building a dam.

Btw, this does not mean my husband doesn't think we should be concerned about global warming. He thinks we should. But the idea that we can and should care, and can do something to change it, is also part of the natural process. It's all part of Nature.

While I understand what he's saying in my head, it's still a difficult concept for me to fully grasp. So I'm wondering if other atheists here, those who have been atheists all their lives, think the same way about things. Can you fully grasp the idea of our "unnatural" behaviors being just part of Nature?

 

 

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I would agree with you

I would agree with you husband, but really, your hang up is partly semantics.

I would say your husband, myself, and most atheists would view humans as a natural product of the universe, so in that sense anything we do would be natural - even creating things like "artificial intelligence". I personally don't like using the word "artificial" for things like that. Call it man-made if you must as a distinction, but even AI, should it arise, would simply be another evolutionary step to me - a step, beyond carbon based life, that I think is inevitable if we last long enough as a species. Artificial and natural are not mutually exclusive terms in the way natural and supernatural are for example.

When you think about it, ALL species change the environment, and humans have been doing it for eons - we simply notice it more, because we are egocentric and do have a very significant impact on the environment. To put it into perspective, humans have practiced animal husbandry, the selective breeding of animals, for thousands of years - this is why we have domesticated farm animals, dogs, wheat and corn - pigs chickens and wild wheat were quite different no so long ago. Now we can actually manipulate genomes - but in the end, genetic engineering isn't really all that different than what we've been doing for a long, long time. And husbandry is just another selective pressure like predator/prey relationships. Why we need to call it artificial when we selectively breed animals and plants for the table and call it natural when tooth, fang and claw results in sharper toothed cheetahs and faster gazelles is beyond me. The degree or the pace with which we do such things may be of concern, and come back to bite us in the end, but there have been plenty of species before us that have literally evolved themselves into extinction.

And yes, we certainly should be concerned with what we do to this planet and the things that live on it with us, because, in the end, our survival as a species depends on it.

But in the end, the human race, as we know it, likely WON'T survive. Most species don't. We'll either destroy ourselves, or a tenacious virus will or a meteor or something like that, or we'll continue to evolve. Should there be human descendants on Earth a million years from now, they'd be recognizable to us, but they'd certainly not be same - and not necessarily more advanced.

We're a blip on the screen, a transitional form, like every other species that ever was or will be.

That certainly doesn't mean we ought not be concerned about the here and now.

Hope that helped and didn't muddy things even more for you.

 

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The funny thing I see in

The funny thing I see in this is that while it's true that nothing we do can be unnatural, what we are doing isn't necessarily in our best interest.  Cities really are a plague on the Earth (upsetting rainfall patterns, water absorption, destroying habitat) in their current manifestation even though they are the natural and unique way that humans live.  Interestingly not all humans live in cities in the way your husband means.  It's just as natural to live in the middle of nowhere Canada in a log cabin.  Changing our environment is essential to our continued evolution, however, we may be changing it to our detriment anymore.

Going along with what Yellow_Number_Five has written, we probably won't survive as a species all things considered so in the distant future it's likely that anything we do to the Earth will not matter.  In a more distant future the Earth will be consumed by the expansion of our Sun when it reaches its final stages of life and sheds its outer layers before becoming an innocuous white dwarf.  At that point unless we inhabit a different star system or some other fantastical scenario becomes a reality, our rape of the Earth for our own minuscule survival will not matter at all.  Frankly, the Sun will do worse things to this planet than we could ever hope to do.  We should probably commit ourselves to making what future there is or may be a better future for everyone, after all I for one intend to live tomorrow.

BigUniverse wrote,

"Well the things that happen less often are more likely to be the result of the supper natural. A thing like loosing my keys in the morning is not likely supper natural, but finding a thousand dollars or meeting a celebrity might be."


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Thomathy wrote:Frankly, the

Thomathy wrote:

Frankly, the Sun will do worse things to this planet than we could ever hope to do.  We should probably commit ourselves to making what future there is or may be a better future for everyone, after all I for one intend to live tomorrow.

Or we should bomb the Sun now, before it attacks us!

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Actually, the Earth's water

Actually, the Earth's water content will entirely dry-up before the sun begins it's next lifecycle. The expansion of the sun is largely a 'non-issue' - Earth will be a dead, barren rock long before that.

Quote:
"Natasha has just come up to the window from the courtyard and opened it wider so that the air may enter more freely into my room. I can see the bright green strip of grass beneath the wall, and the clear blue sky above the wall, and sunlight everywhere. Life is beautiful. Let the future generations cleanse it of all evil, oppression and violence, and enjoy it to the full."

- Leon Trotsky, Last Will & Testament
February 27, 1940


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Well they're saying all the

Well they're saying all the methane locked up in the arctic permafrost that's now melting is going to make climate change much worse than previously anticipated so we could become another Venus long before the sun does anything to us.

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Yellow_Number_Five wrote:Or

Yellow_Number_Five wrote:

Or we should bomb the Sun now, before it attacks us!

Yes we must, I understand it's already obtained a nuclear reactor, just a matter of time before the Sunnies weaponize it.

“Religion is regarded by the common people as true, by the wise as false, and by the rulers as useful.” Seneca


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EXC, best muslim spin off

EXC, best muslim spin off joke... ever!


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Kevin R Brown

Kevin R Brown wrote:

Actually, the Earth's water content will entirely dry-up before the sun begins it's next lifecycle. The expansion of the sun is largely a 'non-issue' - Earth will be a dead, barren rock long before that.

Thanks for stealing the thunder... ugh, fiery end!  But at that time it will be a HOT, dead and barren rock and that is arguably worse still.

BigUniverse wrote,

"Well the things that happen less often are more likely to be the result of the supper natural. A thing like loosing my keys in the morning is not likely supper natural, but finding a thousand dollars or meeting a celebrity might be."


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Kevin R Brown

Kevin R Brown wrote:

Actually, the Earth's water content will entirely dry-up before the sun begins it's next lifecycle. The expansion of the sun is largely a 'non-issue' - Earth will be a dead, barren rock long before that.

I think you may have missed the sarcastic nature of my comment.

For the expansion of the sun, is a national security concern. Ask John McCaine.

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EXC wrote:Yellow_Number_Five

EXC wrote:

Yellow_Number_Five wrote:

Or we should bomb the Sun now, before it attacks us!

Yes we must, I understand it's already obtained a nuclear reactor, just a matter of time before the Sunnies weaponize it.

And in this case, it will be a FUSION weapon, not that wimpy fission crap we've dropped in the past. The Sun is evil.

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Thomathy wrote:The funny

Thomathy wrote:

The funny thing I see in this is that while it's true that nothing we do can be unnatural, what we are doing isn't necessarily in our best interest.  Cities really are a plague on the Earth (upsetting rainfall patterns, water absorption, destroying habitat) in their current manifestation even though they are the natural and unique way that humans live.  Interestingly not all humans live in cities in the way your husband means.  It's just as natural to live in the middle of nowhere Canada in a log cabin.  Changing our environment is essential to our continued evolution, however, we may be changing it to our detriment anymore.

I should have commented on this before. I disagree, vehemetley on these some of these points.

Unless we are talking about reducing the total human population, cities ARE the way to go.

Cities are MUCH more efficient than suburban and rural modes of life. This is due, in large part to the compactness of the entity. You need less material to house and supply people in a city - you don't have to run sewers and power lines miles upon miles to supply people outside of a city, if more people lived in the city the amount of fuel we waste in commute would be drastically reduced (there are many times more people driving 10+ miles to work in the US than there are in other places), in more concentrated locales we'd lose less energy in transmission over long distant power lines (which is a huge factor world wide), mass transit is more viable in an urban setting, then let's not forget the lawn mowers suburbia uses to maintain their yards, and not forget the fuel it takes to truck supplies to remote locales. By many estimates, the carbon footprint of a person living in Manhattan is 30% less than the average American for these reasons.

People in cities tend not to rely on, need, or even own a car. They can ride a bike to work or take the subway, they don't need to drive 30+ miles a day just to work. And multi-domicile buildings are AWAYS more efficient than single homes - because you end up sharing resources. A high-rise has a MUCH smaller footprint, physically and from an energy consumption POV, than an single homes per capita.

Cities are GOOD for the environment - they increase efficiency and concentrate the harm we do, rather than spread it everywhere. In most cities, you can take a 15 minute drive and find areas essentially untouched by humans.

The ONLY way living in bumble fuck is helping the planet is if you live in bumble fuck self sufficiently and supply all or most of your energy and commodity needs - or farm and produce for hundreds or thousands.

Personally, I think the greenest way to live is live in a city, walk or bike or take the train to work, and if you have a balcony or small yard grow some veges on it. That's certainly better than living 20 miles outside the city and driving to work every day.

 

 

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Yellow_Number_Five

Yellow_Number_Five wrote:

 

 

Unless we are talking about reducing the total human population....

 

That would be my first choice. Natural or not there are just too many of us. Any large mammal species with this size population is going to adversely affect the environment. Bears are natural. But imagine if there were 6.6 billion bears walking around. Imagine 6.6 billion bears decimating the salmon and berry populations (and eating your pets and your kids), digging in garbage cans, leaving bear poop all over. You think they'd have an impact on the environment?

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Theia

Theia wrote:

Yellow_Number_Five wrote:

 

 

Unless we are talking about reducing the total human population....

 

That would be my first choice. Natural or not there are just too many of us. Any large mammal species with this size population is going to adversely affect the environment. Bears are natural. But imagine if there were 6.6 billion bears walking around. Imagine 6.6 billion bears decimating the salmon and berry populations (and eating your pets and your kids), digging in garbage cans, leaving bear poop all over. You think they'd have an impact on the environment?

No doubt, but this is not something people are going to be receptive too. Mandating how and when we can reproduce would certainly bother me.

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Quote:No doubt, but this is

Quote:
No doubt, but this is not something people are going to be receptive too. Mandating how and when we can reproduce would certainly bother me.

Understatement of the century.  You see the kind of shit I take when I suggest that not having children is a good option for a lot of people.

 

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Hambydammit

Hambydammit wrote:

Understatement of the century.  You see the kind of shit I take when I suggest that not having children is a good option for a lot of people.

 

I wouldn't tell people they shouldn't have any kids. But why does anyone these days need more than two? That's plenty to satify your m/paternal instincts, keep your kid from being an only child, etc. What extra benefit does anyone get from 3, 4, 5 kids? It usually just drains the family financially and emotionally. I've seen a lot of couples that were the picture perfect happy family with 1-2 kids but when the 3rd kid came the relationships strained and things went downhill from there.

And that Vagina Clown Car woman should have been forced to have her tubes tied after the 10th kid. Get real.

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Check this out... this is

Check this out... this is exactly the kind of bias I'm talking about... damn subtle, but there...

Quote:
I wouldn't tell people they shouldn't have any kids.

Notice what I said...

hambydammit wrote:
You see the kind of shit I take when I suggest that not having children is a good option for a lot of people.

Notice the difference in meaning?  Pardon me if you weren't addressing me, but this is exactly what I hear any time I bring up the topic.

Me: You know, not having kids is pretty awesome.  If you don't have a really strong desire, you might be just as happy or happier without them.

Them: Don't tell me not to have kids!!!!

 

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Hambydammit wrote:Check this

Hambydammit wrote:

Check this out... this is exactly the kind of bias I'm talking about... damn subtle, but there...

Quote:
I wouldn't tell people they shouldn't have any kids.

Notice what I said...

hambydammit wrote:
You see the kind of shit I take when I suggest that not having children is a good option for a lot of people.

Notice the difference in meaning?  Pardon me if you weren't addressing me, but this is exactly what I hear any time I bring up the topic.

Me: You know, not having kids is pretty awesome.  If you don't have a really strong desire, you might be just as happy or happier without them.

Them: Don't tell me not to have kids!!!!

 

 

Oh no, I wasn't addressing you. I don't have any kids myself and have never had a very strong desire to have them so, not knowing what it's like to have kids, I just hesitate to take the position that I know whether others should or shouldn't have kids. That's all I meant by that.

 

"The Bible looks like it started out as a game of Mad Libs" - Bill Maher


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Has anyone seen the movie

Has anyone seen the movie Idiocracy?

 

It's coming. I'm sort of glad I'll be dead in a few decades.

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Hambydammit wrote:Check this

Hambydammit wrote:

Check this out... this is exactly the kind of bias I'm talking about... damn subtle, but there...

Quote:
I wouldn't tell people they shouldn't have any kids.

Notice what I said...

hambydammit wrote:
You see the kind of shit I take when I suggest that not having children is a good option for a lot of people.

Notice the difference in meaning?  Pardon me if you weren't addressing me, but this is exactly what I hear any time I bring up the topic.

Me: You know, not having kids is pretty awesome.  If you don't have a really strong desire, you might be just as happy or happier without them.

Them: Don't tell me not to have kids!!!!

 

And I agree with you. I'm unsure if I'll ever have kids, but right now, I've no desire to. Maybe if I meet some sexy, brilliant epidemiologist or something like that, I may have ONE.

But that's part of the problem too, the more educated of us tend to have far fewer children than - well the idiots. I was smart enough to use protection at 16 even though I was sexually active, and I continue to use protection to this day - for a variety of factors; I don't want and STD, I cannot afford a child without a stable relationship, I could not afford to give that child the education opportunities it would deserve like I had, IOW, I'm responsible.

Now how many people have kids because they didn't want to wear a rubber? How many people get pregnant before 18? How many people have grandparents in their thirties?

The people who understand consequences are already responsible. The vast majority of people are not responsible - that's why they have six kids, that's why they lease Escalades and Hummers, that's why they took subprime mortgages. Until such behavior has more serious consequences, it will continue, why shouldn't it? Such behavior is essentially encouraged by society, religion and governments.

I am against religion because it teaches us to be satisfied with not understanding the world. - Richard Dawkins

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Quote:The people who

Quote:
The people who understand consequences are already responsible. The vast majority of people are not responsible - that's why they have six kids, that's why they lease Escalades and Hummers, that's why they took subprime mortgages. Until such behavior has more serious consequences, it will continue, why shouldn't it? Such behavior is essentially encouraged by society, religion and governments.

There are a number of groups who believe that humans should voluntarily go extinct.  I think that's um... naive.  This goes along with all the recent hubbub about whether humans are "natural" or not.  Life on earth is beautiful to us, but nuke the whole damn planet, and bacteria and cockroaches would still be here, and in about five hundred million years, something would have evolved.  Hell, it might even eat plastic.  If so, there would still be baby diapers left for it to eat.

The point is, I accept that people are going to reproduce, and I accept that most of the babies are going to be made by people who are the least prepared to make them.  I can bitch about it all day, but in the end, I look at it as evidence of how good our genes are.  No matter how smart we think we are, we are just going to keep reproducing regardless of the obvious consequences.  Clearly, our genes are smarter than our brains.

Where I come down on childbearing is simple.  I believe that it's near criminal for a thinking person to make babies until and unless they are financially and emotionally able, and have strongly considered adoption.  If someone wants to be a parent, there are LOTS of babies who need to be adopted.  (Oops... most of them are the wrong color... damn... gonna have to address another big issue...)  I applaud everyone who  adopts.  I think they're probably better people than me.  I'm too selfish to do it.  I admit it.  But, at least I'm not adding to the population when I really, really don't want to.  To call me selfish for not passing on my genes is... um... how to say this politely... crazy.

Also, for my life, I can't figure out why it's valid for a parent to cite emotional reasons why they should be a parent, and invalid for me to cite emotional reasons for not being one.  If the thing that makes parenting worthwhile is the emotional satisfaction, isn't the emotional satisfaction what makes my childless life worthwhile?  If it isn't, why?

 

 

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Hambydammit wrote:Where I

Hambydammit wrote:

Where I come down on childbearing is simple.  I believe that it's near criminal for a thinking person to make babies until and unless they are financially and emotionally able, and have strongly considered adoption.  If someone wants to be a parent, there are LOTS of babies who need to be adopted. 

This one is always going to be a problem. As you said, our genes are smarter than our brains and, as far as the gene is concerned, raising another's young is an enormous waste of time and energy. We will always have a stronger desire to raise children carrying our own genes.

Hambydammit wrote:

Also, for my life, I can't figure out why it's valid for a parent to cite emotional reasons why they should be a parent, and invalid for me to cite emotional reasons for not being one.  If the thing that makes parenting worthwhile is the emotional satisfaction, isn't the emotional satisfaction what makes my childless life worthwhile?  If it isn't, why?

This brings up a strange issue. I've often been told that not wanting to have children makes me shelfish. People who have children are apparently more selfless than I am. Where does that idea come from? If you think about it having children is actually a very selfish act. We have children for our own emotional needs and to satisfy our selfish gene. We have children for our own benefit, not anyone elses. Not society's benefit, certainly, since we hardly need more people. Not even the child's benefit. The not-yet-conceived child hardly knows it's missing out on anything if it never gets conceived. And are you really doing the child a favor by bringing it into a world where it can experience stress, war, disease, climate change, crowding from over populatin, and diminishing resources and, ultimately,  the pain and disability of old age and death? As far as I can tell the only motivations for having children are strictly selfish ones. The people willing to sacrifice their genetic line for the sake of the environment by not having children are the less selfish ones.

 

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Quote:This brings up a

Quote:
This brings up a strange issue. I've often been told that not wanting to have children makes me shelfish.

Clam?   Mussel?

Quote:
This one is always going to be a problem. As you said, our genes are smarter than our brains and, as far as the gene is concerned, raising another's young is an enormous waste of time and energy. We will always have a stronger desire to raise children carrying our own genes.

Yeah.  I look at it this way.  If we're going to claim to be "above" our nature as humans, and as some on this board claim, then the perfect way to prove it is by adopting.  If, however, as I often claim, we are pretty much beholden to our genes whether we like it or not, it makes sense that even very intellectual people would still not adopt.  It's a "put up or shut up" situation.  If we've risen above our base instincts, fine.  Prove it.  If not, stop yelling at me because my instincts scream, "DON'T DO IT!"

Incidentally, I'm about 80% convinced that superorganism dynamics explains childless people (and the increase in them we're seeing now) very well in evolutionary terms.

Quote:
We have children for our own emotional needs and to satisfy our selfish gene.

Cigar for Theia.

Quote:
As far as I can tell the only motivations for having children are strictly selfish ones. The people willing to sacrifice their genetic line for the sake of the environment by not having children are the less selfish ones.

I have no problem admitting that I'm not making a huge sacrifice.  If someone really wants kids but decides not to have them, I agree with you.  In my case, it kills two birds with one stone.  I get to do something good for humanity while doing something good for me.  No brainer.

 

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Hambydammit wrote:Quote:This

Hambydammit wrote:

Quote:
This brings up a strange issue. I've often been told that not wanting to have children makes me shelfish.

Clam?   Mussel?

 

Scallops, please.

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Hambydammit wrote:Quote:The

Hambydammit wrote:

Quote:
The people who understand consequences are already responsible. The vast majority of people are not responsible - that's why they have six kids, that's why they lease Escalades and Hummers, that's why they took subprime mortgages. Until such behavior has more serious consequences, it will continue, why shouldn't it? Such behavior is essentially encouraged by society, religion and governments.

There are a number of groups who believe that humans should voluntarily go extinct.  I think that's um... naive.  This goes along with all the recent hubbub about whether humans are "natural" or not.  Life on earth is beautiful to us, but nuke the whole damn planet, and bacteria and cockroaches would still be here, and in about five hundred million years, something would have evolved.  Hell, it might even eat plastic.  If so, there would still be baby diapers left for it to eat.

The point is, I accept that people are going to reproduce, and I accept that most of the babies are going to be made by people who are the least prepared to make them.  I can bitch about it all day, but in the end, I look at it as evidence of how good our genes are.  No matter how smart we think we are, we are just going to keep reproducing regardless of the obvious consequences.  Clearly, our genes are smarter than our brains.

You know I understand your point and agree in principle, but this is a quality of life issue and it is an important on.

Yes, no matter what humans do, life, in some fashion, will likely go on.

Yes, no matter how much we encourage and support ignorance, the human race will likely go on as well.

That doesn't mean this will result in a world world where I would desire to reside. Nor does it result in a future where I'd like my potential offspring to reside.

Quote:
Where I come down on childbearing is simple.  I believe that it's near criminal for a thinking person to make babies until and unless they are financially and emotionally able, and have strongly considered adoption.

Hence the facet of personal responsibility I brought up.

 

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If someone wants to be a parent, there are LOTS of babies who need to be adopted.  (Oops... most of them are the wrong color... damn... gonna have to address another big issue...)  I applaud everyone who  adopts.  I think they're probably better people than me.  I'm too selfish to do it.  I admit it.  But, at least I'm not adding to the population when I really, really don't want to.  To call me selfish for not passing on my genes is... um... how to say this politely... crazy.

Also, for my life, I can't figure out why it's valid for a parent to cite emotional reasons why they should be a parent, and invalid for me to cite emotional reasons for not being one.  If the thing that makes parenting worthwhile is the emotional satisfaction, isn't the emotional satisfaction what makes my childless life worthwhile?  If it isn't, why?

 

 

Well said.

I am against religion because it teaches us to be satisfied with not understanding the world. - Richard Dawkins

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HisWillness
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 Sure we're part of nature,

 Sure we're part of nature, but let's not forget that we're just making our situation bad for ourselves, not for the varieties of bacteria that would flourish in any circumstances we could possibly create. Not to mention the varieties of insects that would enjoy the extra space should we find ourselves unable to sustain our massive population.

Life goes on without us, and the earth has definitely been in less liveable condition than it is now. Too bad about the human swarm, though: we were getting pretty impressed with ourselves.

Saint Will: no gyration without funkstification.
fabulae! nil satis firmi video quam ob rem accipere hunc mi expediat metum. - Terence


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People in cities tend not to

People in cities tend not to trust, need, or even have a car. You can ride a bike to work or take the metro, you do not need to drive over 30 miles per day just to work. And several buildings are home to bring more efficient than homes with only one - because they end up sharing resources. I think the greenest way to live is to live in a city on foot or bike or take the train to work, and if you have a small patio or balcony grow some veges in it.