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What Mother Nature Doesn't Care About

By Tim Murray

26 April, 2010

Mother Nature doesn't give a crap about our moral imperatives. She doesn’t care if people we judge to be worthy (the poor, the persecuted, the people of colour, the handicapped, the fashionably oppressed) should be lifted on to our lifeboat, only if it is overloaded. And whether the passengers live together without class barriers or in feudal subjugation is of no concern to nature either. The laws of physics trump the laws of any Holy Text, ethical system or left-wing manifesto. If we want to survive, we will have to play by nature's rules, not ours.

It is amazing what Mother Nature doesn’t care about.

Her house rules are impartially enforced, indifferent to our protestations. And they were not designed with us in mind.

Her biophysical laws cannot be repealed by a democratic parliament or be subject to the whims of human autocrats.

She doesn’t care about our political arrangements. Or about how we treat the passengers in our lifeboat. Only that we have overloaded it.

Left and right dichotomies are irrelevant to her concerns. Mother Nature takes no notice of our class structure. We can run our vessel like a slave ship or we can eliminate all class and racial barriers on board. But whether we choose to be organized by socio-economic caste or egalitarian harmony we will remain accountable to her demands. No matter. Her ship’s manifest only records two facts. The number of passengers and where they are situated. If those of lesser means, in the name of justice, are permitted to shift to our side of the boat, she will capsize it without mercy.

Mother Nature is not a humanitarian. She does not accept Mother Theresa’s credentials. Judeo-Christian ethics and the rhetoric of the antique civil rights movement make no impression on her. Human rights, women’s rights, the rights of the disabled or the rights of the poor and the dispossessed are of little interest to her. Our petition to rescue drowning swimmers who are victimized by persecution, war or ecological disaster will not be received with sympathy.

Mother Nature does not make fine distinctions between legal and illegal, skilled or unskilled immigrants. She can’t distinguish immigrants from refugees, legitimate from illegitimate asylum-seekers, white from black or European from Asian or Hispanic migrants, or those who climb aboard via the airport from those who enter through the maternity ward. All human passengers have footprints whatever their origin, and no category of humanity earns an exemption from her law of Carrying Capacity. Some believe that Mother Nature can be fooled or appeased by technical improvements that grow a phantom capacity, but that capacity only enables the addition of more passengers. No technological con job can win us a permanent reprieve from her determination to adjust the number of passengers to the limited capacity of our boat.

Mother Nature might be characterized as a callous bitch, but she is more like a stubbornly neutral umpire. Scream at her with outrage, if you will, but when the Ump says we’re out, we’re out. By all means, quote from your Holy Text, but she will remain unmoved. The Bible, the Koran, The Wealth of Nations and Das Kapital will fall on deaf ears. If there are too many passengers and not enough to go around, her ruling will be upheld.

Passionate, defiant, compliant, passive, devout or agnostic, we have no bargaining power with Mother Nature. We need her, but she doesn’t need us. We either get with her program, or we don’t get anywhere.

It is amazing what Mother Nature doesn’t care about.

Tim Murray is an environmental activist and writer and Vice-President of Biodiversity First