Reading the book I hit the point on the so called idea that man has been given dominance over the natural environment by our Christian god (Genesis 1:26). Being a Pantheist, I believe in the Devine in everything and in humans being part of it and not in charge of it. But, I have often wondered how this thing about human dominion all got started, in particular since that attitude could be so destructive to the environment. The authors of the chapter I was reading credits John Locke (1623-1704) for this notion, but reading a biography of Locke, it seems that he built on the philosophy of Francis Bacon, who interpreted the bible in such a way. Granted this was all thought up in the 17th century and we did not know about photosynthesis, evolution and other great scientific discoveries.
Locke had some other interesting ideas. He believed that "Land that is left wholly to Nature, that hath no improvement of Pasturage, Tillage, or Planting is called, as indeed it is, waste, and we shall find the benefit of it amount to little more than nothing" (Locke 1694, Second Treatise, Sec. 42-43). In other words, nature itself was worthless and had no function. Not the brightest idea, but on the other hand, Locke did have some great ideas on religion (tolerance) and private property, and some of his ideas were championed in the Americas. It seems that Thomas Jefferson was a reader of Locke; and wow, here I find myself in Charlottesville the home of Jefferson.
Locke calculated that improved land derives 99 to 99.9 percent of its value from cultivation rather than from the land itself. This philosophy still permeates part of our economic system and explains our relationship with nature and public land.
With this notion we are ignoring that:
- Nature's inherent value apart from human utility,
- Nature has a psycho-spiritual value,
- Nature's ability to create (wildlife, natural resources but also oxygen, clean water),
- Humans are part of nature.