What Relationship Do Human Beings Have With Their Environment?

A reflection
by Chris Hibbard

What relationship do human beings have with their environment?

First of all, this question is totally relative, since not all humans are the same.
To the majority of humans, that live in urban areas, their environment is not natural. It is cold stone, hard steel, and processed wood. It is rubber and plastic and glass, sterile and artificial. In this case, human beings primarily are concerned with the exploitation of the ‘natural’ environment, as a mere means to an end. Nature is purely there to be used by us, utilized by us, fed to us, and perhaps enjoyed by us. The environment is just there, and we just use it.

There are other humans of course, many of them, who are more in tune with their environment. These humans often live in third world countries, in poverty conditions, and still depend on the environment for subsistence. I do not necessarily mean foraging, hunting and gathering per se, but mean that in one way or another, their environment and the natural world keeps them alive. This may mean one or more of the above methods, but also can just mean drinking water, oceans to fish in, trees to provide food, shelter, and shade. These humans do not look at the environment as something to be used, exploited and taken advantage of, they look at it as part of their home, as something crucial and invaluable, and give it a certain level of respect that seems to get lost in urban areas.

Then there are those humans who make a conscious, concerted effort to protect their environment, to enjoy their environment from a conservative standpoint. These may be hikers, bikers, campers, weekend fishermen, or environmentalists. Either way, these humans know that the environment is important, and appreciate it for what it is. They pick up their litter, and don’t pack anything in that doesn’t get packed back out again.

There are still more categories, but these are just a few examples. However, if one was to step back, far away from the earth, and observe the goings-on from, say, a mile up, the relationship would appear rather different. From a distant standpoint, humans are ants, scurrying to and fro, hustling and bustling around, on their roads and sidewalks. These ants gobble up the environment and belch out black smoke. They adopt animals and sometimes walk them or lock them up. They hide in houses and office towers, and create enormous piles of refuse and waste. This is how the majority of humans relate to their environment. Ants marching to a schedule, never even taking the time to realize they are ants.


~ by Chris Hibbard on October 31, 2008.

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