Why we need to stop trying to 'save the planet' and just realise our place in it

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Thu, 08/11/2011

In an extract from his new book the Jolly Pilgrim, Peter Baker argues that a Gaian consciousness is slowly emerging out of our efforts to overcome climate change and other environmental challenges.

The human race has a problem in its relationship with the environment. That problem is an intrinsic consequence of running a technological civilisation on the surface of a planet and it's one we were destined to face since long before perceiving it. Now that we do perceive it, and everybody's talking about it, we should start being more realistic about the historical context of those discussions.

All life forms exploit their surroundings to get what they need to survive. Daisies need sunlight, squirrels need acorns, whales need krill. We humans, however, have always been rather more ambitious about what constitutes our needs and, for 100,000 years, those ambitions and their side effects have been inexorably increasing.

By the time anatomically modern humans were spreading across the globe after 60,000 BCE, already no other animal could stand against us. We'd become the invincible global super-predator. Snuffing out species. Re-ordering food chains. Distorting ecosystems.

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