Welcome to Perspectives, a blog of thoughts, commentary and observations ranging from autistic adolescents to intimate portraits of urban communities.

 

Domination, Stewardship, Communion

On June 30, 1864, in the midst of the Civil War, Abraham Lincoln signed the Yosemite Grant, which protected the beautiful California valley from development, the first such use of federal power in history. In 1984 Yosemite National Park was designated a World Heritage Site. Today, even with 95% of the park protected as wilderness, the National Park Service has proposed changes to soften the human footprint on the vulnerable landscape. The debate about how accessible and commercial our parks should be is not new, and it affects every park in the country. It is part of the broader question of humans’ relationship with the natural world, and over the last millennium three distinct attitudes have evolved. The most powerful is domination, which sees nature as existing for human use. It has its origins in monotheistic religions whose God exists outside the world, most famously in the Book of Genesis, where God tells Adam to subdue the earth. Because humans have proved pretty good at that, there arose a movement to mitigate it. Accepting man’s dominion, it emphasized the need for stewardship to protect Earth’s resources for future generations. Finally, the belief that we are an integral part of the natural world asks us to hold it, not as a collection of resources, but as the source of all life, including our own. It is an attitude “realists” condemn as naïve and mystical, and yet it may ultimately be the only way to protect the earth from our power to destroy it.

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