Mother Earth and alter egos

Brian
Brian Jones
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Later this month, the United Nations will discuss a treaty “giving ‘Mother Earth’ the same rights as humans.”

As if to forestall anticipated laughter at a seemingly preposterous proposal, the drafters of the treaty point out that other non-humans — specifically, firms — have legal rights.

The gist of their argument is worth considering, after almost three centuries of industrial despoilment.

According to a news report, “The bid aims to have the UN recognize the Earth as a living entity that humans have sought to ‘dominate and exploit’ — to the point that the ‘well-being and existence of many beings’ is now threatened.”

As laudatory as these sentiments are, the proposed treaty is strangely silent about Mother Earth’s evil alter ego, Mother Nature, who is renowned for her beauty and notorious for her viciousness.

Mother Nature has killed more people than anyone in history. If fire or water don’t get you, one of her many predators might — tigers, crocs, boas and even tiny bacteria and viruses.

Humanity is definitely guilty of being negligent, disdainful and ungrateful toward Mother Earth.

Alternatively, Mother Nature can be downright cruel. She will put a tree in front of a skier, or a cliff in the way of a hiker, and feel not a tinge of conscience or regret. She will bring up the sun the next morning as if nothing happened, and were it not for a story in the paper detailing the tragedy, no notice at all might be taken of yet another human’s demise at her homicidal hands.

It’s well and good to give Mother Earth rights, but it gets trickier if we demand the corollary — responsibilities. “Mother, you stand accused of murdering millions. How do you plead?”

Natural inclination

Due to Disney movies and generations spent in large cities, many people now think of Mother Nature as a pristine meadow populated by fluttering butterflies, twittering songbirds and blossoming flowers under a canopy of forest greenery, through which golden rays shine down on a content coterie of creatures that never get killed or become food for a hungry friend.

There have been lamentations that environmental issues are not a primary part of the ongoing federal election campaign. That’s fine, because we don’t have to watch the guilt-ridden self-flagellation that

so often accompanies discussion about the environment.

Usually, Canadians are accused of being wasteful and greedy, with proof invariably coming from a European study or think-tank, which always ignores the important fact that Canada is among the largest, coldest and most sparsely populated countries on Mother Earth.

OK, let’s talk about the environment, but when we do, let’s set aside our legendary niceness and instead be proudly belligerent.

A guy on the radio recently

was tut-tutting Canadians because, according to statistics he cited, they use six times — six times! — as much water per day as do Britons. I don’t see the problem. We’re six times cleaner. We’re six times less thirsty. Our rivers are six times longer. We live on a vast and wild land that has most of the world’s fresh water, and Brits live in a dank, dreary, industrial waste pile. Next argument.

Annual rites

It’s springtime in Newfoundland (and Labrador) and annual rites are being observed. Plastic grocery bags, pop cans and assorted fast-food containers are emerging along roadsides as snowbanks melt. And, of course, the International Fund for Animal Welfare is attacking the seal hunt.

The IFAW’s favourite adjective is “cruel.” Granted, it’s violent and bloody. But if by “cruel,” you mean an intentional disregard for the lives and the suffering of animals, surely factory farming is a far more heinous crime against Mother Earth.

Wait and see if the UN throws the book at agribusiness.

Brian Jones is a desk editor at The Telegram. He can be reached at bjones@thetelegram.com

Organizations: United Nations, International Fund for Animal Welfare, The Telegram

Geographic location: Canada, Newfoundland

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  • Maurice E. Adams
    April 15, 2011 - 12:53

    I would suggest that the term "the conquest of nature" has within it a certain self- contradictory element. It tends to see nature as something separate from ourselves --- when we are, in essence, all connected.

  • Margo Ric
    April 15, 2011 - 11:43

    "The conquest of nature is not inconsistent with maintaining respect for it.” The conquest of anything means its subjugation and control by an outside force. To "maintain respect" for something or someone you conquered would be contradictory. It would be like respecting your slaves... so long as they remain your slaves. Apart from that, the language in this article is hardly vivid. It's more of a muddled diatribe against anything hinting of environmentalism made only worse by his green-baiting by equating environmentalists with seal hunt opponents.

  • Anon
    April 15, 2011 - 10:24

    Sustainability has to come before profits or we need to rethink how we do business and move freight.

  • Politically Incorrect
    April 15, 2011 - 07:41

    ...so what's your point? Environmentalists, the UN, Disney, and the Earth are bad? What about David Suzuki? You forgot to bash David Suzuki.

    • Lin Jackson
      April 15, 2011 - 09:33

      Brian -- thanks for putting in such clear and vivid language EXACTLY the problem I have long had with what I call the Suzuki syndrome. It peaked in the '60, is still with us and misses the point.that the conquest of nature is not inconsistent with maintaining respect for it. Lin J