The current problem with the human system of resource use and residual
disposal is that it is wildly out of equilibrium. Competition among humans
is such that we slaughter thousands of our own species annually on the
roads in our haste to get somewhere faster; we let millions of babies die
every year for want of clean water and a modest diet; we deliberately
kill more millions of people in war, often to secure access to dwindling
resources. In the last fifty years we have become more aware that our patho-
logical drive for 'more' has poisoned the land, the water and the air.
When we eventually look back at the intellectual shibboleths of the high capitalist
period—say the last three centuries—few ingrained assumptions will look so
wrongheaded or so globally destructive as the common-sense separation of society and
nature. Historically and geographically, most societies have avoided such a stark
presumption as hubristic folly, but from physicists to sociologists, physicians to poets, the
brains of the ascendant capitalist “west” not only embraced but made a virtue of society’s
separation from nature (and vice versa).
Restoration and Management
Recall for a moment the imaginary transcontinental ﬂight that we took at the beginning of Chapter 6. Viewing North America from the air quickly reveals that humans have changed the land dramatically across most of the continent.