Nature and Civilization
One manifest duality of life is nature and civilization. On this, there are two major schools of thought as to what it is that life is. One – seen in both capitalism and socialism - is concerned with adding the most to human-made world of civilization. The other – environmentalism - is concerned with accepting and protecting the natural environment and in experiencing fully the natural aspect of life. Both have one part of the picture, and it is time to see the whole picture and to constructively work with it.
There is a world of life that is not human-made, known as nature. There is also a world that is human-made, known as the civilization. In addition, within the human being itself, there is the natural aspect – the aspect that is shared with other life forms and that as such follows the rules of nature – and the uniquely human aspect: The aspect of choice and volition, in which one directs one’s actions according to one’s own knowledge and beliefs.
While many of those who value the former the most see the civilization as being destructive and rapacious, many of those who value the latter the most see nature as only resources or made to serve. But the two worlds not only exist in themselves; they also exist in the human being, with each human being possessing both the natural aspect of physicality and the uniquely human capacity of directed choice. The first aspect is of the same character as what is nature – the physical aspect that is of nature and that is directed by its workings. The second aspect is of the same character as what created the human-made world - the volitional aspect that deliberately directs, creates, and forms.
There is no inherent antagonism between the world of nature and the world of human creation, any more than there is inherent antagonism between the directed and the directing aspects of human being. Both are aspects of the world; and both exist in humanity and in each person. The difference is that while one world is not made by humanity, the other is made by humanity; and while the first reflects natural laws, the second reflects people’s choices. Creating an optimal outcome consists of allowing people the fullest experience of both aspects, both within themselves and without, as well as the greatest contribution to, and minimal damage to, both worlds.
For this reason it merits to recognize the human being as a being of nature and of human-made world and aims to make the most of both – the most of the experience of both and the most of contribution to both. That is the case both within the human being, in both their natural and deliberate-choice aspects, and in human being’s interaction with both worlds. That means that making the most of life in this matter consists making the most of human being’s possession and orientation toward both non-human-forged life and human-forged life and to make the most of both aspects and of their interaction. It means affirming both nature and civilization and using human intelligence to create ongoing growth and improvement of civilization while making the burden lighter on nature. It means to allow people to have full experience of both nature and civilization and to not only interact with both, but to have the fullest representation of both within themselves. It means, thus, to allows human being to be both a being of nature and a being of the civilization and to contribute to both while benefiting from both.
There are some belief systems that see nature as mere resources, or merely there to serve people. To these this question is posed: Can you recreate Amazonian rainforest or create anything approaching it in complexity? There are others that see nature as sacrosanct – and to them can be posed the question, How sacred is the AIDS virus, and does it love you as much as you love it? The world is not improved, and life is not improved, either in the present or in long-term aspect, by destroying rich, vibrant environments such as Amazonian rainforest in order to clear land that will no longer be usable in two years. Nor is it improved by denying people the benefits of technology or medicine or scientific and technical innovation. People have right to protect themselves from viruses and harmful bacteria, to produce and enjoy wealth, and to advance and apply scientific and technological knowledge. Similarly, people concerned for the well-being of the planet have right to protect natural treasures from blind and irreversible destruction.
According to the philosophy of libertarian capitalism, property is defined as "nature converted into productive use." But in that definition, no value is seen for nature. That is a major downfall in the philosophy of libertarian capitalism, and we are presently seeing the effects of that downfall all around the world.
The economic equations do not compute the long-term value of nature, and that is the worst downfall of market economy as constituted at this time. It fails to put a price to natural treasures, and thus runs roughshod over them with no eye to posterity. This is the true source of antagonism between business and environment-conscious people; and it is only when the value of these treasures are computed and put into the economic calculus that can be reduced the blind destruction of nature by human economic activity - and human economic activity, stripped of its worst downfall and the greatest error within it, can fully work in the interests of humanity both in short and long term as the market theory supposes that it does. Since the natural inputs are not valued, and the pollution and environment destruction is not quantified, the economic equations omit environmental damage. If such are valued and quantified, economic equations will reflect full reality of economic activity on Earth.
The economic calculus in decisions regarding nature must be the following: Is what is created of greater richness and long-term value than what is destroyed? Can you recreate anything close to what you are consuming? And is what comes out better, richer, more intricate, than what it takes to produce it, or is it worse?
Ayn Rand was right when she said that the civilization should be an improvement on nature and not degradation on nature. For GDP to truly be measure of benefit realized, it must include in itself the environmental factor. In computation of economic benefit must be included the natural factor - whether what is produced is superior to what had to be destroyed in order for it to have been produced. A computer is superior to the metal, the silicon and the oil that it took to create it, and is thus an improvement upon what it took to create it. A ranch in the Amazon is not superior to the rainforest that its creation required to destroy. A calculus that includes the value of nature will minimize the blind and short-sighted forms of economic activity, while maximizing genuine technological progress and innovation, with intelligence being applied to create genuinely innovative solutions that make it possible for people to maximize wealth while treading more lightly on Earth. The computation of value of nature within economic equation will result in technological progress and creation of wealth as well as preservation of nature, with an incentive being in place for prudence and ingenuity in what is created by humanity – and a disincentive against destruction of natural treasures that humanity cannot recreate.
The result is this: Benefiting and blossoming of life, both in its non-human-made aspect that is nature, and in its human-made aspect that is the civilization. It is valuation of both, allowing both to gain and to improve. It is people being able to benefit both from nature and from civilization. And it is incentive for positive contribution toward both and disincentive for what is blind, brainless, and destructive to each world.
To show how far the failure to compute nature into economic equations has gone in its effects on people’s thinking, it is now common for people to refer to the socio-economic system as “reality” or “real world,” without giving a second thought as to the greater reality in which this system exists – the reality of the planet. The failure to compute the planet, its nature, its climate, and the needs of its inhabitants, both the currently living ones and their descendants, has now lead to a global climatic catastrophe. People have denied the reality of nature and their effect upon it for decades, and now this reality is becoming more and more inescapable. It is only when both nature and the human world are seen as real and computed into economic equations that economic activity can be incentivized toward what is genuinely ingenious and productive and disincentivized from blind, short-sighted and ignorant practices that leave the world for the future generations in a worse shape than one in which one has found it and poorer for one having been in it.
Part of larger essay Integrative Cognition and Dualities at