What have we achieved in mowing down mountain ranges, harnessing the energy of mighty rivers, or moving whole populations about like chess pieces, if we ourselves remain the same restless, miserable, frustrated creatures we were before? To call such activity progress is utter delusion.
The struggle to save the global environment is in one way much more difficult than the struggle to vanquish Hitler, for this time the war is with ourselves. We are the enemy, just as we have only ourselves as allies. In a war such as this, then, what is victory and how will we recognize it?
How would you describe the difference between modern war and modern industry — between, say, bombing and strip mining, or between chemical warfare and chemical manufacturing? The difference seems to be only that in war the victimization of humans is directly intentional and in industry it is accepted as a "trade-off.
We are impressed with nature's power, but by projecting upon this power an image of the feminine, the mother, we reassure ourselves — for surely a mother will always be loving toward us, continue to feed us, clothe us, and carry away our wastes, and never kill us, no matter how much toxic waste we put in the soil or how many CFCs in the ozone. The sense of nature as inexhaustible mother encourages us to feel there are no limits to a finite planet, while the sense of nature as benign and ever-loving mother permits us to continue disregarding a crescendo of warnings.
I am not quite sure what the advantage is in having a few more dollars to spend if the air is too dirty to breathe, the water is too polluted to drink, the commuters are losing out in the struggle to get in and out of the city, the streets are filthy, the schools are so bad that the young perhaps wisely stay away, and the hoodlums roll citizens for some of the dollars they saved in the tax cut.
If I were to spit upon the revered black stone in Mecca during the height of the annual pilgrimage, I would be slain on the spot by enraged pilgrims for daring to profane the sacred symbol of Islam. An Israeli soldier's bullet in the back would be my deserved fate for scrawling graffiti upon the Wailing Wall in Jerusalem. . . . Life would not be pleasant for me if I took a hammer to the Pietàs in the Vatican, for we humans hold our creations dear, and we deal harshly with those who fail to share our reverence for old stone walls, meteorites, marble statues, icons, and architecture. . . . Yet each and every day, humans enter the most sacred and reverential cathedrals of the natural world — the redwood forests of northern California or the rain forests of Amazonia — and each and every day we profanely rape these great mysteries with chain saws and bulldozers.
Man is a complex being; he makes the deserts bloom and lakes die.