What does Life After People mean?

by phil on Tuesday May 5, 2009 1:42 AM

History Channel's Life After People documentary is fascinating. The question on my mind is whether this is a pro-environmentalism documentary or not. I remember that when the book The World Without Us came out around 2005, it was hailed as being positive for the environmentalism movement. The post-apocalyptic thought experiment was meant, I guess, to make us feel how much our presence is a push away from Mother Earth's equilibrium or plan. It's almost like when people leave, Mother Earth says "good riddance" and quickly picks up the pieces.

In watching the documentary, though, I'm not sure if I get a pro-environmentalism vibe. In some ways, by highlighting the power of Mother Earth to recover from us, it highlights just how little of an impact we have on it. And this is part of the psychology of global warming skeptics: they feel like, "Nah, come on, we can't do anything to the Earth, it doesn't care about us." They feel that somehow the tree-huggers are overstating our ability to destroy the planet.

And maybe that begs another point that both sides of the environmentalism issue should accept: Nature is truly resilient. Even if we destroy a ton of precious species on Earth, if humans suddenly disappeared, most likely there would be a sudden explosion of evolution created in our wake. A Holocene Explosion akin to the Cambrian Explosion. If global temperatures rose, even to the point of creating the reverse effect of runaway cooling into a Snowball Earth, the planet wouldn't flinch. "Been there, done that," Mother Nature would think.

But so what? Whether or not Mother Nature is "resilient" is irrelevant. We care about what our actions have on people (Humanism alert). Flooding, starvation, pollution, over-crowding, and yes, even a lost sense of preciousness, are important in all ideologies.

I'd be curious to research the history of environmentalism and see how society reacted to things like the Dust Bowl. Did the political response to it come from conservatives or liberals?

Maybe I'll end up finding out that deep down, conservatives and liberals are both pro-environmentalist, and that the anti-environmentalism movement is just a propaganda/lobbying movement.

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