Hey, we kill nature every day just by being alive. Anyway,
Ecocide – which literally means “killing the environment” – is an idea that seems both a highly radical and, campaigners claim, a reasonable one. The theory is that no one should go unpunished for destroying the natural world. Campaigners believe the crime should come under the jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court, which can currently prosecute just four crimes: genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes and crimes of aggression.Sophie Yeo, “Ecocide: Should killing nature be a crime?” at BBC
Our physics color commentator Rob Sheldon writes to say,
The Great Plains with their varied grasses and enormous herds of buffalo, were managed for 10 millennia by humans, who made sure that the aggressive trees did not take over by burning the Plains every year. It recycled the nutrients, and kept the buffalo happy.
The California Indians, on the other hand, lived off the oak forests and did the same for the oak trees, making sure that their environment did not burn up in the annual wildfire season.
The Sahel is greening as humans plant drought-tolerant grasses to stabilize the sand dunes. Dunes naturally move with the wind and often increase the area of the sand-desert. Goats and sheep can easily destabilize this relationship if allowed to multiply unchecked. The mere existence of an ecosystem is in a large part due to humans.
Humans have been part of the ecosystem for not just centuries, but for millennia. And if we are allowed to go back a few millennia, then whose ecosystem is the privileged one–the ice age, the Holocene, the El Nino or La Nina climate? Pretending that we can extract humans out of the ecosystem to find its “pristine” condition is like letting whitetail deer devastate the young timber. You know the deer population is going to crash the next year. There is no “pristine” state, unless you mean a chaotic state of population explosions and crashes. And how is that cyclic ecosystem any the better for it?
The contribution of humans to ecosystems is stability. And we get to choose what that stable state will look like. Nature is too chaotic to tell us. Even if we were to ask.
If killing nature is a crime, the punishment, of course, is annihilation of ourselves — as that would be the result if the situation were serious.