The presence of big mammals shows that an ecosystem is healthy. Thus, if we ensure existence of mammals, we protect the environment. This idea underlies many of the nature conservation programs and fuels most of the conservation debate in the Netherlands and the rest of the world.
If you hear news about Dutch nature, it is focussed on a single wolf, a single whale, or in a good case a single bee species. Why? I think because of the limits of the human mind. We cannot cope with complex information. We do not feel in control of things we do not understand. We can’t make plans for them. It is the mental illness of our time.
In the past century, the Dutch biodiversity has decreased at a steady rate. At the same time people were trying to do good by making plans to preserve their favourite plants and animals. Species they didn’t notice vanished under their reign. Very surprising.
A Dutch guy recently coined the term topnatuur, meaning top quality nature containing large mammals. He framed it as a way to draw tourists. Nature as a way to make money. All we have to do, is to prove that it’s good enough. Because let’s face it: our nature is better than yours. A respectable ecologist who made an incredible fool out of himself and got away with it.
If we focus on a few target species for conservation, what we truly do is speak the language of the very forces that threaten these ecosystems. It means that we are entering a debate, that we are starting a war, by attempting to impose new ideals. What we really need is peace.
Without our help natural systems work in far more complex and harmonious ways than the human mind can imagine. On the long run, our obsession to save the aspects we selected is probably more harmful than beneficial. All we can do to preserve our global ecosystem, is to let it be. Not harm it.
We should admit that the comfortable material wealth we long for fuels the hugest threats to our own base. We are the big mammals that can survive only in a healthy ecosystem. We need to admit that our dreams to excel make us murder ourselves.
I believe that to survive, we don’t need to learn to understand and control nature, but we need to learn to trust it and surrender.