The futality of presence

An excerpt of an article taken from the BBC News series; “Green Room”. I have just extrated those sections which conincided with what I wanted to say but did not have the linguisitc capability to do so:

People are failing to wake up to the fact that if the planet suffers, we all suffer, argues Fazlun Khalid. In this week’s Green Room, he says we must respect the delicate nature of the Earth or risk leaving a toxic legacy for future generations.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has spoken, the politicians have uttered their platitudes, environmental activists call for action, the flat earthers remain in denial and the rest of us go shopping.

The IPCC has unequivocally confirmed for us what we have been feeling for years. Climate change is here to stay and will “continue for centuries”, thus increasing the probability that the curse of future generations will hang forever on this marauding civilisation of ours.

It had been said that the human species is an “environmental abnormality”. We rationalise the destruction of the planet as if we live somewhere else – the Moon, perhaps?

It has not entered our consciousness that if the planet suffers, we suffer, and that we have nowhere else to go. We have lost sight of ourselves as being a part of nature and that destroying the natural world means we destroy ourselves. We have reduced nature, and by extension ourselves, to an exploitable resource.

Our global civilisation looks artificial, resting on industrial and financial systems in the singular pursuit of profit.

Buy now, pay later

Despite what was outlined in the IPCC report, industry will continue to expand; banks will continue to lend the money they create out of nothing; “under-developed” countries will strive to emulate the rampant Chinese and Indian economies; developed nations, particularly in the West, will continue to covet the world’s resources, even at the expense of going to war for them.

Politicians will continue to promise us higher and higher standards of living, talking all the time about sustainable development, and we will continue to give the best education to our children so that they can chase after the best jobs, which will, in turn, cause more pollution.

This state of affairs has ensured the collapse of our human ecology. The wisdom of the ages is spurned and is now replaced by an iconic modernity based on the slavehood of man to machine.

People who are unable to cope with changes in society, which are taking place at lightning speed, see a continuing decline of control in their own lives, the tendency towards gigantism, the remoteness of the ruled from those who rule.


The outward signs of this are the growing cities and their anthill-like nature; rural depopulation that sucks the soul out of the land to feed the soulless cities with its human flotsam and jetsam; the destruction of cohesive communities; the emergence of the nuclear family as a poor substitute; the seductive tendencies of the cult of the individual and the increasing number of atomised people it appears to produce; alienation sedated by rampant consumerism.

In our eagerness to “progress” and “develop”, we have lost sight of the finite and delicate nature of Earth and humanity’s place in it.

Pursuit of progress and prosperity, it seems, are based on creating discontent; consumers seduced to vie with each other in the ownership of the latest gadgetry; television and advertising hoardings constantly making one feel inadequate; the media exploited as an instrument of manipulation.

Until quite recently, the human race functioned unconsciously within natural, unwritten boundaries. They had an intuitive disposition to live within the natural state (fitra), though this was achieved by a conscious recognition of the existence of a superior force, the divine. This was an existential reality, neither idyllic nor utopian.

Breaking the limits

We are clearly no longer functioning within these limits. Two events in the 16th and 17th Century Europe allowed the human species to break free of the natural patterning of which it had always been a part.

The first of these was the appearance of the Cartesian world view, from which point onwards the human began to worship itself. We now have reason to support us in our acts of predation.

The second event was when the early bankers developed a system whereby they can lend money to others which they have created out of nothing. In Islamic terms, this sabotaged the balance (mizan) of the natural world.

This explosion of artificial wealth provides the illusion of economic dynamism but, in reality, it is parasitic – endless credit devours the finite fitra. If kept up, this would eventually result in the Earth looking like the surface of the Moon, as it is already doing in some places.

People who lived in the pre-Cartesian dimension, before we were told that nature was there to be plundered, were basically no different from us. They had the same positive and negative human attributes, but the results of human profligacy were contained by the natural order of things, which transcended technological and political sophistication and even religious disposition.

Excess in the natural order was contained because it was biodegradable. When old civilizations, however opulent, profligate, greedy, or brutal, died, the forests just grew over them or the sands covered their traces. They left no pollutants, damaging poisons or nuclear waste.

By contrast, and assuming we survive as a species, archaeologists excavating our present rampant civilisation are going to have wear radiation protection suits.

Fazlun Khalid is the founder of the Islamic Foundation for Ecology and Environmental Sciences

The Green Room is a series of opinion pieces on environmental topics running weekly on the BBC News website


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