I recently read a very interesting book by Charles C. Mann named “1491” which exposes numerous new findings that shake the beliefs on pre-Columbian America. I have to say, that I thoroughly appreciated the book and it draws light on a belief that I have had for a long-time. We are all quite alike in our evolution, growth in knowledge and interaction with nature. That it is only of recent, that disparities have arisen.
A very common statement cited by the indigenous populations of America is that their culture is thousands of years old and that their interactions with nature are respectful, and that we should all learn from this as a more sustainable way of living. Whilst this is true, I don’t believe that Europe/Asia/Africa never had the same communion with the land and nature, it was simply lost or not given time to grow. And neither has the Pre-Columbian population had thousands of years of respectful interaction with nature, but more of a trial-and-error system that has lead to a more or less successful balance.
And here comes the gist of it all. Civilisations all around the world played with nature, domesticating foods and animals, redirecting water, creating roads, etc… This knowledge and other were accumulated and lost on many occasions, due to the rise and fall of these civilisations. Nature kicked back with floods, droughts, climate changes, etc… which destroyed, disintegrated and displaced these civilisations. The transfer of knowledge, was done by migration and wars, but more often than not the knowledge was lost, and new people had to start from scratch.
The lesson that nature gives back what you give to it, is probably the best train of thought observed by all civilisations throughout the planet, until recently.
Of course, those civilisations which combined the keeping of records, and happen to do it on something that time or future civilisations did not destroy, are best remembered and depicted. But, for instance, the book mentioned above cites an innumerable number of new discoveries of pre-existing civilisations from Alaska to Tierra del Fuego. Precisely, it is their management of nature to their advantage that contributed to their growth and ultimately to their demise. I am especially glad of the existence of Amazonian civilisations pre-dating many millennia.
So civilisations were more or less wise, and this wisdom made them be bigger and more cohesive or smaller and scattered. And today we can find people in the Amazon as well as in the African Savannah, giving you fascinating insights in their life with nature, but also absurd behaviours that might work in the short-term but ultimately damage nature and that, if all remains the same, would eventually force them to move elsewhere.
But what is the ultimate message here? Well basically, the world old saying still applies today. Nature gives back what you give to it. So genetic-modifications, overuse of resources, pesticides, etc.. are definitively not what you would like nature to give you. Right?