Earth as the Garden of Mankind

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* Article: Lindholm, M. (2022). The Earth has Become the Garden of Mankind. Cosmos and History: The Journal of Natural and Social Philosophy, 18(1), 83–102.



"The environmental crisis challenges our faith in humanity. Building on deep ecology and recent insights in evolutionary psychology, this article elaborates evolutionary peculiarities of our species, in order to develop foothold for new perspectives on the relation between man and earth. Premodern cultures managed to interact with their environments by establishing bio-cultural interfaces, thereby maintaining sustainable resource use. Homo sapiens has not generally been 'a plague of the earth', but rather a species that enhanced local biodiversity. In addition to genetical information, humans share a reservoir of cultural meaning. This reservoir has been coined 'the noosphere' and probably make up the last stage in a series of major evolutionary transitions since the Precambrian. Through the noosphere, the earth has become the garden of mankind. Such perspectives may open for re-establishing faith in man and in his ability to develop flowering relations to his environment."


See: The Noosphere as a Evolutionary Transition. By Markus Lindholm.

From the conclusion:

Marcus Lindholm:

"Through this recent cognitive transition, the entire earth is potentially fertile domain of Homo sapiens, ready for exploitation and cultivation. And instantly, the whole earth in its natural state is under threat. Nonetheless, our ancestors demonstrate that humans can establish sustainable resource use, thereby even enhancing habitat heterogeneity and biodiversity. They, however, had not undergone the Cartesian mind-body split, that so profoundly affects our present civilization. Instead, the modern mind has strengthened another ability: That of responsibility and recognition of beauty, in the shimmering of the marvelous blue earth as seen from space. The demands for restoration measures of deteriorated streams, forests and cultural landscapes reflect not the least the modern minds growing responsibility for the earth. The necessity of integrating human dimensions in nature conservation is increasingly acknowledged, emphasizing conservation to be complimented by restoration principles, where local cultural traditions interact with science to develop new sustainable solutions. IUCN programs like The Earth Restoration Project, pointed to the relevance of bio-cultural interfaces for any conservation and restoration measures, by emphasizing the significance of measures as sensitive for human needs (Gritzner et al., 2011; Gann et al., 2019). What started a century ago in saving buffalos, beavers and birds, has grown to a cultural task of global significance, as numerous large and small restoration initiatives are launched worldwide. The African Great Green Wall and the Kenyan Green Belt Movement have managed to reforest more than 50 million acres of degraded land (Goffner et al., 2019), and studies supports the assumption of a positive effect on regional climate and rainfall (Yu et al., 2017). The Aral Sea collapsed during the last decades of the 20th century, due to unsustainable irrigation and water use. Fisheries, previously comprising 13  % of the Soviet fishery, vanished and evoked regional social erosion. Construction of the Kokaral dam in 2005, however, allowed parts of the sea to recover, with reintroduction of the aquatic flora and fauna from the lake’s tributaries, even allowing native fisheries to return (Micklin et al., 2020). As for Sahel, the measures undertaken are seemingly associated with increased rainfall. Similar successfully restoration measures are reported from the Nearctic, for example of the upper Mississippi river catchments, where eutrophication erased backwater ecosystems, which at present regain many of their previous features (Theiling et al., 2015). Such large-scale restoration measures find their microlevel counterparts in millions of people, who express their biophilous passions on a daily occupational basis. The naïve joy of gardening signals steps towards bridging the gap between object and meaning, by means of biophilous responsibility and aesthetics of deep bio-cultural features, where environment, love for life and wellbeing come together (Sempik et al., 2005; York & Wiseman, 2012). Historically, environments invoked a rich venue of myths and metaphors for cultural development. Gardening is a possible developmental pathway to reconcile the cartesian violation of object and meaning and renew the metaphoric language, which historically framed the bio-cultural interfaces of man and earth (Richards, 2001). The relationship between man and earth comprises more beauty and depth than can be conceived by claims of 'humans as plague of the earth'. Perspectives like these may renew curiosity and hope in environmental education. It looks quizzical to us from eutrophic lakes, from hillsides demolished by wind farms, from plastic litter along seashores, from the smoke of burning rainforests, and from the climbing CO2 concentrations of the atmosphere: Who are you, man? If we insist to be nothing but a zoological entity among so many, we will neither understand the earth nor ourselves, and challenges of the Anthropocene will remain unsolved. For better or worse, the earth has become the garden of mankind (Clark, 1989; Steffen et al., 2020).

To quote one of the leading authorities of the novel upcoming earth system science: “the time has finally come to extend the gardening to the planetary scale –if only to counteract anthropogenic global despoliation that, ironically, results in part from the measures taken to protect limited-area environments“ (Schellnhuber 1998, p. 8).

Scott F. Gilbert (2017), similarly, recently claimed that "land development and economic development lead to something [new]: Earth as managed plantation. (...). It is metamorphosis, bringing us and the land to higher, more developed, stage" (p. 82).

Already pioneers of evolutionary thinking anticipated this perspective. Alfred Russel Wallace, in the aforementioned article, outlined this view, in claiming that man actually is "able to take away some of that power from nature which, before his appearance, she universally exercised. We can anticipate the time when the earth will produce only cultivated plants and domestic animals; when man's selection shall have supplanted natural selection" (p. cixviii). That does not mean that all environments should be manicured flowerbeds. But humans across the earth have since ancient times treated their environment like gardens, by means of bio-cultural interactions, where meaning and objects are two sides of the same coin – as they are in any feeling of responsibility and in the aesthetic experience of daily life."