Excursions Of A Bibliophile

What are u reading these days?

The Creation – E.O.Wilson

Posted by Vish Mangalapalli on July 3, 2011

Civilization was purchased by the betrayal of Nature – E.O. Wilson

My introduction to the work of E.O.Wilson came through an essay of Tom Wolfe in his book “Hooking Up” – which I ignored then. Then came his “Ant Hill” which won the Pulitzer for fiction. I could vaguely connect these events but left it at that. Not till I flipped through Margaret Atwood’s essay titled “The Homer of Ants” covering the work and life of Wilson in NY Review of Books, did I start to realize the importance of his work. Even at this stage, I had only made a mental note that I need to read his books but marked it as a future activity. The proverbial last straw on the camel’s back came when I saw Wilson’s inspiring and riveting speech delivered as part of TED acceptance prize. It is this speech that prompted me to read his lucidly written “The Creation – An Appeal to Save Life on Earth

The book is a scholar’s urgent cautioning to his fellow human beings on the deleterious impact mankind is having on various eco systems of the world in specific and the overall biosphere in general. Prof. Wilson squarely puts the responsibility of this degradation on human beings and in doing so brings out a philosopher’s touch to characterization of the state of human beings when he says:

“A wiser intelligence might now truthfully say of us at this point: here is a chimera, a new and very odd species come shambling into our universe, a mix of Stone Age emotion, medieval self-image, and godlike technology. The combination makes the species unresponsive to the forces that count most for its own long-term survival…………we are the giant meteorite of our time, having begun the sixth mass extinction of Phanerozoic history”

Prof. Wilson takes the reader gently through the paradigm where ordinary people are increasingly becoming aware of the impact of changes in environment yet insists that the triumvirate of reasons relating to ignorance of the environment, inadequate science education and bewildering growth of biology are preventing a wide spread awareness and active participation in preservation efforts. Prof. Wilson believes that the two forces that can bring a significant shift for the better are the twin forces of religion and the transfer of stewardship of earth’s biodiversity to ordinary people, their education and encouragement for their active participation. In fact, Prof. Wilson argues that religion is not doing enough to ensure preservation of biodiversity a high moral priority and hence structures the whole book as a series of letters to an unknown Pastor who is the proxy for Church

Long ago, I remember reading an essay by Prof. Lynn White Jr. of Harvard titled “The Historical Roots of Our Ecological Crisis” where he very cogently argues that the Judeo-Christian religious temperament and belief that human beings are superior to all the living creatures on earth had sown the seeds for our current day ecological crisis. I believe that there is a germ of truth in this. For example, Jainism has been the most vocal of Indian religions that emphasized the concept of co-existence of all animal forms with a lion’s share of the responsibility of maintaining harmony of the immediate eco-system on man. This is a thread that I think is worth exploring in this book and does not even get a mention. Prof. Wilson also laments about the harmful impact of over-fishing on our seas and its contribution to extinction of fish species. I felt that a careful analysis of vegetarianism as practiced in some parts of the world deserved a mention in the book

Notwithstanding these two perceived gaps, “The Creation” is a deeply moving book written by a scholar who is wise, compassionate, hopeful, anxious and an expert in the field of biology.

Ones views on nature will not remain the same after reading this wonderfully lucid book

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