The importance of preserving nature

Humans practicing self-control is what will keep our planet sustainable

The author and his wife came to Chico in 1965. He taught biology at Chico State for 35 years.

International agreements that climate change was caused by—and can be reversed by—human action are significant because they accept humanity as part of nature. Accepting responsibility for climate change must be expanded to include other environmental impacts by social groups (e.g., religions, nations, political parties and trade unions) and the objects they produce (arrowheads to spaceships). In the last thousands of years human cultural activities have been changing and replacing the natural world produced by billions of years of natural selection.

Populations of microbes, plants and animals are maintained by natural selection on the excessive production of similar but potentially different new generations. These populations, interacting in distinctive environments, form units that we call ecosystems. Maintaining these ecosystems under the threat of human activities can be achieved by the self-control of our actions.

Although human survival may be possible in a less natural world, the quality of our lives will be improved when we preserve nature and incorporate it into our cities. A properly preserved natural world, through methods such as regulating water flow or maintaining a more predictable climate, provides an unending flow of resources and useful services.

Preserving the finite world requires controlling our population growth and halting unlimited consumption of natural resources. Population regulation includes fewer children and increased generation time. China’s one-child policy could have been relaxed to allow larger families, if the first child was restricted to mothers 35 or older. A positive way to achieve delayed child birth, without forced abortion, is by encouraging women to develop job skills before starting a family. This increase in the age of starting a family results in smaller families and longer generation times. Also, this should increase the time parents can spend together and with their children.

A sustainable world needs international agreements among nations to use political, economic and social pressure to control resource consumption, reduce pollution and encourage smaller families that start at older ages. Sustainability is appreciated by individuals when they are encouraged to enjoy natural areas and grow some of their own food.