(Featured Image: Ben Wallace)
“With all six Stones, I could simply snap my fingers. They would all cease to exist. I call that… mercy.”
“And then what?”
“I finally rest. And watch the sun rise on a grateful universe. The hardest choices require the strongest wills.” – Thanos: Infinity War
Even if you have only seen a few ‘Avengers’ films or none at all, you are probably aware of this almost demi-God known as ‘Thanos‘ from Titan, one of Saturn’s moons, and his obsession with wiping out 50% of life in the Universe.
It’s interesting to see Marvel push forward a super-villain whose primary goal is to preserve the beauty of nature, especially given the current context of sustainable action becoming more and more of a mainstream topic. It seems highly likely that this is a possible criticism of ‘Deep Ecology’ and a warning for those following environmentalism not due to their love of nature, but because of their nihilistic and misanthropic worldly-view.
‘Deep Ecology’ is an environmental philosophy which gained steam throughout the 70’s with a 1973 paper by Arne Næss (Naess, 1973) and is characterized by the belief that nature is innately self-regulatory, and keeps the biosphere balance, and any interference with that process is catastrophic to the natural ecosystem. One of the focuses of deep ecology centers around overpopulation as “The flourishing of human life and cultures is compatible with a substantial decrease of the human population. The flourishing of nonhuman life requires such a decrease” (Devall, 1985) and also echoed by Næss himself “Deep ecologists call for substantial reduction in the human population and change to our high energy consumption and profligate resource use” in particular fossil fuels” (Naess, 1973)
But what are the holes in this theory? And is overpopulation really a problem? Well of course we have to weigh up our own ethical and moral standpoint on the existence of humans in the modern-day Anthropocene. But why are humans portrayed a virus? Just googling ‘Deep Ecology’ has the attached cartoon as the top result, (Lewis, 2002) and why aren’t humans seen as just as part of nature as the clouds in the sky and the birds in the trees? The nature of an apple tree is that it produces apples due to its conditions and evolution, and the earth produces people in the same way. As put by Professor John Vucetich at Michigan Technological University “We are one and the same. In fact, humans and nature are so intimately connected that acting as if we are separate and abusing nature is tantamount to abusing ourselves.” (Vucetich, 2017). Therefore the idea that nature is in some way ‘over there’ and we are merely interfering with it isn’t completely correct. With that being said, our ideas to prevent the human destruction of the biosphere and natural environment is still relevant as humans are not intrinsically a problem, but we have created problems through not fully understanding sustainability.
Plus ‘Overpopulation’ isn’t an easy thing to measure, who gets to decide this? Especially as human’s are likely to peak to 8.7 billion people in 2055 and then decline to 8 billion by 2100 (Deutsche bank) (www.prb.org. 2013). . The WBCSD are particularly well directed in their objectives.
WBCSD’s Vision 2050 is for 9 billion people to be able to live well, within planetary boundaries.
Thanos may not have been fully correct in his concept of ‘mercy’, but perhaps the Avengers can teach a lesson, that more people means more of us working together to defeat our own super-villains, the manifestations of our immediate global problems.
Other posts by Ben Wallace:
Naess, A. (1973). The shallow and the deep, long‐range ecology movement. A summary. [online] Taylor & Francis. Available at: https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/00201747308601682 [Accessed 28 Apr. 2019].
Devall, B. (1985). Deep ecology. Salt Lake City: Gibbs Smith. p.70.
Vucetich, J. (2017). Are Humans and Nature Fundamentally One and the Same?. [online] Center for Humans & Nature. Available at: https://www.humansandnature.org/are-humans-and-nature-fundamentally-one-and-the-same [Accessed 29 Apr. 2019].