Island Civilization

As we turn this millennium, in the final essay of the rich and diverse anthology Exploring Wild Law [339-347], ‘Island Civilization: A Vision For Human Occupancy Of Earth In The Fourth Millenium’, historian Roderick Frazier Nash looks head to the next millennium. Written in very readable English, he acknowledges our species’ ‘characteristic myopia’, our reluctance to plan very far ahead or look very far back, yet wonders how future generations will look back at us, ‘what happened to the planet on our watch’, what explanation will there be for ‘passenger pigeons, salmon, whales and coral reefs?’

Nash chronicles both our growing biocentric, ecological awareness and our devastating, anthropocentric short-sightedness, which threatens our civilization’s collapse, like so many before it, as detailed in Jared Diamond’s book, Collapse. Nash maps three possible paths before us, and adds a fourth, ‘Island Civilization’; he presents four possible futures:

  1. Techno–our present path, in which we try to control everything and depend on technology to save us; we dominate nature
  2. Garden of Eden–we still think we can control everything, but we depend on benign stewardship rather than ruthless domination to save us; we steward nature
  3. Future Primitive–a return to our hunter-gatherer days, which comes in two flavours: with or without all our wonderful knowledge; we merge with nature
  4. Island Civilization–we greatly reduce our population (preferably by choice) and thereby our impact (IPAT); we further reduce our impact by retreating to ‘islands’ where humanity can flourish; the wild, which is now the majority, flourishes too; we remove ourselves from nature

Within our enclaves, we continue to use our technology. In fact, we depend on it.  Maybe, technology we have dreamed of: fusion, teletransport–but no war, no border skirmishes, no subjugation of humans or other life. Without our enclaves, though, wild.

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