As we travel in space we can see more clearly that we enjoy a unique experience as living creatures. We are part of the cavalcade of life on this special planet; we can rejoice in the gift of life. Whether this gift originated with an “unmoved first mover” is a metaphysical riddle. But we need not search too far to find godlike powers in the universe today. We as a species are exerting them now in a display unprecedented since creation began.
Homo sapiens has appropriated two thirds of the land of the planet, destroying the habitat for millions of other species and extinguishing them. As this millennium ends, the technology of industrialism has damaged the ozone shield for all life and has triggered an epochal change in global climate. We are not immortal, but our acts are.
Our species is acting like gods using primal powers to reorder the universe, but who would claim that we have the wisdom, let alone the right, to do so? We are doing this for our uses alone. The rights and needs of our co-venturers on this planet are not even acknowledged.
The question is not why we exist but whether we deserve to exist as supposedly rational beings if we act like conquerors rather than caring beings willing to share the planet with all those who are less powerful, and to act with restraint in respecting the needs of others and all life to come. As a species, we are on trial to see whether rationality was an advance or a tragic mistake.
MICHAEL MCCLOSKEY, environmentalist and attorney, is chairman of the Sierra Club.