In this month’s issue of The Atlantic, Harvard biologist Edward O. Wilson makes a compelling plea to Americans to consider the powerful forces around them and within them that are too little understood or too often ignored. Although he doesn’t express his point in exactly situationist terms, his does seem a situationist message.
He asserts that “the central issue” we face “is sustainable development” or altering this course we’re on toward “wrecking the planet.” “The problem,” Wilson explains, is simple:
“Long-term thinking is for the most part alien to the American mind. . . . To look far forward and to acquire enough accurate vision requires better self-understanding. That in turn will depend on a grasp of history–not just of the latest tick of the geological clock that transpired during the republic’s existence, but of deep history, across the millennia when genetic human nature evolved. . . . Our basic qualities . . . present the greatest risk to the security of civilization.”
Although Americans may have invented the concepts of “conservation and environmentalism,” Wilson continues, we have treated the goals as a “hobby” when we should recognize them as a “survival practice.”
“Now we need a stronger ethic . . . . the foundation of which will be the recognition that humanity was born within the biosphere, and that we are a biological species in a biological world. Like the other species teeming around us, we are exquisitely adapted to this biosphere and to no other.”
Wilson warns that failing to recognize that simple truth — failing to appreciate our profound connection to dependence upon our situation — is a sure way for us to lose it all. Understanding our situation and “an allegiance to our biological heritage will be our ultimate strength.”
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To read a related Situationist post, see “The Heat Is On.” For a remarkable (24-minute) talk by Edward O. Wilson, view the video below, in which he accepts his 2007 TED Prize and makes a plea on behalf of his constituents, the insects and small creatures, to learn more about our biosphere.