If we do not want to become the victim of the impending sixth mass extinction, we must therefore, (without abandoning the necessity to build, construct, create, discover, ‘repair/heal’ the world), have a strong link to the natural world in a genuinely altruistic way, with no direct connection to our own interest. It would be, incidentally, the best way to defend it.
The words we use on a daily basis go beyond the meaning they have today, and they continue to carry away their old meaning. It is, therefore, worthwhile to address the issue of the genealogy of words, which goes well beyond simply searching for their etymology.
For example, the word “environment” deserves careful consideration within this context. It was invented a long time ago, at least in the 13th century, and meant in English and French “circuit,” “contour.” Then a century later, it meant “what surrounds.” It was not until the second half of the 20th century that it began to mean “the conditions that surround man.” And much more recently, to bring together natural-world issues.
Since then, it has become one of the few words that always contains, in all languages, a positive connotation: We are in favor of the environment. Its protection is a must, nobody debates this. It is used in this sense by all governments and has been introduced in all international texts with some vagueness, ranging from “what surrounds us” to “natural-world issues.”
However, this word insidiously brought a dangerously false notion: Our “environment” means what “surrounds us.” It is therefore defined and has existence only in relation to us. The environment, therefore, does not refer to the natural world, that should be protected for itself, but only refers to what is useful to humans, or even only to us, those who are alive today.
That is not just a war of words; because this brings us back to the essential: we continue consciously or not, when talking about the environment, to refer only to protecting the natural world as the showcase of our life. In fact, when we talk about it, we confine and limit our eye only to ourselves.
In other words, what does not “surround” us, what is of no use to us or does not hurt us directly, is not part of the environment, and therefore is not, in reality, worth protecting.
When we talk about the environment, we, therefore, define the natural world in relation to man and not for its own sake
The best proof is the fact that legal texts and international treaties only talk about what is posing a threat to human life and human rights. Some material, very rare documents and without force and effect, talk about protecting the human species. None seriously talk about protecting life, and still less about protecting all and everything, including what is not the living world.
So we must face the question: Should life, the planet, and the universe be defended even if it is not in the interest of the human species? Moreover, should we do so at the expense of the human species?
Incidentally, this would be our best protection: our life exists only thanks to all other past, present, and future lives; and if we are only interested in ours, we shall neglect and destroy all those which have made it possible, which render it still possible, or which will render it possible one day; even if it is through detours that we do not yet understand.