Blog 9: Orr Biophilia vs Biophobia

David W. Orr

In stark contrast to the last several readings I enjoyed this one quite a bit. It tackled a thought provoking question in a fair-minded way, making it persuasive. That’s not to say I agree with everything written, and he seemed to backslide a bit toward the end, but agreement is not required for enjoyment.

Right off the bat David W. Orr articulated an observation that I’ve been supporting in the last several blog posts: “In varying degrees humans have always modified their environments. I am persuaded that they generally have intended to do so with decorum and courtesy toward nature – not always and everywhere to be sure, but mostly.” (pg 188) I think it’s unfair to smear those who support, say, genetically modifying crops as anti-environment. It’s simply a different point of view toward the environment. Perhaps a person looks at the good that can come from genetically modified crops and decides it outweighs the harm it causes nature. Another person may look at the bad that can come from genetically modified crops and decide that it outweighs the good that can come from them. Neither has to be “good” or “evil,” reasonable minds can disagree. By putting this quote so early in the reading it signaled to me that Orr views the debate in the same way and that he was prepared to give a well-thought defense of whatever position he holds along that spectrum.

I did have a minor disagreement toward the end of the reading: “What we love only from self-interest, we will sooner or later destroy.” (pg 199) I think an important part of promoting sustainability is making more people feel self-interest toward the environment. If they feel connected to it they are far less likely to act in ways that actively harm it. For example, quite a few of the most environmentally supportive people I know are hunters. This seems contradictory on its face but it does make sense. Not only are these hunters are spending weekends or longer out in the elements and interacting with nature intimately but if they do things like litter or support the clearing of a forest for a factory that is going to lessen the enjoyment they get from hunting.

A confusing part of the reading was in his conclusion when he asserted that “[n]or do I doubt that our descendants will regard our obsession with perpetual economic growth and frivolous consumption as evidence of theologically induced derangement.” (pg 210) This seemed to me to come out of nowhere and was completely out of tone with the rest of the reading. After spending a dozen or more pages crafting a well-articulated support of his opinion he defaults to an ad hominem attack on anyone who dares to disagree with him or spend their money on things that he deems frivolous. It really doesn’t make much sense to me.

photo credit: http://www.events.utas.edu.au/2014/october/2014-richard-jones-memorial-lecture

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