When the first Europeans began to come to North America, they saw a land very different than what we see today. Massive oak forests spread along the eastern coasts; birds and animals numbering in the millions teemed through these forests, in the skies, and on the plains. The waterways and the ocean were filled to bursting with aquatic life; fish, seals, otter, and the list went on. Everything was pristine and clean, a land that they felt was ripe for the taking.
What gave these newcomers to the North American shores the right to think that everything was ripe for the taking? The answer lies in a complex system of beliefs that allowed almost three centuries of exploitation that would utterly transform the way the continent looked, and most would say not for the better. While we now have everything from wireless Internet to laser hair removal clinics, we also have unlimited smog and environmental concerns.
First, these early Europeans believed that they had a charge to subdue the earth. To them, this meant taming all the wild places, cutting down forests, creating their version of civilization, and never looking back. From hunting out the animals to clearing the land and establishing farms to creating sprawling cities, this belief left to a legacy we are still struggling with today. While we are more environmentally aware, there are downtown Toronto condos and more cars coming into cities than ever before.
The belief system that led to such incredible degradation to the continent was not just contingent on a manifest right to conquer all, however. The destruction of the ecosystem of a continent was also rooted in a more sinister belief system, one that sprang from an ignorant confidence. Quite simply, those exploiting the land did so in part because they thought there was no way everything could be used up. Their time and frequency standards for using natural resources was non-existent.
This belief is summed up over and over again by mid-19th century pioneers who hunted buffalo. Buffalo hunters would shoot hundreds of these animals on the plains each day, and yet sincerely believed that there were so many they would make no impact. It was not until the herds went from millions to thousands that people began to realize that the numbers were not, in fact, limitless.
This ignorant confidence was applied to everything from the forests to the oceans, despite obvious evidence that it was patently false. Today, we see the results, although one has to wonder if we have really learned the lesson. We see house plans getting bigger and companies from restaurants to a slings manufacturer fighting with governments both to subsidize green practices and finding loopholes among the environmental laws that are already there.
The problem with belief systems is that they are very difficult to examine, as we tend to take them for granted. Even after all the lessons of history, there are still those who will say that our resources will never run out, that we cannot possibly affect life on the planet as we know it. The oceans will always support life, there will always be oil.
In this section, we want to take a look at the ways in which our beliefs contribute to the impact we have on the world around us. It will likely be the most controversial part of the site, as we will take issue with statements from public figures which fly in the face of all scientific evidence merely as a matter of faith. Not faith in a particular God, but faith that somehow we can continue on the same path we have always been on and still have a bright future.
In order to truly give the planet a fighting chance, we need to re-evaluate our beliefs and understand how they change our world. As people are changing paper advertising for a Toronto SEO company to promote them online, so are people and companies finding little ways to reduce their environmental footprint. So hold your breath, prepare for an adventure in philosophy, and read on!
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