by Russ Roberts on November 26, 2007

in Environment, Podcast

The latest episode of EconTalk is a conversation with Daniel Botkin. He has a lot of interesting things to say about how humans view nature and how our metaphors color our policy preferences.

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Sam Grove November 26, 2007 at 8:50 pm

One metaphor I like to dissect is the insect colony (bees, ants, etc.) which is headed by a "Queen" directing the hive with her chemical instructions. Actually, the queen of such hives is no more and no less than the hive's reproductive organ and receives information which determines its egg laying.

Enough with the society-hive equivalence.

muirgeo November 27, 2007 at 12:20 am

The best I can do to address the man vs nature issue is to quote my favorite from Aldo Leopold;

Our grandfathers were less well-housed, well-fed, well-clothed than we are. The strivings by which they bettered their lot are also those which deprived us of Passenger Pigeons. Perhaps we now grieve because we are not sure, in our hearts that we have gained by the exchange. The gadgets of industry bring us more comforts than the pigeons did, but do they add as much to the glory of the spring?
It is a century now since Darwin gave us the first glimpse of the origin of the species. We know now what was unknown to all the preceding caravan of generations: that men are only fellow-voyagers with other creatures in the odyssey of evolution. This new knowledge should have given us, by this time, a sense of kinship with fellow-creatures; a wish to live and let live; a sense of wonder over the magnitude and duration of the biotic enterprise.
Above all we should, in the century since Darwin, have come to know that man, while captain of the adventuring ship, is hardly the sole object of its quest, and that his prior assumptions to this effect arose from the simple necessity of whistling in the dark.
These things, I say, should have come to us. I fear they have not come to many.
For one species to mourn the death of another is a new thing under the sun. The Cro-Magnon who slew the last mammoth thought only of steaks. The sportsman who shot the last Passenger pigeon thought only of his prowess. The sailor who clubbed the last Auck thought of nothing at all. But we, who have lost our pigeons, mourn the loss. Had the funeral been ours, the pigeons would hardly have mourned us. In this fact, rather than in Mr. DuPont's nylons or Mr. Vannevar Bush's bombs, lies objective evidence of our superiority over the beasts.

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