Go read Don Boudreaux’s great post over at Cafe Hayek about living in harmony with nature. Excerpt:
Pre-Columbian peoples lived simply, to be sure, but let’s stop mistaking ignorance and poverty with harmony. It’s an utter myth – we might say an urban myth – that primitive peoples lived with nature harmoniously. Nature devastated them. Nature battered them into early graves. Their ignorance of nature prevented them from achieving much material wealth. To dance to imaginary rain gods or to chant and pray for a child dying of bacterial infection is not to live harmoniously with nature; it is to live most inharmoniously. Nature is doing its thing – failing to water the crops, growing bacteria within a child’s lungs – while human beings who are as ignorant of nature as nature is of human beings, moan, chant, pray, dance, build totems, burn leaves and twigs, all in fruitless, inharmonious efforts to solve the problems.
It is science – rational thought, skepticism, critical inquiry – that furthers greater harmony with nature.
UPDATE: Boudreaux clarifies a few points in this follow-up post, and concludes with:
It’s time we stop defining living harmoniously as having no effect on nature. Nothing intrinsic to the concept ‘living harmoniously with nature’ requires that humans live in such a way as to leave the environment as close as possible to what it would be like if we didn’t exist.