The writer questions his previous views of man, technology and the ecosystem, and wonders how his personal feelings of connectedness to nature can relate to a world in which mass extinctions are evolutionarily common -- often giving rise to the evolution of new forms of life. Is human love for nature mere sentimentality -- particularly as the universe itself does not particularly "care" whether any particular species lives or dies? Should humans feel guilty about destroying other forms of life, or simply accept that as our natural role? The discussion on this contains some interesting points.
I'm curious what people here think of this, in particular those who practice some form of nature-mysticism or nature-oriented spirituality. How do you combine nature and technological advancement in your personal philosophy? What are your attitudes toward human destruction of the ecoystem? What role should caring for nature play in mankind's overall development?
I don't believe in any essential split between nature and human behavior. I regard humans' creation of artifacts as not different in kind, but only in degree, from that of other animals (for example, both gorillas and chimpanzees have been observed using tools.) Animals also have societies, and undergo social evolution, so the development of human culture is simply the logical next step. Nature, in other words, isn't something "out there". It is present in every molecule around and within oneself, even if some of those molecules happen to be inside technological devices.
As for human destructiveness, as a practitioner of the Left Hand Path, I've always seen the "dark side" of human nature as containing the seeds of future greatness. Of course humans destroy things; that's what living things do, from bacteria on up. Destruction is often a means to future creation: the stone must be broken before building can begin.
Also, I consider the idea that "mankind is raping nice, fuzzy Mother Gaia" quite absurd. For the most part, Mother Gaia is, in human terms, a real bitch. It strikes me as a rather hypocritical double-standard when some Pagans exalt the dark forces of Nature and the ruthless, vengeful power of the Earth Mother (or whatever favored goddess), but condemn humans for exhibiting similar dark tendencies. Not, of course, that I think one should just throw trash on the lawn and leave it there, or shoot the last endangered species just for the heck of it. Rather, I view our natural destructiveness as something to accept and embrace on an inner level, and channel into higher levels of evolution. My philosophy is to foster the positive impulse within negative phenomena, the direction in which they are seeking to grow.
In a comment on the philosophy post, I mention how aesthetics, the response to beauty in the world, and the subjective construction of it in one's own perceptions, is an important facet of human evolution. The fact that we find some things beautiful is not a mere accident but an evolutionary advantage. Empathy, a related trait, expands one's horizons by enabling one to "get inside" the experience of other beings (and is related to psychic abilities like intuition and telepathy). Therefore, a connection with nature is not necessarily an impediment to future expansion, but can be a valid part of it. Posthumans will likely have vastly expanded aesthetic capabilities -- the ability to see beauty now unimaginable to us in things like a barren asteroid, a molecule or a magnetic field pattern.
The logical conclusion of all this is that to further our own evolution in this respect, we should seek to preserve things which we find beautiful or pleasing, to alter things which we find less so, and to expand our general capabilities for perceiving and constructing beauty. (Preserving natural features which are necessary for the survival of mankind and of the things we want to keep around is another, and equally important, consideration.) This will lead, naturally, toward a greater and deeper connection with nature on emotional, psychic and spiritual levels, as well as in technical knowledge.
Of course, there are other issues here -- perceptions of beauty are subjective, and not everyone will agree on what should be preserved, what built, what changed, etc. (In my philosophy, that's one of the things that private property is for.)