On speaking Human

I know a lot of pagans who are huge fans of Omnia. One song of theirs in particular, though, I find really disturbing. I feel like the intentions of the song–“Hey, pay attention to the animals, because our habits are destroying them”–were good. But its premise is just flawed.

Deep within the shadows I’m the hungry wolf you fear
But I can see that you’re the only evil creature here
Before you came we lived in peace but you have brought us death
I sing my pain up to the moon but it’s a waste of breath

OK, so…when exactly was this that an omnivore that lives primarily by hunting but isn’t at the top of his food chain ever lived in peace? I think this is a very common problem in the pagan community, that we think of the natural world as this magical utopia that humanity has fucked up. That’s not the case. Nature is messy. Humans aren’t the only animals that kill excessively. The term in animals is surplus or henhouse killing. In one case I remember reading about, hyenas killed 82 gazelles and only ate 13, leaving the rest behind. Sea otters in Monterey Bay have been observed raping baby seals to death. Bottlenosed dolphin males will team up to isolate a female from the rest of the pod and forcibly mate with her, sometimes keeping her away from the group and in their possession for weeks at a time. The natural world is a harsh place. Reality is as hard for animals as it is for humans. The next verse, though, really confuses me.

Upon a wing, a flying thing, to you I seem so small
But I look down on what you’ve done, my Raven’s eye sees all
You people like a cancer grow, destroying all you see
And 7 billion mutant monkeys, won’t listen to me

The common raven (Corvus corax) and the American crow (Corvus brachyrhyncos) are opportunistic feeders that are more than willing to help themselves to human trash. In fact, these two species actually tend to thrive in heavily human-populated areas. So the idea that a raven, of all animals, would accuse humans of “destroying all we see” is actually wildly inaccurate, and frankly, against a highly intelligent animal’s interests.

The attitudes that the song criticizes, it enforces. This idea that humans are somehow outside of and opposed to nature is how the human-driven destruction of our environment has taken place to begin with. Instead of viewing humanity as some kind of evil force, some kind of anti-nature, the only way that any kind of culture of conservation will ever take root is if we view ourselves as part of this world and recognize that its fate is bound to our own. We are not separate from the earth, and the natural world is not an enemy to be conquered. People who hold to this silly, white-light attitude that the natural world is all butterflies and rainbow farts until humans screw it up are reinforcing the idea that humans are somehow apart and above the rest of the species on this planet. It’s a different perspective, but it’s the same problem. It’s when we realize that we are all in this together and that we all have a responsibility to take care of the earth as we can that we will have a culture of concern for the planet and for each other.

Climate change, habitat destruction, and the introduction of non-native species are real problems, and humans have played a major role. However, to treat the natural world as something to be romanticized and seen through a fluffy-white-light filter while casting the humans as the villains is as much a contribution to the idea that humans and nature are unrelated as the idea that nature is deadly to humans and should be conquered.