Living a Biocentric Life
The greatest threat to the survival of humanity is anthropocentrism, the worldview that human beings are dominant over all other species — more important than all other species — and that all of creation came into being specifically for one special species — ourselves.
This anthropocentric paradigm is contrary to all the laws of nature and certainly contrary to all the laws of ecology.
A few years ago, journalist Brit Hume of the FOX network called me up to ask if it was true that I had publicly said that worms, trees, bees and bacteria were more important than human beings.
I answered that yes indeed, I did say that.
In a somewhat shocked voice he demanded, “How could you say something so wrong and so outrageous?”
I answered, “Because I am not wrong. Worms, trees, bees and bacteria are far more important than we are, and the reason is that these species can live on this planet without humans, but we humans cannot live here without them. We need them. They don’t need us and that makes them more important than us.”
All of the dominant religions in human society are anthropocentric. They all hold the position that humanity is dominant and better than all other species. Some hold to the idea that we are the very image of a god that we actually invented, to justify our dominance and superiority.
In the name of this fabricated god or gods (there have been thousands of them), humanity has committed horrific atrocities. Because of this collective form of mass psychosis, wars have been fought, people and animals have been sacrificed and tortured, lives have been ruined and wholesale destruction has been inflicted upon the living ecosystems of the planet.
Years ago, I attended an ecological theological conference in Seattle. In attendance were priests and ministers, rabbis and mullahs, and representatives of all the major religions. For the most part everyone was open minded, but when I gave my talk on biocentrism, an evangelical Christian loudly and quite rudely interrupted my talk to accuse me of being a pantheist. I answered that I was not, but if I were, what was his problem with that? He literally screamed that worshiping the creation instead of the creator was a mortal sin for which I would be going to hell.
“The problem with that,” I replied, “Is that I don’t believe in your version of hell, but because you do, you will be going to hell also because you will be going to Catholic hell, Presbyterian hell, Muslim hell or any of the other hells that other religions believe in.”
I then went on to say that I did believe in heaven and hell, but unlike him, I have personal experience with both.
Heaven is the natural world; it is a walk through the forest, a climb of the mountains, a canoe trip down a river, a sail across the ocean. It is the taste of salt from the sea, the smell of flowers, the feeling of warm rain upon our skin. It is a world of wildness and wilderness, of a diversity of wondrous species all interdependent upon each other for survival and happiness. It is a world that provides all the security and comfort of belonging, of knowing who we are and our connections to everything else.
I have also experienced hell. It is the stench of an oil spill, the bleaching of coral reefs, the rotting bodies of slaughtered animals, the noise of machinery and war, the slaughter of children, and the contamination of the sea, the sky, and the land with toxic chemicals.
I saw hell on the ice flows off Labrador where sealers skinned baby seals alive. I saw hell in the Faroe Islands where dolphins were massacred in an orgy of violence, and I’ve seen hell unleashed by harpoons, guns, spears and bombs.
Wars and pollution, genocide and ecocide are all the consequences of anthropocentrism.
All intimately connected
The solution is biocentrism, the understanding that strength and survival lies in the diversity and interdependence of all species of plants and animals. It is the recognition that we are all citizens of this planet no matter the differences. Hands, paws, fins, wings, flowers, branches and tentacles — from the most minute bacterium to the largest whale — we are all intimately connected, and when one is removed, all are diminished.
Anthropocentrism is the foundation of greed, alienation, despair, lack of empathy, cruelty and violence. Anthropocentrism is the manipulative device for convincing perfect strangers to murder each other for the benefit of others who don’t suffer any consequences.
I believe that true peace and contentment can be found by embracing nature and understanding the interdependence of all living things on the planet.
My own personal experience is that by viewing the world biocentrically, I have had the benefit of removing a great deal of unwanted and unnecessary baggage from my life. This has allowed me to sail through the most fierce of storms at sea without fear for my life and to engage in confrontation to defend life and the environment without fear of consequences. It allows me to be detached from materialism, and most importantly, it allows me to respect and love all living things without exception.
Biocentrism conveys an inner contentment with the world, an understanding that death is a part of life and should not be feared, and when fear is vanquished it is amazing what can be accomplished. It means saying what needs to be said, doing what needs to be done no matter the risk or consequences. It means being focused on the present, the place where our power actually exists. We need not worry about the future because the future will be defined by what we do in the present.
Biocentrism means accepting the laws of nature and the laws of ecology, learning from the world of other animals and of plants and recognizing the interdependence of life.
Biocentrism means looking at a spider, a centipede or a snake without revulsion, or looking at a shark or a bear without fear. Instead of revulsion or fear there is an understanding of kinship.
Shackled and chained
Anthropocentric society is a world of shackles. Chained to abstract concepts like money, jobs, patriotism, politics and entertainment. Imprisoned by unattainable desires, and deep dark frustrations and discontent, it’s a world where solace is sold in the form of fantasies.
Biocentrism is detachment from such things and acceptance of the realities of life, that we came into this world with nothing and we will leave with nothing. Yet we will be able to leave behind a life of achievement where it matters most — that by living we make the world we were born into a better place, that we saved lives, protected nature and bequeathed the treasures of nature, beauty and wonder to future generations.
We all are part of the continuum of life on this tiny planet, on the edge of one of billions of galaxies. We are connected to the first living organisms that emerged on the surface of this planet some three billion plus years ago. The entire process of evolution has brought us to where we are now, and it will pass us by in time as life evolves and moves forward. As a species, humanity is transitory. We have not been here long, nor will we be here forever, but everything we touch is influencing what the future will be.
As a species we have a responsibility to do all that we can to ensure the survival of all other species sharing this planet with us — a responsibility to keep the soil, the sea and the atmosphere clean and unspoiled. If we fail to do so, mass extinction will ensure our own extinction, because without diversity and interdependence, we will disappear forever.