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A Lease with Planet Earth

Josef Šmajs

Josef Šmajs (1938) is Professor in the Department of Philosophy and in the Department of Corporate Economy in the Faculty of Arts, Masaryk University in Brno, Czech Republic. He is the author or co-author of several ecologically oriented books including The Threatened Culture (Ohrožená kultura, Brno 1995; Praha 1997; translated to English in 1998), Evolutionary Ontology (Evoluèní ontologie. Brno 2003, co-author J. Krob), and Philosophy Written in Italics. The Broadcast Ecological Essays (Brno 2003, translated to Spanish in 2004) reflect the role of philosophy in recent ecological crisis. Evolutionary ontology represents a new ontology that studies the conflict between natural and cultural evolution.

Preamble: Human beings appeared on a planet Earth teeming with life at the end of the Tertiary Period. They were not able to understand philosophically the living nature that they had evolutionally adapted to. The human psyche controlling the process of conquering Nature was pre-set to indifference for general consequences and the distant future. Today we have conquered and occupied the Earth, disturbed her body with cultivated land, shackled her with motorways and cities, pushed her back with buildings, concrete and asphalt paving. In spite of all this, it will be Nature that makes the final decision about the continued existence of our species. To prevent our premature extinction we will have to put a brake on cultural expansion and a sign a lease with the Planet Earth.


The Earth is probably the only living planet in our galaxy, the Milky Way. This planet, which is the natural home to all of the mutually interdependent, living creatures on it, cannot belong to any one of them; it cannot belong to any single population or biological species. It cannot belong to human beings, who as a species have created culture. We are only temporary occupants of the Earth.


Life is the great experiment of cosmic evolution on our planet. Living systems contain fantastic amounts of natural information inscribed in the language of nucleic acid. The culturally-caused extinction of biological species is therefore not only an unnecessary biological loss but also an irretrievable loss of information.


Culture is the global creation of humankind as a species. It is the means by which natural evolution not only tests the relevance of the human performance in relation to the host environment of the Earth but also tests the success of the human biological structure. It tests the human constitution: the bravery of human creativity and human submission to older and greater creative forces of the universe.


The conflict between Culture and Nature resulting in the depletion of the Earth’s natural environment cannot destroy Nature, but it can destroy Culture. If we want to survive this existential crisis we must willingly give way to Nature; we have to naturalize our anti-natural spiritual and material cultures. This will require a change in the structure, range and strategy of cultural systems, not a change in human beings as an organism.


Globalized Culture also impairs the traditional structure and contents of education and schooling. Even though schools continue to present a great deal of knowledge that is useful for every-day living, schools fail to develop respectful attitudes towards Nature during the sensitive period of human ontogenesis when knowledge is so easily connected with values. Schools do not tell us what Nature and natural evolution are, we are not taught that man, after his origination as a species, has also initiated an evolutionary process - Cultural Evolution, which is both potentially threatening to humanity and anti-Nature.


Technical progress, which has been a synonym for human progress, has become a threat to humanity itself. It depreciates amongst other things the self-preservation role of traditional human humility. We can no longer rely on the natural submissiveness of an inconsequential human being towards the tremendous powers of Nature; there can only be a philosophically-justified humility based on an analysis of the destructive effects of our civilisation’s unscrupulous forces upon the delicate fabric of terrestrial life.


For the first time humanity is responsible for the survival of its own species. An understanding and acceptance of this responsibility requires abandoning narrow-minded moral, physical and technological approaches; it requires biological and medical approaches and an evolutionarily ontological view of the world. It is only this type of perspective that can possibly persuade the general public that the existence of the human species is critically dependent on the diversity, integrity and evolutionarily-achieved maturity of the biosphere. In a disrupted biosphere, mankind will not even have the status of a Nature-protected species.

An ever increasing number of our problems are caused by the fact that individuals and institutions operate and make decisions based on an obsolete view of the world and that these decisions stand in opposition to the principles of a mutually-advantageous lease with their natural home. That is why we ask not only of scholars, philosophers, politicians and lawyers, but of all responsible citizens: demand the creation and observance of a long-term and sustainable lease with the Earth. Unless Culture reserves a certain part of our planet for natural evolution, people will not be able to enjoy the biologically-determined lifespan of their own species.

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