Conservative Nature (For Want of a Better Term)
Interviewing Nicky Sable
Margot Hilraven: At a Pagan Convention a few years ago, Nicky, you expressed a view that Nature is conservative. What did you mean by that? Is there a danger of drifting into the realm of politics with the use of such a term?
Nicky: First of all, I’m glad you mentioned politics. It gives me the chance to make it perfectly clear from the outset that I’m not talking about political conservatism or the Tory party here. Unfortunately, the term conservative has become misunderstood, which is probably why the word, by and large, tends to be associated very much with politics, and even staidness, nowadays.
Margot Hilraven: No politics, then, Nicky. But what do you mean by Nature being conservative?
Nicky: Perhaps we need a different term. Conservative does seem a bit loaded. But if we’re going to use the term, then we need to be clear what we mean by it. I’m basing my personal understanding of conservatism on how Nature operates, which is slowly and steadily, with the focus on the “tried and tested”. In other words, natural change tends to occur over a long period of time. That isn’t to say that sudden catastrophic natural events haven’t happened in the past, and won’t happen again. But broadly speaking, Mother Nature tends to take her time, unlike humans in modern societies who have become increasingly over-eager to dispense with the old in favour of the new.
Margot Hilraven: But isn’t there a difference of scale here? I mean the difference between the Macrocosm and the Microcosm. Humans change the world around them relatively speedily for sensible and pragmatic reasons. That’s how we have evolved and continue to develop as a species.
Nicky: Yes, there is certainly a difference in scale between cosmic change and human change. But increasingly, human change is not entirely driven for the reasons you outline. The main driving force nowadays is to maximise profit-at-any-cost, coupled with an over-obsessive focus on innovation, which in turn feeds the excessive profit motive; a vicious circle, in other words. The qualities that have made us successful as a species, sad to say, will be the same qualities which will be our ultimate downfall.
Margot Hilraven: But in all fairness, is not what you’re saying simply a sort of Luddite thinking tailored to modern times?
Nicky: No, I don’t think we should dismiss it as Luddite thinking. The Luddite comparison is commonly invoked today to justify unbridled human change, and seems on the face of it to be a sound argument – rather like John Ruskin’s 19th century fear of railway development, which proved to be grossly over-exaggerated. The point I would make, is that the scope of our capabilities today to wreak ecological destruction have far exceeded even the fears and concerns of John Ruskin, or the Luddites. Our quest for relentless innovation is no longer sustainable. We now stand at a crossroads. Which path we choose will be decisive in regard to the long-term survival of humanity and also the survival of other living species with whom we share the planet.
Margot Hilraven: Thanks for those views, Nicky. Have you thought of coining a term here, such as Natural Conservatism?
Nicky: If it’s okay with you, Margot, I think I’ll steer clear of any “ism”.