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The War on Nature

The War on Nature

Mexican wolf. Photo: Jeffrey St. Clair.

Ancient Greeks, Persians, Egyptians, Mesopotamians, Chinese and Indians respected or worshipped several gods. Those gods were usually forces of nature, which opened the mind, eyes and hearts of human beings to the mysteries, beauty and truth of the natural world.

The vast human majorities of the ancient world were peasant farmers and shepherds who cultivated the land and raised food and tended animals.

The winds, rains and the snow, the trees, the different plants and grasses growing for their sheep and goats and cattle, were not abstractions but real manifestations of nature affecting them daily and giving them clues about life and their own fortunes. They noticed the different birds living near them and flying to the water of the creeks, lakes and rivers, according to the seasons. And soon they figured the appropriate time of the year, season, for growing wheat and caring for the olive trees for the life-saving olive oil and grape vines for their sweet wine.

Ancient people tried to make sense of the gigantic forces of the natural world. They looked at the sky and saw countless stars lighting the evening heavens. They were dazzled and sometimes frightened by these flickering bodies in the sky so far away from them. They usually associated these slowly moving stars with gods who influenced their lives.

People saw the gigantic Sun “rising” in the East and “setting” in the West. They noticed the Moon was close to the Earth and, in fact, moved around the Earth, linking it to their monthly calendar.

The priests of the gods were students of nature. They often gave meaning to phenomena difficult to comprehend like rain, snow, lightning and thunder. The priests explained and familiarized nature to those celebrating the gods. They made them confident that humans and other animals and the natural world were related and lived in the same world.

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Olduvai IV: Courage
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