Foreign Policy Magazine

How Not to Be a Civilization

Mother Nature is using her words. Are we smart enough to heed them?

Who has not stood before a vista—snow-capped peaks, a coral seascape teeming with reef fish, a desert stretching parched and golden to the horizon, the canopy of stars in the night sky—and not professed humility? Nature should be humbling. It is, after all, infinite beyond our comprehension.

All we do as human beings—whether as government officials or artists, engineers or schoolteachers—we do within the parameters set by nature: to grapple with problems imposed or shaped by it or, in our best moments, to aspire to reflect or complement the natural world within our own creative work.

Yet, despite our declarations of awe and respect, we could

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