In the film Princess Mononoke, we are presented with a philosophical question: Will there ever be a future where humans and nature will live in peace? As vague as this question is, it would be an interesting topic to discuss. Is there any way we can artificially create a scenario that has the perfect specifications and environment for the world to live in harmony?
In Princess Mononoke, there are three main characters. Ashikata is our lead protagonist, someone who seeks to bring peace between humans and the forest. Lady Eboshi is a leader amongst a small village in the iron-works. She wishes to kill the Deer God so that the Earth’s riches will be free for the taking.
Princess Mononoke (or “San” as her friends refer her as) wishes to kill Lady Eboshi because the wildlife that lives in the forest is slowly dwindling due to loss in habitat.
In this universe, many animals that live in the forest are sentient, with the only exception being weaker animals like rats, raccoons, and deer holding a primitive brain. Because many of the animals we see are sentient, they have the ability to voice their distress and act upon the destruction of their home. This means that these animals can feel anger, sadness, and sorrow, and, have the mental capacity to seek vengeance.
In this film, hatred can bring the evil out of you and turn you into a demon. Unfortunately, this means that animals in the wild will always be at a disadvantage regardless of their intelligence. If animals were to be gifted sentience, then they’d likely try and retaliate to the destruction humans are causing. Of course, this will only deepen the problem, as it will only spread more hatred, and enable both parties to keep killing each other.
There will always be bad eggs. Sadly, you can’t rely on kindness to achieve peace when you’re considering the entirety of the human population. It only takes one person to spread hatred into large groups of people. In Princess Mononoke, we see examples of this. When Ashikata first meets Lady Eboshi, she speaks of her plan to expand the iron-works and kill the Deer God. Since the seed of hatred has already been planted into Ashikata in the form of a parasite, even he succumbs to its influence. His arm moves on its own and attempts to kill her, but he prevents tragedy from occurring with his willpower, restraining his arm.
But not everyone has the will to resist being influenced by someone else. All humans are sentient, and we have a history of going to war with each other simply over ownership of territory, or over resources like oil and iron. If humans were eusocial like bees and ants, this problem may have been nullified, as we’d all be drones following orders from a queen, and there would be no chance of rogues separating themselves from the hive to follow their own agenda. Units of a eusocial colony rarely ever survive alone, making it the only successful form of communism we have seen in any species. However, this would remove our free will and we would no longer be sentient, totally defeating the point of the question here.
Humans are just so complex that not everyone can be trusted to follow a single goal. There will always be people who will destroy habitats of local wildlife populations, and there will always be people who will be negative influences, which will only breed more destruction. The animals in our world have no voice, nor the capability to retaliate to the destruction humans are responsible for. Even if they did have a voice, it will only result in the advancement of more hatred, and will only produce more destruction.
Planet of the Apes
If you want another example that’s a little more realistic, look no further than the rise of Caesar in the Planet of the Apes reboot series.
In Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, after Caesar has lead the ape faction to near-total dominance over the Earth, Koba stages Caesar’s death and ignites a war with the humans.
In Caesar’s final line of dialogue, he explains that although he did not start this war, he will be forced to participate because humans will not forgive what was done.
As I discussed in my analysis of Princess Mononoke, it only takes a few individuals with a lot of power to influence massive groups of individuals. Humans tend to follow whatever the group is doing, as deviating from social norms is extremely taboo, and in this case, could result in your death. In addition, the Colonel had so much influence with his charisma that he had the power to shape the minds of the masses to spread hatred and continue the war against the apes.
In fact, the Colonel actually has a few similarities with Adolf Hitler. Charisma really is the name of the game when it comes to a leadership position. Sometimes it really doesn’t matter what you say, as long as you speak with confidence and magnetism, it can be a lot easier to recruit people to your believe in your ideals. If that doesn’t work, you can always force your ideals using violence, which is exactly what the Colonel practiced. Whenever one of his soldiers succumbed to the new mutated strain of the simian flu, they were killed. If any one of his supporters were opposed to this practice, they were killed as well. This set an example for anyone seeking shelter under the Colonel’s shadow, showing that even unwilling individuals can be used to spread prejudice and hostility.
Not to mention, when apes assumed dominance over the Earth, they basically filled the role of the now nomadic humans, and as a result, nothing was changed. Sure, the Earth is much healthier because of its new inhabitants, but there’s no real peace installed in this new Earth. Humans and apes are still fighting each other over dominance and territory, so the same problems are still in place.
Unfortunately, I personally don’t think humans will ever be able to co-exist with nature. For us humans to reach the outer limits of our potential, we need to explore, expand, and build. Doing this requires resources, and the only way to gather these resources is to plunder the Earth of its riches. This can cause exponential losses in habitat for wildlife. This can lead to lower populations, which then leads to starvation and inbreeding. Some animals also need very specific requirements to survive in an environment. Some only feed on certain plants, some need a specific humidity level, and some need large areas of space for territory boundaries. When humans destroy habitats, these animals may also exhaust themselves looking for a new suitable home, or might killing each other over a lack of space for territory.
This doesn’t mean that life is all doom and gloom. There are plenty of amazing instances of people creating zoos and wildlife reserves that accept individuals who were inept to live in the wild. Sometimes, people raise pets that deem to become too much of a hassle to take care of and release them into the wild, where they are unprepared to take care of themselves.
There are also some people who have extensive knowledge of the care requirements for exotic animals and have the ability to take care of injured individuals and nurse them back to health so they can be sent back into their habitat, ready to roam free again.
Emily Roberts, the creator of the YouTube channel Snake Discovery, noticed an opportunity for her passion for exotic animals. She has used her channel’s growth to educate communities on the proper care procedures for exotic animals like large reptiles, spiders, and amphibians. Her channel expanded into a massive business, with her pet alligator Rex, whom she recovered from someone ill-prepared to care for her, is Snake Discovery’s mascot of sorts. Rex’s development was permanently stunted, so she would not survive very long in the wild. Emily uses her videos with Rex as a warning to anyone wanting to own an animal for prestige purposes, as exotic animals like alligators take extensive care and effort on the human’s part to keep them healthy.
Bob Ross, a painter that hosted the TV program The Joy of Painting, often recalled instances from his life where he would nurse injured animals back to health so they could enjoy life in the wild again. He has even brought some of these animals on the show who interacted with him while he was painting. Although he is now deceased, his TV program has since exploded in popularity, and millions of people are exposed to his kind deeds and are encouraged to replicate them.
There are also certain areas like national parks, that give wildlife free reign over their own space, completely free and away from human populations. Ecotourism is a method that can be employed for people to safely observe these animals in their natural environment. The funds from these tours are then re-routed to conservation efforts.
There have also been successful awareness campaigns and fundraisers to increase the quality of life for Earth’s other inhabitants. Team Trees, a fundraiser created by YouTube personality Mr. Beast, is a fundraiser specifically aimed at replanting trees that have been lost from human construction. It was created on October 25th, 2019, and it has since planted over 22 million trees across the globe.
One last example I will mention, that just so happens to be one of my personal favorites, is For the Love of Primates. It is an organization that provides sanctuaries for primates that have been retired from research and experimentation in laboratories, and individuals that have been previously kept as pets. However, I don’t want to imply that animal experimentation should be strictly forbidden. Some animals can be incredible resources for researching often fatal diseases that intensely affect humans and even other species.
Speaking of experimentation and research, animals have been proven to even help human populations as well.
According to Neal K. Klapp, who is Professor of Pathology at the University of Tennessee Medical Center at Knoxville, the Cotton Top Tamarin is one of the most important resources we have in researching colon cancer in humans, which happens to be one of the leading causes of death in the United States. The procedures for these experiments are relatively safe on these individuals, and the disease itself is much less severe for these animals than it is for humans. This research also gives us the opportunity to revitalize the population of this endangered species.
In summary, I don’t believe that humans can coexist with nature, as sentience and free will are breeding grounds for hatred in especially disturbed individuals who will only breed more destruction. However, there is still potential for humans to form lasting bonds with individual animals that can be used to educate communities and provide these animals with homes where they will be happy for the rest of their lives. If you enjoy this type of content, consider subscribing to my newsletter so you never miss another post from me.