Man and Nature: The Spiritual Crisis of Modern Man by Dr. Seyyed Hossein Nasr

Environmentally speaking, 2016 has been one hell of a year.

On October 24th, 2016 in Ottawa, 99 students and young Canadians were arrested on Parliament for demanding that Trudeau reject the construction of the Kinder Morgan pipeline. The proposed pipeline currently transports approximately 300,000 barrels per day of crude oil and refined petroleum from the Alberta oil sands to British Columbia and Washington State. The company is pursuing a $5.4 billion expansion of the line, which would increase capacity to 890,000 barrels per day.

While people will herald pipelines as job creators, and profit makers – the reality is that profit is always at the expense of humanity. In the book, Man and Nature: The Spiritual Crisis in Modern Man, Dr. Seyyed Hossein Nasr, an intellectual, scholar, professor, and philosopher, writes about the spiritual and environmental crisis plaguing our world. Dr. Nasr highlights the root causes of the current environmental crisis as being deeply spiritual – or rather – our lack of spirituality. He writes about man’s ego and the desire to “dominate nature not only for economic motives but also for a ‘mystique’…men no longer climb spiritual mountains…now they want to conquer all mountain peaks. There is everywhere the desire to conquer nature, but in the process the value of the conqueror himself, who is man, is destroyed and his very existence threatened.” (19)

The human ego is a defining characteristic of the environmental degradation we see today, including the issue around pipelines. We do not live in a vacuum, so our economic and political decisions have a profound impact not just spiritually but on our material reality as well.

So we can see that building pipelines through communities, particularly marginalized and indigenous communities, increases rates of displacement and poverty. It leads to deforestation, pollution, and destruction of entire ecosystems. Furthermore, the processing of tar sands produces air emissions with significantly greater amounts of sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxide, hydrogen sulfide, mercury, cadmium, and lead. These contaminants have been linked to increased rates of cancer, heart disease, reproductive disorders, and respiratory diseases.

In Dr. Nasr’s book, he reiterates that people of faith must reconnect with our role as caretakers of this earth which has been entrusted to us by our Creator. A major factor of this role as caretaker is to ensure the security of societies most vulnerable, whether it be people, animals, or the environment.

Dr. Nasr’s profound work brings a completely new meaning to the word environmentalism. It adds a layer of profound depth to the idea that the essence of our work here in this world is not limited to the physical, but also the spiritual. While issues like the Kinder Morgan pipeline seem like mere economic advancement, in reality, they are markers of our spiritual degradation complete disconnect from the spiritual world realm, according to Nasr.

Not only are we ignoring the rights the environment has over us, we are completely taking advantage to the point of complete destruction. There is a great need for balance in our lives between our physical state, our spiritual state, and their correlation to nature. Dr. Nasr urges us to go back to our very roots, as we are all simply a lump of clay, created from earth itself. With mental health issues ever increasing, ecosystems being destroyed, war and famine constantly breaking out – it seems as if with every breath there is another tragedy.

The book Man and Nature: The Spiritual Crisis in the Modern World is a must read. This short but profound read will force you to re-examine your priorities and give greater understanding to our relationship with the natural world.

It is imperative that we reconnect with nature, and ultimately its Creator because: “In the end what we can say with all certainty is that there is no peace possible among people unless there is peace and harmony with nature. And in order to have peace and harmony with nature one must be in harmony and equilibrium with Heaven, and ultimately with the Source and Origin of all things. He who is at peace with the Creator is also at peace with His creation, both with nature and with man.”

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