Thursday, January 06, 2011


We're living on the edge...and the rent is coming due.


Is mother nature trying to tell us something?

As the risk of sounding like Chicken Little, doesn’t it sort of seem like the sky is falling? I’m not trying to push any sort of apocalyptic conspiracy theory, but I do think we’ve got to take these kinds of things seriously. The frightening and unexplained trifecta reminds me of Naomi Klein’s critical piece in the Guardian about the BP oil spill and the testosterone-fueled hubris that caused it:
In the arc of human history, the notion that nature is a machine for us to re-engineer at will is a relatively recent conceit. In her ground-breaking 1980 book The Death of Nature, the environmental historian Carolyn Merchant reminded readers that up until the 1600s, the Earth was alive, usually taking the form of a mother. Europeans – like indigenous people the world over – believed the planet to be a living organism, full of life-giving powers but also wrathful tempers. There were, for this reason, strong taboos against actions that would deform and desecrate “the mother”, including mining.
The metaphor changed with the unlocking of some (but by no means all) of nature’s mysteries during the scientific revolution of the 1600s. With nature now cast as a machine, devoid of mystery or divinity, its component parts could be dammed, extracted and remade with impunity. Nature still sometimes appeared as a woman, but one easily dominated and subdued. Sir Francis Bacon best encapsulated the new ethos when he wrote in the 1623 De dignitate et augmentis scientiarum that nature is to be “put in constraint, moulded, and made as it were new by art and the hand of man.”
There may be perfectly reasonable explanations for all of the wildlife suddenly dropping dead as of late, but that still wouldn’t change the reality. We have been pillaging the earth without any sense of the long-term and reverberating effects and it has got to stop. There is no technology powerful enough, no human brain sophisticated enough, to replicate the highly complex interdependent system that is nature and we’re royally f-ing that up.

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