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Friday, May 20, 2011

Meaning of Life, Part 66

The contemprorary belief that science and technology have freed humanity from dependence on nature is thus a dangerous illusion. It's this illusion that leads so many well-intentioned people to argue that nature is an amenity, and should be preserved because, basically, it's cute. That sort of argument invites the response, just as stereotyped and more appealing to our culture's habits of thought, that hard-headed practicality takes precedence over emotional appeals and nature can therefore be ravaged with impunity.

Yet nature is not an amenity, and the "practicality" that leads people to ignore ecological realities typifies this sort of thinking C. Wright Mills called "crackpot realism," the use of rational means to pursue hopelessly irrational ends. If anything, industrial civilization is the amenity, and it's not particularly cute. Nature and humanity can survive without industrial civilization, but neither industrial civilization nor humanity can survive without nature--no matter how hard we pretend otherwise, or how enthusiastically we stuff our brains with fantasies about electronic reincarnation and the good life in deep space.

We have all grown up, one might say, thinking of nature as an adorable, helpless bunny that some people want to protect and others, motivated by the will to power that is the unmentionable force behind so much of contemporary culture, want to stomp into a bloody pulp just to show that they can. Both sides are mistaken, for what they have misidentified as a bunny is one paw of a sleeping grizzly bear who, if roused, is quite capable of tearing both sides limb from limb and feasting on their carcasses. The bear, it must be remembered, is bigger than we are, and stronger. We forget this at our desperate peril. pp. 16-7.

John Michael Greer, The Ecotechnic Future: Envisioning a Post-Peak World
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