Ecology tells us we have limits

24 Apr

Literary critic and philosopher Tim Morris has a very smart post for the philosophically minded: Fighting Modernity with Modernity? No Thanks. What he’s against:

According to one view, humans emancipate themselves from Nature into a more total freedom over its pure plasticity. Yet this would be to continue in the aesthetic-sadistic thought that Nature is a malleable cartoon character who can be stretched and shaped to our whim. And which sadist gets to decide what to do next?

That is to say, modernity has bequeathed us the view that we have the technological tools to push Nature everywhich way we please. So, for example, we can create all the nuclear power we need, and some day we’ll figure out what to do with all that nuclear waste sitting in pools and casks, and some day we’ll figure out how to build plants that aren’t vulnerable to earthquakes and tsunamis. Someday.

He continues:

The question is, now that we know what we know, do we want to continue imagining different kinds of malleability (capitalism, communism) and is that all we want to do? Note that on my view, even if we achieve some kind of physical enactment of our dream—say we have enough political power and enough Earth shaking equipment—we will still be dreaming.

That is, now that we know we’re fouling our own nest with fracking and nuking and deep-sea drilling and all the rest, now that we know that, can we admit that we don’t really know what to do about all those unintended side-effects that keep getting in our face? Can we admit that we are limited, finite beings, and that we should conserve what we’ve got, both for us, and for the other creatures on that share this planet with us?

Do we keep on using tools from modernity’s toolkit to fix a problem created by that toolkit? Or do we see that the toolkit is a rather confusing part of a much wider configuration space?

Maybe we need a new tool kit? One that isn’t so new-fangled modern. One that is both old and newer than new. Let’s look at the truth, conserve what we got, and dance our way into a more sustainable future.


2 Responses to “Ecology tells us we have limits”

  1. Charlie Keil April 24, 2011 at 4:50 pm #

    You know I love that last sentence.
    Stance rhymes with dance and in my mind it is something like stationary dancing. It’s hard to dance and play trumpet or sousaphone at the same time, tho it is done every Sunday, not just Easter Sunday, in New Orleans. But we brass banders also need to be thinking sustainable “stance” — how do we look when presenting sounds to people, feet a little further apart as if ready to dance, or knees bent for a funny effect. Facing each other in a circle? Today playing in front of the church we sounded great, but once we went inside and up front we got shy, stiff, not in eye contact with each other, and we lost our precious looseness.
    Great last sentence, but needs endless day to day refinements.

  2. kubla April 24, 2011 at 5:20 pm #

    More dancin’, less financin’

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