Categories
Anthropocene

The age of separation

In yesterday’s blog I offered my opinion on our separation from nature and our non-human brothers and sisters.

I think it’s worth reflecting on again (assuming you agree with me), given where we now find ourselves, battling the plutocrats and a benign government in the face of the Anthropocene.

To quote (again) from The Last Messiah by Peter Zapffe:

Whatever happened? A breach in the very unity of life, a biological paradox, an abomination, an absurdity, an exaggeration of disastrous nature. Life had overshot its target, blowing itself apart. A species had been armed too heavily – by spirit made almighty without, but equally a menace to its own well-being. Its weapon was like a sword without hilt or plate, a two-edged blade cleaving everything; but he who is to wield it must grasp the blade and turn the one edge toward himself.

Despite his new eyes, man was still rooted in matter, his soul spun into it and subordinated to its blind laws. And yet he could see matter as a stranger, compare himself to all phenomena, see through and locate his vital processes. He comes to nature as an unbidden guest, in vain extending his arms to beg conciliation with his maker: Nature answers no more, it performed a miracle with man, but later did not know him. He has lost his right of residence in the universe, has eaten from the Tree of Knowledge and been expelled from Paradise. He is mighty in the near world, but curses his might as purchased with his harmony of soul, his innocence, his inner peace in life’s embrace. (My emphasis added.)

Granted the language is a little turgid, but I think it’s clear that our powers of higher reasoning imbued us with an omniscience and superiority which meant, even before monotheism took hold, we assumed an entitlement to ‘consume’ nature, even if we went well beyond our survival requirements.

Fast forward to the start of the industrial revolution and you can see why we abused nature with such gusto, although, given the implications for that excess consumption, our global decision-making seems more than a little suspect. Add into the mix the fact that the world population increased from 1 billion in 1800 to 7.8 billion today (who really thought about these things at the time it was happening?) and it’s no great surprise the extent to which we’ve fouled our own nest(s).

Taking this into account, you can perhaps see why I’m so troubled by the opinion fest that’s free-floating across all parts of the Internet right now (COP26 is in town but the noise is unlikely to die down) — as if there’s a magic bullet to negate our anthropocentric woes. There isn’t and there will never be whilst we continue to inhabit the planet. I think of it like this: we’re self-harming but can’t feel or see it. And it’s being going on for such a long time that what we now think of as ‘normal’ is insane on any level, given where it leaves us now and for the near term (i.e. the year 2100).

I realise that my antinatalist message is unlikely to win any plaudits (I’m not out to convert anyone) but unless and until we understand our deep-rooted connection to nature and stop treating her as both our shopping basket of needs and wants and a cesspit for all the shit we’ve generated, there is no chance of the situation changing. For the record, I’m happy to debate the point but when you’ve on the horizon nearly 10 billion people to feed and keep safe, I simply don’t see, even with the best technology and minimalist lifestyle, how you stop the inevitable runaway.

Does that make me a misanthrope? Possibly but I’m not sure I’ve got the luxury of standing on the sidelines and shouting the odds. Instead, like everyone else, I should be trying to ameliorate my earth-devouring, environmental footprint. And that’s fine as it goes, and no doubt I’ll continue to double down on my old, anthropocentric habits but it won’t matter in the end.

It just won’t matter because the size of the problem is too big.

I’m not sure how to sign things off save to say that this epoch, if it’s even remembered, will go down in history as one where, by dint of our supposed intelligence, we managed to kill everything including ourselves.

How dumb is that!

Take care.

Julian


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