conservatory_image_high_energy_greenhouse (by dmuren)
Wired Magazine had a recent Op-Ed from excellent Human Landscapes blogger and scientist Erle Ellis (he also directs the Laboratory for Anthropogenic Landscape Ecology at the University of Maryland. The article -- "Stop Trying to Save the Planet" -- seems great from the outset, right in line with Humblefacture's ideals, particularly in passages like this one:

And it’s time for a “postnatural” environmentalism. Postnaturalism is not about recycling your garbage, it is about making something good out of grandpa’s garbage and leaving the very best garbage for your grandchildren. Postnaturalism means loving and embracing our human nature, the nature we have created to feed ourselves, the nature we live in. What good is environmentalism if it makes you depressed about the future?
However, while this is a big step for the mainstream (is Wired mainstream now?) media to back away from the human vs. nature argument, the author stops short of a truly humble stance.

At issue is not only that we must act, but the nature of that action. While Ellis is probably correct that humans would never be totally wiped from all ecosystems, he is quick to point out that we have lost civilizations many times over because of climate over-use. So we need to focus more on saving society from ourselves -- we can always scrape by on the outskirts of more major food webs.

More importantly, the tone of the article, and the tone of many modern eco-ideologies is very much directed toward "we broke things with technology, but we can fix them with technology, and we don't need nature any more. Many times throughout the piece, he makes mention of nature being "dead", as in the first passage:
Nature is gone. It was gone before you were born, before your parents were born, before the pilgrims arrived, before the pyramids were built. You are living on a used planet.
This view -- that nature is something that humanity destroyed, and, more provocative, something which we don't really need, given our technological advances is the fundamental error of modern manufacture and modern making in general. To see what I mean, first look at this ending passage from the same piece:
Use renewable energy. Clean it up. Repair it. Get to work. There is plenty more mileage left in this spaceship Earth. Think about that while enjoying a trip to your local zoo or arboretum — the most biodiverse places that ever existed on Earth.
True, we have created incredibly powerful engines of both diversity -- in arboretums, aquariums, zoos, and conservatories -- and fecundity, in modern fossil nitrogen-enhanced agriculture. Neither boon comes for free, and in these cases, we pay them in carbon emissions, either in producing the ammonia to fertilize giant monocultures of corn, or to heat, cool, ship, fertilize, feed, and otherwise maintain the finely tuned, but completely unstable systems we call animal parks. This is the issue. "Use Renewable Energy" Ellis says, and would that we could, but our demand is too great, and we are doing little to reduce it, even as we struggle to meet even 1% of our total energy needs with renewables.

We should not consider nature beaten, or passed for into a new postnaturalism; Rather, what if we were to develop a transnaturalism, acknowledging our role in husbandry and regulation, but focusing on developing new stable systems of production-consumption like those we first witnessed in nature tens of thousands of years ago, before we first decided to burn the forests to produce more edge for deer, or more open land for farming. This more humble viewpoint will let us see that while we may have the reigns, nature has some great models for maintaining diversity, fecundity, and stability without excessive energy or regulation.

And that, dear reader, is no small feat.


Post a Comment