“Was not their mistake once more bred of the life of slavery that they had been living?—a life which was always looking upon everything, except mankind, animate and inanimate—‘nature,’ as people used to call it—as one thing, and mankind as another, it was natural to people thinking in this way, that they should try to make ‘nature’ their slave, since they thought ‘nature’ was something outside them” — William Morris

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Environmental Incrementalism and Ethical-Political Overmining

Doesn't the case against incrementalism, when it comes to things like global warming, amount to a version of what Graham Harman calls overmining, in the domain of ethics and politics?

Just as refusing to see the big picture is a form of undermining: "There are only individuals and collective decisions are ipso facto false."

...so a kind of cynicism is enabled by the left: "Since no one person's action will solve global warming, better to do nothing, or at most await the revolution to come."

Vegetarians, Prius owners and solar power enthusiasts (I check all those boxes) often encounter this sort of logic.

The trouble is, left cynicism maps perfectly onto GOP do-nothing-ism and Gaian defeatism (Gaia will replace us...like a defective component).

Nothing happens. Result? Global warming continues apace.

The OOO argument for irreductionism (both under- and over- mining) is highly congruent with ecological awareness.

1 comment:

Henry Warwick said...

Correct - however:

Very simply put: fossil fuels are the easiest and fastest ways to industrialise an economy. and to industrialise an economy in this day and age is to institute capitalist economics and extractive resource systems for accumulation of wealth. A more socialist system would distribute the wealth more evenly, a capitalist system, not so much. The result is still a loss of resources and a damaged environment.

There is no obvious incentive to not industrialise, especially given that industrial systems spread at gunpoint.

It's back to the Dark Ecology problem: we're in the soup. Ther eis no "out". The system (if not here in the West, then in the East and the ever developing South) is going to mine every flippin' barrel of oil and every ton of coal and burn it. Cheerfully.

The only thing we can do is to manage the the Collapse that is sure to follow the loss of oil, and then mitigate as best as possible the damage inflicted from the rest (natgas, coal, clathrates). The arctic will be habitable in terms of temperature, but the soil is thin and rocky, and acidic after 12,000 years of pine forests.

The smartest thing we can do right now is to start growing deciduous forests MUCH farther north (and not just birch) and keep planting into the next century. Because even if we stopped using fossil fuels tomorrow, we're still going to see a massive warming. We need temperate forests farther north as they become temperate. Since it is going to happen at (geologically speaking) lightning speed, humans need to "act ahead" of the warming. Siberia, Canada, Nunavut, Alaska, Greenland, southern Argentina and Chile, and eventually, Antarctica. That's where it will be happening. And PRAY they don't find massive coal and oil deposits in Antarctica...

More than that? Talk to Derrick Jensen. He's full of ideas.