“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

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Do You Get It Now

“There is always this call to ‘DO SOMETHING!’ ” said one of the speakers in Madison last week, gesticulating wildly somewhat in mockery of my main point, which is that within 30 years humans will emit 5 times more gigatons of carbon than is necessary to fuck Earth beyond all recognition.

I hadn't actually made the call to “do something,” hysterically or no, and indeed I see the point of being wary of certain kinds of call such as this, in particular as they may inhibit our ability to think.

And yet. It's all way too convenient a performance of smug rightness at the expense of oh, I don't know, 50% of all lifeforms (see the link below).

The paralysis of cynicism is precisely an effect of correlationist humanism, which persists at exactly the wrong time. [sarcasm] Since humans created gravity and evolution and so on (by mathematizing them and otherwise formulating them), it is more important to agonize about the impact of ecological policy on humans than it is to “do” the dreaded “something,” since human measurements are after all what make things real.[/sarcasm]

So this should provide something like a salutary intellectual slap upside the correlationist head. The link is to a pretty handy wheel of doom produced by MIT. The doom will be, as they put it, “largely irreversible for 1000 years.” Ready?

Staying near our current emissions will in the next few decades result in:

  • Staggeringly high temperature rise, especially over land — some 10°F over much of the United States
  • Permanent Dust Bowl conditions over the U.S. Southwest and many other regions around the globe that are heavily populated and/or heavily farmed.
  • Sea level rise of some 1 foot by 2050, then 4 to 6 feet (or more) by 2100, rising some 6 to 12 inches (or more) each decade thereafter
  • Massive species loss on land and sea — perhaps 50% or more of all biodiversity.
  • Unexpected impacts — the fearsome “unknown unknowns”
  • Much more extreme weather
  • Food insecurity — the increasing difficulty of feeding 7 billion, then 8 billion, and then 9 billion people in a world with an ever-worsening climate.
  • Myriad direct health impacts


cameron.keys said...

But Tim,

By discounting the correlationist humanism that brings reality into existence you seem also to be discounting the ongoing research efforts into geoengineering, biotech, etc. In 50 years the mathematization of the climate system will be far more effective, as will our methods of modifying regional, sub-regional, and local conditions. As the OOO theories open to the infinitudes of fissures separating objects from objects, the correlationist humanists are pressing the pedal to the floor in the anticipation of taking control of the biosphere. They are not going to stop. The cynicism you mention is a sure sign that the cynic in question does not have power to define the future of climate and civilization. Object-Oriented Ontology as a whole from this point of view, while it may be "a la mode" , is an expression of impotence. Perhaps we should recognize the ambitions of correlationist humanism in response to the anthropocene. My point is, first, that the correlationist humanists have every expectation of controlling earth systems in a functional way, preventing the degredation you describe (rising sea level, rising temperature, etc). While the know-how may not yet exist, the anticipation is that the know-how WILL EXIST in the future, just in time to perform radical alterations. From this point of view, object oriented ontology is an irrelevance. Users of the OOO operating system may be tuned in to a more accurate perspective, but they cannot fix the world.

Shikra said...


I am just discovering your blog. It is obvious that nature doesn't exist. I work on another (a better? you tell me your thought about it maybe) representation of our context: biodiversity fighting the environment. Not a dualism but a bi-paradigamatism (does this make sense?).

Environment and biodiversity can be understood as 2 wholes if we apply to them their own paradigm (one eye/thinking for the biodiversity + one eye/thinking for the environment). Please note that between the two exist the milieu/mésos (which englobes us) produced and managed by the biodiversity.

A small video about it and calling for an intellectual surge...

Best regards