Excuse me while I flit about like a rabid humming bird with a penchant for empurpled ranting. I hope my oblique reasoning isn’t too alienating. (Or no more alienating than that pretentious shiny new site title I’ve emblazoned above.)
Nature owes you nothing. Conversely, you owe Nature absolutely everything. Out of respect, you should be doing everything you possibly can to get the fuck out of Nature’s way. Nature is impersonal and indifferent. It’s time to divorce our deluded romance with all things ‘natural’.
Nature is awesome, but Nature is deadly. It’s easy for us to feel as though we’re blessed by Nature. The Earth seems so amenable to our kind of life; so atavistically idyllic, especially when you visit a rainforest. But we’re not blessed. We could never have evolved in any other environment. As far as we can see, we’re basically alone in the cosmos. We can be certain that we’re a rarity, and we’re an ephemeral one in extremis. We’re not blessed, we’re stupifyingly lucky. The distinction between blessedness and luck is an important one.
I think it smacks of intrepid hubris to be against ‘artificial’ things because they’re ‘not natural’. This is tantamount to giddily expostulating “nature cares about us!” No it doesn’t. It never has. Never will. Doesn’t even know we’re here. Doesn’t give a shit about what we eat or how we generate power. Probably doesn’t even give a shit about the fact that oxygen exists. Definitely doesn’t give a shit whether or not we extinguish life on this planet. Such insipidly narcissistic presumptions are all too human.
Why would Nature care about us? We live on such an infinitesimal, insignificant speck somewhere in the visible matter pollution that makes up 1% of this big dead cosmos. Everywhere we know about in spacetime with the exception of the Earth will kill trespassing humans instantly.
We owe Nature our respect, but we shouldn’t for a moment think Nature respects us, our hopes and dreams or our children. Nature isn’t going to add nitrates to soils all over the planet of its own volition just so we can farm enough organic food to accommodate the needs of the 7 billion people who live here. There isn’t even enough space on the planet for enough organic agriculture to feed a fraction of the world’s population – even if you’re happy to clear a lot of land. That wouldn’t be good for biodiversity or the travel industry.
If you like organic food, eat organic. Go for it; it’s tasty stuff, and why waste food? Just don’t expect organic farming to feed anywhere near as many people as GMO technology already can, and should already be doing. (Thanks for that, by the way.)
And global warming? That’s Nature doing what Nature does on terrestrial planets when an ‘intelligent’ species (or an earthquake that releases trapped underground methane, whatever) unwittingly increases the concentration of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. Things die. Big deal. Global warming isn’t some karmic cockpunch – we’re products of Nature, and there is no reward or punishment in Nature; there is just Nature. Death and entropy are perennial parts in the Nature deal.
So many parochial humans miss the fact that Nature will snuff out all life on Earth without batting a proverbial eyelash. It has almost happened here before. You can bet all the bottom dollars you want that it has happened on other planets. Shit, it probably just happened somewhere else in our neck of the galactic filaments while you read that last sentence. The conditions for any life at all in the cosmos will only exist for such a small percentage of its whole lifespan that I simply don’t have the space to post it here without screwing up the formatting of this entry. That figure works if you assume an infinite undifferentiated entropic expanse cooling down to absolute zero marks the end of the universe. Yeah, that’s why they call it heat death.
Forget fluke arrangements of amino acids like us and whatever lives under our fingernails, not even heavy elements like carbon are the stars of the show. (Stars almost totally consist of hydrogen and helium – and they make up, that’s right, a very small fraction of the current mass of the cosmos, so not even stars are the stars of the show.)
Our Sun, a middle-aged G2V spectral-type yellow dwarf star, will, upon its inevitable demise, consume our planet, utterly erasing all traces of life that might remain. That’s total annihilation at the molecular level.
That’s Nature: sunlight; gravitation; thermal radiation; the arrow of time; mass extinction; thermodynamics; the laws of chemistry. We’re freaks of Nature, not pinnacles. We aren’t the Platonic apples of Nature’s multifarious eyes. And neither, for that matter, are the whales, or the shrews. Or the fucking lions. We care about that stuff, Nature doesn’t. If Nature cares about anything, Nature cares about Dark Flow – which could be a different Nature cutting in on our Nature’s action. But Nature doesn’t care because Nature just is. And so apparently is Dark Flow.
Respecting Nature simply means not gearing the laws of Nature up to kill us. That’s pretty easy to do, because the laws of Nature that apply to life on this planet are reasonably well understood. Nature isn’t an entity, or an intelligence – it’s just a set of laws that work on space and matter. You can’t reason with it. You certainly can’t appeal to its ‘humanity’. You need to shut up and pay attention; because if you don’t, you’ll die – and if there’s no one left to remember you, it will be as if you never existed. Nature will not remember you, or any of us.
Nature doesn’t care if we want to genetically modify foods to feed starving children in Africa. Volcanoes will erupt when they’re good and ready regardless of what gene sequences we put where. Gene sequences are not sacred – we think they are because we happen to be gene sequences. Nowhere in Nature will you find the Vitruvian genome.
Neil deGrasse Tyson once said: “What’s going on between our legs? It’s like an entertainment complex in the middle of a sewage system! No engineer would ever design that, ever.”
There plainly is no design in Nature; just ask anyone who has suffered appendicitis. Or just wait until medical genome sequencing becomes cheap and mainstream; then you can ask your doctor how long you’ve got to live with yearly bouts of hay fever before malignant tumours have you pissing blood while they ravage your reproductive system, requiring major surgery and weekly intravenous doses of emetic etiolating poisons to keep the rogue cells at bay before they inexorably attack your brain through your spinal cord to finally, painfully kill you. Top design, that.
Again, what Nature consists of is coincidences. Not design.
Being against advances in agricultural biotechnology seems to be logically analogous to harbouring genocidal tendancies. Logically, it’s pretentious, elitist and heartless. The whole notion grounded in the baseless delusion that natural selection does a better job at dictating our diets than we do. It misses the point that practically everything we eat has been the product of ten thousand years of artificial selection by us humans. But the people who are against it are well-intentioned and illogical, so you can’t impute elitism and heartlessness onto them – but you can call a lot of them out on wilful ignorance and dogmatism.
Nature doesn’t even care if we give baby gorillas yellowcake uranium dust to finger paint with – we do. And we should. We should care more about feeding children than regressing to pre-germ theory pagan superstitions, and we should know better than poisoning gorillas for artwork to sell on eBay. Nature doesn’t know or care. Nature made yellowcake uranium radioactive, evolved most humans stupid and rendered Africa mostly arid.
This natural organic bullshit is just dualism for the cosmopolitan generation. We are not separate from anything. Nature isn’t some sky daddy, it’s what makes up reality by definition. This ‘return to nature’ crap is a delusion, and a delusion perhaps as dangerous for us as a species than any fairy tale propagated by any holy book. We should not be ’embracing’ Nature; again, we should be learning how to get the fuck out of its way. We should never ascribe anything to Nature borne of our misguided human hubris.
I’ve discussed Chernobyl here before – in America especially, how egregiously that incident was distorted reflected the hippy movement’s anxiety with anything big with a logo and shareholders. It had nothing to do with the environment. That myth was born of human selfishness and stupidity.
I actually wish hell existed just for the disgusting arseholes who singled out those Ukrainian children who suffered birth deformities (not because of the Chernobyl accident, just because birth deformities happen) to exploit for the anti-nuclear agenda. The real victims of Chernobyl were the locals who were marked by the media as ‘exposed’ and left in far too many cases irreparably psychologically scarred.
Nature was responsible for evolving pattern-seeking, tool-using primates on this little blue oblate spheroid. Nature has no agency, obviously, but we did evolve to proliferate on this planet in a certain way. Not the right way, just a certain way. Unfortunately we also evolved to be superstitious, guilt-ridden conservative idiots.
This has little to do with politics – the superstitious, guilt-ridden conservative idiots on the right blush when you say a naughty word, but the ones on the left yell and scream when you put on a lab coat. (Well, the ones on the right do too when there’s no way to convert the lab results into capital, but I think my point is obvious.)
Nature gave us measles, mumps and rubella; science gave us a vaccine – then Nature hit back with Jenny McCarthy (another person I’d hope to see in hell).
The thing I’d like to point out about the deaths caused by withholding vaccines from children is that not all victims were themselves victims of their parents’ credulousness. Many of them were victims of the credulousness of other parents. Those victims contracted these terrible diseases before they were booked in to be vaccinated. Vaccines only eradicate diseases when everybody plays along. Withholding vaccines now sounds an awful lot like biological terrorism, without actually being biological terrorism; it’s really just a tragic manifestation of ignorance.
Nature gave Africa inarable land; agricultural biotechnologists gave us drought-resistant crops – and Nature gave us hordes of superstitious conservative idiots, legally incorporated as Greenpeace. “Greens” worry about Gaia, progressive people worry about Nature. We humans transpose genetic information for a purpose, Nature does it blindly. Nature will eventually kill every single organism that will ever exist anyway. The important thing to notice is that transposing genetic material only works if you play by Nature’s rules. If you don’t, the new genome will be unstable. If it isn’t natural, it won’t work. Nature didn’t design anything for us. But by some stroke of fortune, we’ve been able to develop the skills to design things for ourselves – provided we accept that Nature has the final word.
Science is what Nature blindly evolved us to do for our own survival. We ignore that at our peril. It’s amazing how many people against nuclear anything will gladly accept chemotherapy for carcinomas. Guess what? Chemo drugs don’t grow ready to inject safely in the Amazon. We synthesize that shit in a lab.
Thanks to breeder reactor technology, nuclear power is now safe, affordable and it basically cleans itself up. Do you know what it means when Malcolm Turnbull says Australia needs nuclear power, while Bob Brown calls modern nuclear power technology evil? It means the conservatives think more progressively on some very dire issues than the progressives do. There’s nothing progressive about stultifying progress. I suppose I naïvely assumed ‘progressive’ wasn’t a synonym for that particularly insidious manifestation of misanthropy.
Bob Brown strikes me as someone who wrote off nuclear power decades ago and hasn’t bothered to look at it since. He’s a religious person, really. If he cared more about mitigating global warming than ‘sticking to his environmentalist principles’, he’d be campaigning for a breeder reactor program in Australia and promoting the technology to the rest of the world. Until then, or until something else comes along, Bob Brown is simply another well-intentioned part of the problem. Thanks for helping to facilitate Australia’s continued fossil fuel dependency, Bob.
And guess what? Atoms, nuclear reactions and energy are natural. The demarcation between ‘natural’ and ‘artificial is an erroneous one, dreamt up by scared hairless apes. Hairless apes that evolved naturally. Getting the fuck out of Nature’s way means using our faculties to work in harmony with what Nature actually is, not what we think it should be. If we don’t want Nature to kill us, we should play by Nature’s rules.
It’s our business if we want to protect all the organisms we like and depend on. Nature won’t do that. We are close to engineering meat in a lab, which will do away with the need for livestock. We should not reject this because labs scare and confuse us. We’ve been engineering food for millennia through artificial selection. There’s nothing wrong with progress, especially if it reduces the suffering we inflict on our animal cousins. Real sustainable sources of nutrition should have as little to do with the biosphere as possible. For land use alone, a lab is far better than a paddock or a crop field. If we think biodiversity is important, we should use science to learn how to stop interfering with it.
(An aside: that’s not to say that we shouldn’t use geoengineering if we need to – we know that geoengineering will cool the planet because volcanoes have done all the experiments for us. That isn’t controlling Nature, that’s playing by Nature’s rules – rules uncovered by science.)
I’d like to close by saying that I’m not against idealism in principle. I’m against pinning hope on some psychadelic ignis fatuus that reflects nothing more than the fevered collective human ego.