Wednesday, February 23, 2011

The Dominant Species: Last Call

Let me spin a little myth that some of you may interpret as apocalyptic. And certainly, within the context of the original meaning of apocalypse, lifting the veil, or dispelling the illusion - perhaps of an age, or of a conglomeration of myths - it is in every way both apocalyptic and revelatory. 

Consider the increasing possibility that in the next 50 to 100 years, we will see a transition not from peak oil to a superiorly positioned, cheaper solar power, but instead, a massive power-grab for energy resources that cannot possibly keep pace with the demands created by a population that continues to surge with no consideration of such arcane ecological ideas as "carrying capacity." 

Consider optimistic philosophies such as the convergence and singularity of transhumanism blunted and crushed under the heel of the international corporations which have leveraged control not only of slave labor forces world-wide but also resources which are plundered at an increasingly unsustainable rate. 

Consider oceans stripped of fish species to the point where the present "safe" species are themselves nearly fished out of existence. 

Consider corporations wisely buying up the rights to the very necessities of life, such as water, and shipping it out of the places where it is most needed so they can sell it at a ridiculous markup in bottles while the indigenous people die of dehydration or water-born illness because they can't afford it at $1.75 a liter. 

Consider a future where even genes are owned by corporations, and where even the supposed boons of technology, such as crops which produce much higher yields, are simply stop-gaps that allow the creation of yet more humans scrambling for what depleted resources they can manage, while assets are diverted with increasing openness from programs such as education and public health to those which provide the greatest benefits to the corporations themselves. This is the future, and I'm not even painting it as grimly as it could be painted. 

I highly suggest you watch this documentary - The Meaning of the 21st Century -  available for free online, among many others. Like many it tries to put a positive face on the possibilities of the future and for the sake of our species I hope they are right. 

Much of this was covered in several pieces I wrote for The Immanence of Myth, including Pretty Suicide Machine, the early version of which Reality Sandwich ran over a year ago. (I have since refined it though the position is, generally speaking, the same.) 

In other words I am painting a picture where it is only technological advance, itself, which keeps the population growth we presently consider the norm possible, and in fact it is the race of technology against the reality of resources which will spell the future of humanity. It seems inevitable that there must come a point when, no matter the advances made in terms of the genetic modification of food or our own genomes, we will have to as they say "pay the piper." 

I'm not sure who this piper is, but if we imagine that he is like a bookie with a big bat, the longer we dodge him, the harder he is going to slam it into our knees.

There is a rather poignant picture painted in the anthropology book Cannibals and Kings, a resource that we utilize on several occasions within the Immanence of Myth, which deals a great deal with cultural taboos and practices and how they tie into the distribution of animal proteins across the bulk of a society. It also makes a strong case for the unsustainability of capitalism, a system which both promises and depends on the idea of a never-ending increase of profits in the name of sovereignty. Growth and progress are not good unto themselves. Progress and growth cannot outweigh sustainability. 

At this point, most of this is not news to you - which in itself is a form of news, that we can look at this kind of bleak outlook and nod our heads with a sort of complacent, "yeah? So it goes." Alright, but coming out of this is a sense of guilt, and that too gets leveraged into our consumer society because, let's face facts, you need to go out to the store to get food, you need to get work, you need to survive and you haven't the time to consider such global problems if you want to just get by and survive. 

So we make what we consider to be "little concessions." We "go green." We try to buy into "fair trade." Maybe we shop organic. We do "what we can." Zizek has a video about this, "First As Tragedy, Then As Farce" and how capitalism has included capitalist guilt, as part of its marketing scheme for the future

Name a major industry you want to support, after you've looked into who owns them, who owns the company that owns them, and how they factor into the global politics of the countries they've entrenched themselves in. Look at where they buy their materials and how those materials are procured. Look at how the workers are treated at all levels through the supply chain. Dollars to donuts, the cheaper these things can be procured, the better. And to hell with all the middleman in the name of God profit. So we "do our best" we pick our pet corporations or industries that we avoid like we're doing a "good deed" and then go across the street and do business with another devil. Fuck it. Unless someone is living off solar energy on a mountain top, growing and raising their own food, it's just a means to offput that "consumer guilt" I was talking about. 

What drives me nuts is the high horses these people climb on, so they can posture themselves like they are morally superior to you because they picked supplier X over supplier Y. Look, I buy almost all of my meat and produce from local farms. I do it both because it is slightly better than going to industrial farms - Monsanto is one of my "personal blacklist companies" - and I do it because the meat just plain tastes better. But if I was to dig in their dirt deep enough, I'm sure I'd find all kinds of things I couldn't get behind from an ethical standpoint. The whole system is based on faulty premises that can't be avoided by nibbling around the edges. It's not that its not good to look into where your food or products come from, and it is certainly good to look at consuming less, and purchasing more locally and to buy things with less packaging. But it's not going to change the world. Writing and creating media is how I enter the world, not changing the nature of industry singlehandedly. Nor am I doing a "good deed" by shopping at Wholre Foods or picking a fish that just happens to not yet be overfished. Give it time people. They'll be next on the chopping blok. We eat them and move on to earthworms if we can find a way to make it palatable. There are 2x as many humans on this planet as there were when I was born, and there will likely be 3x or even 4x as many by the time I check out. 

Here is the final point, and this is where I'm really going to piss some of you off so thankfully I've buried it beneath the fold of the attention span of the average blog reader: no one is talking about the reality here, and the fact that NPR and PBS and Planned Parenthood are on the chopping block too is a really, really bad sign for the future of anything except for a world of uneducated worker drones. (Read that link. I fucking dare you.) 

This is not a Swiftian satire, though I am prone to those. For once I am being, sadly, dead serious. Let me paint it very clear: the ONLY, and I mean ONLY, way we are going to survive as a species is if we either implement some serious restrictions on reproduction, or if we or nature herself kills a lot of us off. I mean a lot. I mean, half the world population, or more. And if that isn't done along with a considerable overhaul of our technology and societies which fall in line with coming into accord with the environments we live in, I hate to say it people but... even a student in ecology 101 knows what happens when a single species far outstrips its role within an ecosystem. It does kill off some of the other species but you know what happens after that? They die off. Not just some of them. All of them. A population growth that looks like a straight line up quickly turns into a straight line down, and it doesn't end until there isn't a goddamn member of that species left. And then stasis slowly returns. 

In other words, since we are now a species that does not naturally operate within a stasis with our environment, we either need to plan for it, or we're going to have to pay the highest price for our Hubris: our own extinction. 

Call me alarmist if you want. That's fine. God, I hope you're right. But I don't think I am. It's last call folks. And I'm not talking about for planet Earth. The Earth has weathered plenty of die-off events. Smoke 'em while you've got em. The clock is ticking. 

Pre-order a copy of The Immanence of Myth, published by Weaponized in July 2011.

1 comment:

  1. Humans are creatures of catastrophe. We have throughout the fossil record been in recovery from one devastation to another, wiring us to run only when the tsunami is in sight. Maybe the only difference now is that presence, the awareness, the "myth" of doom. This gnosis no longer relegated to the starwatchers and shaman. Another trial of conciousness. An open-source apocalypse. If we choose wisely, we choose the true climax, we are prepared to survive it. And if we fail, we no longer suffer the future.



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