(a.2) Death of the Specter | Man, Reborn (continued from part III)
“Nature doesn’t give us a stable, safe climate that we make dangerous. It gives us an ever-changing, dangerous climate that we need to make safe.”
We have hitherto concretized the specter of earth; recognizing it as that aggregation of views which subtend the view that man has separated himself from nature (Sjoo’s patriarchy, the abandonment of nature, the nurturing mother) and has thus – through horrific machinations (Ellul’s technique) – become nothing but a virus, crawling out upon the face of all the world, mindlessly consuming and destroying; endlessly; pointlessly. Forever unsated. It is the summation of all beliefs that posit man-as-locust, a ceaseless, rapaciously chthonic being which has, through the acquisition of forbidden knowledge and it’s ruthless implementation, cut himself off from some predetermined essence; the key, according to the cultists of the earth, to right and proper being (harmonic accord with some idealization of “nature”). We, however, recognize this idea for what it really is, anti-human philosophy and nothing else besides. But why should philosophy even be utilized for the advancement of humanity in any wise? In section a.1 we posed the question: “Should Man continue the process of reifying his immanence, thus synthesizing the manifest and scientific images or doing away with one or the other or should he cease and desist altogether?” The answer to the question lies in a sound understanding of whether or not one cares for all that one can conceivably care for within and of oneself, first and foremost. The answer, in short, is to be found in one’s standard of evaluation, one’s hierarchy of values (elseways there can be no values but only a value); that is, to interrogate the placement of humanity (or some portion thereof) as the highest value, or, the placement of some other notion as the highest standard, such as “the good,” or “god,” or “the goddess” or, “nature.” Ellul’s declaration that, “Life in such an environment [technological society] has no meaning,” is symptomatic of his belief that all meaning can only come from god who made the natural world, thus, man’s dominion over nature (in effect, over god) is somehow “unnatural” and thus, meaningless, or worse, evil. This is a consequence of his hierarchy of values; which, it needs to be said, everyone implicitly possesses (for instance, everywhere is wanton and ceaseless slaughter condemned), whether they are aware of it or not. The task of making such implicit values explicit is a useful one, given that a proper cognizance of one’s values thus allows one to re-evaluate them. Failing this, one will be, by and large, at the mercy of his passions, his drives and the passions and drives of the crowd and the cognizized philosophies of those that conduct them. Upon reflection it is clear that one must hold some value, for even the most contrarian and extreme of philosophical systems of non-evaluation require it. For instance, nihilism is widely considered to be the greatest expression of negation, but this position is not actually one which can be logically held, for in declaring that everything is meaningless one is also, simultaneously, declaring that that very proclamation is itself meaningful, as the statement “everything is meaningless” is itself a statement of meaning. This is true of many such positions which attempt near or total value-negation; for instance, total relativism, just as with nihilism, is not a position which can be logically held due to the fact that the statement “everything is relative,” is, itself, a non-relativistic statement. One could continue on at length but the picture is well and clear enough. Thus, if meaning is inescapable it is merely a question of where best to allocate such meaning (the allocation of meaning being the basis of value). If a man is to allocate, at the first, his significance towards anything other than survival of the organism and it’s propagation, then he has made a grievous mistake and is likely not long for this world, for it is survival of the organism which must, of necessity, take precedence over all other values for any other values to, of necessity, be at all possible, for the dead are afforded no valuations of their own. This axiom bares no circumnavigation, for if no humans were to exist, no value (at least no human generated value) would – or even could – exist. What, after all, would it mean to say that a world which consisted of nothing but hydrogen sealed within a radiation filled vacuum had value or meaning? What would it have meaning to? If a given thing is to have meaning it must, minimally, be meaningful to some thing. There are no values without a valuer. Therefore, a world without something(s) which could establish realization(s) (thus implying qualia) would be unable to initiate intrinsic valuation and thus would also be barred from creating extrinsic, normative conceptions of value-relation (to themselves or other things), hence, meaning-as-such would be rendered impossible. Therefore, meaning-as-such, can only be found in the (self)relational dynamics of qualitative entities (organic or otherwise). The originary grounding of being then can only be found in, not consciousness itself, but in sufficiently complex consciousness which is capable of realizing itself as conscious. Given that humans are the only animals who we can be certain are conscious of their consciousness (due the fact we possess it), anthropocentrism must be taken up and vigorously defended against the agrestic advances of the anti-humansif there is to be any valuation at all; which is to say, if the organism is to survive. Thus, if one’s highest value or values are contained within survival then one is also for the promulgation and spread of humanity (or some portion thereof) for that, as well, is part of survival, as the concept is not one whose interests are confined solely to the present. The application and continuation of meaning into the future then, is the ratification of those actions at a latter point in time. To further this end, to solidify this value, then, we posit the project of reifying anthropocentric immanence. We reject and decry those who should attempt to sabotage this project by pathetic appeals to “nature” or some deity or deities. They are the whining baggage of a desiccated age that has passed them by. Away with all of them. We, in contrast, affirm that unity subordinated by intelligence and it’s direction of theoretical exploration towards practical application, is the basis of all earthly power which man has hitherto achieved and that this is a laudable undertaking but that it’s magnification and ultimate terminus is to be found in the consolidation of celestial power. We affirm that we do not exist for the earth, but that the earth exists and thus is to be used or discarded or destroyed should we so declare. Our whim alone decides its fate. We affirm that there is no harmonic accord to be found within the natural order of things in relation to the dynamics of species on the whole; it matters not how many times you fawn and praise and aid a centipede, it will, given sufficient proximity, bite you all the same; it will tear into your flesh with it’s terrible mandibles without hesitation, without empathy and, were it of comparable size to a man, would think nothing of tearing your head free of the rest of the body, swallowing it and ripping open the abdominal cavity to better feast upon the marrow. One may bow at the altar of the willowy wood or the babbling brook with ceaseless adoration, it matters not to the yellow-fanged and dark-shrouded denizens of the former and the slithering, parasitic assassins of the latter. Be not seduced, there is seldom any living organism which will hesitate to slaughter and devour if a sufficiently exigent situation arises. It has been said that dogs are “man’s best friend,” yet this friendship is so tenuous that it is discarded the moment that pangs of hunger echo throughout the gullet. Were one to fall ill before their pet-dog and that pet was sufficiently hungry, it would think nothing of sinking its fangs into the face of it’s former master and devouring his flesh. Man, the whole of nature turns against you! Know this and rejoice! For what do you owe the holos? “You owe it all,” says the envirocrat, that slavish whipping boy of the specter, “and, given our safeguarding thereof, you owe us likewise, we the heralds of the new law!” We shall reply: We owe nothing to the savage ceaseless vortex, to the endless gnawing void; we owe our allegiance to all who share our dream of overcoming and suborning it.
Despite the elucidation of such realizations, the opinion of man-as-locust is – and likely will remain – a common one. Consider the words of research biologist for the National Park Service, David M. Graber, who, in his Los Angeles Times review of The End of Nature, a book by the American environmentalist, Bill McKibben, describes mankind as “a plague.” Graber begins his piece ominously, “If you feel a wrench in the gut when both American and Soviet astronauts remark that from their space perches the Earth today appears pockmarked with deforestation, dulled by smoke and everywhere marred by human activity-”
That last portion is really quite revealing about Graber’s rabid anti-human attitudes. “Marred by human activity.” What of all the activity of the ants or the beavers? Both species are possessed of those destructive and constructive elements held by humanity at large; both take from their constitutive environments all that is necessary to build their domiciles, the ant-hill and the beaver-dam, because it services them. Yet to the envirocrat, such deconstructive/reconstructive processes are not decried, not even remarked upon; it is not to be supposed that they do not object due to the scale (though the crucial issue should be principality), for there are many examples of ecologically transformative species who are far more numerous than human-kind. Beetles, which account for approximately 40% of all known and cataloged arthropod species, can be incredibly destructive to many inhabitants of their local environments. Take, for instance, the Mountain Pine Beetle (Dendroctonus ponderosae), small and black they burrow into and hollow out trees, dispensing fungus which, given time, degrade and ultimately kills the occupied ligneous plants. According to the science-writer, Daniel Strain, the Mountain Pine Beetle has been responsible for the destruction of 13 million hectares of forest in British Canada in the past decade. Every year this voracious little creature decimates 16,000 hectares of mature timber in the Kamloops of Canada alone, the primary victim being lodgepole pine, though, where it can, it will also invade and destroy poderosa, whitebark pines and western white pines. The FIDS annual report with ancillary MOF data for the Kamloops region shows that from 1987 to 2000 tree mortality rates incurred by the beetles has remained relatively consistent, sometimes falling slightly lower than average (1990, 6000 trees destroyed) and sometimes rising much higher than average (1999, 30,700 trees destroyed). The timber loss effectuated by the pine beetles invariably proceeds to effect the entire ecology, often having profound effects upon fisheries due to the change-ups in the watershed brought about by the destruction of so many trees. This type of ecological transformation might be bad for the fish and other wildlife which rely on particularities of water-flow, but it is certainly in the interest of the pine beetles and those creatures that have formed parasitic and symbiotic relationships with them, who, through the construction of bore-tunnels, create what are referred to as brood galleries, elaborate tunnel-systems which are made within the phloem tissue of a given pine which are so distinctive that they can be used to differentiate the work of Dendroctonus ponderosae from various other types of wood-boring beetles, such as the Ips pini (whose tunnel architecture is considerably less daedal). Yet one is very, very unlikely to hear – with any regularity – environmentalists calling these beetles “a plague.” Why? The answer is either that such green-dreaming meliorists are not familiar with D. ponderosae or they are familiar with them but they simply consider the actions of the beetle to be “natural” and thus “good” (in contrast to Man who is “unnatural” and thus “bad” – a typical dogma borne out of the tradition of the specter).
Later in his piece, after quoting a tract by McKibben bemoaning man’s self-imposed separation from the “sweet and wild garden” of nature, Graber notes, “McKibben is saying that we have crossed some invisible line in our relationship with the Earth. For better or worse, we now are living on a man-made planet. Until anthropogenic global warming, the changes we wrought on the landscape were local, however grand. Whether we hunted and fished, cleared land and farmed it, or built cities, planetary forces continued to operate as they always had. The seasons, the wind and rain, the sunlight operated beyond the scope of human meddling. If, God willing, a tract of land was abandoned, nature reclaimed it. Nature was boss.”
If here nature is meant to mean “all that is” or “all that can be perceived” then it is pertinent to remind Graber and McKibben that man is a part of it. But the fact that he writes “nature reclaimed it” gives us pause, surely, by his usage of “nature” he is not referring to “all that is” but rather to “all that is outside of the immediate purview of man” (in essence, the wilderness). In one of the most ridiculous passages in Graber’s review, he notes, “Our growing skill at genetic manipulation may enable us to tailor the life forms we wish to survive our altered planet. ‘What will it mean to come across a rabbit in the woods, once genetically engineered rabbits are widespread? Why would we have any more reverence or affection for such a rabbit than we would for a Coke bottle?‘” At the first, we can readily remark that a Coke bottle differs from a rabbit in several important factors, the first and most stark of those factors is that a Coke bottle is not alive, it can not feel pleasure or pain, or indeed, anything at all. A piece of plastic is not cognizant of itself, thus there is no reason to have any concern whatsoever about the Coke bottle whereas there is reason for concern for the rabbit due to the fact that humans intrinsically understand that rabbits are alive and are sufficiently cognizant to exhibit behavioral characteristics which we recognize in ourselves. Fear, for instance, being chief among these emotions (like many other small mammalians, rabbits can literally be spooked to death). Furthermore, one must take into consideration precisely how the rabbit has been genetically engineered; this is crucial, for the value of the rabbit is extrinsic (since we cannot evaluate the rabbit on it’s own terms), thus, the nature of the changes wrought upon it are not trivial. If, for instance, these hypothetical rabbits had been modified such that they bolstered the strength of the critters to better pull sleds loaded with human goods with ease, their extrinsic value would be markedly improved over that of the common rabbit. Whereas, if the engineering made the rabbits rabid and violent, their value would be lowered, as they would become a potentially dangerous pest to human beings. But to Graber and other envirocrats who think like him, to evaluate how other species in our ecosystems actually effect us is irrelevant and to evaluate them in such a fashion is not just bad, but somehow vile.
In his next paragraph, Graber gets rather conceptually messy, “Books like this [McKibben’s] are supposed to end with an escape hatch. If we should all agree to use less energy and pollute less and . . . and then nature will survive. But as McKibben points out, it is too late. Global warming is already entrained; we are in for the ride, ready or not, and so are our innocent fellow travelers. Of course, as bad as things are, we always can make them worse. Nature may be finished, but there is still our own goose to cook. The climate will continue to heat until we sharply curtail the production of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases. Barring cold fusion or other nonexistent technologies, that requires a “reversal–not a cessation” of industrial growth.”
Graber’s ending paragraphs are the most disturbing, “That makes what is happening no less tragic for those of us who value wildness for its own sake, not for what value it confers upon mankind. I, for one, cannot wish upon either my children or the rest of Earth’s biota a tame planet, a human-managed planet, be it monstrous or–however unlikely–benign. McKibben is a biocentrist, and so am I. We are not interested in the utility of a particular species, or free-flowing river, or ecosystem, to mankind. They have intrinsic value, more value–to me–than another human body, or a billion of them.”
This is really quite something! It’s pure Singerism through and through. He lays out quite plainly and concisely that he does not believe that neither he nor McKibben care very much at all about “another human body or a billion of them.” If we are to take Graber at his word (and there is no reason not to) then he clearly believes that he, you, reading this now, and indeed the whole population of the United States of America is no more valuable than the ecosystem of a small tributary in Missouri. He continues,
“Human happiness, and certainly human fecundity, are not as important as a wild and healthy planet. I know social scientists who remind me that people are part of nature, but it isn’t true. Somewhere along the line–at about a billion years ago, maybe half that–we quit the contract and became a cancer. We have become a plague upon ourselves and upon the Earth. It is cosmically unlikely that the developed world will choose to end its orgy of fossil-energy consumption, and the Third World its suicidal consumption of landscape. Until such time as Homo sapiens should decide to rejoin nature, some of us can only hope for the right virus to come along.”
Up until this last line, one might have reasonably assumed that Graber meant well, but he reveals here that he means anything but; when he writes that “some of us” should hope for “the right virus to come along” he is taking a genocidal stance, however fanciful. What a disgusting thing to wish for; indeed, if one did not know anything of Graber’s philosophy one might think him completely mad. Both McKibben and Graber display a very odd kind of overactive empathy which, if taken seriously, if acted upon, would mean the deaths of millions, possibly billions, of people given that their plan for deindustrialization would be worse – far worse – than all out nuclear war. Then there is the muddiness of it all, the self-defeating ambiguity; for instance, what is it that he means when he writes that “until such time as Homo sapiens should decide to rejoin nature”? What does rejoining nature entail, precisely? Deindustrialization and the cessation of any and all reliable forms of energy is certainly a part of this vague, propositional process, but, in detail, what would it mean to rejoin nature? How have we been removed therefrom? Graber does not give us answers to these questions and neither does McKibben, both only mouth blackened doomsayings and anti-human drivel.
What is further important to note is that Graber and McKibben are in no wise peculiar in this regard, indeed, what is truly disturbing (or rather, what should be) is the fact that these ideas have so permeated and saturated the public discourse of almost every western society that they no longer elicit a sustained, negative response. To elaborate, consider a scenario wherein a public intellectual declares that he hopes “the right virus” comes along for any reason other than climate change; there would assuredly be a public outcry. What is the matter with that guy? Is he crazy? The public would inquire and rightly so. But when a public intellectual makes it known that he hopes that some millions or billions of people die in a catastrophe, it is considered not just permissible but noble if such a insane statement is made in defense of “nature.” This is the power of the specter.
The specter seems to owe allegiance to neither the political left or the right, to neither the rich nor the poor, to neither the faithful or the skeptical, to neither the intelligent nor the mentally lame. Further complicating the issue is the fact that the envirocrats who worship the specter – most of whom, it should be said, are fine and upstanding people – are not principally driven by logos, but by pathos. This pathos isn’t just reactive, but idealized and speculative, which makes it all the more stubborn and potentially dangerous. For example, one of the envirocats favorite issues is climate change. What is important to disentangle is not whether or not climate change is real (the climate is and always has been changing) but rather whether or not the climate change which is occurring will be – or has become – catastrophic. That is to inquire: How precisely is the climate changing and what will be the effects? What constitutes catastrophe? Here framework is crucial, for the lack of a rigorous structure for how to think about any given issue will invariably lead to unrigorous conclusions.