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The State of the Oceans

Some crappy (not happy) news (it's not really news I guess) on Talk of the Nation's Science Friday last week. Also, a nice related post on Vegan Blog.

The show is about the sate of the Oceans, based on the findings of a comission charged with developing recomendations for a new comprehensive national ocean policy.

Polution, uncontrolled coastal development, habitat destruction, over fishing... it's got it all. Listen to it if you aren't afraid to take responsibility for youreslf and your consumption habits.

It's really amazing to me how nobody I know would argue with findings such as those related to plastic particles in the ocean, seeming to indicate that it is pretty much common sense that what we are doing is just not good for the earth. I'm not just talking about paper vs. plastic at the checkout counter mind you, I'm talking *everything* we consume that is wrapped in or made of plastic right down to those annoying little plastic caps that came on the ends of the cables I encouraged when I bought my mac. It's my fault too... (in retrospect, if I had it to do over, I would not have purchased the new computer. Not just because of that of course, but because the whole thing is just not worth the environmental costs)

I just can't figure out why so much attention in the blogosphere is given to the war in Iraq, as worthy as it is of our attention, but the bigger threat to *all* of humanity and all other life on this planet repeatedly goes unmentioned. I would guess it has something to do with the fact that with the war in Iraq, we can all just blame good old Bush, crying and stomping our feet about how he is only representing his own interests, not ours... with the exception of one day in November, we feel pretty much free from responsibility.

Reducing our use of plastics on the other hand... that's a daily responsibility. There is no one to blame for failure but ourselves really. I guess it's just a lot easier to spend so much time complaining than it is to spend just a little time changing our own habits.



Ah, my friend -- you're on to something here!

There is no question that the Western left, of which the blogosphere left is a part, are mostly secular agents of the enlightenment project. Now, this project has had many beneficial consequences mind you -- the notion of universal rights is one of them and the idea of total liberty as a ideological bulwark for those rights is arguably another.

But modern enlightenment has also had tremendous downsides -- famously Max Horkheimer and Theodor Adorno in The Dialectic of Enlightenment revealed that the construction of the Enlightenment project at the end of the 18th century worked on the premise that culture must dominate nature. Thus, the secular left today who are agents of this project continue to (mostly unconsciously) work in the tradition of being pro-culture, by which they mean anti-nature (i take it that not being pro-nature is anti-nature in the face of global ecological crisis and mass extinction).

There is a huge blindspot then across the political left and the right. But it is something which must be outed, and there really is little time to lose in doing it. This outing has been attempted over the last 70 odd years -- Lewis Mumford was perhaps the first great outer with his concept of the Megamachine. But look at what has happened ecologically during this time span. Since the first Earth Day alone in 1971, the statistics are horrific and astounding that the global economy is effecting planetary collapse and mass suffering.

Therefore, we really cannot afford any longer to "rank oppressions" and say no to so-called environmental concerns until such time as all human rights are put in order. We cannot afford to fail to worry about the global oceans until colonial nations go home. This is all part of one giant process. We need to understand and think both through.

But in doing this, yes, in asking the chickens to leave the factory farms and come home to roost, we also implicate ourselves as agents of the modernizing global economic order. Now, mind you, I don't want to insist that you can't have the new computer b/c of the coltan and the plastic wrap, etc. It may be that in having it you are able to effect more good than the harm done -- you may use it to organize political groups or get the message out about ecological collapse. You may need to have it in order to do your job.

I don't think we can call upon individuals to completely unhook themselves as the answer -- the Unabomber was maybe not as crazy as the media paraded him to be, but his political agenda was still unrealistic. We need collective change, which will involve individual transformation as a part of it. But individuals going primitive does not cause collective progress.

But individuals awakening to the effects of production and consumption patterns and changing their own relationship to buying and ownership as a result, this is a real start. Making do with an older computer system that works fine but is not the next new thing at the speed of Moore's Law is in fact an imperative. Turning to a more ethical diet is also on the list, as far as I can see.

But the point is not conforming to a standard list of "thou shalts" but rather learning how one is contradictorily helping to destroy people and the planet through one's actions and then transforming those behaviors as a result to more ethical relations whenever and wherever possible.

This is an exercise in education, not totalitarization.

It's not what we must do. But what do we know that we do, what do we believe are its consequences, what information is coming in to us that reveals that our belief patterns are mistaken, how will this new information serve to catalyze new ways of doing things such that we live in better accordance with our beliefs...

I agree that it is useless to effect change if the people who care all decide to live in isolation. As much as I hate being controlled by my computer, I know I can never really get rid of it. The thing is that I do have a "working good enough" computer here. The newer mac certainly has some advantages, but seeing as how I lived with the the other computer for 4 years, I could have probably lived with it even longer. I'm not saying that I shouldn't have a computer, just that I shouldn't have purchased a new one.

I think where the idea of unplugging oneself sounds so appealing though, is that looking at the task of changing the world is so depressingly impossible. Unplugging seems to easy, as if we can just unplug ourselves from responsibility.

I totally agree with you on the point of not using a list of "thou shalts". Although it's tempting to try to make rules, and is certainly easier for the consumer if they have a list in their pocket saying "You can buy this, you can't buy that", I don't think that has near the value as if people look at everything they buy *before* they buy it, and think for two minutes about where it comes from, where it will go, who is effected by the purchase, what corporations/industries are benefitting from the purchase, what would happen if not just me, but also billions of people purchased the same product...

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