Hampered by design

June 4, 2007 at 4:23 am | Posted in Art, Beauty, Bees, Birds, Climate change, Economics, Environment, Flowers, Music, My photo, Nature, Photography, Poetry, Science, Water | Leave a comment

Ultimately, we are not judged by the success of a policy or strategy. We are judged by our humanity.

Those who come after us may carve in deep, angry letters on our tombstones:

“They measured out their economic successes well.

Pity them, and us,

that they destroyed the only natural world we know:

source of our nourishment, protection, fascination and enjoyment.

Hope everlasting was crushed by their selfish deeds.”

Robot © Tim Davies 2007

If I were a robot I would support the economists’ logical view of the world as a numerically identifiable finite resource. My creed:

Assign numbers.

Allocate tasks.

Use it.

Evacuate upon depletion.

(Simple. Because I care not.)

P.S. ‘I am a human’.

Since I am a human being, I have other aspects to my life that make me human: I can ‘be’.

We can marvel at the beauty of the world in which nature has evolved independent of us over millennia. We can live in concert with nature, and have done so for most of humanity’s living history.

The new geological era—the Anthropocene—denotes we have changed our relationship with the natural world. The discussion of economics versus environment is new, because we are only just acknowledging our own damaging impact on the world around us. How can anyone walk in the country or sail at sea, listen to music, or watch a lamb being born, and deny future generations that privilege and joy, that calm, those surprises, those fears, that adventure?!

Bumble bee feeds on cow parsley flower-by-flower in May

Appreciation of the power and delicacy of nature, with its mathematically ordered arrangements contrasting with apparently chaotic scatterings of organic and inorganic materials, and its possibility of connections with the spiritual realm, and awareness of feelings—all these views are subjective. How dare we measure the artist by counting the grams of paint he uses on a canvas, or the poet by the number of penstrokes he uses on a page? Let alone, assign a numerical value to the natural world as though it could be recreated, should we so choose, at a later time!

Assigning numbers and tracking measurements are economic activities invented and performed by humans. Without humans, there is no economic activity. Economic activity that succeeds at the expense of destroying our natural world is bad by design. How else can we sensibly assess it?
By contrast, nature exists without us being around to plan, measure or track it. Stuff happens. The sooner we can design and implement an economic system that aligns its goals correctly with the natural world, taking into account its whims, dependencies and fragilities, the better.

Cygnet swims care free on water in May

Mankind has been given the privilege and task of being nominal caretakers of the Earth for future generations. We are stewards, called to stewardship. We are failing at our single most important task. Selfish humans, who care for nothing but their own wealth, or their own wealth masked cleverly by appeals to raise others out of poverty (while profiting from the process and the results) are not admirable, noble heroes, but miserable examples of what man can become.

Note on images: Cheerful robot artwork is an original by my good friend Tim Davies. I took these photos on a walk at The Royal Landscape, Virginia Water, last week. Use them, by inel.

Note on motivation: This post was triggered, but does not directly answer, a post by fergus entitled Fundamental differences? It made me think. How can an environmentalist and an economist talk to each other? They speak different languages: an interpreter is needed.


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