Friday, December 19, 2008

Engine and Source

I tend to think that while the universe is in a state of decay (2nd law of TD and all that), the earth is being radiated by the sun and is thus not a closed system and not necessarily in a state of decay; it is being fed energy. Babies are still born and plants and animals produce after their kinds. Creativity takes place. Creativity. Generation. Building. Organizing. National GDP's can increase over successive years. There can be new life and growth in localized regions of space-time. Grass is fed by mulch. Life springs from death. Progress can be made - scientific, religious, civil, other. Ok great.

Therefore, the underlying assumption behind recycling is not vain. Meaning, it is not a hopeless cause, as if no matter what we do the earth is inevitably spiraling toward wrath and ruin and the red dawn. Moreover, we are charged with dominion over the earth, so we even have a divine mandate. Think of environmental stewardship as like cleaning up your room. A great big room we all share. In the shape of a sphere. With green leafy things and flowing rivers. Within which we build houses. Ok.

Granted, we may have intamural disagreements about how to take care of it (whether anthropogenic C02 causes a sustained and net harmful net rise in mean global temperature and what to do about it, for example).

But we should all here agree now that respecting the Creation is one way to respect the Creator. Nothing here needs to be said about worshipping nature or foisting a yoke of micromanagement and mind control on the masses. Certainly any cause may be hijacked for purposes such as those, but I am not doing such here now today. Ok.

I tend to think that humanity is meant for greatness, for generosity, for creativity, technology, growth, and exploration. It started in a garden and ends in a city.

So, while the old mantra goes something like "reduce, recycle, reuse", I don't like the "reduce" part of things. No. I want to drive an SUV - bigger and better! Hell yes! I want to build big, beautiful homes. Yes! Jewelry and fashion and the domestication of animals! Space exploration! Complexity! Games! Humor! Art!

Now, while I can understand periods of heightened conflict and thus perhaps the need to "reduce" from time to time, I do not think that slowing the rate at which we generate or create or produce should be anyone's ultimate goal.

All this to say that really what we need are:

1. A way to produce clean energy. Energy that can be conveniently harnessed, whose waste product is 100% recycled (more on this in a bit), whose environmental impact is 100% acceptable and better (more on this in a bit). Green energy. Solve a lot. Huge.
2. A way to recycle everything. It's like - thousands of years, and the BEST solution we've come up with is "uh... just pile it in a heap over there where I don't have to look at it". Honestly. And more than the heap solution - we still let poisons seep into ground water (prego women can't eat fish because of this - and don't get me started on air pollution-related deaths and diseases. sick. and why would anyone think that breathing in gunk and smog isn't bad? I spent a day in my attic, five minutes of which I spent without a particle mask, and I was already coughing up a lung. Breathing junk isn't good - why think then that spewing it into the air to begin with is just fine? No no.).

But by "recycle" I have to mean something difficult to describe while lazy. I really mean something other than "don't create waste" and something more like "don't waste anything" or "don't damage anything that ought not be damaged".

Matter is fundamentally good, thus, nothing can fundamentally, inherently, naturally, be a poison. Matter is good. It can be arranged in ways that are destructive to other arrangements of matter.

Don't destruct. Construct.

Now on to arbitrariness and the environment. First of all, humans are part of nature. By this I mean that we are a part of the universe - we live in it - we are made of matter. Pretending that the best way for humans to live is for humans to have zero influence or impact on the environment is silly. I am not denying that we aren't qualitatively distinct. Just that we shouldn't be considered hostile or unnatural components of the universe. We shouldn't try to keep things how they would be if we weren't here. No no, we are part of it.

Umm. Where was I. Australia. And Australia is entirely peopled with criminals. And criminals are used to having people not trust them. As you are not trusted by me. Ok enough. Enough!

Shoot, where was I? Arbitrariness! Haven't even really gotten there yet. So point one was that we shouldn't try to keep things they way they might have been in our absence. The second point is this: we shouldn't pretend that the environment isn't dynamic.

It changes.

Hard to believe, I know. But the entire Forest Service, funded by taxpayers in a collapsing economy, is dedicated to finding wilderness nobody ever really goes to, and "restoring" its "original" condition. The prospect of explaining to you everything I think is wrong with that is overwhelming.

But my main point here is that the environment changes. Change is not fundamentally bad and we need to come to grips with that.

Ok next.

Arbitrariness. Right. There are a broad range of conditions between which it is ethically acceptable to decide arbitrarily. There is some arbitrariness in beauty (sorry Plato) - even if you believe beauty is in some sense "objective". There is some arbitrariness in landscaping. There is some arbitrariness in large-scale landscaping. Ok.

You know, I think I've made some of my main points.

This was going to be a post about something different, something bigger, but the intro took too long. I have lost writing steam. At least blogging steam. I have been studying the Kingdom of God recently. More recently, I have gotten carried away researching Tyre, and the timeline of creation.

Don't care how long this is. Gonna post.

Not yet-CONCLUSION: We should invest in clean energy (intentionally vague) and we should learn how to not waste or destruct (intentionally broad).


  1. i liked the part where you said it would be overwhelming to explain everything wrong with the forest service's mission statement.

    i appreciate your putting forth games along with art and science as things we should enjoy.

    this was funny "i think i've made some of my main points."

    i think i'm going to watch a football game today between the titans and the steelers and really enjoy it as a demonstration of human ability, emotional strength, logistical coordination, and social revelry, while maintaining a "healthy" perspective and, i won't say without envy, but with a self-awareness of it.

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  3. I like your jab at plato concerning arbitrariness. Leibniz thought, via the principle of sufficient reason, that everything about Creation has a specific non-arbitrary reason behind it. In my paper this semester concerning whether there is a best possible world and whether God must create it, I argued there's no single best possible world but a potentially infinite amount of them. The reason why is because I think there's a potentially infinite amount of ways a perfectly good world could be arranged, or, to say the same thing backwards, there's an infinite set of different worlds that are all equally (and maximally) good. I'm not sure how relevant this is to your post, but I enjoy just thinking about it.

    On your comments and thoughts about our relation to the environment. It's true we're made of matter, and this fact, as you point out, is compatible with our being qualitatively distinct from matter, and this is because descartes was fundamentally right.

    This upcoming semester my department is offering a course called "Environment Philosophy". Notice, not just "Environmental Ethics", but Environmental Philosophy. I'm not too sure yet, but I have a hunch its entire premise is basically "the universe is a symbiotic interconnected system; so much so that it's an entirely synthetic (arbitrary?) thing to distinguish one thing from another in an absolute sense". I couldn't disagree more with such a premise (hence why I'm not taking the class!), but the motive behind such madness I can stomach. The motive being, "hey look, the way we treat our environment reflects our care for ourselves".

    ... When I was worried that I might really have to take the class I started thinking of potential paper topics. I settled on one entitled "Towards an Environmental Nihilism". The premise was that because we, the pieces of the universe we call "homo sapiens" are nothing but atoms in a void that was arranged by natural laws, ergo what we do isn't up to us anymore than the laws of physics are up to us, ergo, if we can destroy the environment, its nothing more than nature destroying itself. This argument, of course, is disingenuous on my part, since I'm a libertarian and avid anti-evolutionist. So the paper would be a reductio of determinism and naturalistic evolution for anyone who thinks we should do something about our environment...

    Love you Louis.

    my word verification is: scrabl

  4. I am happy with these comments. I highly anticipate Derek's visit. Highly.

  5. "Think of environmental stewardship as like cleaning up your room. A great big room we all share. In the shape of a sphere. With green leafy things and flowing rivers. Within which we build houses. Ok."

    I thought this part was funny.

    I think there is value in preserving old things and looking at them. I say this about forests especially because when I am in the middle of a forest that is all but untouched I feel close to God and when I am surrounded by buildings and manmade things I sometimes forget about Him. I love the forest service and I hope they do a good job. I like that there are still vast swaths of land that look almost like they did a hundred and a thousand years ago. Progress is not incompatible with this aim, I think. Must we really progress onto every inch of land on the planet?

  6. "It started in a garden and ends in a city." That's funny. I once heard it put this way: Rural areas are defined by having more plants than people. Suburbs areas are defined by having more people than plants. God loves people more than he loves plants. Therefore He loves the suburbs more than the rural areas!

    Good post.


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