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Hubris

28 May 2010 2 comments

I have to apologise for not having posted for a while. I’ve been too involved with the hockey playoffs to care about much else, but the perilous state of the world has finally roused me to keyboard.

I often rag on North American, individualist, capitalist culture because I’m convinced that the planet cannot survive it unless something drastic happens to mitigate our approach to life.

Two more signs of the apocalypse under the general heading of Hubris that make me despair for our futures even more. If you don’t know what hubris means, check it out on Wikipedia and come back when you’re done.

Sign number one: Everyone is following the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. As of the latest newscast, ‘Top Kill’, which I understand is an attempt to cap the well by injecting junk into the hole – rocks, old tires, DVDs of seasons 3 and 4 of Heroes, whatever crap no ones needs that could be used to bung up the well . . . but I digress, which is the whole point of this exercise as far as I’m concerned . . . but I digress. Anywho, Chevron, I think it is (sorry if I’ve got it wrong and call off the legal team) is planning to drill a well A MILE DEEPER than the one in the Gulf, in the North Atlantic off the coast of Newfoundland and Labrador. Should this well go south (no Gulf pun intended) it would take 11 days to move a rig from the Gulf of Mexico to drill a relief well . . . and if drilling a relief well would solve the problem, why hasn’t one been drilled in the Gulf, where the rig that would drill the relief well in the North Atlantic would come from. And after 11 days to simply drag the thing over, while thousands and thousands of barrels of crude seep into the ocean, it’s unknown how long it would then take to dig that well, AND, it’s also unknown whether it would work. SO, as we watch the Gulf spill overtake the Exxon Valdez as the largest disaster in petro history, should we learn a lesson about HUBRIS and decide to forgo that well in the North Atlantic, just in case sh*t happens, as it is wont to do? I doubt it. After all, what are the odds of ANOTHER huge, unmitigated, devastating event . . . pretty small, eh?

Sign number two: Scientists in California have created life by replacing some poor shnook bacterium’s DNA with DNA, not previously found in nature, that they cooked up on a bunsen burner next to the microwave in the lunchroom. So, let’s see . . . man-made DNA, not previously found in nature, used to turbo charge a bacterium with a hole in its heart and a yen for revenge. What could possibly go wrong in this scenario?

But our scientific-rationalist model just can’t leave well enough alone. After all, homo sapien is the pinnacle of creation and we can do no wrong. Imagine the economic potential in home-made life forms! Not to mention the thrill of playing Gods. If it’s possible, some idiot will do it.

Not much has changed since the Greeks invented Hubris, and Pandora’s box, and Oedipus, and Cassandra and all those other cautionary tales meant to protect us from ourselves – at least not here in the West where I live (in trepidation).

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Plastic Bags

2 April 2010 Leave a comment

Plastic bags bring 2 questions immediately to mind.

What is it about us that enables us to invent a new substance that is pretty much indestructible? Have you heard the expression, ‘stubborn as a plastic bag in a landfill?’ ‘Nuff said. And by us, I mean Euro-American capitalist culture.

What is it about us that makes the act itself of inventing stuff more important than the consequences, or even allowing us to step back, take a deep breath, and decide that maybe we ought to put less value on the intrinsic thrill of discovery and more on thinking through the consequences? Nuclear power? Yeah, I’m sure that someone will figure something out, in the millions of years it will take before the toxicity dissipates. Hey, there might be a Nobel prize in her somewhere!

And the second question is whether, had that discovery occurred in some other culture, they might have had the sense to say to themselves, OK, plastic seems like a really cool thing, but what are we going to do when we start drowning in the stuff?

It could be that the facility to create – that drive to find cool new stuff –  is inextricably linked to the ability to ignore the consequences. I’m sure there are platoons of phd candidates in social psychology busily cranking out dissertations on that very relationship. If we didn’t have that drive, would be all be Na’vi? And would that be a bad thing? Obviously, I wouldn’t be blogging about it if we were . . .