Monday, June 14, 2010

Progress Report: 6/14/2010

So here I thought this would be good time to take a day off from work -- have a nice long weekend, get some writing done, enjoy some hiking, that sort of thing. Then I pinch a nerve in my neck and spend most of the weekend in considerable pain. Plus, it rains all weekend.

Well, so much for that plan.

The old mutant healing factor does seem to be repairing the damage, so pain is diminishing today. It makes concentration difficult, this pain stuff. I'll be relieved when it finally subsides.

Given the circles I run in (such as my work place), it's no surprise that I run into the Gaia philosophy a lot. Roughly expressed, this is the idea that the planet has a consciousness, or the "Earth as God" (Goddess, perhaps). This is expressed in all sorts of ways, great and small, and people believe it to various degrees.

So let's go with that for now. Say there is a Gaia consciousness -- I certainly can't say with certainty that there is or isn't. With regards to the Gulf spill, it would seem to me that the question is not: "Why are we doing this to the planet?" I've heard variations on that one a lot, along with the idea that the planet is suffering, crying out, being raped, etc.

If one does accept the Gaia consciousness idea, then I think the question should be: "Why is the planet doing this to itself?" Because we are, after all, a part of the planet. We would be an agency of Gaia. Like every other animal, we try to spread our population, we consume things that give us energy, and we affect the environment through our behavior. The planet, if it is acting at all, is acting through us, as much as it acts through any ant colony, kelp bed, or volcanic eruption.

This is not to absolve us of responsibility, nor to suggest that we shouldn't try to avoid things like the Gulf spill. It's not to imply we couldn't do great harm to ourselves through our actions, or even drive ourselves to extinction if we really go overboard (extinction is an essential part of the planetary history). It's just that the mindset of separation from the Earth doesn't seem to do us much good. Even Gaia believers seem to hold this separation, as if our actions are somehow distinct from the consciousness of the Earth. Which, I think, undermines the whole idea of Gaia in the first place.


Kings said...

Wasn't the Gaia theory origonally not saying "Earth is alive, praise the mother goddess" but actually that there exists an environmental equilibrium and any change from that equilibrium causes a change in the ecosystem designed to correct the imbalance.

If the theory was true we should be seeing something show up to counter global warming.

Anyway I've never really gave much credit to the idea that mankind is destroying the planet. It's really overestimating our ability to affect the environment, at worst we'll kill ourselves off but life itself would survive pretty much everything we're doing now.

Sohum said...

Wouldn't humanity be more of a ... a cancerous growth?

Uncontrolled growth, invasion, and metastasis. Check, check, and check.

Grayson Towler said...


Eh... I actually think that obesity is a more useful metaphor than cancer, or perhaps addiction. You don't handle obesity by thinking of yourself as being at war with your body. There's no "us" and "them" in this equation, which is what I'm getting at.

Sohum said...

Well, that was the point I was trying to get at, right? That your rejection of us-v-them is not all that valid.

If you consider the earth to be a superorganism, then humanity is an out-of-control part of it. The analogy with cancer is actually really close. They've forgotten how to control their population and because of natural what-survives-survived phenomena, they take over.

Cancerous cells are still part of your body, and they were still produced by your body, but they just don't fit within the system that the body requires to work.

Grayson Towler said...


At some point, splitting hairs over metaphors becomes a zero sum game. To me, the "cancer" metaphor is fatalistic, which is why I don't care for it.

Gillsing said...

This makes me think of that fanfic where the human brain was considered a "thinking cancer":

From that perspective I suppose that humanity could be a cancer in the planet's ecosystem, and that's how we'd want it to be, because that's how we're used to being. We're certainly not going to go back to foraging for food in the wild, and let nature weed out the weak, like most of the other animals are forced to do. Is it really so bad to rebel against the body if it's being cruel to you? Besides, everything is made out of energy, and once we can turn solar energy into anything, we can make our own ecosystems. ;-)

Elyandarin said...

I find an interesting view is to imagine the current situation as a protracted and messy childbirth...

Sure, it's painful, things are bent out of shape, and there's the risk of damage or even death - but in the end, there'll probably be life on other planets.

Oh, and besides, humanity carries the potential for redirecting doomsday asteroids, which would be an incredibly useful ability for a planetary entity to have.