Friday, February 15, 2008

the future ground beneath our feet

many thoughts about the future.. here are some things we need to see:

artificial land

ocean-borne civilization and agriculture, including seaweed

public composting to fill in need for fertilizer

organizations that will pay people to garden/farm suburban spaces. for instance in easement areas between subdivision.

I tend to think the world will face a shortage of food and good land. we need to start thinking about how to live in a world that's scarred by ecological damage rather than focusing on prevention, which is impossible as long as no one is willing to stand up to india and china. why isn't anyone talking about cutting off trade with them completely. why must the US and europe carry the mantle of environmentalism, while they replicate car-based american sprawl?

why can't one banker on wall street, one CEO, or one politician say this? why do we stand by idly while new coal-fired powerplants and buildings are constantly coming into existence? perhaps our culture has become so corrupted with cynicism that no one thinks there's anything they can do about it. it's pretty pathetic to me as an american. we are the country that went from having a tiny military in 1940 to becoming the global superpower in 3-5 years -- less time than we have been in iraq now.. and we're so scared of pissing off beijing that we allow our planet to be destroyed and a new enemy state to emerge in our gaze. these are the same people who stormed into north korea in 1950 against our marines. they wish to see our country weaker and to challenge us. why are we helping them become our rival? can someone please ask that at davos next year?

regarding american cynicism... this from nyt about susan jacoby on why americans hate knowledge:

But now, Ms. Jacoby said, something different is happening: anti-intellectualism (the attitude that “too much learning can be a dangerous thing”) and anti-rationalism (“the idea that there is no such things as evidence or fact, just opinion”) have fused in a particularly insidious way.

my simple observation on this, which I was unable to post on the nyt website is that she is describing the dark side of the cartesian american conciousness described by de tocqueville. he said americans only care about what is of immediate importance to them. there was a time when people were concerned about real things like growing food, etc, because they had a direct relevance... growing up on a farm, there was never ambiguity in terms of what had to be done and what worked. people knew that swamps could be drained, crops could be planted and towns could be built because they were accomplishing it. greatness and progress was a very real thing and self-evident. since this perception derives from what the individual perceives, it's inherently cartesian.

what happens when kids no longer grow up milking cows, fixing fences and clearing fields? what happens when the conciousness of children is spent in artificial environments like videogames and television? reality is no longer something out there that you conquer and control yourself. people don't see themselves changing the world, standing up for greatness or influencing the course of events. there's simply a sense that "everything is crooked" and "it doesn't matter"... I think this is a big part of what jacoby is saying

one more thing I think that can't be ignored is the protestant heritage of the USA... this country was settled by men with nothing but a bible and a shotgun. these were people who despised popery and mystic authority. there was always a sense that legitimization and authority comes from the individual rather than an ordained figure. when people are being rational and fair, this can produce some great outcomes... for example, large numbers of middle class whites from the north signed up to help the civil rights movement in the 1960s. they didn't care that it was in another state and that it had always been that way. they didn't accept history or tradition as authority. instead they used their own sense of right and drove history forward.

but this kind of self-directed thinking also leads to extreme myopia and disregard for things like the location of iraq and kenya on the map.

one other thing to think about in terms of the protestant heritage in the USA is to contrast it with venezuela ... their adoration of bolivar and other notable leaders reminds one of priestly authority. they have always had a facination with vulgar quasi-philosophers who rambled about the proletariat in history ... busts and monuments of strange intellectuals with glasses are found throughout central caracas. it's simply a reflection of how another country seeks out authority from an idealized metaphysical realm. they seek mysticism and higher authority. just as american protestants hated the pope, we avoid such notions.

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