Monday, December 16, 2013

13 thoughts on the so-called environment

1. We have this word we use, 'environment'. I think we shouldn't use it, or at least that we should put ironic quotes around it when we do, like I just did.

2. The word divides the world into two parts. All 'environment' means is the bit that isn't you, or us.

3. Once you use the word, you think of yourself and your 'environment' like they're things, as a couple of options amongst all the things there can be. And you regard this 'environment' like you regard other things, as a potential object of interest or not. “John is interested in cakes. Miranda is interested in cars. Ralph is interested in the environment.”

4. Once you've decided there's these two things in the world, us and our 'environment', the only way you could look after this so-called environment is by being a good person, by being altruistic. Rather than just looking after yourself, you will be a good person and look after this thing that is not you.

5. The Deep Ecology movement calls the altruistic ecology, the one that divides the world into us and not-us and then says we should be nice people and look after the not-us bit, 'shallow ecology'. They also regard it as doomed, because most of us can't sustain selflessness for long.

6. They say what we need is not a more altruistic way to be a self, but a more realistic sense of what a self is.

7. Because the self that's created when we believe in words like 'environment' in anything other than an ironic or pragmatic sense is pretty much bullshit. There is no environment, and there is no us. All there is is an ecology, a mesh of stuff interacting, eating each other and shitting each other and fucking each other and giving birth to each other. We're just the bit of it that has the capacity for abstraction, and therefore the capacity for forgetting.

8. We're like almond blossoms forgetting we're part of the tree, or people on TV thinking they'll persist when the screen is turned off. All they are is a pattern, a configuration of the screen's radiance. When the radiance fades, so do they.

9. How to remember? They say logical argument won't work. That to remember what you are, that you're a fold, a twist, a knot in a sticky inescapable web, a knot with the capacity to forget but still just a local tying-together of much longer threads, takes something else, something that operates on your little heart-of-hearts. Because in your little heart-of-hearts you think you're something else. But your little heart-of-hearts is full of shit on this one and so is mine.

10. Woundedness is part of it, I think. To remember your knottedness in a world that forgets is to walk through a world of people who keep self-harming, punching themselves in the face and hacking at their limbs and putting out their eyes. It's an experience full of tenderness.

11. It's also to be part of a vast lineage: the lineage of life and of survival. We are the direct descendents of everyone and everything in history that managed to stay alive. Did you know that millenia ago the dominant form of life on earth shat oxygen? That's why we have so much of it. But they were so good at it that they threatened to wipe themselves out, to drown the world and themselves in their own shit.

12. What happened? They - our ancestors - evolved into something that ate oxygen. We are here because our ancestors learned to eat their own shit.

13. That's funny and disgusting and mysterious, and that might be the third thing. Our embeddedness and knottedness runs deeper than logic or language. We're made of it and it's hard to talk about. But one thing we can say about it is survival is fundamental to this funny mysterious disgusting lineage. Our ancestors are the survivors, the ones who didn't get voted off the island and so, potentially, are we. If we can remember who we are.


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