This is a collection of thoughts in no particular order, or rather, in particular disorder.
I find the world very interesting and I’m going to try and share how and why on this blog.
I’m most interested in the things that human beings do and make for each other, what might broadly be called culture.
I’m also interested in the things that human beings do to and with the stuff this Earth is made of, and whether these things are sustainable, which might broadly be called environmentalism.
Of course, everything we do for each other involves stuff, and everything we do with stuff affects us too.
So I’m basically exploring the effects of earthly matter on humanly culture, and of humanly culture on earthly matter.
The environment is not a thing, but a way of thinking about how we humans interact with the things of the Earth. No environmentalist should speak of saving the planet; contemporary environmentalism, especially around climate change, peak oil, food scarcity and so on, is really concerned with saving ourselves. I am particularly interested in public perceptions of and attitudes towards environmental issues, and how these are made up of not only the facts which result from scientific inquiry, but stories, conversations, debates, songs, happenstance, magazines, television, the internet, all the ways in which we communicate and translate knowledge and information. It seems to me that environmental problems today are social problems so vast that we don’t want to face up to them, so we file them away under ‘environmentalism’ and let the Greens, and our children, worry about them instead, while we continue to relentlessly track stocks, jobs and GDP.
Culture and the environment are seldom discussed together, owing to such dualities as nature/society, mind/matter etc. It’s also fairly uncool to talk about the environment, it’s not fun or sexy. These are mental barriers which make it difficult to discuss the two at the same time. There will be times I don’t talk about the environment at all, and times when I don’t talk about culture at all. I think this is ok. I’m not really sure where all these ramblings will take me. Ultimately I want to believe that a life can exist which is both culturally vibrant and environmentally sustainable, contrary both to the old-fashioned greens who try to stop people having fun and to the airhead glitterati who think that they can do absolutely anything with impunity. My wanderings on this blog will try and answer this question.
More fundamentally, I am intrigued by what might be (pretentiously?) dubbed the (im)materiality of Utopia. Utopia is a word fraught with multiple and contradictory meanings, bound up with hope and possibility, and fear and impossibility. To my mind, the most encompassing definition of Utopia at this time in this place is a society of both universal economic equality and universal individual freedom, for these two goals are often counterposed, the former as belonging to the political Left, and the latter as to the political Right. And yet, on their definitions alone, equality and freedom are not linguistic opposites. In examining the material interventions in the world resulting from the pursuit of these goals, I hope to find the friction which has, thus far, prevented both goals from being simultaneously achieved in Western societies, and perhaps, this friction elucidated, lubricate it.
I am also intrigued by claims that all the resources and technology exist today to provide a healthy and vibrant life for every person on the planet without conditions of debt or servitude, and that it is only arcane and outdated social institutions which prevent us from reaching this goal. As an empirical question, I will do my best to find parts of the answer as to the viability of such a claim, but as a philosophical question, I will do even more to consider the effects that such a societal arrangement would have on the human condition. Perhaps we are less likely to be violent in a world where we have all we need. Perhaps we will be motivated to reach our potential for the acclaim alone. Or perhaps we will despair at the impossibility of self-determination, and lie around doing nothing, having the world spoon-fed to us, vegetating. In any case, it would be a steady-sate economy, which would surely be more sustainable than our current global economy, with its spirals, spikes and crashes, forcing ever more resources to be converted into ever more goods to be bought at ever increasing rates by people with ever increasing debts.
All Our Worldly Goods
So welcome to this incredibly generalist blog, trying to cover pretty much everything and hence probably only skimming the surface. You’ll probably end up with more questions than answers if you read it too much. I’m not a philosopher king who derides some small-minded pragmatism of reductionist science; I think that inquiry which does lead to concrete answers is very important. I’m just personally not inclined to think and work in that way. I’m more interested in posing new questions (or at least reframing old questions) for others to answer. I hope I can put a bit of the environment into out culture, and a bit of culture into our environmentalism.