Wednesday, May 25, 2011

On the relationship between adaptability and what we have

With a changing climate and growing scarcity, I wonder how adaptable we may be to what nature throws in our way. In the future, maybe we will have more hurricanes of more and more power. Maybe precipitation will increase, and the banks of the Mississippi will burst with more frequency, with more exuberance. As I mentioned in a previous post, much of what we have done to nature has been against its tide. We have held back waters that want to flow. Furthermore, we have invested much of our energies, time, and spirit into creating objects that constantly seek our attention to be maintained, while also changing our present such that we can imagine no future without them.

I cannot speak for the past, and would not know how different the past was, but I think that today, the man-made, physical objects that surround us have become so much a part of our existence that our fate is inextricably tied to their fate, not to mention to the complexities of increasing unwieldy social structures such as large government. We have created for ourselves a world of dependencies and proxies. What is not difficult to notice, however, is that with large government, important actions that do need to be taken are almost always held back by inertia. With physical objects we cannot comprehend how life was possible without them. We have become less adaptable to change, in a sense, or to a world without those objects. (This is not to deny the changes that we've experienced in the past few months because of things, dependent on physical objects such as computers and power lines, like Facebook and Twitter.) But it is fair to say that these physical objects are the cause of much ecological degradation, and our continued dependence on them will continue to degrade nature, especially because of a lack of durability. More fundamentally, however, I believe that we must face up to the challenges of a scarce future by changing our decisions today.

I wonder how adaptable we are given all that surrounds us. If we had to live with fewer hours of electricity, could we? Of course, many do not want to envision such a scenario, and then of course prepare for the scarcity by trying to invent something new. While this is possibly an argument for minimalism, I believe more fundamentally that we need an understanding and mindfulness that the more we invest in static, stationary, physical objects, the less and less adaptable we become to our lives without them. For example, the more reliant we are on GPS, the less aware we become of direction such that we may lose our way without GPS. I raise the issue so because what we have today is what we present to tomorrow, yet it is hard to deny that the future is full of scarcity, of fights over water, of fights over minerals. We can avoid this, I have no doubt.

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