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Death From Above-Good Reads From An Emailer-The 1993 Galeras Eruption

The Galeras volcano is in Colombia, and on a fateful day in 1993, it caught many scientists and tourists milling around its crater-rim by surprise with a little mini-eruption. I, too, remember reading the horrific accounts:

“I heard this huge boom, and then rocks the size of televisions started falling around us,” recalled Dr. Andrew McFarlane, a geologist at Florida International University who had got beyond the crater. Dr. McFarlane suffered a broken foot, bruises on his legs and badly burned hands from climbing over burning rocks.

Dr. Williams, fleeing the crater’s rim, pounded by flying rocks, ran as far as he could down the volcanic slope before his broken legs gave way. He took shelter from the weakening eruption behind large rocks. After an hour, a second volcanic blast hurled aloft new boulders that he successfully dodged.’

Dr. Stanley Williams led the party that day, and wrote a book entitled ‘Surviving Galeras‘ in its wake about continuing to press-on despite the tragedy.  Excerpt from his book here.  Fascinating reading.

Our emailer points out that a Victoria Bruce charged Williams with a high degree of hubris in her book ‘No Apparent Danger.’ More here.  There’s some drama involved.

Remarkably, like the predictability of extreme weather events, understanding of what helps cause volcanic eruptions is getting much better due to the work of vulcanologists everywhere.

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*As a side note…I remember standing across from the Mt. St Helens crater at the Johnston Ridge Observatory, witnessing the scope of destruction some 30 years on, feeling a sense of awe, fascination, a desire for more knowledge, mixed with fear and continuing thoughts at my own sudden smallness and cosmic insignificance when measured against such forces. It can be humbling.

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***My uncle tells a story about passing north on I-5 over the Toutle River bridge some days afterwards, and seeing a horse carcass, upright and stuck in the volcanic mud and ash-flow that flowed down from the mountain.

That image has stuck with me.

I found a few Flickr photos of debris in that area.

Update And Repost: ‘From The Philosopher’s Magazine Via The A & L Daily: ‘My Philosophy: Alan Sokal’

Interview here.

Do you remember the Sokal hoax?

A few thoughts on the relation of philosophy, philosophy of science, and physics:

“Certainly Einstein spent a lot of time doing conceptual clarification in his own mind, leading him to general relativity and special relativity, and that played a crucial role. You can call that philosophy or you can call it deep thinking about physics. Quantum mechanics was born mostly without that kind of conceptual clarification, so it shows that you can get instrumental physics without clarifying the concepts – it can go both ways.”

Yet:

“Sokal is very positive about philosophy’s potential to help physics with its conceptual clarification in principle, but in practice, there is a long pause when I ask him if he can give any examples of when this has actually happened.”

And of postmodern literary theory:

“I should make clear that I don’t think my parody article settles anything,” says Sokal. “It doesn’t by itself prove much – that one journal was sloppy. So it wasn’t the parody itself that proved it, it was the things that I and other people wrote afterward which I believe showed the sloppiness of the philosophy that a lot of postmodernist literary theory types were writing.”

So what’s going on with postmodernism…where can you trace its roots?  Also, Sokal has use the following quote in his lectures:

A German can look at and understand Nature only according to his racial character.”

“This of course is a quotation from Ernst Krieck, a notorious Nazi ideologue, who was rector of the University of Heidelberg in 1937-38. I was flabbergasted – well maybe not flabbergasted – when I came across it. This doesn’t show that postmodernists are Nazis or anything. What it shows is a kind of uncanny overlap of ideas between, on the one hand, left-wing postmodernists, and the other hand, extreme right wing nationalists, whether they’re German or Hindu nationalists.”

Your thoughts and comments are welcome.

Interview regarding postmodernism here.

From Dr. Steven Hicks:

‘In the shorter term, postmodernism has caused an impoverishment of much of the academic humanities, both in the quality of the work being done and the civility of the debates. The sciences have been less affected and are relatively healthy. The social sciences are mixed.

I am optimistic, though, for a couple of reasons. One is that pomo was able to entrench itself in the second half of the twentieth century in large part because first-rate intellectuals were mostly dismissive of it and focused on their own projects. But over the last ten years, after pomo’s excesses became blatant, there has been a vigorous counter-attack and pomo is now on the defensive. Another reason for optimism is that, as a species of skepticism, pomo is ultimately empty and becomes boring. Eventually intellectually-alert individuals get tired of the same old lines and move on. It is one thing, as the pomo can do well, to critique other theories and tear them down. But that merely clears the field for the next new and intriguing theory and for the next generation of energetic young intellectuals.

So while the postmodernism has had its generation or two, I think we’re ready for the next new thing – a strong, fresh, and positive approach to the big issues, one that of course takes into account the critical weapons the pomo have used well over the last while’

Also On This Site:  Simon Blackburn Reviews Alan Sokal’s ‘Beyond The Hoax’ In The New Republic

From Bloggingheads: Adam Frank And Eliezer Yudkowsky Discuss The Epistemology Of Science

Hilary Putnam On The Philosophy Of Science:  Bryan Magee’s Talking Philosophy On YouTube

A quote from Leo Strauss’ Wikipedia page:  From Wikipedia’s Page On Leo Strauss: A Few Quotes:

“Strauss taught that liberalism in its modern form contained within it an intrinsic tendency towards extreme relativism, which in turn led to two types of nihilism. The first was a “brutal” nihilism, expressed in Nazi and Marxist regimes. In On Tyranny, he wrote that these ideologies, both descendants of Enlightenment thought, tried to destroy all traditions, history, ethics, and moral standards and replace them by force under which nature and mankind are subjugated and conquered. The second type – the “gentle” nihilism expressed in Western liberal democracies – was a kind of value-free aimlessness and a hedonistic”permissive egalitarianism”, which he saw as permeating the fabric of contemporary American society.”

Perhaps, and did De Tocqueville see the same thing?

The classical liberal tradition…looking for classical liberals in the postmodern wilderness: Isaiah Berlin’s negative liberty: A Few Thoughts On Isaiah Berlin’s “Two Concepts Of Liberty”

From The City Journal Via Arts And Letters Daily: Andre Glucksman On “The Postmodern Financial Crisis”

Red Impulses Gone Green-Tim Worstall At The Adam Smith Institute On George Monbiot

Full piece here. (hat tip to David Thompson)

Worstall on Monbiot’s piece:

‘Which brings us to the much more important basic point. The 20th century rather tells us that what people think about things, their guilt at the state of the world, is less important than their actions. Many communists and socialists really did believe that communism and socialism would be better for human beings than the terrors of capitalism and free markets. But their motives pale beside their actual works, slaughtering a hundred million and more in assuaging their guilt.

Actions George, not motives.’

In many instances, the loyalty that many people had for communist and socialist ideals has been transferred over to green causes. Many moral commitments that came with these ideologies, frustrated by the horrendous consequences and totalitarian regimes that resulted (Stalinist North Korea and Communist Cuba still sputter onwards), have been re-directed or can even appear re-branded within environmental movements.

YOU should feel guilty about the poor, the downtrodden, and the global victims of industrial activity. WE should ‘re-wild’ nature and bring it to a state it achieved before man came and despoiled it. Humans have the power to shape their world, but only if they follow the right ideals and the right knowledge, as well as perhaps feeling the guilt and commitment and passion that come with those ideals. WE should aim for a simpler, collective life, and feel ‘empathy’ with everyone (oft times the noble savage) around the globe.

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To be fair, we don’t often see genuine socialists out in public in the United States pushing green causes, but there’s more than a little anti-corporate, anti-industrial activism that often finds expression within environmental movements. This activism can make its way into laws, and forms a major plank in the Democratic party platform nationally.

Whatever your thoughts on the natural world and conservation, I think it’s fair to say that from cartoons to schools to movies, there’s also been remarkable popular success in making environmental activism mainstream conventional wisdom; easy, cool and fun to join.

Rarely though, is there much discussion of the costs environmental laws can impose on private landowners and consumers (not just big real-estate developers and industrial interests) through compliance with the laws and higher prices. Supporters of environmental causes don’t often connect the dots between their interests and the potential for bureaucratic waste and mismanagement, nor the downright twisted incentives that can result for citizens, lawmakers and even budding scientists looking for grant money.

As we see in California, I think once you get enough public sentiment believing in the basic tenets of green thinking, then climate science, whatever its merits, often becomes a sideshow, while politics and money can become the main event.

***I think Monbiot was on much more stable ground when he appealed to J.S. Mill’s harm principle regarding people harmed by industrial activity.  Sometimes people in industries just don’t care about some of the consequences of their actions, and legal recourse can be hard to come by for those without money or connections.  There have been beneficial consequences to individuals’ health and to those parts of nature sought to be conserved…but again…at what cost?

It seems worth continually discussing.

From George Monbiot: ‘How Freedom Became Tyranny’…

This isn’t just about science.

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Related On This SiteA Wolf In Wolf’s Clothing?-’Rewilding’ And Ecological Balance

Repost-From The American Spectator: ‘Environmentalism and the Leisure Class’

A Few Thoughts On Isaiah Berlin’s “Two Concepts Of Liberty”From The Boston Review: ‘Libertarianism And Liberty: How Not To Argue For Limited Government And Lower Taxes’From Slate: ‘The Liberty Scam-Why Even Robert Nozick, The Philosophical Father Of Libertarianism, Gave Up On The Movement He Inspired.’

Is it actual Nature, or a deep debate about civilization and morality, man and nature that fuels this Western debate: ….Roger Sandall At The New Criterion Via The A & L Daily: ‘Aboriginal Sin’Roger Sandall At The American Interest: ‘Tribal Realism’Karl Popper’s metaphysical theory: Falsifiability

Did Jared Diamond get attacked for not being romantic enough…or just for potential hubris?:  Was he acting as a journalist in Papua New-Guinea?:  From The Chronicle Of Higher Education: Jared Diamond’s Lawsuit

Instead of global green governance, what about a World Leviathan…food for thought, and a little frightening: At Bloggingheads Steven Pinker Discusses War And Thomas Hobbes

Ronald Bailey At Reason: ‘Delusional in Durban’A Few Links On Environmentalism And Liberty

Repost-From The American Spectator: ‘Environmentalism and the Leisure Class’

Full piece here.

William Tucker makes some good points:

‘It is not that the average person is not concerned about the environment. Everyone weighs the balance of economic gain against a respect for nature. It is only the truly affluent, however, who can be concerned about the environment to the exclusion of everything else.

On this analysis, It’s the people who’ve benefitted most from industrial activity that are using their wealth and leisure to promote an ideology that is ultimately harmful to industrial activity, and the people who live by it.  Tucker has been following how such ideas actually translate into public policy and political organization for a while.  Tucker also invokes Thorstein Veblen, and highlights how environmentalism can make for strange political bedfellows:

‘But the Keystone Pipeline has brought all this into focus. As Joel Kotkin writes in Forbes, Keystone is the dividing line of the “two Americas,” the knowledge-based elites of the East and West Coasts in their media, non-profit and academic homelands (where Obama learned his environmentalism) and the blue-collar workers of the Great In- Between laboring in agriculture, mining, manufacturing, power production and the exigencies of material life.’

On this site, follow the money: Amy Payne At The Foundry: ‘Morning Bell: Obama Administration Buries Good News on Keystone Pipeline’

Aside from the political and sociological analysis, I would offer that there are many to whom environmentalism serves as a kind of religion.  On this view, man has fallen away from Nature, and built civilized society atop it through harmful, unsustainable means.  He must atone, and get back in harmony with Nature, as he has alienated himself from his once graceful state (tribal? romantically primitive? collectively just? equal and fair? healthy?  “spiritually aware?” morally good?). This obviously gives meaning to people’s lives, a purpose, belonging and group identity as well as a political and secularly moral political platform.  A majority of these folks are almost always anti-industrial, and it’s worthy of note how environmentalism has grown in our schools, marketplace, and in the public mind.

It’s often tough to tell where the sciences end (and they are often invoked to declare knowledge that is certain, or near-certain, and worthy of action) and where a certain political philosophy (usually more communal, politically Left, Statist…regulatory, centrally planned economically) begins.

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Related:

Urbanists love to hate Joel Kotkin, as he has offered them much in the way of criticism.  At the New Urbanist website, I found the following quote:

“Only when humans are again permitted to build authentic urbanism — those cities, towns, and villages that nurture us by their comforts and delights — will we cease the despoiling of Nature by escaping to sprawl.”

Bjorn Lomborg is skeptical of ‘Earth Hour’ in Blinded By The Light.  Go towards the light.

Here’s Robert Zubrin:

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How to separate reasonable environmentalism from the totalitarian impulses, the Malthusians and various other people who “know” how many people is enough?  Now that environmentalism is a primary focus in our schools, it’s probably worth thinking about.

Related On This Site: Isaiah Berlin’s negative liberty: From George Monbiot: ‘How Freedom Became Tyranny’

Walter Russell Mead At The American Interest: ‘The Failure of Al Gore Part Three: Singing the Climate Blues’

Amy Payne At The Foundry: ‘Morning Bell: Obama Administration Buries Good News on Keystone Pipeline’

Ronald Bailey At Reason: ‘Delusional in Durban’A Few Links On Environmentalism And LibertyFrom The WSJ-A Heated Exchange: Al Gore Confronts His Critics…From The Literary Review–Weather Channel Green Ideology: Founder John Coleman Upset….The Weather Channel’s Green Blog: A Little Too GreenFrom The Washington Post: The Weather Channel’s Forecast Earth Team Fired

Pop Art!

The Critic Laughs, by Hamilton:

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Do you long for the days of unabashed American consumerism?  Are you nostalgic for nights lit only by a soft, neon glow on the underbellies of clouds? Return to a time when America broadcast its brash, unironic call to the heavens.

Modern Art For Sale In The Middle-East-From The New Yorker: ‘Richard Serra In the Qatari Desert’

Full post here.

Click through for a Serra-released photo of four metal pillar-forms aligned in the deserts of Qatar, designed to inevitably rust.  The piece has a slight ‘2001: A Space Odyssey feel, but that could just be me.

‘The Qatar Museums Authority is estimated to spend about a billion dollars per year on art. At its head is the young Sheikha al-Mayassa Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani, a sister of the Emir of Qatar and a Duke University graduate, who was recently named the most powerful person in the art world by ArtReview.’

Get while the getting is good, so long as the Sheiks have the dough.

Serra is a quite accomplished modern artist and sculptor often working in the ‘land-art,’ category, or site-specific pieces interacting with the viewer and the natural surroundings. Check out Hyperallergic’s visit to ‘Shift,’ a series of concrete forms he left in an Ontario field.

Here’s Serra discussing a piece of his at 21 West Gagosian, or a densely-packed, carefully measured series of metal forms in a room.  What does the viewer experience in this space?:

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Serra, I think, more than other land-artists, turns that discussion a little more inwards, towards the abstract, the body moving through a space of his design as he tries to bring something across to the viewer.

Or so says me.

Interview with Serra here.

Also, what’s with all that Gulf oil money buying-up modern art?:

As to politics, James Panero had a piece on Qatar:

‘On the one hand, Qatar’s art initiatives can be seen as a modernizing force, one that could liberalize the tribal attitudes of the country’s native population and pave the way for further political reform. On the other hand, contemporary art may merely serve as a cover for further repressive policies.’

On another note, that of land-art, Robert Hughes took a look at the work of Michael Heizer, who’s been working since 1972 on a sculpture in the Eastern Nevada desert, which was originally called ‘Complex One.’  It’s morphed into his life’s work, called City.  It’s very large. It can’t be moved.  You can’t reproduce it.  It represents a break from traditional sculpture. It can’t be put in a museum and it’s not clear that it has a function.  See more on Hughes take on it from his series, “Shock Of The New” which includes some aerial shots (from 00:45 to 5:30):

Is modernism now our culture?:

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Related On This SiteJames Panero At The New Criterion: ‘Time to Free NY’s Museums: The Met Responds’

MOMA is private, so perhaps it’s not as decadent if they display Tilda Swinton in a box:

Tilda Swinton At MOMA-From Arma Virumque: ‘Nightmare In A Box’

Denis Dutton suggested art could head towards Darwin (and may offer new direction from the troubles of the modern art aimlessness and shallow depth…the money and the fame) Review of Denis Dutton’s ‘The Art Instinct’

Roger Scruton says keep politics out of the arts, and political judgment apart from aesthetic judgment…this includes race studies/feminist departments/gay studies etc.:  Roger Scruton In The American Spectator Via A & L Daily: Farewell To Judgment

Goya’s Fight With Cudgels and Goya’s Colossus.  A very good Goya page here.

Joan Miro: Woman… Goethe’s Color Theory: Artists And Thinkers

Roger Scruton At The New Atlantis: ‘Scientism In The Arts & Humanities’

Full piece here (link may not last).

Scruton:

‘It is true that the theory of the meme does not deny the role of culture, nor does it undermine the nineteenth-century view that culture properly understood is as much an activity of the rational mind as is science. But the concept of the meme belongs with other subversive concepts — Marx’s “ideology,” Freud’s unconscious, Foucault’s “discourse” — in being aimed at discrediting common prejudice. It seeks to expose illusions and to explain away our dreams. But the meme is itself a dream, a piece of ideology, accepted not for its truth but for the illusory power that it confers on the one who conjures with it. It has produced some striking arguments, not least those given by Daniel Dennett in Breaking the Spell, in which he explains away religion as a particularly successful but dangerous meme.’

Those concepts according to Scruton, are not science, but rather scientism.

And he focuses back-in on judgment, or the capacity for judgment attached to ‘I,’ and an ‘I’ which looks towards transcendence:

‘Surely human beings can do better than this — by the pursuit of genuine scientific explanation on the one hand, and by the study of high culture on the other. A culture does not comprise works of art only, nor is it directed solely to aesthetic interests. It is the sphere of intrinsically interesting artifacts, linked by the faculty of judgment to our aspirations and ideals. We appreciate works of art, arguments, works of history and literature, manners, dress, jokes, and forms of behavior. And all these things are shaped through judgment. But what kind of judgment, and to what does that judgment lead?

Interesting quote by Scruton in a debate about Islam, at min 6:35 of video 4/4:

‘Universal values only make sense in a very specific context…the attempt to universalize them, or project or impose them…just leads to their appropriation by sinister forces.”

Worth a read.

-Steven Pinker, Harvard experimental psychologist and cognitive scientist wrote a piece in the New Republic, entitled: ‘Science Is Not Your Enemy

-Leon Wieseltier, literary editor of the New Republic since the 60′s, responded at The New Republic:  ‘No, Science Doesn’t Have All The Answers.

-Ross Douthat, conservative Catholic columnist at the Times jumped in the fray: ‘The Scientism Of Steve Pinker’ 

-Jerry Coyne, evolutionary biologist, responded to Douthat.

-Wieseltier jumped back in with: ‘Crimes Against Humanities: Now science wants to invade the humanities.  Don’t let it happen.

-Now Daniel Dennett, philosopher, cognitive scientist, one of the New Atheists and Boston-based secularist responds to Wieseltier:

‘Pomposity can be amusing, but pomposity sitting like an oversized hat on top of fear is hilarious. Wieseltier is afraid that the humanities are being overrun by thinkers from outside, who dare to tackle their precious problems—or “problematics” to use the, um, technical term favored by many in the humanities. He is right to be afraid. It is true that there is a crowd of often overconfident scientists impatiently addressing the big questions with scant appreciation of the subtleties unearthed by philosophers and others in the humanities, but the way to deal constructively with this awkward influx is to join forces and educate them, not declare them out of bounds.’

So, how do you teach the arts and tilt the culture? Camille Paglia has some ideas, including the idea that George Lucas has taken root in more 20th-century minds than anyone else with his space opera:

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Related On This Site: Repost-Adam Kirsch At The New Republic: ‘Art Over Biology’…From Edward Feser: ‘Nagel And His Critics Part IV’

Evolutionary psychology and moral thinking: Franz De Waal At The NY Times 10/17/10: ‘Morals Without God?’From The Stanford Encyclopedia Of Philosophy: Charles Sanders Peirce

Larry Arnhart At Darwinian Conservatism Reviews E.O. Wilson’s ‘The Social Conquest Of Earth’Heather McDonald At The WSJ: ‘ The Humanities Have Forgotten Their Humanity’

From Nigel Warburton’s Site: A Definition of Humanism?…A Debate: Would We Better Off Without Religion?…Roger Scruton In The City Journal: Cities For Living–Is Modernism Dead?From YouTube: Roger Scruton On Religious Freedom, Islam & Atheism

Roger Scruton At The WSJ: ‘Memo To Hawking: There’s Still Room For God’

From The Atlantic: ‘At Least 14 Dead In Washington Mudslide’

Photos here.

This happened about 55 miles or so north-northeast of Seattle in the town of Oso.  So far, 176 people are missing, but the death toll will hopefully not be anywhere near as high as that dreadful number. Apparently, the hill in question is made-up of glacial sandy soil and lacks a rocky, sedimentary base. It has been saturated by the recent heavy rains and undercut by a meander in the high water of the Stillaguamish river.  Many homes and properties were located in the valley below and opposite that hill.

It still isn’t safe.

From MyNorthwest.com, which has great coverage:

Geologist: Mudslide still moving, even bigger than first thought:

‘Dave Norman, Washington state geologist with the Department of Natural Resources, says preliminary assessments have determined the slide is 1500 feet long, 4,400 feet wide and over 600 feet high, with a debris field 30-40 feet deep.’

Some more photos here.

The Landslide Blog has coverage.

A lot of the soil in the region is formed from glacial deposits, and there hasn’t been much snow this winter, but for at least the last month there’s been a lot of heavy rain, and the ground has become saturated in many places.  The difference between high water between winter and summer can be striking.

Thoughts and prayers to the victims, their families, loved-ones, workers and responders.

A Wolf In Wolf’s Clothing?-’Rewilding’ And Ecological Balance

This video’s been making the rounds (copyright) on the reintroduction of wolves into Yellowstone. In it, the claim is made that Yellowstone wolves have started a trophic cascade. In hunting and clearing-out deer herds from valley floors, the wolves, as top predators, have indirectly caused more vegetation and higher trees to grow near streams and rivers. This has created more habitat in which more species flourish, allowing for greater biodiversity, straightening out Yellowstone’s rivers and even altering the very landscape.

What a noble creature, the wolf, goes the thinking, starting such an improbable causal chain. Nature has been made more whole and pure by the mere presence of such a creature, and perhaps your place in Nature, dear reader.  Man is nowhere to be found, really, except perhaps as humble observer of what he’s helped put into motion (focus on the good parts).

Of course, not discussed are the costs of wolf management placed by some conservationists and activists upon ranchers and property owners as the wolves spread out beyond Yellowstone:

‘In sum, the people who support wolves need to take economic responsibility for them. But this program is about a lot more than money. It’s about respecting what the ranchers do. Eventually, I want wolves to be just another animal, not up on a pedestal as they are now. ‘

Laws cost time and money, and so does conservation. Activism isn’t free, as it comes with increased taxes, increased regulation and people to oversee both. The meter’s running in a world of economic and natural scarcity, and right now private-property owners and taxpayers are disproportionately picking up the tab when it comes to wolf reintroduction, however meager the populations.

Green Means Go, Red Means Stop?

It should be noted that the narrator of the original video is Briton George Monbiot, who seems awfully political for someone merely interested in Nature and Man’s place in it. Perhaps he’s nearing eco-socialist territory:

From his site:

‘Here are some of the things I try to fight: undemocratic power, corruption, deception of the public, environmental destruction, injustice, inequality and the misallocation of resources, waste, denial, the libertarianism which grants freedom to the powerful at the expense of the powerless, undisclosed interests, complacency.’

That sounds like an oddly specific and ideological mission-statement, going way beyond merely ordering nature and wolf-reintroduction. In fact, there’s a whole set of political assumptions and grievances under there.

On that note, some greens can become so humanist as to become anti-humanist, disgusted by man and his economic activity trampling through their visions and frustrated ideologies.

See Bob Zubrin discuss ‘Radical Environmentalists And Other Merchants Of Despair’:

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Since we’re importing all this Britishness, here’s Briton Roger Scruton discussing why he thinks his brand of conservatism is better able to tackle environmental issues than either liberalism or socialism.

As an American, I have to confess that seeing Scruton is his fox-hunting attire moves me to imagine how these guys might have looked marching down the street:

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From George Monbiot: ‘How Freedom Became Tyranny’

Is it actual Nature, or a deep debate about civilization and morality, man and nature that fuels this Western debate: ….Roger Sandall At The New Criterion Via The A & L Daily: ‘Aboriginal Sin’Roger Sandall At The American Interest: ‘Tribal Realism’

Instead of global green governance, what about a World Leviathan…food for thought, and a little frightening: At Bloggingheads Steven Pinker Discusses War And Thomas Hobbes

Ronald Bailey At Reason: ‘Delusional in Durban’A Few Links On Environmentalism And Liberty

Repost-A Few Links On Environmentalism And Liberty

One debate exists between environmentalists, conservationists and ecologists who often push for economic regulation through activism and the laws; usually in order to protect a natural area, habitat or species (some harbor an “holistic” vision of nature, though it can be much more complex, including a simple love of nature and natural beauty) against the doctrines that do much to maintain individual, economic and political liberty.

William C Dennis of the Liberty Fundhad a 1990 review at Reason Magazine of Ecology in the 20th Century: A History, by Anna Bramwellwhich highlights the libertarian dispute with environmentalism. He quotes Bramwell thus:

“For today’s ecologists, their hope of regeneration presupposes a return to primitivism, and thus, whether they wish to enunciate it or not, concomitant anarchy, the burning before the replanting, the cutting down of the dead tree. The father of the movement is an utter rejection of all that is, and for at least three millennia all that was.”

Libertarians would generally see many environmentalists as a threat to their definition of liberty.

-Another environmentalist root comes by way of the’ Tragic Earth’ romantic lament, which may have as much to do with the rise and fall of post-modernism in American Universities as it does with Nature, and the restless attempt to fill the post-modern void in a post-Nietzschean world.  I think part of this is due to the collapse of the modern liberal arts curriculum to its current state, which has followed excessive relativism and multi-culturalism to some of its logical conclusions.  The “science is settled” may be appealing to many in filling that void.  Of course, good poems and poets transcend the often strange things good poets can believe, but I suspect this has something to do with it. Al Gore has probably been influenced by this school of thought, though he is a politician, carbon-credit-salesman, and a poet.

Whatever your view of the science, its transition and use for ideological, economic and political purposes should give intelligent people pause, not just those who see threats to liberty.

Self-reliance may still be a better intellectual American influence, even with some downside to pragmatism.

Related On This Site:  Denis Dutton saw this coming as founder of the Climate Debate Daily and had some ideas about modern art:  Review of Denis Dutton’s ‘The Art Instinct’

Is it all just a sublimated religious impulse bubbling to the surface in new form, part of a millenia-long tradition: Repost-From The Spiked Review Of Books Via The A & L Daily: ‘Rescuing The Enlightenment From Its Exploiters…Don’t immanentize the eschaton!: From The NY Times: ‘Atheists Sue to Block Display of Cross-Shaped Beam in 9/11 Museum’

Walter Russell Mead At The American Interest: ‘The Failure of Al Gore Part Three: Singing the Climate Blues’

How might Nietzsche figure in the discussion (was he most after freeing art from a few thousand years of Christianity, monarchy and aristocracy…something deeper?), at least with regard to Camille Paglia.  See the comments:  Repost-Camille Paglia At Arion: Why Break, Blow, Burn Was Successful

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