Responsibility for the End of Nature
or, How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Global Warming
2. McKibben says at end of nature and leads to widespread feeling of deep anxiety
3. Can’t account for this anxiety by appeal to consequences of global warming including associated injustices
4. Anxiety due to our recognition that we humans are now responsibility for some of basic conditions supporting all life on earth
5. It’s good to feel anxious as we assume this awesome responsibility
6. Nightmare of global warming offers a source of hope
7. SUMMARY OF MCKIBBEN’S ARGUMENT FOR END OF NATURE
8. Because of anthropogenic climate change
9. Nature as autonomous or independent from humans is gone
a. I’d say much of nature is still autonomous (for autonomy is not incompatible with influence)
b. If to be independent means not influenced, then much of nature is not independent because much has been influenced
i. But not all!
10. “Nothing in natural world is as it would be w/o human activity”
a. What about geologic items like mountains or tides or earthquakes? Or beneath the earth’s surface (starting 10 miles down); or other planets/the moon,
11. “Everything has become an artifact (in a certain sense)
a. Not plausible to say the human touch makes something an artifact (like a table or chair)
b. “No part of natural env remains entirely non-artificial”
12. We live in a “post natural world”
a. Assumes (falsely) that for nature to be nature, it must be pristine, totally untouched/uninfluenced by humans.
13. Once humans alter basic conditions of global biosphere, everything within it becomes somewhat artificial, changing its fundamental mode of being
a. Why assume fundamental mode of nature is altered by human influence?
b. Perhaps significant human influence can do this, but is climate change that significant a type of influence?
14. VOGEL’S CRITICISMS OF MCKIBBEN
15. Nature has already ended before GW: Global warming can’t bring about end of nature (as non-artifact) because such a nature has failed to exist since humans began transforming nature
a. “The world we inhabit is always already one transformed by human practices”
16. Epistemic problem; can’t be sure any part of biological world just as it would be independent of human activities
a. Note he now limits it to the “biological” world.
b. Red cockaded woodpeckers depends on long-leaf pine forests, but native American’s burned those forests for better hunting so woodpeckers are influenced by human activities
c. Jamieson: “Do we really know what climate would be like were it not affected by humans”
i. Surely not exactly, but we know it would be cooler,for example.
d. “No good reason to think we have or could have a good idea of what world like if never had been humans
i. For many biological facts, I think this is mistaken
(1) Would have been birds w/o humans and so on
(2) Mountains, rivers, snow, glaciation, lots of species we can identify..
17. Rejects idea of nature as the nonhuman: Ontological denying of nature, at least as assumed in human/nature dichotomy
a. “Nature is exactly what is not human”
b. Human touch shifts ontological status from natural to artifact
i. This is a separable idea
c. Humans outside of nature and thus supernatural
18. Social construction of nature idea, post-structuralist “discovery that what counts as nature is sociologically and historically variable”
19. Thompson says Vogel’s idea to get rid of idea of nature can’t help Thompson explain the horror in the idea of Global warming ending nature
20. DEEP ECOLOGY IDEA OF HUMAN/NATURE DISTINCTION
21. Sessions rejects false dichotomy (of Vogels?) that nature is either totally pristine (untouched) or nature does not exist
22. SessionsL degrees of natural
a. Virtually pristine wild environments and totally human dominated and developed environments
23. Parts of nature can be more or less wild or “self-willed”
a. World is neither purely natural nor entirely artificial (Red-cockaded woodpecker)
24. New dichotomy: Wild vs civilized; Human domination (“civilization”) and that which is wild and free, self-willed and not dominated by humans
a. Allows humans to be part of nature
b. Humans are wild too and participate in this self-willed nature
c. Of course much of humanity is civilized and not part of wild nature
d. Also problematically, human civilization can be self-willed and is wild in that sense, so better to stick with idea of wild as non-dominated by humans
i. That can include some parts of humans.
25. “Human domestication of the wild is not inconsistent with the continued existence of the wild”
a. So one can domesticate it without civilizing it?
26. GW as too much civilization, controlling/dominating influence of humans
27. GW can’t be end of wild nature
a. Because nature is essentially wild
28. Anthropogenic GW can’t bring about end of nature
a. Because humans are essentially part of wild nature
b. So for that reason we are incapable of destroying
c. But we could destroy ourselves too
29. MORAL HORROR (ANXIETY) OF GW REMAINS EVEN AFTER REALIZE IT CAN’T END NATURE
30. How explain the moral horror/anxiety we feel based on idea that GW is something like the end of nature?
31. Even though can’t end wild nature, there is moral horror that remains due to global warming.
a. It’s as if we did end nature
32. What is it? What’s so bad about it?
33. Not just the horrible affects on humans and nature
34. Claims that same results that GW will cause, if caused by other more conventional means, would not lead to this moral horror
a. Like it is worse to use nuclear weapons to achieve same results could by conventional weapons
35. PRESENT EQUILIBRIUM OF ATMOSPHERE (PEA) OF VALUE
36. Atmospheric equilibrium that has characterized env during history of humans has value
37. GW is the end of particular equilibrium of atmosphere (PEA)
a. Between amount of radiation earth receives form sun and amount of energy it radiates back into space (in terms of heat)
38. PEA not only instrumentally valuable
a. For then its loss would not lead to moral anxiety, because we don’t have the anxiety if consequences of loss of PEA are brought about some other way
39. PEA not of intrinsic value
a. In any of three senses: in non-relational sense (IV 3)–as its value is relation, objective value (IV 4)–as it is not goal directed, and valued as an end (IV-1)–as not like people we could value for own sake
40. So PEA not intrinsically nor instrumentally valuable; so why valuable?
41. SENSE OF PLACE ARGUMENT: PLACES ARE CONSTITUATIVE OF OUR IDENTITIES AND PLACES DEPEND ON PEA AND THAT’S WHY ITS VALUABLE
42. PEA has “constituative value” (sense of place value?)
a. PEA is background of world we know
b. Connected with our identity as individuals and members of cultures/species
c. Our identity (individual, member of culture, or species) is partly constituted by the particular places of the world we inhabit
d. Our world depends on PEA
i. Is this true?
43. Ideas (quotes) supporting value of place to human identity
a. Individual identity, sense of who they are, is partly constituted by sense of belonging to particular places, whether natural (e.g., woodlands) or urban (city streets, parks)
b. Places matter to individual as they embody the history of their lives and their communities (embody their historical and cultural identities)
c. Peoples sense of who they are is partly constituted by their sense of belonging to particular places
d. People’s identities are not prior to or independent of attachment to place
e. Disappearance of places are real losses
f. Loss of places can be the loss of a way of life
44. So horror at GW due to loss of sense of place?
45. GW A SINGLE CAUSAL FACTOR (RATHER THAN DIFFUSE) BRINGS HOME THE REALITY OF OUR COLLECTIVE RESPONSIBILITY (THIS EXPLAINS ANXIETY)
a. Moral issues related to GW confusing as no one individual or even responsible for destruction of global env (diffuse causes and consequences)
b. But since cause of destruction can be framed under single description of GW, our ability to recognize that we are responsible is heightened and this leads to the anxiety (we are ending world)
46. WE ARE NOW RESPONSIBLE FOR THE FUNDAMENTAL CONDITIONS OF THE BIOSPHERE AND WE FEAR THIS AWESOME RESPONSIBILITY AND THIS IS GOOD
47. For all of human history natural world has set background conditions for life (something over which we had little or no control)
a. Meteorological events were acts of nature or God over which we had no influence or control
i. We were not responsible for their helpful/harmful nature
48. This has changed
49. We are now responsible for fundamental conditions of biosphere
50. A responsibility we had not bargained for and gives us existential anxiety
51. We valued not being responsible for conditions if natural env and we have lost what we valued
52. Lost our innocence
53. Fear not end of nature but fear responsibility for nature
54. No corner of globe, no feature of our biosphere, which escapes the influence of human activity
a. “Our activities play a significant role in determining basic conditions under which all terrestrial life carries on”
55. “Whether accept it or not humans now shoulder the responsibility of planetary management”
56. “Once our planet was larger than us, but it is no longer”
57. Worries: Extent of our influence and control over nature is much less than Thompson’s language indicates
a. Effecting climate is not to control it
b. Effecting atmosphere has influence on some important env factors, but many others remain (genes of organisms, geological phenomenon and environmental influences)
58. Appropriate to feel anxious over our responsibility for global warming and conditions of nature
a. Like a parent should feel anxious over awesome responsibility of raising a child
59. Part of our trepidation over GW arises from unwelcome recognition that humanity now bears an awesome responsibility for the flourishing of life on earth
60. “Recognizing this anxiety bodes well for humanity”
a. And explains why he loves global warming