Thanks to Leah Houle for editing this piece.
“Welcome to the Machine” is one of the sonic mystification of Pink Floyd. For my purposes, “welcome to the machine” is emblematic of the age in which we live. We live in the machine–a defective machine. Yes, the machine is opposed by Gaia, the mother of all life. But recall, she is the daughter of Chaos, who may be the noxious ghost in the “machine” undoing his daughter’s work. Another opponent of Gaia in her ancient day was the wayward Prometheus in the guise of “progress.” He was the bringer of progress–fire. Indeed humankind’s relationship with fire is what kicked off the long march of progress. Promethean progress gives signs of turning against Gaia and bring all the buzzing, blooming, confusion of environmental disasters.
What follows is a discussion of the possible crash of the environment. I base this assertion on science as defined by Dr. Amanda Truitt PhD in astrophysics as Santa Fe Community College. Dr. Truitt said the term science is a rubric of “very good evidence that [is] systematically curated over a long time.” SOURCE: Flatter Day Saints, by Loren Bienvenu, Santa Fe Reporter, March11-17, 2020.
I believe the evidence is mighty convincing that we’re headed for some very hard times. A possible environmental Armageddon may be brought on by a dystopian juggernaut of modernization, regardless of modernization’s collective conscious noble intention to progress humankind and make life better. I finger the souring of the enlightenment and the scientific revolution as the deep cause of environmental deterioration.
Modernization subsumes the enlightenment, and indeed every step humanity has taken from our mastery of fire unto our own age of nuclear Maleficium. The entire range of outcomes that seem to mean progress is shackled with negative externalities—trash, garbage, toxicity, plastic, waste, pollution.
A positive operational definition of modernization would be a catalogue of all the amenities and pamperings we have accumulated. Toilet paper, computers, brain surgery, trips to the moon, plastic surgery, lollypops, liquid soap, carpenter tools, movies, TV, smart phones, maximum security prisons, skyscrapers, subways, automobiles, canned goods, Swiss cheese, bacon and eggs, sugar, pepper, bandages, deodorant, pins and needles—I could go ad nauseam. All these things are modern forms that began with the use of fire.
Yet, belay (as Long John Silver would say). Be there then other forces contributing to environmental strain? Indeed, yes I say. They are neo-liberalism, and its offspring, corporate capitalism.
“Neoliberalism refers to a political-economic philosophy that has had major implications for government policies beginning in the 1970s and increasingly prominent since 1980– that de-emphasizes or rejects government intervention in the economy, focusing instead on structured free-market methods, and fewer restrictions on business operations and that the most important class of rights to expand are those of property enforcement, and of opening nations to entry by multinational corporations. In a broader sense it is used to describe the movement towards using the market to achieve a wide range of social ends previously filled by government. It is generally hostile to protectionism, social democracy and socialism. It is often at odds with fair trade and other movements that argue that labor rights and social justice should have a greater priority in international relations and economics.” SOURCE: Urban Dictionary Neo-Liberalism
“Corporate capitalism has been criticized for the amount of power and influence corporations and large business interest groups have over government policy, including the policies of regulatory agencies and influencing political campaigns (see corporate welfare). Many social scientists have criticized corporations for failing to act in the interests of the people, and their existence seems to circumvent the principles of democracy, which assumes equal power relations between individuals in a society.” SOURCE: wikipedia.org/wiki/Corporate_capitalism
Modernization got the ball rolling towards environmental destruction, and neoliberalism and corporate capitalism pushed even faster toward the precipice.
My style is synthesizing—combining multiple sources or ideas into a whole, in order to understand shared qualities between each individual part. I am doing this by combining two generic paradigms together: modernization and neo-liberalism.
I grant there is a lot of pessimism here. But, what am I to do when confronted, on a daily basis, with news reports that our natural environment is on verge of severe weakening—even a cave in.
The impacts of neo-liberalism, science, technology and commerce have become an excrescence and hypertrophy beginning at the moment humans put their hands to improving things. We cannot be blamed for wanting to improve our lot. It is just sad that improvements come at a cost. Professor Tim Garrett, associate professor of atmospheric sciences, University of Utah, does not appear to offer much hope. Read on.
TIM GARRETT STRANGE DICTUM
Tim Garrett argues that “rising carbon dioxide emissions–the major cause of global warming–cannot be stabilized unless the world’s economy collapses or society builds the equivalent of one new nuclear power plant each day.” This is a jaw-dropping quote from Theory that Civilization is a Heat Engine by Brian Wang. I find this surreal.
Wang admits “Garrett’s study was panned by some economists and rejected by several journals before acceptance by Climatic Change, a journal edited by renowned Stanford University climate scientist Stephen Schneider.” SOURCE: www.nextbigfuture.com/2009/11/theory-that-civilization-is-heat-engine.html
Garrett’s work is way above my pay grade. I leave it to you, dear reader, to delve deeper into Garrett’s mysterious, but keen discernment. I find his meme that civilization is a heat engine to be very scary, because I do not think there’s going to be any way, ever, to lower the temperature. But, hey. Even if we “do a 180” and clean up our act, guess what? Impermanence is always persistent. We do what we can to slow down the deterioration of our planet, but even if we succeed ultimately nothing lasts forever.
I am signing off here. Do peruse the collection of blurbs I have added below. I am offering a time line of human development. This is Eurocentric, I admit. But, was it not Europe cast the progress spells of the Enlightenment and science? (Look below for one SOURCE that refers to non-western science.)
SLOUCHING TOWARDS THE ROUGH BEAST OF MODERNIZATION
FIRE “Homo incendius – “fire man” – is an informal nickname for our ancestors who first learned how to make fire. As one of the quintessential human attributes, you might expect fire-making to have arisen along with our own species, Homo sapiens when we emerged in Africa some 208,000 years ago. Nope.
“You have to go much further back in time, before Neanderthals and even before the earlier Homo heidelbergensis. The first solid evidence for our ancestors’ regular use of fire dates to 1 million years ago, and possibly as far back as 1.5 million years ago. That’s during the reign of Homo erectus – our first fire-making, food-cooking, big-game-hunting, art-making, intercontinental-travelling ancestor.” SOURCE: skepticalscience.com/Just-when-did-humans-first-start-affecting-the-climate.html
AGRICULTURE “The study [of Shmuel Marco, Professor at the Tel Aviv University in Israel] published in the journal Global and Planetary Change, showed that [11,700 years ago] during the Neolithic Revolution, [there occurred] wide-scale transition of human cultures from hunting and gathering to agriculture and settlement. The shift resulted in an exponentially larger human population on the planet. Natural vegetation was replaced by crops, animals were domesticated, grazing.”
METALLURGY “The first evidence of this extractive metallurgy, dating from the 5th and 6th millennia BC, has been found at archaeological sites in Majdanpek, Jarmovac near Priboj and Pločnik, in present-day Serbia. To date, the earliest evidence of copper smelting is found at the Belovode site near Plocnik.”
SOUCE: Metallurgy – Wikipedia
JUMPING FORWARD / The Renaissance, the Protestant Revolution, Scientific Revolution, and the Enlightenment.
This clumping together of these movements, eras, or whatever you want to call them, makes sense to me. Each of them moved Europeans out from under the realms of myth, magic, alchemy, superstition, dependence on classical philosophy, revealed-inspired theology, dogma, and authoritarian religious and academic regimes.
THE RENAISSANCE “In what ways did the Renaissance and the Reformation influence the Enlightenment? Like Renaissance humanists and Protestants during the Reformation, Enlightenment thinkers rejected authority and upheld the freedom of individuals to think for themselves.” SOURCE: www.enotes.com/homework-help/how-did-ideas-renaissance-reformation-scientific-301355
“The Renaissance was the “rebirth” (that’s literally what it means) of classical ideas. The Enlightenment was about social standing and government. The Renaissance was very influential on the years after it because it sparked the ideas of the Age of Exploration, Reformation, Scientific Revolution, and Enlightenment.” SOURCE: www.slader.com/discussion/question/what-was-similar-between-the-renaissance-and-the-enlightenment/
“Renaissance encouraged curiosity, investigation, discovery, modern day knowledge. Caused people to question old beliefs. During the era of the Scientific Revolution, people began using experiments and mathematics to understand mysteries. New discoveries were made, old beliefs began to be proven wrong.” SOURCE: The Scientific Revolution and Renaissance and Reformation – Quizlet
THE ENLIGHTENMENT. “The Enlightenment emerged out of a European intellectual and scholarly movement known as Renaissance humanism. Some consider the publication of Isaac Newton’s Principia Mathematica (1687) as the first major enlightenment work.” SOURCE: Age of Enlightenment – Wikipedia
“The Enlightenment included a range of ideas centered on the sovereignty of reason and the evidence of the senses as the primary sources of knowledge and advanced ideals such as liberty, progress, toleration, fraternity, constitutional government and separation of church and state. In France, the central doctrines of the Enlightenment philosophers were individual liberty and religious tolerance, in opposition to an absolute monarchy and the fixed dogmas of the Catholic Church.” SOURCE: The Enlightenment – Wikipedia
“The Enlightenment, (17–18th centuries) science, mathematics, and technology were the core of human interest and activity. … While the Renaissance was on the artistic side of human life, the Enlightenment focused on the human intellectual side.
“The Enlightenment world view contributed a great deal to today’s modern world.” SOURCE: differencebetween.net. Difference Between Renaissance World View and Enlightenment World View
THE PROTESTANT REFORMATION. “Ultimately the Protestant Reformation led to modern democracy, skepticism, capitalism, individualism, civil rights, and many of the modern values we cherish today. The Protestant Reformation increased literacy throughout Europe and ignited a renewed passion for education.” SOURCE: study.com/academy/lesson/impact-of-the-protestant-reformation-on-the-study-of-history.html
“The Protestant Reformation was a major 16th century European movement aimed initially at reforming the beliefs and practices of the Roman Catholic Church. Its religious aspects were supplemented by ambitious political rulers who wanted to extend their power and control at the expense of the Church.” SOURCE: https://u-s-history.com/pages/h1136.html
SCIENTIFIC REVOLUTION. The scientific revolution has roots further back from the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. Indeed, we can see its beginnings in Presocratic philosophy:
“Presocratic philosophers are the Western thinkers preceding Socrates (c. 469-c. 399 B.C.E.) … The Presocratics were interested in a wide variety of topics, especially in what we now think of as natural science rather than philosophy. These early thinkers often sought naturalistic explanations and causes for physical phenomena.” SOURCE: www.iep.utm.edu/presocra/
“Roger Bacon (1214/1220-1292) emphasized experimentation. A few hundred years later, Francis Bacon (1561-1626), ‘the Father of Empiricism,’ came along. Finally, René Descartes (1596-1650) was a French philosopher who has often been called ‘the Father of Modern Philosophy. ‘ Descartes was a rationalist who believed reason was the source of knowledge.” SOURCE: https://study.com/academy/lesson/bacon-descartes-the-scientific-method.html
“By tradition, the “Scientific Revolution” refers to historical changes in thought and belief, to changes in social and institutional organization, that unfolded in Europe between roughly 1550-1700 [and beyond]; beginning with Nicholas Copernicus (1473-1543), who asserted a heliocentric (sun-centered) cosmos, [Galileo1564—1642, also affirms heliocentrism]; it ended with Isaac Newton (1642-1727), who proposed universal laws and a Mechanical Universe.” SOURCE: The Scientific Revolution / Dr. Robert A. Hatch
(You are invited to research non-western science. Here is one source.) “History of Science in Non-Western Traditions: China” by William C. Summers / SOURCE: https://hssonline.org/resources/teaching/teaching_nonwestern/teaching_nonwestern_china/
THE ENVIRONMENTAL MOVEMENT “The history of the scientific discovery of climate change began in the early 19th century when ice ages and other natural changes in paleoclimate were first suspected and the natural greenhouse effect first identified. In the late 19th century, scientists first argued that human emissions of greenhouse gases could change the climate. Many other theories of climate change were advanced, involving forces from volcanism to solar variation. Thomas Edison, pioneer of electrical technologies, voiced concern for climate change and support for renewable energy in the 1930s. In the 1960s, the warming effect of carbon dioxide gas became increasingly convincing. Some scientists also pointed out that human activities that generated atmospheric aerosols (e.g., ‘pollution’) could have cooling effects as well.
“During the 1970s, scientific opinion increasingly favored the warming viewpoint. By the 1990s, as a result of improving fidelity of computer models and observational work confirming the Milankovitch theory of the ice ages, a consensus position formed: greenhouse gases were deeply involved in most climate changes and human-caused emissions were bringing discernible global warming. Since the 1990s, scientific research on climate change has included multiple disciplines and has expanded. Research has expanded our understanding of causal relations, links with historic data and ability to model climate change numerically. Research during this period has been summarized in the Assessment Reports by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.” SOURCE: History of climate change science / Wikipedia
“Starting in the late 1950s, prior to the [publication of Silent Spring in 1962, Rachel] Carson had focused her attention on environmental conservation, especially environmental problems that she believed were caused by synthetic pesticides. The result of her research was Silent Spring, which brought environmental concerns to the American public. The book was met with fierce opposition by chemical companies, but, owing to public opinion, it brought about numerous changes. It spurred a reversal in the United States’ national pesticide policy, led to a nationwide ban on DDT for agricultural uses, and helped to inspire an environmental movement that led to the creation of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.” SOUCE: Silent Spring / Wikipedia
“The two main goals of the environmental movement are to preserve the environment for future generations, and to make life better for those already living. Both have been met with limited success due mainly to political opposition.” SOURCE: https://quizlet.com/128454758/the-environmental-movement-quiz-flash-cards/
“The events that influenced [the environment movement] were smog, acid rain, and toxic waste that created cancer and birth defects. Also, Rachel Carson’s 1962 book Silent Spring. It attracted the same people because they all wanted change. Positive, it got more acts and laws to ensure that the environment stays clean.” SOURCE: quizlet.com/128454758/the-environmental-movement-quiz-flash-cards/
“The major factors that led to the birth of the environmental movement in the 1970s were the energy crisis, anxiety of nuclear weapons, overpopulation and the three major events that occurred in 1969 such as the offshore drilling rig that spilled millions of gallons of oil off the coast of Santa Barbara.” SOURCE: quizlet.com/129794757/apush-ch-29-questions-flash-cards/
Welcome To The Machine
Welcome my son, welcome to the machine
Where have you been?
It’s alright, we know where you’ve been
You’ve been in the pipeline filling in time…