Friday, March 31, 2006

Futureless

James Lovelock thinks it's too late. Gaia is sick, maybe dying. Nothing we can do, anything that could have been done would have had to be undertaken 50 years ago back when we knew too little (or ignored what could have helped us). Got this from an interview with him on CBC for his new book, The Revenge of Gaia.

Anyway, it made me wonder about something, thought I'd throw it out there.

Is it possible that the birth of science fiction or any literature concerned with the future came about when something in us clicked and we knew, instinctively, that we are without a future, that a future for us as a species is now impossible? To stave off insanity we had to imagine ourselves projected into fantasy times yet to come so that at least the life of the mind could experience a type of transgression of our limits.

Anyway, I'm pretty sure this isn't the case and that the birth of science fiction had more to do with ideas of progress and the amount of change in the cultural landscape (and the actual physical landscape) an individual human began to witness in their own life time at the dawn of the industrial revolution. Still, it is intriguing to wonder if there was more to it than that given what is happening around us today, how any of our imagined futures seem impossible and unrealisable. I wouldn't put it past our more instinctive animal brains to have subconsciously seen this before we could realise it consciously. Maybe it was even meant as a warning, the only one we would psychologically allow to manifest from our own pens.
After all, much sci-fi is concerned with apocalyptic or dystopian futures and rarely something to be admired and striven for. So maybe, just maybe, we had ample warning from the depths of our imaginations. Or maybe I'm just a flake. But I like the way it sounds to say we had to dream ourselves a future since we were destined to be without one.

14 Comments:

Blogger Blog Monkey said...

even david suzuki said he has little hope recently. however, he seemed more dour than i imagined possible at the time, and he's starting to smile again.

bad day? well, my recent post says it all. just because a storm is on the horizon is no reason to stop. (don't read too far into that, Dubya... It don't apply to murderers, assholes and opportunistic oppressors.)

3:05 PM  
Anonymous meinert said...

You know, ya gottta look at the other side of the coin once in a while. Living in the urban jungle often blinds us to the fact that there are VAST areas of the planet that are doing just fine and healing - some parts thriving better than ever. It's a bit sapien-centric to think that this short blip of time that we've been on the planet spells doom to Gaia. Nature has a way of recycling, and we'll soon all be converted to oil in a few millenia for the next species to exploit or ignore. Depair for the planet isn't going to improve it, but hope will.

11:26 AM  
Blogger Blog Monkey said...

i'll hold meinert down, you work over his ribs, sink.

4:33 PM  
Blogger Kathleen Callon said...

The Earth is changing, but it always has. I live in desert that used to be sand under an ocean... much of North America used to be under us. Ya, it's warming quickly, but Gaia will live on (even if we don't).

1:03 AM  
Blogger Sinkchicken said...

Yeah, I tend to think Gaia will live in the end but in what form is the question? The "blip" thing has always fascinated me, that the span of human activity is so infintesimal compared to the lifespan of the planet and the universe. But I've always thought that this knowledge would make us want to improve our ways and improve our chances of lasting as long as we can as best we could rather than use it up at even faster rates. And yeah hope is always better than despair but there does come a time when letting the gravity of the situation, as overwhelming as that may be, hit one square in the brain's nutsack and hopefully have it motivate oneself into a more active roll. Funny thing though James Lovelock in the interview I mentioned didn't sound "down" at all, he was all matter-of-fact about it, so it was weird. But yeah, I have hope, I guess, sometimes, just not when I wrote that last piece. But usually my version of hope involves imagining a time when human beings live a somewhat more primitive lifestyle, assuming a more active roll in living in harmony with nature and ourselves rather than trying to be virtual or angelic creatures.

11:20 AM  
Blogger Sinkchicken said...

And in conjunction with that, reading Stolen Continents recently (as well as info from other sources), it is quite amazing to read that many aboriginal peoples on the planet, the "new world" peoples specifically, actually played a role in maintaining healthy, thriving ecosystems by their daily activities. By that I mean that what they did to survive and make a living (slash and burn farming, clearing forest so deer and other species could thrive) contributed to a healthy symbiotic relationship with the their local ecosystem. This isn't just idealising their "noble savagery" either, there is growing archaelogoical evidence that, perhaps after an initial "first contact" phase that saw them wipe out the larger docile mammals (because they had never seen humans and didn't know to flee so they were very easy to hunt), that they began to use techniques (that they would use right up to contact with Europeans) that actually improved upon their natural environment and gave them a niche role to play in the development of the ecosystem (rather than the destructive role we play). There are even some who now suggest that there may be evidence that the Amazon rainforest was "human managed" and its as-if-natural form was shaped by human activities over the last several millenia.

11:28 AM  
Anonymous meinert said...

You guys should read "Cows, Pigs, Wars and Witches: The Riddles of Culture" by Marvin Harris. Some very interesting "big picture" views on human behavior. There are some great insights into anthropological reasons for mass cultural behaviors that we're completely unaware of. It's as if as a species we are pathologically incapable of seeing why we choose mass ritualistic behaviors which are largely dictated by instinct and self-preservation.

12:19 AM  
Blogger Blog Monkey said...

hmmm... does that come in picture book form?

you'll all hate me for saying this, but unfortunately, we need a culling. yeah, we have fancy words for it when it applies to us, but let's lift our veil for a moment and apply the same rules we play with the other animals on earth. the scales of the ecosystem are tipped by one species which threatens the survival of the fragile web. easy, when applied to nature, which we lord over. we cull.

one thing human nature has taught me is that when it comes to ourselves, we cannot see the facts. one human life is worth more to us than an entire ecosystem.

i was tasked to answer a question once. a house is on fire. you have an opportunity to save 100 animals or an old man. which do you save, and why?

5:37 PM  
Blogger Sinkchicken said...

Sounds like a very interesting book that I should borrow from you (hint hint).

12:26 PM  
Blogger Blog Monkey said...

hey... where the heck are you... haven't seen you online.

3:45 PM  
Blogger Sinkchicken said...

I'm right behind you!!!! I'm the one with the serrated hunting knife and the dilated pupils charging at you! Not the other guy with the rubber chicken and the meat cleaver. He's just some weirdo.

12:06 PM  
Blogger Kathleen Callon said...

Are you still alive? Did the assassins of the indigenous supporters run you over? (Just kidding, I hope.) Hope you had a great Easter.

1:29 PM  
Blogger Blog Monkey said...

duuuuude. freaking post something.

too busy making babies, huh? well, i will learn you to ignore us.

careful with that knife. and, you forgot your contacts again...

5:59 PM  
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3:54 AM  

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