Wednesday, 7 December 2011

Nature isn't natural

People who care about environmental issues often talk in terms of harmony and balance, as though there's a basic stability in nature which bad, unnatural humans are messing with. If we weren't here, then the great circle of life would go on circling, ecosystems would carry on self-regulating, and everything would be ok. The problem is, argues Žižek, that nature isn't really like that. The universe as a whole runs on catastrophes: things stabilise for a while and then bang! the universe starts; bang! an asteroid crashed into Earth and the dinosaurs die; bang! an ice age. Even the ordinary run of things is far from harmonious if you're one of the seals that a polar bear needs to eat to take its place in the great circle of life. This doesn't mean that dramatic climate change isn't bad - it's pretty terrible if you think that human life and civilisation is worth preserving - or even that there's nothing we can do to stop it; what it does mean is that we need to stop pretending that living peaceably with the world around us is somehow natural.