On Snakes Eating Their Own Tales (Philosophically) (Pun Intended)

Here’s a book review (of “Seeing Things As They Are”) that starts out with an intriguing critique of how philosophers in the past have struggled with the idea of objective vs. subjective realities, but it’s only readable for about four paragraphs.

Maybe I need to read more ontology 101 texts (not really: how arduous would that be?), but by the midpoint of the review I’m completely lost and bored and uninterested. I didn’t finish reading the review, and not because the review itself was bad—it isn’t—but mostly because the “problem” of whether a truly objective reality exists doesn’t seem like much of a problem to me.

I could read the review (or even the book itself) or not, and my daily life would not be any different. Having no bearing on how I move about the world would typically disqualify a philosophy from being useful or profound. Yes, sometimes thinking about something just for fun is extremely useful—sometimes necessary, even—but to write whole books on it and to have whole academic departments debating it?

If the answer to a philosophical question is “I’m not sure, but either way I’m going to live my life in the same way as before,” then why ask the question? Does human perception actually create external reality? Here we have a question that not only fails to satisfy the above criterion, but perhaps doesn’t even make sense as a question. Better, then, to move on to other discussions—even philosophical ones—as we careen towards an era when we’ll briefly be the only mega-fauna, and then there will be no mega-fauna to speak of (or to perceive, subjectively or otherwise).

Side note: I need to get back to reading Nietzsche every week.

I Read the News Today, Oh Boy

A new report from Stanford claims that we’re well into the 6th great mass extinction event in the earth’s history.

From livescience:

That means the number of species that went extinct in the past 100 years would have taken 11,400 years to go extinct under natural extinction rates, the researchers said.

From The Telegraph:

Scientists at Stanford University in the US claim it is the biggest loss of species since the Cretaceous-Tertiary mass extinction which wiped out the dinosaurs 66 million years ago.

From Scientific American:

The population of any given animal among the five million or so species on the planet is, on average, 28 percent smaller, thanks to humans. And as many as one third of all animals are either threatened or endangered, a new study in Science finds.

Some problems don’t have solutions.

Writing About Pretty Nature Only

Here’s a recent critique of nature writing. The article specifically dissects “H Is for Hawk”—which I’ve seen in Orion and considered buying—among other books.

The author makes an interesting point about making nature “enchanting,” while at the same time not acknowledging that much of our landscape is, well, pretty shitty—made that way our culture. But that shitty land is also worth fighting for—and maybe even more so than the pristine postcard vistas. It’s no wonder that many people think that “nature” is ugly or dangerous or boring; we’ve made it that way, through a long line of “logical” eventualities, from agriculture to industrial capitalism.

The scarred wastelands of our planet don’t inspire documentaries or attract meditative retreats. But someone has to talk about them, because the whole earth will be a scarred wasteland if we don’t.

This Is the Problem, take seven billion

Here’s an article that sums up the problem pretty well: rich Californians are angry at new water restrictions being imposed because of the severe drought, because those who pay more should get more water—as if it isn’t a finite resource on which all life on earth depends.

“I think we’re being overly penalized, and we’re certainly being overly scrutinized by the world,” said Gay Butler, an interior designer out for a trail ride on her show horse, Bear. She said her water bill averages about $800 a month.

“It angers me because people aren’t looking at the overall picture,” Butler said. “What are we supposed to do, just have dirt around our house on four acres?”

This attitude is appalling to me, but I also recognize that it’s how Americans are (rightly) viewed by the rest of the world, as we—along with the rest of the industrialized global North—lecture about the need for renewal and reduction while continuing to consume a vastly disproportionate amount of the world’s finite resources—and continuing to pollute the remainder. What, are we supposed to just have dirt around our houses?

Meanwhile, there’s talk of reversing Austin’s ban on plastic bags, even though it initially appears to be working. (According to the linked article: Two years after the city of Austin banned single-use plastic bags, a new report estimates Austinites have used nearly 200 million fewer plastic bags annually — a 75 percent reduction.) What, are we supposed to just reuse bags when we go shopping?