In this episode, we explore some fundamental questions and assumptions in sustainability.
This episode was recorded on 16 September 2019.
- When talking about sustainability, how far into the future are we looking?
- “On a long enough time scale, the survival rate for everyone drops to zero.” (Chuck Palahniuk, Fight Club)
- Does sustainability imply a sense of remaining static?
- How do we make sense of that in light of an ever-changing world?
- The choices we make today could result in vastly different futures
- Importance of understanding various conceptions of “quality of life”
The end of OUR species
- Annihilation vs. living forever – a false dichotomy?
- Curtailed potential, a sub-optimal existence
- Who is to blame for human problems?
- To what extent is sustainability the moral responsibility on a species level?
- Notions of power, inequality, and impact
- Capital and commoditisation as a measure of “value”
- How important is the human species, in the grand scheme of things?
- Humans are special, we may be the only ones in the universe with the ability for it to “know itself” (Carl Sagan)
- We don’t know the full consequences of our actions
- But neither do we know the consequences of our inaction
Saving the world
- Anthropocentrism is rooted in the belief that humans are fundamentally different from other species
- Generally tied to our minds, this idea of consciousness
- But we don’t really have a clear way to assess consciousness
- Where a living being does not have the ability to make its own decisions, a “guardian” may come in and act on your behalf
- Supposedly with the being’s best interests at heart, but also opens up abuses of power
- We do this for the environment – or at least the non-human parts of the environment
- Metabolic rift: the separation of man from nature (Karl Marx)
Instrumental vs. intrinsic value
- Instrumental value is about the utility of an object, like a fork or a car
- Intrinsic value is contained in and of itself, such as a sunset or human life
- We may see intrinsic value in something instrumental, or vice versa
- It depends on each of our relationship to that thing, which affects how we perceive its purpose and role in our perspective
- Is valuing things in terms of their utility (instrumental value) necessarily wrong?
- There is always the question of foresight and hindsight: how might the way we value and use something today diminish its potential future instrumental value?
The Great Acceleration
- The term “The Great Acceleration” refers to a trend across a range of factors, socio-economic and environmental, which has shot up since 1950
- Originally coined in 2004
- Exponential trends correlated with the post-WWII period, the industrial “development” agenda lobbied by western, capitalist countries
- A story of energy: it has become abundant and cheap, and humans have been able to exploit it for our purposes
- “Oil Is the Cheat Code” (Nick Blood)
- Does intention matter, if the outcome is the same?
- Next episode, we’ll be talking about philosophy in action