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8 September 2003 (Monday): shaky foundations

The debate (previous post) continues to rage -- it's like the Poli Sci discussion section that never ends. Good times. The sweat and chalkdust are starting to make me woozy, though, so I'm stepping outside for a drink of water.

Presently we have circled back to fundamentals: what are we here to do? I argued for something sustainable, but I'm suddenly troubled by this notion. Hell, nothing is sustainable. The earth has ice ages, continents break into tectonic fragments, the sun will swell up and die, the Milky Way will collide into Andromeda. The Way Of Things seems to be constant upheaval, albeit on a grand, slow scale. Form, destroy, reform. Everything works perfectly, but only for a while. Perhaps to strive for immortality is folly.

Back I go. There are plenty of extra chairs, if you care to join us.

posted by enjelani @ 09:32 AM PST

Replies: 3 comments

On immortality ... No single structure persists forever, but the re-creation of a form following its destruction will often be based on and expand upon that previous form. Life learns. (And what's cool is that we're all a part of an unbroken chain of living processes stretching back ... what, billions of years? If not more.) The arc of life is learning *towards* something. I don't know what, but I think increasing complexity is part of it, increasingly complex relationships. Anyway, sustaining that arc, maintaining and adding to the complexity of our local web of life (and doing it in a beautiful way, if we like) is an important thing, I'd say.

(And I guess I'm seeing impending galactic upheaval as outside the scope of my *current* concerns ... ;)

posted by eric @ 16 09 2003 02:30 PM PST

On the question of the arc of life moving or not moving toward something, I am firmly agnostic. But the arc does evolve over time. For this reason, I don't think it's right to interpret sustainability as simply preservation of society and environment in their current state. For there is nothing special about the current state: It had not always existed, and it has too many internal contradictions to indefinitely continue.

posted by beefeater @ 18 09 2003 02:09 PM PST

Sustainabilty and preserving the current state are not even in the same ball park. Sustainabilty is about conservation, not conservatism. Conservatism is an anal holding on to the status quo, sustainability is about Noah's ark, where everybody gets to ride. Mass extinctions have happened before, but while the asteroids did not have a choice, we do. We can choose to turn in the direction of sustainable lifestyle, or we will probably extinct ourselves along with the rest of our dominion. We are symbiotially engaged with the web of life on this planet whether we like it or not.

posted by theo @ 20 09 2003 10:34 AM PST