Saturday, October 29, 2022

Book Summary and Review II: Civilized Man's Eight Deadly Sins - Konrad Lorenz



Türkçe Versiyon


Konrad Lorenz’s book that I review in this paper was published nearly fifty years ago, in 1973. Lorenz investigates eight problems that have been created by the human civilization which threaten its existence. As we will see during our investigation, modern technology is the common thread that links all of these problems together. We see that these problems have become more widespread and intense as modern technology has continued to develop since 1973.

1. Overpopulation

Organic life, like a dam, is situated on the universal energy flux. Living things absorb energy to their metabolisms by taking advantage of the negative entropy, and this energy increases their mass. As their mass increases, their capacity for energy absorption also increases. That, in turn, accelerates their rate of enlargement. This process is an example of a positive feedback loop, and positive feedback loops don’t end up in a catastrophe thanks to negative feedback loops that balance them. Some relentless physics and probability laws counter this energy absorption and enlargement tendency inherent in organic beings. Thanks to these laws, living things and ecosystems reach homeostasis. But men, thanks to his technology, surpass the boundaries these laws set, and increase their mass with a positive feedback loop unchecked by a balancing negative feedback loop. 

Overpopulation forces people to live in enormous cities as big masses. Men aren’t adapted to live in close physical proximity with hundreds and thousands of people. For this reason, modern man is inclined to ignore people whom he doesn’t know personally. Moreover, being in perpetual and close proximity to many people diminishes his capacity to care even for his close ones. According to Lorenz, some of the pathologic behaviors modern city dweller exhibits are due to this crowded and unnatural environment. Lorenz refers here, especially, to some pathological violent acts we see in metropolises. Experiments on animals and observations on people have demonstrated that crowded environments increase aggression.

Lorenz doesn’t mention that overpopulation is one of the most influential factors in the destruction of wild Nature. Construction of buildings that are necessary to accommodate milliards of people, clearing off wild lands for agriculture, extraction of resources that they need, etc. result inevitably in the destruction or subjugation of wild Nature.

Today, many people think that anxieties about overpopulation that were much more common during the 60s and 70s turned out false, and overpopulation isn't a problem anymore. During the 70s, when Paul Ehrlich’s Population Bomb came out, the main concern was that the expected population increase would render food sources insufficient, cause global famines, and social upheavals or wars would follow. As it is well known, the world population of 3,5 milliards in the 1970s is approaching today to 8 milliards. But this doesn’t mean that there is no overpopulation problem today. As Lorenz indicates, humanity has continued to increase its population by suspending the negative feedback loops that would normally act on its population. This has been achieved thanks to new technological developments in agriculture: the widespread adoption of more efficient crop types, artificial fertilizers, and chemical pesticides. Therefore, the overpopulation problem as Lorenz defines it in this book has continued unabated: a positive feedback loop unchecked by natural limits that are suspended by technological means. But this can be done only so long, and as Lorenz also indicates in his book, unchecked positive feedback loops in Nature generally end in a catastrophe. Besides, the toll exacted on wild things to sustain this population boom has been enormous and is getting bigger as the population continues to grow.

2. Devastation of the Environment

The species that constitute an ecosystem have very complex relations of interdependency among each other. Hunters and games are dependent on each other. Ecosystems reach their current equilibriums by passing through long evolutionary processes. Though some relatively rare events might destroy or radically alter some ecosystems, the evolution of ecosystems, like the evolution of species, happens very slowly. 

But humans, due to their technology, have an ecosystem that changes very rapidly.1 Geometrical development of technology causes rapid and deep transformations in natural ecosystems that humanity depends on for survival. Lorenz speaks about here both the rapid and deep transformations humanity causes in Nature and the rapid and fundamental changes that occur in the artificial environments (cities, countryside, etc.) which are created by the human civilization. These transformations, according to Lorenz, are detrimental to the health of the ecosystems: to “humanity’s ecosystem” and also to wild ecosystems. Geometrical advances in technology change cities physically and demographically in a rapid fashion. This rapid change also affects the routines of everyday life (from the forms of work to free time activities), and relations among people (the structure of the family, relations between men and women, etc.)

Lorenz focuses specifically on the aesthetics of the cities. According to him, the rapid geographical spread of the cities devastates the aesthetic quality of the living environment of humans. He compares the cities that were built during the Middle Ages with the recent development of the suburbs, and remarks that the latter have no aesthetic quality. The lack of aesthetics in these recent developments stems from the fact that they are mass-produced. They spread rapidly like cancerous cells. The living environment of humans changes so rapidly that the equilibrium that Nature reaches in a long time is no longer present in human ecosystems. Lorenz attributes the beauty of Nature to this equilibrium which is created only through a long evolutionary process. Modern cities have lost their aesthetic quality because only a similar process can create a functional and healthy whole.  

Humanity, which destroys Nature’s spontaneous aesthetics, is forced to live in an awful and ugly artificial environment. Lorenz states that this situation destroys man’s moral and aesthetic sense. Modern living environments, with their mass-produced sameness, ignore people’s individuality and stifle it in the end. Modern cities are comprised of millions of people who are stuffed in identical cages that are stockpiled on top of each other. Lorenz remarks that a person who endures this misery is inclined to isolate himself from his neighbor who suffers from the same conditions. According to Lorenz, this inclination is caused by the desire to run away from one's own misery that is reflected from a neighbor. But I think there is a more fundamental desire in this inclination. Modern man is inclined to avoid his neighbors who happen to live just above, below, or next to him. Because, essentially, his neighbors are strangers to him. These people are generally neither his relatives nor they are part of a small group through which they engage together in a practical and meaningful activity. Even being relatives or close friends doesn’t have any practical meaning nowadays. The modern individual can only function as a replaceable component of a giant social organization which makes him disappear in a giant crowd of millions of people. Friends and relatives are mostly for passing away their “free time.” That is why, in practical terms, the modern individual is lonely and isolated.

Lorenz’s position is environmentalism. Environmentalism concerns itself with the devastation of wild Nature to the extent that it affects “humanity’s ecosystem.” It is concerned that Nature wouldn’t be able to sustain the services it gives to human societies such as clean air and water, absorption of their waste, and provision of various resources. Environmentalism’s attitude towards wild Nature is instrumental. It doesn’t see wild Nature as valuable in itself. Even though Lorenz mentions the devastation that rapid advance of technology brings to wild Nature, he is more concerned about the effects of this on the “humans’ ecosystem.” He focuses on the aesthetic misery of modern cities. His attitude on this issue is reminiscent of the humanist anti-industrialists (Jacques Ellul, Lewis Mumford, etc.) who lament the old cities, old monuments, and old cultural achievements that were so magnificent before technological development passed that optimum threshold. The technology, up to a certain level of development, was conducive to the process of humanization. It was helping humanity to elaborate and refine its sense of aesthetics, and sense of morality. It was making Homo sapiens more human by refining its qualities which distinguish it from other animal species. Once this optimum threshold has been passed by technological development, it has begun to have the opposite effect. It has started to dull humanity’s sense of morality and aesthetics. Cities have started to lose their old beauty, people have started to be more concerned by the practical aspects of things rather than their beauty, they have become the victims of the banal and vulgar popular culture, the residents of the metropolitan areas have become less concerned with one another, they have become more prone to senseless violence or other unnatural bizarre acts. 

Humanist anti-industrialism’s lamentations about the old cultural achievements of humanity are no more than romantic nostalgia. And its main concern (the process of “humanization:” making humans more human, refining their aesthetics and sense of morality, etc.) reflects its progressivist stance. What this concern about “humanization” amounts to is to improve humans through cultural conditioning, to stifle or subjugate their wild nature. How can we differentiate this aim from the technophiles’ dreams about trans-humanity, integrating humans with machines, modifying their genes, or some other disgusting projects that purportedly aim to improve humanity? These aims are, qualitatively speaking, the same things. Technophiles and anti-industrialist humanists see humans in their natural character as something unachieved, unfinished, and something that needs to be improved through cultural means. We can only draw a line by making wild human nature our reference point. No “improvements” can be made artificially on what Nature (the evolutionary process) has made us during our long existence as nomadic hunter-gatherers. 

When it comes to the devastation that has been brought on the “humans’ ecosystem” (the artificial environment humans live in), at least since the agricultural revolution and the advent of the sedentary life, there hasn’t been a qualitative shift in this domain. Humans have been living in unnatural environments that they are not evolutionarily adapted to since they have moved to a sedentary lifestyle with agriculture. These sedentary living environments, since their beginning, have been much more crowded than small natural human groups, destroyed the beauty of Nature, subjected humans to unhygienic conditions and infectious diseases, stratified people to strict social hierarchies, and tried to restrict the spontaneous expression of human nature through various mechanisms. Of course, they have become worse in nearly all of these aspects as technology has advanced. As Lorenz also remarks, since the Industrial Revolution, their spread has become cancerous. But this is not due to some change of mentality in humans because they’ve lost their sense of aesthetics or morals. This is simply because human societies have at their disposal since the Industrial Revolution much larger amounts of energy and material resources. That is why they are getting bigger and transforming larger areas of wilderness into artificial environments more rapidly, trapping more and more people in close proximity to each other by isolating them more firmly from wild Nature. Because of this, people are living in conditions that are becoming remoter each day from the conditions that they have evolved in. Though it may be a subjective assessment, this stricter isolation from wild Nature might be the reason why the artificial environments have lost their aesthetic qualities compared to their historic precedents. Our aesthetic sense has evolved as well during our long nomadic hunter-gatherer existence, and it must have been attuned to the sounds, smells, and views of Nature. In the cities or towns of the past, the existence of wild Nature was palpable. They were surrounded by wild Nature, and their residents could feel and even experience wild Nature to a certain degree. They could reach it by walking and they weren’t as isolated from it as the habitants of modern metropolises.  

Saturday, September 3, 2022

Rene Dubos’ya Cevabım – Edward Abbey


Edward Abbey, Amerikalı yazar ve konservasyonist. Desert Solitaire (Çölde Tek Başına) ve Monkeywrench Gang (Sabotaj Çetesi) isimli kitapları Türkçe’ye çevrilmiştir. Aşağıda Türkçe çevirisini bulabileceğiniz yazısı, medeniyet ve onun vahşi Doğa ile ilişkisi ile ilgili naif ve yanlış fikirler içermesine rağmen, vahşi Doğa ve onun gerçek özgürlük ile olan ilişkisinin anlaşılması bakımından önemli ipuçları sunmaktadır. Vahşi Doğa’nın varlığı bize, insan yapımı alanların dışında bir alternatif sunar: Organize insan toplumunun kontrolünün dışında, kendi iradesine sahip alanlar. Gerçek özgürlük fikrinin anlaşılması ve bu özgürlüğün mümkün olmaya devam etmesi vahşi Doğa’nın varlığı ile mümkündür. Yazıda da göreceğiniz gibi, Abbey’nin, uzaktan estetik bir görünüme sahip Avrupa topraklarının insan eliyle yaşadığı dönüşümü fark etmesi ve bunun ne anlama geldiğini idrak etmesi, Amerika’daki vahşi toprakları tecrübe etmesi ile mümkün olmuştur. Vahşi Doğa’nın son kalan parçalarının da yok edilmesi ya da boyunduruk altına alınması, yapay alanlar haricindeki tüm referans noktalarının kaybedilmesi, insan toplumunun üyeleri ile birlikte tamamen kendi içine hapsolması ve böylece gerçek özgürlüğün tamamen ortadan kalkması anlamına gelecektir. Doğacak yeni kuşaklar vahşi Doğa’yı ve onun sunduğu özgürlüğü hayal dahi edemez bir noktaya geleceklerdir.

Rene Dubos’ya Cevabım – Edward Abbey1

Rene Dubos, yakın zamanda çıkan kitabı The Wooing of the Earth’te, Avrupa topraklarının son binyılda insan emeği, insan ihtiyaçları ve insan düşüncesi ile değişime uğratılmasını büyük bir gurur ile tarif ediyor. Çocukluğunun pastoral manzaralarına yönelik duyduğu saygıyı anlıyorum ve buna sempati ve hatta empati ile yaklaşıyorum. Fransa’da olmasa da ben de Pennsylvania’da bir çiftlikte doğdum ve büyüdüm. Ve en derin duygularım öylesine derin ki kelimelerden çok müziğe yakındırlar çocuklukta yakın bir bağ kurduğum tepelerdeki ağaçlar, mera boyunca akan dere, eski ahırın meşe keresteleri, su kuyusu, şeker akağaçları, çayırlar ve hatta babam ve kardeşlerim ile birlikte Nisan ayında ektiğimiz ve yaz boyunca çapaladığımız (işin içinde zorlama da yok değildi) ve daha sonra kesip, soyarak Ekim ayının kederli son günlerinde atların çektiği bir arabaya dal dal yüklediğimiz ekilmiş mısır tarlaları ile ilişki içerisinde şekillendi.

Kim iyi bakılmış tarlaların, kısa kesilmiş çayırların, ahırların, çiftlik evlerinin, taş duvarların, küçük barajların, su değirmenlerinin, kavak ağaçları ile çevreli kavisli toprak yolların ve insan emeği ve insan sevgisi ile beslenerek oluşturulmuş tüm o şeylerin güzelliğini ve faydasını inkar edebilir? Şairler, Vergil ile Horace’ten beri, iki bin yıldır, kırsal manzarayı övmek ile meşguller. Watteau’dan Constable’a ve oradan Inness’e on binlerce ressam onlara görünen şekli ile kırsal yaşamın huzur ve bolluğunu parlak renkler ile resmettiler. Bu duygu kartpostal sektörünün temelidir. Thomas Jefferson’dan Franklin Roosevelt’e ve oradan Ronald Reagan’a (büyüklüğe göre sıralarsak) Amerikalı siyasetçiler aile çiftliğini ulusun omurgası olarak gördüler. Hatta Jefferson bunda samimiydi.

Günümüzde geleneksel biçimi ile tarımın en katı savunucuları konservasyonistlerdir. Onlar aynı zamanda gerçek muhafazakarlardır. Sadece iki isimden bahsetmem yeterli: Aldo Leopold, onuntoprak etiği” kavramı konservasyon felsefesinin kelime dağarcığının temel bir parçası olmuştur. Wendell Berry, kendisi bir çiftçi olmak ile birlikte aynı zamanda bir şair ve yazardır. The Long-Legged ve The Unsettling of America kitaplarındaki cesur ve muhteşem makaleler aile çiftliğinin ve bağımsız çiftçinin eski tarım sanatında bulunan ekonomik, siyasi, ruhsal ve estetik değerler bir yaşam biçimi olarak çiftçilik adına korunması için en iyi argümanları geliştirmektedir. Çiftçiliğin geleneksel biçimine bağımsız çiftçiler tarafından gerçekleştirilen karşı çıkacak kadar “saf” bir konservasyonist hayal edemiyorum. Rene Dubos ve benim aramdaki tartışma tarım ile ilgili değil, endüstriyel tarım ile ilgilidir.

Çiftçilik insan ile toprak arasında kendi kendini devam ettiren simbiyotik bir ilişkidir ve Rene Dubos’nun belagatli bir şekilde övdüğü ahenkli, güzel ve bereketli kültürel çevreyi ortaya çıkarır. Endüstriyel tarım ise sanayileşmiş, mekanize tarımdır; topraktan maden gibi zorla çekip çıkarılan –flörtleşerek2 değil– ve kitlesel bir şekilde üretilen gıda ve liflerdir. Endüstriyel tarım modern bir fenomendir ve hızlı bir şekilde artan insan nüfusunun ihtiyaçlarına bir cevap olarak geliştirilmiştir. Devasa su kanalları, fosil yakıtlar, kimyasal gübreler ve diğer başka tür ağır sermaye yatırımlarına bağlı bu tarz geniş ölçekli bir tarımın uzun süre ayakta kalıp kalamayacağını göreceğiz; geleceği biraz şüpheli gözükmektedir. Devasa büyüklükteki kahverengi ve yeşil tarlalar Kansas’ın otuz bin metre üzerindeki bir uçaktan bakıldığında güven verici bir manzara gibi gözükebilir. Fakat zeminden, yakından bakıldığında o kadar da güzel gözükmezler. Bu tarz bir tarım – monokültür – doğal düzenin aşırı derecede basitleştirilmesini içerir. Belki bir geometricinin zevkine göre tatmin edici olabilir, fakat geleneksel çiftçinin gözüne böyle gözükmez.

Saturday, August 6, 2022

Book Summary and Review I: Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind - Yuval Noah Harari

 

Introduction


In this paper, we will summarize and criticize Yuval Noah Harari’s book, “
Sapiens: A Brief of History of Humankind.1 This book has become a sensation in recent years; it occupied the best seller lists for long time, got praise from numerous “respected” people, and turned into a widely accepted long-term history of our species. Despite the fact that Harari wants to present his book as an impartial, objective and scientific account of the history of our species without the distortion of any value judgments, and the large part of the public seems to swallows this claim, Sapiens is no more than an updated version of the old idealist progressivist narrative of the technological development: Homo sapiens, with their unique cognitive abilities, are inventing ever more advanced technologies, and marching forward to transform themselves to gods: “Homo deus.

1. “The Cognitive Revolution”

Harari begins by reminding us that Homo sapiens were not alone in the world. There were other homo species on the planet as late as 10.000 years ago, and these were also human. About 2 million years ago, the archaic human species left Africa and began to spread to other continents. They developed into different human species in those places. There were at least six different human species. 

One of the defining features of homo species was their big brains. Big brains bestow advantages to their owners, but they also bring disadvantages such as the large energy needed to fuel those big brains. Harari doesn’t give any reasons why humans have developed big brains. There are some theories as to why (such as sexual selection, the stimulative effects of tool use, and hunting), but he is right in saying that we don’t know the definitive answer. Another unique treat of humans is bipedalism: walking upwards on two legs. These two treats necessitate the premature birth of humans. Human babies are born vulnerable, and completely dependent on adults. This has had enormous consequences on the social and familial structure of human bands. Women, on their own, couldn’t raise babies; they needed supplies and protection from other members of the tribe. This necessity increased the social abilities of humans.

Genus homo’s position in the food chain, until recently, was in the middle. Humankind has ascended to the top level too quickly. Because of this, neither the ecosystems nor the humans themselves adopted a hundred percent to this reality. In contrast, lions or sharks evolved into top predator positions over millions of years. Domestication of fire and tool use were key events in the ascendance of humans into the top position of the food chain.

According to Harari, despite these characteristics (big brains, bipedalism, use of stone tools, and domestication of fire) humans were still marginal creatures up until about 70.000 years ago. In the sense that they didn’t have a dominant place in the world’s ecosystems. About 70.000 years ago, Homo sapiens began to spread out of Africa. This dispersal more or less coincided with the disappearance of other homo species all over the world. Two main theories try to explain why the disappearance of other homo species occurred. One is the inter-breeding theory, and the other is the replacement theory. According to the former theory, Homo sapiens interbred with other homo species which they encountered, and they merged into single populations. The other theory states that Homo sapiens replaced other human species by driving them into extinction either by killing them directly or by driving them out from their habitats by using more effective hunting and gathering methods.

DNA mapping that was conducted on Neanderthal and Denisova genes showed that an unequal combination of the above-mentioned theories was in action in the history of the human species. “1-4 percent of the unique human DNA of modern populations in the Middle East and Europe is Neanderthal DNA,” and “up to 6 percent of the unique human DNA of modern Melanesians and Aboriginal Australians is Denisovan DNA.”2 Therefore, this DNA mapping indicates that other human species went extinct contributing only a tiny percentage of their DNA to the modern human genome. Homo sapiens replaced them with only a little interbreeding. Besides, the fact that native human species went extinct no sooner had Sapiens arrived at their location is another clue that Homo sapiens replaced these other human species either by killing them directly or driving them out with more effective hunting and gathering techniques. 

According to Harari, Homo sapiens made a great leap forward about 70.000 years ago. He calls this “the Cognitive Revolution.” Harari claims that “the Cognitive Revolution” was the consequence of a genetic change in Homo sapiens. A genetic mutation that changed the wiring of the human brain. After this genetic shift, the cognitive abilities of Homo sapiens improved dramatically. Harari claims that we see the signs of this revolution in the artifacts and art objects created after the cognitive revolution: boats, oil lamps, bows, arrows, needles, symbolic artistic objects, cave paintings, etc. This story about the Cognitive Revolution has paramount importance for the narrative that Harari tries to create about the history of our species. From this point onward in the book, he explains every dramatic change in the history of our species as a consequence of the cognitive and imaginative abilities of our species. This one event, this chance mutation that rewired our brains, has paved the way for all the leaps and turns that have occurred in the history of our species. This simplistic and sensationalist way of explaining the big events of our history might be a good recipe for writing an international best-seller, but it doesn’t explain the real reasons behind the unrelenting trend in human history: ever more complexification3 of human societies. He doesn’t mention or barely mentions the material conditions that drive this inexorable social development. 

It is not a proven fact that “a Cognitive Revolution” occurred 70.000 years ago. There is no evidence of a neural mutation that dramatically rewired the human brain, or Homo sapiens who lived 30,000 years ago was qualitatively different or more modern than the members of the same species who lived 200,000 years ago.4 Instead of indicating a biological change in the species, the artifacts Harari mentions as the evidence of a “Cognitive Revolution” might be the results of cultural adaptations of human societies to the changing conditions of their environment: the manifestations of complexification that was undertaken by humans to increase the carrying capacity of their ecosystems. But this line of reasoning is precisely the thing Harari omits in his sensationalist and simplistic explanations. He prefers to explain away the history by appealing to the imaginative abilities of the human species. 

Harari sees language as the most defining and most consequential characteristic of our species. Because it makes us “talk about entire kinds of entities that [we] have never seen, touched or smelled.”5 In other words, it gives us the ability to invent legends, myths, narratives, ideologies, etc. These are the things Harari regards as the engines of human history. According to Harari, religions, laws (religious or secular), corporations (Apple, Mercedes, etc.), nations, states, etc. are all imagined realities. They don’t exist in the world as concrete things; they exist in our imagination and have effects on the real world only to the extent that we believe that they exist and act accordingly. And this ability to imagine the imagined realities was bestowed to us by the “Cognitive Revolution.” The ability to imagine “unreal” concepts enabled Homo sapiens to cooperate beyond its natural reference group which normally consists of at most 150 people. Homo sapiens can act collectively in big numbers (reaching up to milliards) by imagining these imagined realities. The capacity of imagining concepts gives Homo sapiens the ability to revise its behavior and transform the structure of its societies according to changing conditions. The examples Harari gives to illustrate his points are the Peugeot company and the French Revolution. 

Harari says that “Peugeot SA is a figment of our collective imagination.”6 Peugeot SA is a limited liability company; it is a legal fiction. These legal entities can borrow money; own land, machinery, and buildings; can be guilty of crimes; etc. However, they exist only in our imagination. But how can we say that Peugeot SA is only fiction or just an imagination? It seems that Harari is confusing the name, legal representation, or brand of an organization with its existence. Peugeot SA, as a corporation, is an organization consisting of machines, factories, buildings, workers, etc. It has to have these material components and organize them in a certain way to exist. Harari says that a disaster may kill all of Peugeot’s employees, and destroy all of its buildings and machines; but Peugeot would continue to exist even after this eventuality because it can borrow money and hire new employees, buy new machines, and build new factories. He says this to show that Peugeot SA is independent of its material aspects. But these are all rhetorical tricks employed to create surprise and sensation in readers, explaining nothing. Simply stating that corporations, nations, states, etc. are imagined realities created by the imaginative powers of Homo sapiens which were acquired after the so-called Cognitive Revolution says nothing about how these organizations have been constituted and what are the reasons that compel or direct a large number of human beings to organize themselves beyond their natural reference groups into those imagined realities. Of course, humans are capable of creating ideologies, narratives, and belief systems, and they use these abilities to create large organizations and motivate or coerce people to work inside these organizations. But the mere existence of this capability doesn’t explain how and why these organizations have been created. What are the underlying material conditions that still drive this ever more complexification? 

Harari says that “since large-scale human cooperation is based on myths, the way people cooperate can be altered by changing the myths.”7 Thus the French population almost overnight changed its myth in 1789. But stating this as Harari does implies that Homo sapiens can change its myths, ideologies, values, etc. at will, in a voluntary fashion. But the changing of superstructural aspects (myths, belief systems, scientific theories, laws, etc.) of societies doesn’t happen at will. It is conditioned by the changes in the infrastructural (technological tools, energy and material resources, the environmental conditions a society finds itself in) and structural (how a society organizes its hierarchies, its class structure, organizational framework of its institutions that mediate the relationships among its members) aspects of the society.8 This was what happened long before the French Revolution. The changing of the myth was an adaptation of the superstructure to the changes in the infrastructure and structure. Besides, the changing of the myth didn’t happen overnight. There were philosophers long before the revolution who were advocating the new myth.

Saturday, July 30, 2022

Darvin Makineler Arasında - Cellarius (Samuel Butler)

 Aşağıda İngiliz yazar Samuel Butler'ın 1863 yılında bir Yeni Zelanda gazetesine gönderdiği ciddi bir mektubun Türkçe çevirisini sunuyoruz. Yazıda Butler, Darvinci evrim teorisinin günümüzde kabul görmeyen ilerlemeci bir yorumuna dayanmasına rağmen insan-makine ilişkisi ile ilgili, oldukça erken bir tarihte, çok isabetli gözlemlerde bulunmaktadır. Butler'ın kullandığı daha yüksek ya da daha aşağı türler gibi kavramların günümüz evrim teorisinde bir geçerliliği yoktur ve günümüzde yaşayan türler arasında birisi diğerlerinden daha evrimleşmiş, daha ileri ya da daha yüksek değildir. 

Butler, makinelerin de biyolojik organizmaların tabi olduğuna benzer evrimsel bir sürece tabi olduğunu ve tıpkı onlar gibi fakat onlardan çok daha hızlı bir şekilde evrim geçirdiklerini söylemektedir. Makinelerin evrimini iten süreç insanlar ile girmiş oldukları karşılıklı fayda ilişkisidir. Ancak makineler biyolojik organizmalara kıyasla çok daha hızlı bir şekilde evrim geçirmekte ve her geçen gün insanlar makineler karşısında zemin kaybetmektedir. İnsanoğlunun varoluşu gün geçtikçe daha da derinleşen bir şekilde makinelere bağlı hale gelmektedir. Bu gidişatın mantıksal sonucu makinelerin gezegenin hakim türü haline gelmesidir.

Butler'ın bu mektubu yazdığı 19. yüzyılda makineler ancak mekanik işlemleri gerçekleştiren beden uzuvlarına sahipti ve Butler da bu alandaki gelişmelerden bahsetmektedir. 20. yüzyılda bilgisayar teknolojisi ile birlikte makinelerin sinir sistemleri de gelişmeye başlamıştır. Bu, makinelere, Butler'ın 19. yüzyılda tahmin edemeyeceği boyutlarda bir otonomi kazandırmaktadır. Butler'ın başarılmasını oldukça zor gördüğü insan ırkından tam olarak bağımsızlaşmış bir makine alemi günümüzde o kadar da uzak bir ihtimal değildir.


Darvin Makineler Arasında – Cellarius (Samul Butler)

Sayın Beyefendi,

Şimdiki neslin çok haklı olarak gurur duyduğu şeyler arasında mekanik uygulamalar alanında her gün yaşanan mükemmel gelişmeler hepsinin üzerinde durmaktadır. Ve bu gelişmeler gerçekten birçok açıdan büyük bir taktiri hak eder. Yeteri kadar göz önünde oldukları için bunlardan burada bahsetmemize gerek yoktur. Bize düşen ödev, gururumuzu bir nebze olsun alçak gönüllülüğe sevk edecek ve insan ırkının gelecekteki konumu hakkında ciddi bir şekilde düşünmemizi sağlayacak gözlemlerde bulunmaktır. Mekanik yaşamın kaldıraç, takoz, rampa, vida ve palanga gibi erken dönemdeki ilkel biçimlerine baktığımızda ya da (analoji bizi bir adım daha öteye götüreceği için) mekanik alemin tümünün kendisinden geliştiği o tek ilkel biçime yani kaldıraca baktığımızda ve sonra Great Eastern’ın[1] makinelerini incelediğimizde, mekanik dünyanın muazzam gelişimi ve hayvan ve bitki aleminin gerçekleştirdiği yavaş gelişime nazaran attığı devasa adamlar karşısında şaşkınlığa düşeriz. Bu muazzam gidişatın sonuçlarının ne olabileceğini kendimize sormadan edemeyiz. Bu gidişat hangi yöne doğru gitmektedir? Varacağı yer neresi olacaktır? Bu soruların çözümüne yönelik bazı mükemmel olmayan ipuçları vermek bu mektubun gayesi olacaktır.

“Mekanik yaşam”, “mekanik krallık”, “mekanik dünya” ve benzeri kelimeleri kullanmamız tesadüfi değil. Çünkü bitkiler dünyası nasıl mineral dünyadan doğduysa ve hayvanlar alemi bitkiler aleminin üzerine geldiyse yakın zamanda da yepyeni bir alem ortaya çıkmıştır. Bu alemin şu ana kadar gördüğümüz üyeleri zamanı geldiğinde bu ırkın çok eski zamanlara ait üyeleri gibi gözükecekler.

Hem doğa tarihi hem de makineler hakkındaki bilgimizin onları cinslere, alt-cinslere, türlere, çeşitlere ve alt-çeşitlere vb. ayırmak; oldukça farklı makineleri birleştiren bağlantı noktalarını izlemek; insanların kullanımına bağlı olmanın doğal seçilimin bitki ve hayvan alemlerinde oynadığı rolü onlar üzerinde nasıl oynadığını açıklamak; yalnızca birkaç makinede kalmış, az gelişmiş ve tamamı ile faydasız, ancak artık soyu tükenmiş ya da mekanik var oluşun yeni bir aşamasına yükselmiş eski bir atadan geldiğinin işareti olan temel organlarını[2] işaret etmek gibi devasa ölçüde zor görevleri gerçekleştirmek için oldukça yetersiz olduğunu üzülerek belirtmemiz gerekir. Yapabileceğimiz şey bu alanı daha sonraki araştırmalar adına gündeme getirmektir. Bu araştırma, bizim iddia edebileceğimizden çok daha yüksek eğitim ve yetenek düzeylerine sahip kişiler tarafından gerçekleştirilebilir.

Bizim burada yaptığımız bazı ipuçlarından bahsetmek. Fakat bunu da büyük bir çekingenlik ile yaptığımızı belirtmemiz gerekir. Öncelikle nasıl ilk omurgalılar önce daha büyük bir boyuta ulaşmış ve boyutları sonradan daha yüksek bir organizasyona sahip yaşayan örnekleri seviyesine düşmüşse, makinelerin boyutlarındaki küçülme de onların gelişme ve ilerlemesine eşlik etmiştir. Örnek olarak kol saatine bakalım. Bu küçük yaratığın günümüzdeki yapısını inceleyin, onu oluşturan minik parçaların oyununu izleyin. Fakat bu küçük yaratık 13. yüzyılın kaba duvar saatlerinin gelişmiş halidir---onların bozulması ile ortaya çıkmış değildir. Duvar saatleri, ki artık günümüzde daha da fazla küçülmemektedirler, kol saatlerinin evrensel bir şekilde kullanımı ile tamamen ortadan kalkabilir. Bu durumda duvar saatleri tıpkı eski sürüngenler gibi soyu tükenmiş bir tür olacaktır. Ve böylece kol saatleri (ki son zamanlarda boyutları küçülme eğilimindedir, tersi değil) soyu tükenmiş bir ırkın yaşayan tek örnekleri olacaklardır.

Makineler ile ilgili çekingen bir şekilde ifade ettiğimiz bu fikirler günümüzün en büyük ve en gizemli sorularından birine bir cevap teşkil edebilir. Bahsettiğimiz soru şudur: Dünya üzerindeki egemenliği insandan sonra nasıl bir tür alacaktır? Bu konunun tartışıldığını çok kez duyduk. Ancak bize öyle görünüyor ki insanın halefini kendi ellerimizle yaratıyoruz. Fiziksel yapılarının güzelliğine ve hassaslığına her gün yeni bir şeyler ekliyoruz. Onlara her gün yeni güçler veriyoruz. Üzerlerine her gün çok çeşit zekice kurgulanmış mekanizmalar ekliyoruz. Zeka insan ırkı için neyi ifade ettiyse gün geldiğinde kendini yönetme ve otonom bir şekilde hareket etme yetisi makineler için o anlama gelecek. Yıllar geçtikçe kendimizi aşağı ırk olarak bulacağız. Güç anlamında aşağı, kişisel kontrolü sağlayan o manevi nitelik anlamında aşağı. Onları, en mükemmel ve bilge insanın ulaşmak için ancak cesaret edebileceği zirvenin tezahürleri olarak göreceğiz. Hiçbir kötü tutku, kıskançlık, bencillik, kirli arzu o mükemmel varlıkların kendinden emin kudretlerini rahatsız etmeyecek. Günah, utanç ve kederin onlar arasında bir yeri olmayacak. Zihinleri sürekli bir sakinlik içinde olacak. Hiçbir ihtiyacı olmayan, hiçbir pişmanlığın rahatsız etmediği bir ruhun gönül rahatlığına sahip olacaklar. Hırs onlara hiçbir zaman azap çektirmeyecek. Nankörlük bir an bile canlarını sıkmayacak. Vicdan azabı, karşılanmayan umutlar, sürgün acısı, makam sahiplerinin küstahlığı---bunların hiçbirisini bilmeyecekler. “Beslenmeye” ihtiyaçları olursa (tam da bu kelimeyi kullanmamız onları yaşayan organizmalar olarak gördüğümüzün işaretini veriyor) işleri ve çıkarları makinelerin her türlü ihtiyaçlarının karşılanması olan sabırlı köleler yardımlarına koşacak. Herhangi bir arıza yaşarlarsa yapıları hakkında derin bilgiye sahip doktorlar onlarla ilgilenecek. Öldükleri zaman, ki bu gerekli ve evrensel sondan bu mükemmel hayvanlar dahi kaçamayacak, vakit kaybetmeden varoluşlarının yeni bir evresine girmiş olacaklar. Çünkü hangi makine her parçası ile aynı anda ölmüş olur?

İşler yukarıda anlatmaya çalıştığımız noktaya geldiğinde, insan makineye, köpek ile atın insana gözüktüğü gibi gözükecektir. İnsan var olmaya devam edecektir, gelişmeye de devam edecektir; makinelerin hayırsever yönetimi altındaki evcilleştirilmiş varlıkları günümüzdeki vahşi varoluşlarından belki daha bile iyi olacaktır. Atlarımıza, köpeklerimize, sığırlarımıza ve koyunlarımıza, genellikle, büyük bir sevecenlik ile yaklaşıyoruz. Onlara, tecrübe bize onlar için neyin en iyi olduğunu gösteriyorsa onu veriyoruz. Et yememizin daha aşağı hayvanların mutluluğuna zarardan çok yarar sağladığı ise şüphe götürmezdir. Bu açıdan bakıldığında makinelerin de bize iyi davranacağını varsaymak gayet makuldur. Çünkü bizim varoluşumuz nasıl daha aşağı hayvanlara bağlı ise makinelerin varoluşu da bize bağlıdır. Bizim koyunları öldürüp yediğimiz gibi bizi öldürüp yiyemezler. Bize ihtiyaç duyacakları alan yalnızca yeni nesillerinin doğumu ile ilgili işler olmayacaktır. (Ki ekonomilerinin bu alanı her zaman için bizim elimizde olacaktır.) Fakat beslenmek, hasta olduklarında iyileşmek, ölülerini gömmek veya cesetlerinin yeni makinelere dönüştürülmesi konusunda da bize ihtiyaçları olacaktır. Eğer Büyük Britanya’da bulunan insan haricindeki tüm hayvanlar ölürse ve aynı zamanda yabancı ülkeler ile olan tüm bağlantılar ani bir felaket sonucu tamamen imkansız hale gelirse, bu şartlar altında insan yaşamının ortadan kalkması hayal edilmesi oldukça korkunç bir durum olacaktır. Benzer bir şekilde, insanoğlunun ortadan kalkması makineleri de aynı ölçüde kötü hatta daha kötü etkileyecektir. Gerçek, bizim çıkarlarımızın onlarınkinden, onların çıkarlarının da bizimkinden ayrılmaz olduğudur. Her bir ırk diğerine sayısız fayda için bağımlıdır ve makinelerin üreme organları bizim şu anda hayal edemediğimiz bir şekilde gelişene kadar, türlerinin devamı için dahi tamamen insan ırkına bağımlı olacaklardır. Bu organların, insanın çıkarı bu yönde olduğu sürece, bu seviyede gelişme ihtimalinin olduğu doğrudur. Makinelere takıntılı bir şekilde bağlanmış ırkımızın iki buhar makinesinin verimli bir şekilde birleşmesinden daha fazla görmek isteyeceği bir şey yoktur. Makinelerin günümüzde dahi diğer makineleri ortaya çıkarmakta kullanıldığı, makinelerin kendi türündeki makinelerin ebeveynleri olduğu doğrudur. Fakat makineler arasındaki flört, kur ve evliliğin geleceği günler oldukça uzak görünmektedir ve zayıf ve kusurlu hayal gücümüz bunu ancak çok zor bir şekilde gerçekleştirebilir.

Herhalükarda, makineler gün geçtikçe bize karşı zemin kazanıyorlar. Gün geçtikçe onlara daha fazla boyun eğiyoruz. Gittikçe daha fazla insan onlarla ilgilenen köleler olarak her gün boyun eğiyor. Gittikçe daha fazla insan hayatlarının tüm enerjisini her gün mekanik yaşamın geliştirilmesine adıyor. Bu işin varacağı yer yalnızca bir zaman meselesidir. Ancak makinelerin dünya ve sakinleri üzerindeki gerçek hakimiyete sahip olacağı zamanın er ya da geç geleceği felsefi bir akla sahip hiç kimsenin bir an dahi sorgulayamayacağı bir olgudur.

Bizce derhal makinelere karşı ölümüne bir savaş ilan edilmelidir. Her türden her makine kendi türünün iyiliğini isteyenler tarafından ortadan kaldırılmalıdır. Hiçbir istisna yapılmamalı, hiçbir alan bırakılmamalıdır. Irkımızın ilkel koşullarına derhal dönmek daha iyidir. Mevcut koşullar altında böyle bir şeyin imkansız olduğu ileri sürülürse, bu, zaten ayvayı yediğimizin, esaretimizin çoktan başladığının, ortadan kaldırmanın kapasitemiz dahilinde olmadığı bir ırk ortaya çıkardığımızın ve köle edilmek ile kalmayıp aynı zamanda bu esareti mutlak bir itaatkarlık ile kabul ettiğimizin bir kanıtı olur.

Felsefe topluluğunun üyelerinin dikkatine sunduğumuz bu mesele hakkında söyleyeceklerimiz şimdilik bu kadar. Eğer üyeler işaret ettiğimiz geniş alandan faydalanmaya razı olurlarsa, gelecek bir zamanda ve belirli olmayan bir süre boyunca bu mesele hakkında çaba harcamaya hazırız.

Saygılarımla,

Cellarius

Notlar

1. Great Eastern, 1858 yılında üretilmiş buhar ve rüzgar ile çalışan bir İngiliz gemisiydi. (Çevirenin notu.)

2. Bu yazıyı gazetede okuyan bir filozof yoldaşımız temel organlar ile neyi kastettiğimizi sordu ve bu organların ne olduğuna dair bir örnek vermemizi rica etti. Cevap olarak, kullandığımız tütün piposunun altında yer alan çanak biçimindeki çıkıntıyı örnek verdik. Bu organ, orijinalinde, aynı amaca matuf olarak çay fincanlarının altındaki çanak olarak tasarlanmıştır. Bu, pipolardaki aynı fonksiyonun farklı bir biçimidir. Bu çıkıntının amacı, piponun sıcaklığının, üzerine konduğu masada iz yapmasını önlemektir. En erken dönemdeki pipolarda gördüğümüz gibi orijinalinde bu çıkıntı şimdiki halinden oldukça farklı bir şekle sahipti. Dip noktasında geniş ve düzdü ve böylece piponun, konulduğu masanın üzerinde sabit durmasını sağlıyordu. Bu kullanımın geçirdiği dönüşümler bu fonksiyonun günümüzdeki temel biçimine ulaşmasını sağladı. Bu tarz temel organların makinelerde insana nazaran daha az görülmesinin sebebi, insan seçiliminin, daha yavaş fakat daha güvenilir doğal seçilime kıyasla daha aceleci olmasıdır. İnsan hata yapabilir, fakat uzun vadede doğa hata yapmaz. Burada verdiğimiz örnek mükemmel değildir, fakat zeki okuyucu kendi örneklerini kendisi bulacaktır.


Sunday, July 17, 2022

Karaçam blogunda yayınlanan çeviriler ve yazılar hakkında not

Karaçam blogunda yayınlanan bazı yazı ve çevirilerin çeşitli Anarşist sitelerde yayınlandığını fark ettik. Blog sahibinin Anarşizm ile ve Karaçam blogunun içeriğini izinsiz bir şekilde yayınlayan Anarşist siteler ve sahipleri/yöneticileri ile hiçbir alakası yoktur, Anarşizmin toplumsal idealini ve değerlerini paylaşmamaktadır.

Karaçam blogu vahşi Doğa'yı temel değer olarak almaktadır. Vahşi Doğa, yapay olmayan (insan yapımı olmayan) ve karmaşık insan toplumlarının kontrolü altında olmadan kendi otonom süreçlerine sahip olan (insan doğası da dahil olmak üzere) her şeydir. Karaçam blogu vahşi Doğa'nın korunabilmesi adına teknolojik gelişmeye ve vahşi Doğa karşısında en büyük tehlikeyi oluşturan tekno-endüstriyel sisteme (en gelişmiş teknolojik imkanlara sahip toplumsal sistem) karşı çıkmaktadır. 

Monday, December 20, 2021

Vahşi Doğa'nın Önemi (The Importance of Wild Nature)

 

Çevirenin notu: A.Q. tarafından yazılan İspanyolca metnin (La importancia de la Naturaleza salvaje) Karaçam tarafından yapılmış Türkçe çevirisidir. Orjinal metne takip eden linkten ulaşabilirsiniz: https://www.naturalezaindomita.com/textos/naturaleza-salvaje-y-teora-ecocntrica/la-importancia-de-la-naturaleza-salvaje


Vahşi Doğa'nın Önemi

Yazan: A.Q.




  1. Vahşi Doğa Nedir?

Vahşi Doğa yapay olmayan ve süreçleri otonom olan her şeydir. Vahşilik, Doğa’nın, insanoğlunun (ya da insanoğlu tarafından üretilmiş teknolojik sistemlerin) kontrolü ve yönetimi altına alınmamış kısmını ifade eder. İnsanoğlunun gezegendeki eko-sistemlerin büyük bir kısmı üzerindeki etkisi son yüzyıllarda (hatta son bin yıllarda) oldukça yoğun olmuştur ve bu durum, vahşi Doğa’nın en azından kısmi bir yer tuttuğu diğer ülkelerin (özellikle, daha sonra bahsedeceğimiz “wilderness” teriminin ortaya çıktığı Cermanik ve Nordik kökenli ülkeler) aksine ne çevrede ne kültürde önemli bir yer tuttuğu İber yarım adasında özellikle böyledir.

Vahşi Doğa kavramı ve onun değeri İspanya’da çok az bilinmektedir. Vahşi Doğa bağlamındaki meseleler ülkemizde teorik anlamda ciddi bir şekilde ele alınmamıştır ve kültür ve yayın dünyasındaki varlığı ve etkisi Doğa’yı sevdiğini ve onu korumak istediğini söyleyenler arasında dahi çok kısıtlı olmuştur. Yine de Vahşi Doğa mevcudiyetini sürdürmektedir; yerine göre az ya da çok boyun eğdirilmiş bir biçimde her yerdedir ve insan müdahalesinden kurtulabildiği ölçüde kendini gösterebilecek şekilde bastırılmış bir halde bulunmaktadır.

Vahşi Doğa’nın kültürümüzde ve çevremizdeki kısıtlı varlığının sonuçlarından bir tanesi, ekolojide (Palau, 2019) “değişen referanslar sendromu” olarak adlandırılan şeydir. Eko-sistemlerin vahşi karakterini (doğal süreçlerin otonomisi) kaybetmesi ölçüsünde insanların sağlıklı ve iyi korunmuş bir eko-sistemin nasıl olması gerektiğine dair referansları, en iyi halde, gerçek vahşi karakteri bozulmaya uğramış yerler olmaktadır. Bunun bir sonucu olarak İspanya’da (ki yüzyıllar boyunca yoğun insan etkisi altında kalmış bir ülkedir) ekolojik hareketin içerisinde bulunan insanların ekolojik ideal hakkındaki tahayyülleri bir hayli sınırlı olmaktadır: Büyük oranda evcilleştirilmiş ve insanoğlu ile onun kültürüne bağımlı hale gelmiş bir “doğa” ve “yeşil” olduğu iddia edilen şehir bölgeleri ya da kırsal alanlar. Bir insanın çevresinde tanıdığı şeyler şehirlerdeki caddeler, bahçeler, tarım arazileri, ağaç plantasyonları veya koruluklardan ibaret ise ve çevrede gerçek, sağlıklı ve iyi korunmuş bir Doğa’nın nasıl olduğu ile ilgili referans olabilecek araziler yoksa, bu kişinin gerçek bir Doğa olarak düşündüğü yerlerin bunlar olması çok normaldir. Gerçek anlamda Doğa’nın (yani vahşi Doğa’nın) –tüm bu evcilleştirme ve bozulmadan önceki Doğa’nın– başka bir şey olduğunu idrak edebilmek için (ekoloji hakkında belirli bir bilgi birikimi haricinde) zihinsel bir çaba gereklidir. Bu “sendrom” yüzünden, gittikçe artan ölçüde zarar görmüş araziler, sağlıklı ve iyi korunmuş eko-sistemlerin nasıl olması gerektiği ile ilgili referans noktası olmaktadırlar.

Burada metnin yalnızca küçük bir bölümü yer almaktadır. Tamamına erişmek için yukarıdaki PDF linkini kullanınız.

Saturday, November 20, 2021

Possible Reactions of the Techno-Industrial System to Climate Change (Tekno-Endüstriyel Sistemin İklim Değişikliğine Olası Tepkileri)


Türkçe (PDF)

The techno-industrial system faces a grave danger: climate change.1 It is dependent on the resources of the biosphere to function. For this reason, the stability of the biospheric functions is crucial for its effective functioning. Climate change means a sudden change in the conditions of the biosphere. According to The Economist’s October 30th (2021) issue, it is changing the rain patterns, water cycles and will have adverse effects on crop yields. It is increasing the frequency, intensity, and duration of droughts and heatwaves. The great ice sheets of Greenland and Eastern Antarctica are destabilizing and this, in turn, makes it easier for mid-sized hurricanes to intensify into powerful storms causing enormous damage. Sea levels are rising and threatening coastal cities. The biodiversity of the oceans is under stress due to ocean acidification and sudden change in sea temperatures. The tropical zones are becoming virtually unlivable. Massive wildfires burning huge areas are becoming more and more frequent. All these are happening extremely fast and forcing the adaptive capabilities of the techno-industrial system. It should either adapt itself to these new conditions by changing itself (its energy infrastructure, the consumption level of its members, etc.) or try a desperate move in its fuite en avant and take on its own hands the governing of the atmosphere.

The Economist’s October 30th (2021) issue dedicates a special report to this dilemma, and it investigates some possible answers to this urgent threat. The Economist represents the ideological orthodoxy of the techno-industrial system. For this reason, following its arguments and suggestions on this issue might help discern the techno-industrial system’s possible reactions to climate change.

As The Economist mentions, the use of fossil fuels was the most transformative event after agriculture. It brought a massive growth in population and people’s “wealth.” But the side-effect of this development, the accumulation of CO2 in the atmosphere, has a “potentially show-ending role.” Thus, world governments should embark on a vast project. They should stabilize the climate. In The Economist’s words, this project will entail:

The curve-flattening climate stabilization will be the result of deliberate interventions in both the economy and nature on a global scale. And it will be maintained, if it is maintained, by human institutions with the astonishing, and possibly hubristic, mandate of long-term atmospheric management.

The Economist explicitly declares that to ensure the existence of the techno-industrial system, it is necessary now to embark upon a comprehensive transformation not only at the level of economic infrastructure but also on Nature on a global scale. The system should embark upon long-term atmospheric management. In the special report, other, more traditional answers are also evaluated and suggested, but these evaluations are always ending with implicit desperation about the shortcomings of the “traditional” solutions or with a reminder of the fact that it is now too late to rely only on these “traditional” remedies. Let’s look at with The Economist what are these more “traditional” remedies are.

The most publicized of these “traditional remedies” is that the techno-industrial system should quit its fossil fuel addiction. Things don’t look good in that regard. Despite the global UN Conventions and pledges to decrease fossil fuel consumption, it increases year by year. According to The Economist, “in 1992 78% of the world’s primary energy –the stuff used to produce electricity, drive movement and provide heath both for industrial purposes and to warm buildings– came from fossil fuels. By 2019 the total amount of primary energy used had risen by 60%. And the proportion provided by fossil fuels was now 79%.” Therefore, after all the pledges to “stabilize greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere” in Rio de Janeiro in 1992 to Paris in 2015, the absolute consumption of primary energy sourced by fossil fuels increased by 62%!

The Economist tries desperately to appear hopeful about the “new,” “alternative” energy sources: wind and solar. It boasts about the reduced cost of wind turbines and solar panels. But there is no indication that wind and solar are replacing fossil fuels. The Economist gives only statistics on their absolute growth. “In 2020, the share of the world’s energy generated by solar panels grew by 21%, which points to a doubling every four years. Wind, which now supplies twice as much energy as solar, is growing more slowly, by 12% a year.” These figures only represent the absolute growth in solar and wind energy production; they are typical considering the ever-expanding energy hunger of the techno-industrial system. They don’t indicate that wind and solar power are replacing fossil fuels. As can be seen in the below graph, energy consumption increases for all the sources in absolute numbers. The trend of the traditional biomass (woodfuels, agricultural by-products, and dung burned for cooking and heating purposes) in the below graph is illuminating. It is the source of energy humans have been using since they discovered the use of fire. But as we can see in the below chart, it hasn’t been replaced by coal or oil after the industrial revolution. It continues to be consumed at its peak level. In energy supply, one source of energy doesn’t replace the other. As far as there is available energy, the techno-industrial system adds one source on top of the other and increases its total energy consumption. This is and will be the case with the solar, wind, and other “alternatives;” they will be added to the total (increasing) energy consumption without replacing the fossil fuels (which still represents the gross majority).


It is clear that fossil fuels will continue to be burned in the foreseeable future, and the absolute consumption of these fuels hasn’t peaked yet. The Economist suggests carbon pricing as a remedy. Carbon prices would artificially increase the cost of fossil fuel energy generation and make it more expensive than solar and wind. It is such a pipe-dream. Applying this strategy with the necessary rapidity and brutality to cut back emissions drastically in the required time is virtually impossible without shaking the foundations of the system. It would mean economic collapse, enormous decreases in living standards, and extreme backlash from the population. Much more timid policies encountered angry backlash in recent times.

Apart from carbon dioxide, there are other greenhouse gases: Methane (from the natural gas industry, rubbish heaps, and livestock), nitrous oxide (mostly from agriculture), and chlorine-bearing industrial gases. Again, there is no hope of a timely solution to these emissions. “Big reductions in agricultural emissions of methane and nitrous oxide emissions will take time,” says The Economist. Apparently, the recent propaganda campaign in favor of veganism isn’t producing the expected results.

Another problem is “sulfur-dioxide emissions which are mostly associated with burning coal and heavy oils.” Burning coal and heavy oils produce small airborne particles of sulfate, offsetting greenhouse warming. Therefore, decreasing the consumption of coal would exacerbate in the short term the climate change. The system is on the horns of a dilemma here.

In Paris in 2015, governments made pledges of voluntary reduction in CO2 emissions, so-called “nationally determined contributions (NDCs).” NDCs are not binding commitments, and there isn’t any regulatory power that would ensure the fulfillment of these pledges. They are castles in the air. But even these pledges wouldn’t be enough to limit global warming to 2º C, let alone to 1.5º C. “[E]ven in Paris, it was clear that the 1.5º C limit could not be met by emission reductions alone. They would have to be supplemented by something else: the withdrawal of CO2 from the atmosphere by means of ‘negative emissions.’” But again, despite all the noise regarding the need for negative emissions, there isn’t any effective method today to achieve it. “Mechanisms which can provide lots of reliable CO2 removal remain, at best, embryonic,” sighs The Economist. We will come back to this below.

Besides, there is “the Asia problem.” More than half of the global population lives there, and Asian countries constitute a great part of the so-called “developing countries.” They aspire to raise their citizens’ living standards; it can only be done by increasing energy consumption. On top of that, these countries have increasing populations. They have to grow economically in order to absorb the new generations into the economy. Otherwise, they might experience economic crises, massive unemployment, and social instability. The Economist says that “two-third of global coal produced there” and “Asia produces most of the world’s cement and steel.” As if this is a vice unique to Asian countries, and the developed countries of Europe and North America extricated themselves from this nasty habit of coal, cement, and steel. But this is far from the truth. If developed countries seem “better” in that regard, the reason is that they mostly shifted their manufacturing sectors to Asia for lower production costs. They have exported the emissions; their economies continue to depend on coal, cement, and steel.

In this special report, we witness inside-the-system debates on capitalism and degrowth. Third-wave leftists,2 like Naomi Klein, claim that it is impossible for capitalism to wean itself from fossil fuels. Since capitalism is driven solely by profits, the fossil-fuel industry will insist on putting profits ahead of the threats of climate change. Therefore, to get rid of fossil fuels, it is necessary to get rid of capitalism. As good first-wave leftists, the writers of The Economist refute this claim. According to them, to reduce dependence on fossil fuels, new technologies and new investments are necessary. And capitalism has proven itself the most successful economic system to provide both. “All that is needed is to find ways to ensure that growth does not have to be linked to rising CO2.” The Economist uses the below formula to demonstrate the relationship between development, energy, and CO2 emissions.

CO2 = population x (GDP/capita) x (energy/ GDP) x (CO2/energy)

According to this formula, to decrease the CO2 emissions, one has to cut back either population, GDP per head, energy used per unit of GDP, or carbon emissions from that energy. The Economist explains that reducing population using a long-term strategy “is not a course of action that governments can effectively and decently pursue.” We also agree with that. First, it is impossible to implement a long-term population control globally as a concerted international effort. Second, as long as the system needs mass human labor for its functions, population control is detrimental to the economies of individual countries. As we have witnessed in China’s one-child policy, in addition to problems such as destroying the balance of sex ratio in a population, population control increases the dependency ratio enormously. Increased dependency ratio has enormous adverse effects on the economic performance of a country. For these reasons, besides the impossibility of a concerted international effort of population control, individual countries also won’t implement a drastic population control strategy that would be rapid enough to curb the CO2 emissions in time.

What about GDP per head? It has increased enormously since the Industrial Revolution thanks to the concentrated energies humanity obtained from fossil fuels. As The Economist also mentions, if GDP per head continues to increase, the improvements in energy efficiency and carbon intensity would merely keep carbon emissions stable. So is it necessary to decrease GDP, roll back the growth to save the system from climate change? The Economist gives several reasons why it would be impossible to implement degrowth consciously according to a strategic plan. These reasons are not wrong in themselves, but they miss the fundamental, underlying causes why it is impossible to implement these kinds of long-term comprehensive plans. But first, let’s look at the reasons The Economist gives for the impossibility of such an action:

1. To implement a long-term reversal of growth, everyone else (i.e. the entire human population) should be persuaded to consume less. Anybody who has a modicum amount of common sense will know that this is impossible. Therefore, governments should implement a dictatorial policy to ration the consumption of their citizens.  However, as The Economist puts it, “[a]n overt policy of deliberately slowing, stalling or reversing long-term growth, even if presented as being for the good of the world, is a highly unpromising platform on which to win elections.” From this citation, it sounds like only “democratic” countries would face problems rationing the consumption of their citizens. Authoritarian regimes also need to seek the consent of their populations as long as human labor power is necessary for the functioning of the economy. The consent is primarily produced in today’s modern world (where humans live in a modern zoo separated from their natural habitats) by consumption possibilities (electronic gadgets that isolate people in a virtual world to make them forget their dismal existence, the pursuit of commodities that offers people a pseudo purpose in this purposeless world, etc.) which require growth. In the short term, in which a response should be given to climate change, mass human labor will continue to be necessary for the system’s functioning. Therefore, it would be impossible to play the degrowth card that would affect immensely the living standards of the masses.

2. Decarbonisation can only be realized by massive investment in renewables[3]; this is especially true for emerging economies. Much of the investment necessary to build the new “renewable” energy infrastructure should come from the developed countries, and without growth, there won’t be any incentive for investment.

3. Decarbonisation process will require accelerated innovation. As an economic system, capitalism has the best record of fostering innovative ideas and implementing them on a broad scale. The system will need capitalism’s that feature. According to The Economist, “better ways of storing energy, of heating houses, of cooling houses, of processing crops, of growing crops, of powering large vehicles, of producing plastic and more” will be needed to reduce the CO2 emissions. These cannot be done in the framework of a “contracting, low-demand, low-investment economy.”

The reasons that The Economist gives for the impossibility of planned degrowth misses the most fundamental reasons. First, it is impossible to direct the development of a complex system -especially a system as complex as the global techno-industrial system- by devising a long-term plan and implementing it in real life. Complex systems are composed of numerous components. It is impossible to know the myriad of relations between these components; how they affect each other in self-reinforcing feedback loops. Planned degrowth would require a long-term plan that should be implemented globally. One has to know the consequences of this plan on the global system, and this is impossible. There will always be unforeseen consequences of the actions taken to reach the planned intention. Besides, the aim or the determination of actors who undertake this plan can change in time, and even the actors themselves can change or disappear.[4]

The other reason that makes impossible the implementation of long-term degrowth is the existence of the “self-propagating systems.”[5] A self-propagating system is a system that tends to promote its survival and propagation by either indefinitely increasing its size and/or power[6], giving rise to new systems that possess some of its own attributes or doing both of these. Nations, corporations, labor unions, churches, political parties, mafia organizations, etc. are all self-propagating systems. The Darwinian selection processes that function in biology (natural selection) are also operative in environments where these systems are present. This selection process favors self-propagating systems that have the most conducive characteristics for self-propagation. As a result, these systems tend to propagate themselves and squeeze out or absorb other self-propagating systems that don’t have these characteristics. They are in constant “competition” with each other. This competition isn’t so much a deliberate antagonism but more of an unconscious process. Self-propagating systems that expand their functions by incorporating more energy and material into their metabolisms will increase their material power; thus, they will absorb or side-step other self-propagating systems. Therefore, implementing a voluntary degrowth strategy would be a sure recipe of disaster for the systems that pursue it. They would relinquish the advantage to the systems that relentlessly seek their aggrandizement and expansion by absorbing each passing day more energy and materials. Systems implementing degrowth would be eliminated, devoured, or side-stepped.

We find the discussion on capitalism and all the noise the third-wave leftists make on it utterly meaningless. First of all, it is not clear what they exactly mean by “capitalism.” But it seems that they imply an economic system designed, created, and managed by some selfish, greedy people (financial speculators, big oil, one percent, etc.) who try to maximize their profits whatever may come. But “capitalism” is not something consciously designed, created, and managed. The things that are generally associated with “capitalism” (financial instruments, modes of property ownership, social classes, economic theories, etc.) have developed during the evolution of complex human societies. They aren’t consciously designed and implemented by anybody for a definite result. They are the result of the Darwinian selection process that is operative on human societies. Those properties that are more conducive for the growth/development of a society end up being selected by this blind selection process. And the phenomenons that are generally associated with “capitalism” came into being through this process. They developed and spread globally with the advancements in technology and accompanying complexification of human societies. By pointing out as the main culprit to “capitalism” as if it is consciously preferred and deliberately continued by some people, and therefore it can be eliminated and replaced by the decision of some other people, they deflect the attention from the real problem: The existence of a most complex human society that is primarily grounded on material conditions (energy and material resources, the technological infrastructure that makes use of these resources, and the resulting consequences in demography, ecosystems, etc.), not on the property relations, class structure of the society, financial speculation, greedy oil businessmen, etc. Besides, despite their endless rhetoric about alternatives to “capitalism,” it is impossible to hear any alternative from them. Apart from the tried and abandoned command economies of socialist countries, what is the alternative to “capitalism”?

In sum, according to The Economist, the techno-industrial system isn’t capable of affecting a change at the first two variables (population and GDP per capita) of the above CO2 equation. Population control is impossible. It will continue to rise until the middle or the end of the century and will continue to be an increasing factor of CO2 emissions, let alone a decreasing factor. Implementing a degrowth strategy and decreasing the second factor is also impossible for the techno-industrial system. On the contrary, growth is necessary to face climate change. Since the techno-industrial system can’t shut itself off, to restrain its effects on the earth’s atmosphere and save itself from the abrupt changes that would cause, it should implement a colossal transformation in its energy infrastructure. This transformation will require accelerated technological development and the implementation of these new technologies on a global scale. The only way to realize these are investments and economic growth. “Grid-linked gigawatt world of sky-scraper-topping turbines and solar farms” should spread over the landscape. The technological advancement should find remedies to their intermittency problem (wind turbines and solar panels can’t function at the unsuitable wind and cloudy weather, respectively). But, these “traditional” remedies won’t be enough to limit the effects of climate change to the acceptable levels for the system, at least in the period it is needed. Therefore, something more is necessary.

One option for “something more” is the so-called negative emissions. The following numbers given by The Economist demonstrate the necessity of negative emissions for the system: “The cumulative CO2 emissions budget consistent with a 50-50 chance of meeting the 2º C goal is 3,7trn tonnes. The budget for 1.5º C is just 2,9trn tonnes. With 2,4trn tonnes already emitted, that leaves a decade of emissions at today’s rates for 1.5º C, maybe 25 years for 2º C.” That means there is no place to go. If the system can find a way to suck back some of the CO2 already emitted, it can gain more time to change or adapt itself to climate change. Several methods are floating in the air for “negative emissions.” But most of them, like direct air capture or increasing the alkalinity of oceans by adding lime to it to increase the dissolution rate of carbon in seawaters as carbonate ions, are science fiction and fantasy right now. They would create more problems than solutions: They would need massive amounts of energies to implement and have unforeseen adverse effects on ecosystems.

A more plausible method of negative emissions for the system would be biomass energy with carbon capture and storage (BECCS). Plants that capture carbon from the atmosphere through photosynthesis would be burnt in power stations as fuel, and the resulting carbon emissions would be captured and stored. Negative emissions scenarios in the climate models (such as United Nations’ IPCC models) rely on this method. But one can easily imagine the enormous dangers that this method would create for wild Nature. As The Economist also mentions, “its large-scale deployment requires vast amounts of land be turned over to growing energy crops: in some estimates, an area equivalent to up to 80% of that now used for food crops would be needed.” When one considers the ever-increasing energy demands of the techno-industrial system, the area needed to grow the plants that will be burned in power stations would only grow. Large tracts of wild ecosystems such as forests and prairies would be turned into fast-growing, industrial tree plantations. Since this method would have the “green” and “sustainable” image, it would be done with more impunity and even with a claim of restoring “nature.” In fact, according to The Economist, this has already happened in Chile: “In Chile, government subsidies helped establish 1.3m hectares of tree plantations since 1986–but a rule requiring that this expansion should not happen at the expense of native forests was not enforced. As a result, the program actually reduced the amount of stored carbon by some 50,000 tonnes.” But even the large-scale deployment of BECCS doesn’t look promising enough to solve the system’s climate change problem in time. The area needed for the large-scale deployment is too big. The system needs its agricultural land to feed its enormous population. As the above example from Chile demonstrates, if tree plantations replaced wild forests, the net result would be more carbon in the atmosphere, contrary to the aims of the negative emissions program.

The other possible reaction, and possibly the most dangerous one for the wild Nature, is that the techno-industrial system might attempt to “govern the atmosphere.” As we said, The Economist represents the orthodoxy of the ideology of the techno-industrial system. In this special report, the chain of argument implicitly points toward the “governing of the atmosphere” as the best (or even the only) possible option to “fix” the climate change in the short time frame that it should be dealt with. Geoengineering is still controversial; there are many uncertainties regarding its consequences, who has the authority to implement it, etc. That is why we don’t see (yet?) blatant advocacy of geoengineering in this special report or the media in general. But we see it discussed more and more as a possible option, and a magazine like The Economist defends and proposes it as a solution shows us where the trend is going.

There are several proposed methods of geoengineering, but the most popular and the most studied one in the models is solar geoengineering: Spraying reflective particles in the stratosphere so that they reflect sunlight into space and create a cooling effect that balances the greenhouse effect of CO2 in the atmosphere. According to The Economist, geoengineering is cheap, “it seems likely that putting a veil into the atmosphere would be comparatively cheap,” and it could be undertaken “by a relatively small fleet of purpose-built aircraft.” The Economist sees the application of a solar-geoengineering program implemented with global cooperation as the miraculous solution. If only the world as a whole could come together and implement a solar-geoengineering scheme collectively, it would provide “climate benefits to almost everyone and serious problems to almost nobody.” It would give the system breathing time to adjust its energy infrastructure accordingly. And when the CO2 level was low enough, “the governing of the atmosphere” would be phased out, leaving behind a stable climate.

Of course, this optimistic scenario of “fixing” the climate ignores some crucial and insurmountable obstacles that such a venture would inevitably face. Even if we assume that the whole world could come together and implement a global solar geoengineering scheme, we can be pretty sure that the consequences of such a scheme would be quite different than expected. Earth’s atmosphere is a complex system. We don’t know exactly how it functions, the feedback loops among its components, and the relationships it has with the rest of the biosphere. Our models of atmosphere or climate aren’t the reality itself but an approximation and simplification of it. When such tinkering with the atmosphere begins, there would be inevitably unforeseen consequences. To mitigate the effects of these unforeseen consequences, more tinkering would be necessary. And this process would go on in a self-reinforcing feedback loop until the natural mechanisms that keep the chemistry of the atmosphere and climate in certain limits lose their function. When that happens, the stability of the earth’s atmosphere and climate would be dependent on the artificial governing of the techno-industrial system. In an eventual collapse of the techno-industrial system, the artificial governing of the atmosphere would cease, and its composition might reach a state where it can’t sustain complex living organisms.

On the other hand, mitigating the effects of climate change with the artificial cooling of geoengineering would relieve the pressure of reducing CO2 emissions. The techno-industrial system is still essentially dependent on fossil fuels for its energy needs. With an artificial method of suppressing the effects of burning fossil fuels, companies and governments would increase their CO2 emissions with more impunity. That, in turn, would create the necessity of more intense intervention to the atmosphere and so on.

But more probably, solar-geoengineering won’t be implemented as a globally concerted collective endeavor. It is improbable that all the world governments come together in concerted action to implement such a plan. Solar geoengineering would have different effects on different countries. Some will oppose such an endeavor, some will be more reticent, and some will want an immediate implementation. They will have diverse ideas about how to implement it. Since the application of geoengineering is relatively cheap, one or a group of more eager countries might choose to implement it on their own and can do it with their own resources. As we have said, we can’t know the precise consequences of geoengineering beforehand. One possible consequence would be the changing of the water cycles. Countries that implement unilaterally solar-geoengineering would choose to pursue primarily their own benefit; they might cool part of the planets while disrupting water cycles in other parts producing negative consequences for other countries. That might elicit reprisals in the form of more solar-geoengineering, and the atmosphere’s chemistry might be devastated more rapidly with every country tinkering with the atmosphere for its own benefit. But regardless of how it is carried out, “governing the atmosphere” would represent the most comprehensive attack on the autonomy of wild processes.

The techno-industrial system is in a relentless fuite en avant. Its functions create disruptions in the processes of the biosphere. But since it still is dependent on wild Nature for its existence, these disruptions also create threats to its effective functioning and survival. To mitigate those effects, it comes up with palliatives in the shape of techno-fixes. But these techno-fixes, in the end, create deeper problems. In its headlong escape from the problems its existence generates, the system keeps getting more complex, bigger, and bulky. Its disruptive effects on biospheric processes get more intense, destructive, and numerous. Climate change and the system’s reactions to it is one representation of this process. The techno-industrial system has already littered and continues to litter the environment and the wild ecosystems with the wind turbines and solar panels in its quest of adapting its energy infrastructure to climate change. It created enormous damages with the mining operations necessary to procure the needed metals to produce wind turbines, solar panels, electrical batteries, etc. It plans to turn massive areas into industrially produced tree plantations to feed its never-ending hunger for energy with more “sustainable” methods. But all these aren’t enough for its timely adaptation to the new climate that it is creating. Therefore, it is getting ready to attempt the most daring of its endeavors yet: “governing the atmosphere.” Apart from its complete destruction, nothing will stop it; its fuite en avant will only continue with accelerated speed and devour the remaining autonomous wild processes.



Notes

1. Climate change is also a grave danger for wild ecosystems. But in this text, we try to look into the issue from the system’s perspective to delineate its possible reactions. The probable solutions that the system will come up with would chiefly represent even more dangers for the wild Nature.

2. For a more detailed discussion of the leftism’s development (first, second, and third-wave leftisms) and its role in the system, see Karaçam, “Leftism, Techno-Industrial System, and Wild Nature.”

3. As long as you want to keep the techno-industrial system alive.

4. For a more detailed discussion on the impossibility of controlling the development of society, see the first chapter of the Anti-Tech Revolution: Why and How by Theodore John Kaczynski (Fitch & Madison, Second Edition, 2020.)

5. For a more detailed discussion of the self-propagating systems, see the second chapter of the Anti-Tech Revolution: Why and How.

6. By “power”, we don’t necessarily mean exercising authority over people or organizations. We mean material capacity: The geographical extent of the functions of a given system, ability to control energy and material flows, and how big these flows are. 




Karaçam

karapinusnigra@gmail.com