Wednesday, July 23, 2014

#205 / Primarily A Political Fight

Nathanael Johnson is a writer who lives in San Francisco. He has written a book called All Natural. He apparently started thinking about the "Anthropocene" as he wrote this book. As Wikipedia defines it, "the Anthropocene is an informal geologic chronological term that marks the evidence and extent of human activities that have had a significant global impact on the Earth's ecosystems." I actually recommend that you get Elizabeth Kolbert's take on the term, if you are not familiar with it.

Johnson became aware, as he explored the topic, that there is a kind of debate about whether there could ever be a "good" Anthropocene. He decided to do an article, recently published in Grist, that explores this topic by way of a dialogue between ethicist Clive Hamilton ("The New Environmentalism Will Lead Us To Disaster" and Requiem For A Species) and journalist Andrew Revkin ("Paths To A Good Anthropocene").

Johnson's article is titled "Is the Anthropocene a world of hope or a world of hurt?" The article is worth reading, though it doesn't actually resolve the question presented, at least in my opinion. 

I am citing to Johnson's article for one reason. About halfway through the dialogue, as Johnson is summarizing the points of view being expressed, he says this: 

NJ Just to sum up, clearly we have giant cultural issues to work out. I don't see a revolution coming with humans ascending to a higher ethical state anytime soon, though I would certainly welcome and work for it. But it seems like in the meantime it doesn't hurt to be working on incremental, pragmatic measures, with the full awareness that it is primarily a political fight, with entrenched interests working against us. At least that gives us the option, if there are less bad alternatives out there, of making our way toward them.

Johnson's statement that the the future of the Earth is "primarily a political fight" is really a way to say that we will live, inevitably, in the world we create as humans, and that even as the challenges for our world come to us from the World of Nature, which is now being altered by the actions we have taken, and are taking, within our human world, the "fate" of our world is dependent on our political choices. 

This understanding is exactly the point of this Two Worlds blog. It is politics, in the end, that creates the world in which we most immediately live.

Image Credit:


  1. "It is politics, in the end, that creates the world in which we most immediately live."

    This is where my mileage does differ.

    In my world, it is Nature that creates the world in which I most immediately live. Politics affects that world, but Nature is primary, politics is secondary. When politics goes away, Nature abides.

  2. You have struck on one of the important points I try to make in defining our existence as being within "Two Worlds." We do not, I think, "immediately" live in the world of Nature. We most "immediately" live in a world that we create - and the World that "ultimately" supports all life is the World of Nature. Nature is definitely primary (and ultimate). The "political world" is definitely secondary (and the world we most immediately inhabit). If we don't discern the relationships correctly, we make big mistakes. Lots of people turn their back on "politics" because they think it is of less importance than "Nature." Well, look what we are doing to the World of Nature because we have let our politics get away from us. I continue to defend my immediately/ultimately dichotomy. And I think it's an important one to understand.

  3. I understand your point, and for most people it is valid. As you know, my wife and I are actively involved in politics, on an almost daily basis (alas) . We do so because politics and politicians tend to ignore or at best neglect the natural world. Yesterday, we attended back to back public meetings, where we reminded government policy making bodies of the necessity of including the natural world in their deliberations on "sustainability" of the human built world.

    We live a life embedded in the natural world. Our home is as much outdoors as indoors, amongst a jungle of plants and animals teeming with life. Our interactions with human politics is chiefly in defense the natural world, where plants and animals have no voice.

    I'm glad you immediately inhabit the political world! We are eternally grateful for the good work you do in defense of the natural world.

  4. Thanks, Michael. And my appreciation to you and Jean!


Thanks for your comment!