Thursday, December 21, 2023

#355 / The World We Make For Ourselves

I have very little idea about who reads these blog postings of mine. I have been posting to this blog, each day, for something like thirteen years. I haven't missed a day yet. I actually think of these postings as things I am basically writing for myself, though I do put each blog posting onto my Facebook page, for others to read, and I do offer a (pretty clunky, to be honest) way to "subscribe" at the bottom of each of my blog postings. 

Naturally, I am delighted when someone has taken what I have written seriously enough to let me know their reaction, and while I do hear from a few stalwart readers, from time to time, I really must tell myself that the "purpose" of this writing is just to help me get my own thoughts in order. Thoughtful people should think about the world, and about their life, and that's what I am trying to do, as I write this blog.

Incidentally, whether it's keeping a "journal," or writing a blog, this is definitely a practice I recommend to others!

Some of the thoughts that I have "gotten in order," by writing out my thoughts, day after day, are summarized in a blog posting I titled, "Worldview 101." Among other things, I used that blog posting to try to explain my "Two Worlds Hypothesis." 

I actually think that this idea is really quite important. Once I started teaching "law," in the Legal Studies Program at UCSC, it became ever more apparent to me that the word, "law" has two radically different meanings. If one word has two different meanings, there is, of course, a significant danger that we might confuse ourselves when we use the word, and some confusions are life-threatening. The "Two Worlds Hypothesis" is the way I am trying to explain (at least to myself) our actual situation in being alive, and having the ability to create the "World" we most immediately inhabit.

Those who have followed me for a while know that it is my contention that we live "ultimately" in the "World of Nature," or the "World God Made." We live, however, most "immediately" in a world that we make for ourselves, a "Human World," or, as I generally put it, a "Political World." This blog has had several different names, over the time I have been writing it, and "We Live In A Political World," its present title, was arrived at as I kept thinking about those two kinds of "law," and about the two, very different, worlds that are subject to those (different) "laws." 

In the "World of Nature," the "laws" state things that must and will happen. The "Law of Gravity" is my go-to example. Like all those scientific and physical laws that govern the operation of the "World of Nature," you can't "break" or "ignore" the "Law of Gravity." 

In our own, "Human World," the "laws" don't say what must and will happen. They say what we have determined we "want" to happen. They are not "descriptive," but "prescriptive." Whoever makes those human laws, be that a dictator or the workings of a democratic government, human laws can be broken (and are). 

If we go back to the story of Adam and Eve in the Garden, which story, I believe, represents an effort to try to understand and explain our existence, the basic theme is that humans were given life in the "World God Made" (the "World of Nature") but we were told we had to follow God's rules - the laws that govern the World of Nature! We didn't! Thus, we found ourselves in a "World" that we had to create for ourselves - and since we are in charge of what is now our "Human World," we get to say what the "laws" are. 

My conclusion/admonition from coming to this understanding of the "Two Worlds" we inhabit is that ignoring the "laws" that govern the "World of Nature" will bring us to destruction. Within our own "Human World," however, since we can always choose to change our mind about what we want to do - change our "prescription," change the "laws" - we have an opportunity, always, to correct our own errors. However, if we try to ignore the "Laws of Nature," which we can't change, our own "Human World" will fail. 

Enter my go-to example: "Global Warming." Global warming is a perfect example of the principle; it is a perfect example of the "Two Worlds Hypothesis." Our society, economy, and political system all depend on the "World That God Made," the "Natural World." If we don't pay attention to the reality and primacy of the laws that govern the "World of Nature," we are going to go "Down In The Flood," to reference one of my blog postings highlighting the theological insights of Bob Dylan

We are definitely heading in that direction! We are creating a "Human World" that is inconsistent with the requirements of the "World of Nature," and that means that our "Human World" will fail, unless we figure out how to start giving ourselves different instructions, different "laws" to follow within the "Human World." The big change we need to make is to stop burning hydrocarbon fuels - just in case you are totally oblivious to what's happening as lots of "important people" have headed to Dubai to discuss the issues!


This brings me to the picture featured at the top of this blog posting. The picture provides an "example" of what I am talking about, taken from the November 30, 2023, edition of The New York Times. Take a look at that picture! This is a "Water World," built in Dubai, in what was formerly a desert. The title of the article I am recommending you try to read is, "Water World Costs the Gulf." Online, which is where you will go if you click this link, the article, by Arielle Paul, is titled, "Dubai's Costly Water World." 

The scene you see, at the top of this blog posting, shows a location that "appears like a water wonderland."  Let's read a little bit of Paul's article: 

For a desert city, Dubai appears like a water wonderland. Visitors can scuba dive in the world’s deepest pool or ski inside a megamall where penguins play in freshly made snow. A fountain — billed as the world’s largest — sprays more than 22,000 gallons of water into the air, synchronized to music from surrounding speakers.

But to maintain its opulence, the city relies on fresh water it doesn’t have. So it turns to the sea, using energy-intensive desalination technologies to help hydrate a rapidly growing metropolis.

All of this comes at a cost. Experts say Dubai’s reliance on desalination is damaging the Persian Gulf, producing a brackish waste known as brine, which, along with chemicals used during desalination processing, increases salinity in the gulf. It also raises coastal water temperatures and harms biodiversity, fisheries and coastal communities.

The gulf is also being stressed by climate change and efforts to construct Dubai’s multibillion-dollar islands using land reclamation. The beachfront real estate on offer includes a $34 million private island, shaped like a sea horse, in the artificial archipelago.

If no immediate action is taken to counter the harm, desalination, in combination with climate change, will increase the gulf’s coastal water temperature by at least five degrees Fahrenheit across more than 50 percent of the area by 2050, according to a 2021 study published in the Marine Pollution Bulletin on ScienceDirect, a site for peer-reviewed papers...

Beyond powering Dubai’s flashy recreational features, water is essential to sustaining life, and desalination provides drinking water to a thirsty city. The Dubai Electricity and Water Authority supplies water to more than 3.6 million residents and to visitors, who push the city’s active daytime population to more than 4.7 million, according to a 2022 sustainability report. By 2040, the utility expects these numbers to grow, increasing the demand for clean water.

The city desalinated approximately 163.6 billion gallons of water last year, according to the sustainability report. For each gallon of desalinated water produced in the gulf, an average of a gallon and a half of brine is released into the ocean (emphasis added).

I'll put another picture of Dubai below. The world depicted does seem like a "wonderland," but that world is being constructed as though we, human beings, can ignore what the "World of Nature" requires. 

Maybe this example might convince someone - you who are reading this, perhaps - that we need to start conforming our human activities to the truth that we live in a world that we did not create, and upon which we are ulitmately and totally dependent.

And if we don't conform what we do to the "laws" that govern the "Natural World"? Well, "our" World will die. The desert will reclaim Dubai, and diseases, wildfires, and floods will prevail elsewhere around the globe, East to West, and North to South.

Daunting? Yes, but the "future" is never "inevitable," at least not as long as we don't forget that we can always change what we do, and thus change the world we make for ourselves! Dubai's dubious utopia should make it clear that we don't have too much time left to understand the full implications of that "Two Worlds Hypothesis."

And to act accordingly! Let's not forget that!

As Mr. Dylan puts it, we need to make ourselves "a different set of rules." Click on that link for access to the entire lyrics of his song, "Gonna Change My Way Of Thinking." 

Those lyrics tell us that we have got to "stop being influenced by fools!"


Fools like the oil-rich idiots who think it's wonderful to build a water wonderland in the middle of a desert, and who think that we can get away with that, and who think - even worse - that burning all that oil they found beneath their desert isn't going to tip us right over the edge, till our human world is destroyed. 

1 comment:

  1. I agree with this statement:

    "We are creating [have created] a 'Human World' that is inconsistent with the requirements of the 'World of Nature,' and that means that our 'Human World' will fail, unless we figure out how to start giving ourselves different instructions, different 'laws' to follow within the 'Human World.'"

    Thinking this through reveals some astounding thoughts:
    Capitalism is unsustainable.
    Representative republicanism is incapable of dealing with unsustainable capitalism.
    Unsustainable capitalism requires a strong central state to continue.
    Local economies exceed the carrying capacity of the place where they exist.

    Therefore, the only sustainable form of human society that can continue into the future is a decentralized, steady state economy, with grass roots organized governance, that does not destroy local natural habitats for-other-than-human species, that does not consume local resources faster than they can be naturally replenished, and does not produce wastes faster than they can be naturally dispersed and assimilated.

    There are names for this social organization, names that mainstream societies choose to ignore: socialism, anarchism, ecocentrism, bioregionalism. It's time to bring these ideas out of the closet and discuss them openly as necessary paths to the future for humans embedded in the Natural World.


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