22 September 2005

Man vs Nature

Recent events have reminded us just how powerful and destructive Nature1 can be. Only by Man fiddling with Nature in naughty ways (atomic bombs) can he even begin to emulate the power of Nature.

After filling up the car with petrol at £1 a litre (you lucky American drivers!), it occurred to me that Nature is protecting itself, applying some draconian measures to ensure that some measure of equilibrium is maintained.

The fact that the petroleum-producing capacity of one of the biggest polluters in the world was severely limited possibly is an indication of a cause-and-effect loop. We produce petroleum, we drive our cars, destroy the ozone layer, heat up the oceans, which drive the hurricanes that destroy our ability to produce petroleum.

I'm aware that I'm attaching the idea of conciousness and awareness to an "unintelligent" planet, but there may be an argument that when a system reaches the complexity of a planet, with all its associated process, a change to one element leads to a equilibrating change by another; i.e. the system protects itself, albeit reactively.

This is not what environmentalists would want to hear, but indications are that each atrocity visited on the planet is met by a counter-attack from the planet. It may be that no matter how badly we behave, we will always get a slap.

Take the Boxing Day tsunami. A hundred years or so ago, the number of dead would be two orders of magnitude smaller. The only reason so many died is that so many were alive in the first place. Same goes in Africa. The land can only support so many people, so those it cannot support don't make it. Callous though it sounds, sending aid only prolongs the suffering. Aid doesn't adjust the properties of the region, it merely postpones the effects of that region.

The only way out of the loop is to alter the properties of the region; e.g. irrigate the whole of Africa. However, this is somewhat beyond the Will, if not the Wit, of Man. I suspect that if we were to do so, Nature would come up with some way of defending itself.

Attempts to homogenize the world into a evenly-productive sphere would only cause stagnation. Nature requires extremes and differences to drive those processes which allow Life, and therefore Man, to exist.

So, I think that there will come a point where Nature's retaliation to our relentless rape and infestation of the planet will meet the rate of our infestation and an uneasy calm will ensue. That's when things will get interesting.

1 I'm not including animal life in my definition of Nature. Animal life, humans aside, have the least impact on the planet. I think, anyway.

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