Missed Anthropy

A brilliant blue jay is springing up and down, up and down, / On a branch. / I laugh, as I see him abandon himself / To entire delight, for he knows as well as I do / That the branch will not break. –James Wright (1963)

A trailer for David Quammen’s new book, Spillover, detailing the pathogen blowback our environmental destruction has set off, elicited a number of like-minded comments,

Earth, healing itself.

The Tibetans say that Mother Earth will shake us off the way a dog shakes off his fleas.

I could say Earth isn’t a person (or a dog), but even a well-deserved allegorical warning needn’t be served with such resplendent misanthropy. We’d hope all parties–even pro-sustainability–would recognize we are–the planet–an integrated ecosystem. Indeed, even if our entire race of ‘fleas’ were wiped out tomorrow, by our impact Earth’s biospheric trajectory would still be altered forever.

If you’re not a misanthrope you’re delusional.

As a daily meditation, I get it. As a political program, meh. Perhaps it smells a whiff of the population control wing of the ecological movement. One can despise capitalists, and their role in promoting outbreaks, without wishing Armageddon as just desserts.

There’s no political program which will deter climate change, species extinctions, rainforest liquidation or the global ecological consequences that are the foreseeable result. None of these issues are even on the table. So we’re left only with our rage and our empathy for the victims, human and non. Are you asking us to surrender that as well?

I take part of that back. The issues are on the table–but only how fast to accelerate them.

And I think we should note for the record that Misanthropy is not the same as Malthusianism, since Malthusianism by definition favors one class over all others. Misanthropy is a kind of multi-species chorus of the oppressed, the abused, the targeted…

Behind Malthusianism and the ecological misanthropy expressed across the comments is the precept humanity has overreached its carrying capacity (and by a moral justice embodies its own worst revenge). Not an identity, but an intersection nonetheless.

I can’t say things are looking good for our heroes at this point, but communal projects in conservation agriculture the world over, some feeding millions, are living refutations of the present production paradigm.

Mind you, I’m a cynic through and through–it’s an occupational hazard–but I’ve decided I will no longer be my own defeat. There is a world to win, even if at best “these days we’re shy imaginers of Utopias on hold,” as the recently deceased Alexander Cockburn put it,

We know we live in the age of iron, lamented by Hesiod and Ovid. All the more reason not to lose heart. There is abundance, if we arrange things differently. The world can be turned upside down; that is, the right way up. The Golden Age is in us, if we know where to look, and what to think.


2 Responses to “Missed Anthropy”

  1. paul moyer Says:

    I would treasure forever, at least mine conversational flow between Eduardo Galeano and yourself. For you both encourage this commoner to explore realms beyond a mere self-imposed slight of reflection. Thank you, for all your memories shared with one “Spirit of 1848” list-served. indeed, fracking nigh.

  2. Thank you, Paul, for the kind words. I’d treasure such a conversation myself. Galeano is terrific.

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