It seems that the Bill McKibben view of the world is gaining traction: there are no “acts of God,” it’s all man’s fault! Nature is now a fiction – we live in one big humanly engineered environment, including the weather. It’s all because we insisted on moving beyond the hunter-gatherer stage of culture.
A point of reference in this evolution of views is the article in the NYTimes today, about the residents of a small island in Alaska who want to collect damages from energy companies because their shoreline is eroding. They demand that the corporations pay to relocate them all to the mainland. Why? Fossil fuel consumption is causing global warming which causes sea level rise and ice pack melt which is threatening their chunk of dirt.
The chain of causation, which should be established by scientists, not lawyers, is weak and unproven, but then there are folks in New Orleans who want to bring similar suits to recoup losses from Katrina. But if energy companies are at fault, what about the rest of us who drive cars and cook with gas? If this kooky logic is taken to its logical conclusion, we end up in a dystopian fantasy out of Margaret Atwood or Huxley, in which it is a capital crime to light a match or cook food because it threatens the survival of the community. As Orwell’s animals might have chanted, “Sunlight good, firepower, bad!”
I wonder – was Prometheus chained to that rock because he angered Zeus by stealing fire and giving it to mortals, or did mortals fashion the story to express their unease with him for having giving them the gift of fire that raised them from the status of “natural” animals, to men controlling their fate in nature? The Greek version of the expulsion from Eden..? We’re still dealing with it.