Saturday, July 17, 2010

Back To Nature

Ah, modern society. We're so fancy and advanced, with our airplanes, and our high speed internet access, and our indoor plumbing. Aren't we awesome? Our medieval ancestors would be so freaking impressed, right?

Well, maybe...

It's convenient, no doubt, to be able to go anywhere, see and talk to anyone, and take a crap in the privacy of your own bathroom. I don't think any of us are in a hurry to give that up. But in spite of all that, if you look around, there's an overwhelming movement for us to work backwards. Get environmentally friendly lightbulbs so you use less energy and put less strain on the power grid. Drive a hybrid car so that you use less gas, and put less harmful chemicals into the air. Buy organic foods so that you're not ingesting all the delightful pesticides we've cooked up. Don't drink diet soda, it has chemicals that will give you diseases, and really, fast food and prepackaged food is no better, it's making everyone obese. Don't use too many antibiotics, otherwise the pathogens will become immune. Don't shower for more than 7 minutes or you're wasting too much water, and as much as you love indoor plumbing, if you can forgo a flush or two, you're wasting less. By the way? At any given moment there could potentially be a nuclear holocaust, because we have invested so much time and energy into building things that could destroy most of the world on a whim.

We've spent hundreds of years "advancing" ourselves, countless hours of time, and billions upon billions of dollars into discovering all of these "wonderful" new conveniences, and we're just now starting to realize that maybe, just maybe, all of this wasn't such a good idea.


We've expanded beyond what the infrastructure that delivers our electricity can actually handle, haven't we? We're dependent on other countries to supply us with resources that now, we've grown unable to live without, haven't we? We're working with limited natural resources, aren't we? We've created a whole slew of ethical and social conflicts by advancing medicine to the extent that we can very nearly play god, haven't we? We've created harder to cure diseases by our overly liberal use of medication, haven't we? We've destroyed a whole bunch of our planet, haven't we? Wow guys, maybe we didn't really think this one through.

Way to think ahead, guys. Way to think ahead.

And now, in comes the backlash. As it always does, eventually. Get back to nature, everyone says. Go green, go organic, go all of those lovely, idyllic things that are advertised with big green trees, and sunny yellow suns, and blue skies. Because that's what we want - we want to get back to that natural splendor that our post-Industrial Revolution society has been pillaging and plundering for quite a while. Which isn't to say that folks before that time are innocent, but let's be honest, it's a lot harder to destroy the rainforest with a hand saw. We've certainly speeded up the process in recent centuries.

So we're buying organic food and beauty products, washing our hair with sulfate-free shampoo, shunning prepackaged trans-fats and preservatives, and reusing our shopping bags when we buy groceries. We're getting environmentally friendly lightbulbs, and high efficiency washer/dryer units, and hybrid cars. We're turning to hollistic medicines and natural home remedies. Social movement, or mere consumer trend, I wonder?

Yet somehow, we're still going forwards even when we're trying to go backwards. Scientific research and grand feats of engineering are required to find new ways for us to exist in the world without being quite so hard on it. Someone has to manufacture the green lightbulbs, and the hybrid cars. And that's the new, more advanced technology. Our advancement is attempting to get us back to the way things used to be. You know, before the entire planet was a huge ticking time bomb.

I'm not sitting here saying that I want to give up my laptop computer, or my gas powered car, and really? Who would say indoor plumbing was a really awful idea, in the long run? Who thinks they could have figured out a better way to do it? I'm just especially intrigued by the current social views of our environment, and our technology. That's why I'm not sitting here throwing facts and figures at you - it's society I'm interested in. It's what people are doing, what people are buying, how people are thinking - that's what is interesting to me. And right now, we're thinking back to nature.

Do you think we should get back to nature? Do you think that our technological advancements have gone a bit too far? Do you think that our new research is actually an attempt to get us back to where we used to be before things got this far? Which modern advancement or convenience would you be most willing to give up? Which would be the hardest?


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