I have a conservative friend, a global warming skeptic, who wrote on his Facebook page this week the following.
The pathetic thing about all of this is that we grew up in an America that could do anything. “In fact, we can put a man on the moon.” Now, we look so incapable and pathetic. It isn’t about BP anymore. This is a national crisis. Its not about who pays or whose fault it is, its how we fix it and clean it up. The whole thing ultimately, for a million reasons, just makes me sad.
And this led me to think about the basis of the country’s foul mood since the Deep Water Horizon blew up. The history of Western civilization has been an immense effort made over the past ten thousand years to bring the natural world under human control. But as Thoreau once wrote, “In Wildness is the Preservation of the World”, believing that nature had her own powers that might thwart our efforts towards total domination. And that wildness might also remind us of the true spontaneity that is the root of our creative soul.
I have been writing for the past two years about the concept of an Interregnum–a time when the “old story” about how things work is no longer valid and yet a “new story” is emerging but is not widely accepted. I have thought of this in mostly political terms and have tried to elucidate such phenomena as the Tea Parties in this framework. But the greatest ecological crisis in American history has led me to a deeper conclusion—the Interregnum is a much deeper cultural moment.
The old story: that man’s role on earth was to subdue the natural world has been the gospel of the political, economic, religious and intellectual elites for millennia. From the book of Genesis onward, Man had “dominion” over the earth and every wild thing on it. The new story is that we are all passengers on spaceship earth, flying through the cosmos. Everything we have for the journey is already on board the ship (except sunlight for life generation). There is no resupply vehicle. Continue reading