Tuesday, June 24, 2008

The Power of Nature

As humans we are all too often human-centric in our world-view. We see ourselves as the be-all and end-all of history. But are we really? Our all too often arrogant religions place us at the centre of the universe and its time, but the probability is that we may well be nothing but the brief flowering on hyper-active sentience on a planet that existed before us and will carry on happily after us, thank you very much. Taking a passage from an old New Scientist article (which was reprinted in the excellent journal 'Do or Die' and replacing 'London' with 'Bristol' we get;

“But what would really happen if Bristol went back to to nature? Let's suppose that this weekend Bristolians flee after a Chernobyl-style accident. Or that tonight's news reveals that a genetically-engineered virus has been set loose, as in the film Twelve Monkeys. Or that Bristolains suddenly all get so sick of city life that they take Shelley's advice to flee "to the wild wood and the downs". How long before abandoned Bristol turned back to a rural paradise?”

Passing though the Bear-Pit today, there was a remarkable view of that vision; a wild flower paradise in the centre of the concrete jungle! It was amazing too see and I stopped to snap it I noticed many other fellow Bristolians doing the same.

There is something in the power of nature that speaks directly to us and beyond us. The hyper-complex system we have built may be far more unstable that we like to think;

The end of civilisation. Literature and film abound with tales of plague, famine and wars which ravage the planet, leaving a few survivors scratching out a primitive existence amid the ruins. Every civilisation in history has collapsed, after all. Why should ours be any different? Doomsday scenarios typically feature a knockout blow: a massive asteroid, all-out nuclear war or a catastrophic pandemic. Yet there is another chilling possibility: what if the very nature of civilisation means that ours, like all the others, is destined to collapse sooner or later? A few researchers have been making such claims for years. Disturbingly, recent insights from fields such as complexity theory suggest that they are right...”


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