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Green in Tooth and Claw

McMahons proposal to remove carnivores from our planet would be the first planet-wide Eugenics program? Eugenics is perhaps not quite the right word, but a colorful one. We have long bred animals for qualities we rationally or irrationally like to see in them. Not so long ago the Nazis thought they could improve the race. Humanity rejected their thesis.

But here's a novel idea: let's improve the planet, and make it the best possible world? Then throwing aside that grand utopian assertion-- how do we manage just to keep it healthy and sustainable? 

They give out tickets for "reckless driving" don't they? To my mind, we need to give ourselves a ticket for the "reckless driving" of our planet, and be forced to do some remedial study on how to fix problems that we ourselves made.

I don't intend that we improve our world or redress wrongs by picking on the poor carnivores as McMahon suggests, but rather by taking steps to ensure that Earth not be doomed to overpopulation, pollution, disease, wars, destruction of eco-systems, and the final failure of the offshore bank where the entire sum of the world's capital is held in a private account. If this is the direction we are "recklessly driving" in-- shouldn't we try to do something about it?

Not deep under the "carnivore" surface structure of McMahon's essay lurk the sticky issues of how we decide right and wrong in a global setting, how we set ethical rules for survival of the individual, the state, the species, the world.

The suggestion to purge the world of carnivores makes an excellent and (intentionally?) humorous test case. Man of course is the biggest carnivore, and his carnivore appetite extends, it seems, to his other activities. No, he must be making humor since surely he does not mean to say: Be vegan or die! Or does he?

Intentional or not, I find a reading that our high tolerance for the suffering of animals extends directly from our eating of them, and this strengthens our ability to block out the suffering of humanity also-- the suffering of those from whom we make our living. 

How indeed do we decide global questions as a species?

Can we as carnivores in desperate times be expected to come forth with benign solutions?

That's a hard question. Let's reduce the world sustainability problem to a "three starving men in a boat" problem. Should they all starve together, or decide whose life is most worth saving and proceed accordingly? That might work, but then also the least worthy person might say "screw this" and kill his companions and eat them?

Although I've heard Darwin was not fond of "survival of the fittest" as a description of evolution, American businessmen seem to have embraced the idea thoroughly when judged on their behavior: green in tooth and claw. I fear "big money" CEO's take a moment now and then to reflect that, when the world falls apart, they will still be in the catbird seat, ready and able to survive-- "a consummation devoutly to be wished" as sayeth the Bard.

But, isn't there a better way? Don't we need some sort of global planning? It's a good question and we ought to be looking for answers to which we can all say yes. The traditional option of leaving the hard decisions to "Chance" or "the Will of God" may not be our most viable one for species survival.

If we can not decide global issues by consensus, somebody, when the time comes, will do whatever seems expedient at that moment. That person may well be a carnivore and likely without a Gandhi-like insight.

Hopefully, if we are all herbivores someday, our leaders will take the time necessary to ruminate.

Comments

( 2 comments — Leave a comment )
dyvyd
Sep. 24th, 2010 02:44 am (UTC)
Source of McMahon piece and more comments found here.

http://crowleycrow.livejournal.com/160763.html
anselmo_b
Sep. 24th, 2010 06:18 am (UTC)
I do think he is saying be vegan or die. See my reply at crowleycrow's.
I agree that we need to find global solutions, but I don't really see much hope that'll we'll be able to. We can't even manage the easy ones, just look at the sorry charade of the UNO millennium development goals that just took place.
( 2 comments — Leave a comment )
Cydonia photo: ESA

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