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Our Global Culture and Nature

I think that a given culture is a product of the prevailing spirit of the time—the zeitgeist. However, when I consider culture in this context, I’m not thinking about the product cultures of the 1980s versus the 2010s. I think that the greater culture we are enacting right now is over 10,000 years old; it is a culture that felt spited by a land that did not provide when needed, so humans had to take survival into their hands by manipulating the earth to ensure food security. Thus, we have a food culture that exists in spite of the forces of Nature: We employ new chemicals and genetic innovations so that even the most desolate land can bear crops. The fruits of our labors come in the form of being able to buy bananas at any Wal-Mart in America; almost no fruit or vegetable is ever out of season because the supply chain doesn’t even consider physical geography anymore. The whole world is now a potential grounds for massive industrial agriculture because the limitations of natural ecosystems were worth overriding. In other words, the spirit of our culture does not have to go out of its way to give up clean air, land and water for its desire to expand.

Zeitgeist is not composed of the individual actions by singular people or groups: it reveals itself by the aggregate effects of all these actions, and is up to the interpretation of those who discover its current form. This means that while great movements have risen up against the exploitation and pollution of air, land, and water, their effect on the aggregate result—an increasingly polluted earth—is evidently negligible. This is because these environmental movements have never integrated themselves into the spiritual level of the culture.

By spiritual, I mean the essential will of individuals and people. This can mean religion, but that’s not my focus. I do notice that the more popular religions, Christianity and Islam, have little to nothing about conceiving earth as anything but a resource to be exploited; in fact, the Christian bible’s god encourages one to “take dominion over the earth”. You can use religion to detect what has become dogmatic in our 10,000 year-old culture. To abstract the spiritual into the will of individuals and people is to

To believe that the land and water is anything but a resource is an exceptional perspective, and not the rule. Thus, the defaults of human action will enact the current cultural belief that Nature is a resource.

In another sense, I don’t think that the Agricultural Revolution has even ended yet.