Re: Coming Ecological Catastrophe
Mon, 3 Feb 1997 21:43:57 -0500 (EST)

In a message dated 97-02-02 23:22:00 EST, "Cyber Ed" (cyberedward@ICDC.COM)

> I have been a lifelong nature lover.

Welcome to the List! I think you may be pleasantly surprised at the extent
to which transhumanists in general and extropians in particular are
sensitized to the scientific, social and aesthetic issues of our relationship
to nature. As long-time ExList denizens know, this is one of my key
interests in extropianism.

> [snip some good personal observations about environmental quality]
> I just wonder if the
> dystopian futuristic visions of a sort of Blade Runner type landscape is
> what we can realistically expect or will the new technologies change the
> present resource consumption patterns that cause forests to be clear cut
> and through the extraction of fossil fuels cause Exxon Valdezes ? Will
> biotechnology find new ways to feed humans so we don't have to overfish
> the seas causing depletion of fish such as I heard has happened at one
> of my favorite resorts in Perce on the Gaspe Peninsula in Quebec? Will
> there be a future in which a wide diversity of flora and fauna exists
> and also megafauna such as grizzly bears can make a comeback? Or do
> Extropian posthumans value this type of wild nature?
> [more snips]
> How does a posthuman view a grizzly bear? Does the grizzly
> bear have a right to exist: large expanses of wild uninhabited land in
> which to roam?

To me these are _very_ important and apt questions for extropians and the
transhumanist community. They cause us to look at our core values and at the
specific technologies we choose to use to augment our power in -- and over --
nature. As I've written before, I find Anders' "complexity ethic" to be near
the starting point for a definition of extropian attitudes toward nature. As
Anders wrote on 97-02-03 07:17:55 EST:

> In my personal ethical system, I regard complex, diverse systems as a
> fundamental good (this is a completely arbitrary basis, but it works quite
> well). This of course implies that a biosphere is something *very*
> valuable, and that keeping it viable and diverse is an ethical act. It
> also implies that ideally, I should not interfere in it to decrease its
> (long run) diversity, and that to achieve this I should also try to
> convince others about the same thing (see the meme? :-).

I'm not sure, however, that this is an "arbitrary" value, in the sense that
valuing complex ecosystems may stem inevitably from the same, more
fundamental "goods" we must hold to value human and trans- and post-human
life. (This gets into my long-range goal of developing an ethical system
based on fundamental valuation of information processing -- knowers and
knowledge -- very much a work in progress and incomplete . . .)

As I have written elsewhere:

"For now, at least, Earth is the only planet of which we are aware that has
spontaneously generated a rich biosphere. This phenomenon is scarce. Raw
materials for an industrial society that can be found elsewhere than on/in
this planet, on the other hand, are not. Earth constitutes a tiny fraction
of the mass of the solar system. Even with the primitive survey of the solar
system we have already made, we know we can find and exploit elsewhere the
resources that an expanding industrial civilization needs."

"Extropian environmentalism places a high value on the living wilderness
simply because it is rare and options exist and more will exist for the
continued technological development of consciousness other than consuming
those living wilderness zones. This does not place an unreasonably absolute
value on living wilderness, but simply makes preserving it as much as
possible one value among many, albeit a great value. Preserving living
terran wilderness zones is consistent with the value of spontaneous order
simply because life on this planet is, so far, the most complex example of
this phenomenon of which we are aware. If for no other reason, mere
curiosity about spontaneous order should lead us to interact with at least
some of these zones as little as possible, at least until we better
understand the processes that gave rise to them and by which they continue to

This language is excerpted from my "Extropian Environmentalism" web page,
which can be found at:

Any list members interested in these questions are welcome to visit that site
and -- more important -- to send me materials and links they believe may be
appropriate for inclusion there.

And, as I mentioned here recently, no better exposition of an extropian
approach to environmental issues can be found than Wallace Kaufman's book,
"No Turning Back". Again, I highly recommend that book for anyone interested
in the ultimate questions of our changing relationship to nature.

Finally, anyone interested in these questions may also be interested in
coming along on the extropians backpacking trip I'm organizing for the July
4th holiday, dubbed "Expedition 97." While the trip doesn't have a "theme"
by any means, I'm sure these topics will come up around the campfire. The
Expedition 97 web page can be found at:

Included in that site is a list of folks who have already expressed an
interest in going on the trip.

Greg Burch <> <> or
" daybreak I am the sole owner of all the acres I can walk over.
It is not only the boundaries that disappear, but also the thought of
being bounded." -- Aldo Leopold