Continued from previous post. Each person takes one of the three roles: Partovo (“Humans are a Part Of nature”); Separata (“Humans have become Separate from nature”); or Interpreta (“Interpret Socially views about nature and what is natural”). Begin the conversation as scripted, but call time out to discuss among yourselves any comment that you do not understand or that you would like to rewrite. If the group agrees to the rewrites and they diverge far from the script, record the new conversation you generate.
Interpreta: Can I interrupt here? Separata, are you concerned by the fact that your reasons for getting in touch with nature are couched in terms of benefits to humans, and are not for the sake of (non-human) nature?
Separata: I am concerned for non-human nature. Moreover, I’d like to break down the distinction. That is, in the long term I would like humans to live as if they are one part of nature among many other interconnected parts. However, I have learned through experience that most people will pay more attention to the environment only if I give them reasons in terms of human benefits.
Partovo: You want humans and non-humans to be all part of nature. This sounds like the position I began with. And in this unified picture harnessing microorganisms becomes natural, no?
Separata: You are giving me a hard time. Yes, beer, bread, etc. are OK. But don’t slip back to claiming that everything human technology produces is OK. Oil spills, for example, kill animals, devastate fishersies and that, in turn , threatens the livelihoods of fishing people.
Partovo: Biotechnology is producing oil-spill cleanup bacteria.
Separata: I think it would be better to prevent oil spills in the first place.
Partovo: Maybe, but I’m not certain. Energy is vital to the economy. If oil companies were more heavily regulated and energy prices rose as a result, the economy would grow more slowly — and probably lose out to countries that accepted a greater risk of oil spills.
Separata: It wouldn’t be so bad if economic growth were slower.
Partovo: I suspected you might say that. But think — if the economy grew slower, there’d be less money for R&D. And we’d be less likely to develop the efficient solar cells and fusion power we need to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. In other words, the risk of oil spills may be just what we have to accept if we are to eliminate CO2 greenhouse problems.
Separata: You’re making a lot of unsupported assumptions about where oil companies invest profits, whether the promise of fusion power is worth investing more and more billions, and so on.
Partovo: I trust corporations to invest their profits well to make new profits. And I, like you, expect that science can produce results.
Separata: I don’t have as much faith in corporate-driven R&D as you do. Or in Big Science such as nuclear fusion. Priorities for research should be for health and ecological sustainability — and not for military might or corporate profit. I mean, have you read the figures for the costs of containment and cleanup of wastes, chemical and nuclear, put into the environments around military installations since WWII?
Partovo: I concede that mistakes may have been made, but the military didn’t only produce nuclear weapons and toxic wastes. Many technologies that you rely on are spinoffs from military R&D.
Separata: Like teflon? I could do without that!
Partovo: How about computers and the internet. Have you used email to organize an environmental campaign lately?
Separata: OK — there are some benefits I accept, but go back to the costs. Someone will have to pay these, and that’s going to be a big drag on the economic growth you favor.
Partovo: Maybe the costs won’t be so great if we just abandon the areas and let nature take its course.
Separata: Not everyone can pack up and move away from toxic-contaminated sites.
Partovo: Agreed. But you should remember that some people move into such areas when the price of real estate drops to levels they can afford. That’s the way markets work to balance supply and demand. Dare I say, it’s a natural process?