Monday, September 18, 2006

Sustainable Power

From Effect Measure comes more evidence of the advent of our Dark Green Future:

British arms manufacturer BAE Systems is designing "environmentally friendly" weapons, including "reduced lead" bullets, "reduced smoke" grenades and rockets with fewer toxins, The Sunday Times said. Other initiatives include developing armoured vehicles with lower carbon emissions, safer and more sustainable artillery and even recycling or composting waste explosives, the newspaper added.
Fair enough. God knows there are excellent reasons to ban the use of, say, depleted uranium munitions. And as repellent as it might be to massacre civilians, there’s no reason to compound the survivors’ suffering by using lead bullets. Environmentally friendly munitions are quite reasonable.

Then again, that’s precisely why they’re frightening. Walter Benjamin famously claimed that there is no monument of civilization that is not also a monument of barbarism. Advances like BAE's encourage a more optimistic outlook: There is no monument of barbarism that can’t be civilized.

One doesn’t admire mindless, orgiastic bloodshed, of course, but it’s less disturbing in many ways than rational, efficient bloodshed. Consider the guillotine: If your goal is to remove people’s heads, axe-wielding executioners are messy and unreliable; what if it takes three blows to get the head off, instead of one? The guillotine solved this problem nicely, while also turning execution into an educational demonstration of Newtonian kinematics. Clearly, this approach to head-removal was better suited to the dignity and grandeur of a clockwork universe.

By the same token, "green" munitions are better suited to a society that’s coming to appreciate the interdependence of all life. One can almost imagine some future apologist for slaughter officiously complaining about the enemies’ unenlightened use of lead bullets and VOCs. Kill 'em all, in Gaia's name!

Like it or not, though, this is progress. We have every reason to hope that Israel’s electrified wall against Egypt will be solar powered, and that if Raytheon gets the bid to wall off Saudi Arabia from Iraq, it’ll meet LEED standards. And of course, these modest projects are nothing compared to the worldchanging innovations we’ll see as we reduce the environmental footprint of Fortress America.

It’s an exciting time to be alive, all things considered.


Nanette said...

Well, there you go. It's always possible to find a half full glass somewhere or other.

There is no monument of barbarism that can’t be civilized.

This is a very chilling (and sadly true) statement. I've come across any number of familiar things that, on the surface, seem benign but sometimes - for a short period of time - things will tilt a little bit, giving a different perspective and the familiar, the benign, the compassionate seem more like masks over the face of horror.

This happened recently when I came across a news story mentioning "human rights organizations". Now, I couldn't even count how many times I've read those words and thought nothing of it. But just that time it seemed like I'd never heard them before and I thought how very strange it was that we've accepted the need for, and the presumed never ending existence of things like "human rights organizations". Or "anti poverty organizations". And others as well..

Not, of course, that I think there should not be advocates for these issues... it's just that I don't think the issues should exist... but we've, on some level, accepted (or, I guess, internalized) the fact that there will always be a need for these types of places, cuz there always has been a need and that's just the way the world is. Or is it? Hmmm.

I am, of course, an idealist... when not being completely cynical, but it's not that I don't recognize the reality of different horrors in the world, it's just that I think... well, mostly I'm thinking that I'm too tired to really explain what I mean ;).

I think this relates to something you said in the comments on one of the prior threads... but I've just realized that I've wandered far afield from your actual post.

I hope you are not firmly anti digression?

Phila said...

there always has been a need and that's just the way the world is. Or is it? Hmmm.

Beats me. It's very difficult to imagine people changing. Still, one has to proceed from the assumption that things don't have to be quite as bad as they are at the moment. And that if they can change a little, they can always change a little more.

I hope you are not firmly anti digression?

Quite the opposite! Digress away.