Biodiversity, Comedy Break, Consumerism, Economics, Food Shortages, GMOs, Global Warming/Climate Change, Health & Disease, Society, Soil Erosion & Contamination, Water Contaminaton & Loss, peak oil — by Craig Mackintosh PRI Editor August 31, 2012
If we fail to change trajectory, then perhaps we should be re-engineering the root cause of our problem — ourselves?
It’s true that I’m well known for attacking the GMO industry, its industry financed scientists and their thus-incentivised reductionist ’science’. I’ve expressed many times that GMOs are a "solution looking for a problem". We know that GMOs are really only a bid to deal with symptoms of agricultural mismanagement, so they can perpetuate and capitalise on the temporarily highly profitable root cause (i.e. monocultures) of those symptoms. Without monocultures we would not need the many products that keep many an industry alive and many of us in employment (heavy machinery, oil, gasoline, pesticides, fertilisers, GMO seeds and the chemicals they require, etc.), but, with the present paradigm seemingly so entrenched, with our citizens and economic systems being painfully slow to change trajectory (with the industrial agriculture model still rapidly spreading its tentacles across the world’s landscapes), and it threatening our very survival as we begin to head deep into the peak oil era, I’ve had something of an epiphany….
Let me explain.
If we could just re-engineer our own race — humans themselves — we might be able to solve a great many issues in one hit. Indeed, perhaps, if we were successful, the pressure could be at least somewhat lifted from natural systems and the innocent creatures that are being affected by our present-day economic model.
Consider our soils, as just one example. We know that synthetic fertilisers destroy soil carbon, which is the basis of soil fertility. We know that turning and churning our soils, exposing it to excessive oxygen, also hastens the breakdown of soil carbon. This all directly results in not only reduced nutrition for us, but also a reduction in nutrition for all kinds of life, from micro-organisms, to plant life, to insects, birds and animals, life that traditionally functioned symbiotically — and, in concert, synergistically — ensuring our survival and that of all those myriad other creatures in the interdependent web of life we belong to. As this web of life steadily gets dismantled, our own health and even our survival becomes questionable.
To get an excellent visual picture of what I’m trying to say, please watch the time segment between 25:42 to 26:38 of this video.
But with our current lifestyle being "non-negotiable" (to quote George Bush senior, and he, after all, should know), and with government and industry still ignoring a multitude of calls for rapid transition to more holistic systems, I’m wondering if, instead of genetically engineering our crops, our trees and even creatures in the fish, animal and insect worlds, so as to accommodate our economy, perhaps it’s safer and more efficient to just re-engineer ourselves?
First and foremost, this is an ethical consideration. The creatures we share this planet with do not understand our economic systems. They merely suffer the consequences. They cannot vote. They don’t invest in the stock market, and any profit they gain from their activities is, at most, stored for winter consumption. They have nothing in the way of retirement plans, or insurance schemes to fall back on. They just have their own instinctive ingenuity, where they live within the laws of cause and effect, where the activities of one creature keeps that of another in balance. These creatures can survive without us, but we cannot survive without them. It is morally repugnant that our activities not only threaten our own survival and that of our children, but we’re taking a great many other species down with us too.
Now, how would this apply in practice, I hear you ask? Well, there are many ‘features’ we could engineer into the human race which could help ameliorate this problem, whilst still keeping our precious consumer society somewhat intact, or perhaps even prolonging it almost indefinitely. I’d like us to consider a few of these.
Perhaps the first feature that springs to mind, especially in the context of what I’ve expressed above, is we could engineer humans who do not need to eat. This one feature alone would have an enormously positive impact on natural systems. But, we could go much further. As we obviously want to persevere with consumerist systems, even without food (we’ve made it clear that we regard gadgets as more important than food, after all — as evidenced by how happy we are to eat crap from the $1 menu, whilst we spend several month’s wages on our various high-tech devices), then one thing we could also build into this new human is the ability to go without sleep.
Since the 1970s, it is said, we have been working longer and longer hours, so that despite inter-industry competition we can still continue to pay our bills. Getting sufficient sleep is a major limit on our ability to continue this trend. A newly engineered human who could do without both food and sleep would have the ability to work for as many hours as industry demanded (obviously with some time off for devoting to our gadgets, as otherwise we’d have nobody to produce for). In a sleepless economy, imagine the potential growth in ‘productivity’.
Another extremely positive (or critical) feature would be the biological ability to convert toxins in air and water into nutrition to build up our bodies — converting dangerous chemicals into a replacement for food. This would certainly turn a problem into a solution. We would ultimately end up sponging up the very pollution we create — turning it into a resource whilst saving other creatures from having to deal with it.
Other features we could consider might even go beyond the physical. What about engineering psychological traits, those that can, for example, help us with our underlying malcontent with the life this consumer economy gives us? Attributes that spring to mind might include docility and even greater doses of apathy, for example, and even traits that combat our inner desire to spend time in nature (otherwise known as biophilia).
Think of it people — if we could remain, without food, sleep and clean air and water, completely within the boundaries of the urban centres we’ve built up, then we could leave nature alone, to regenerate.
But why stop here? I’d like your input on some of the genetic enhancements you feel could help you persevere in this wonderful and seemingly unstoppable modern world we’ve built for ourselves. I have quite a few ideas of my own, but I don’t want to hog the limelight on this important topic. So, by way of comments below, please share your thoughts on possible beneficial genetic enhancements to the human race which could help us 1) avoid the collapse of systems within the biosphere, but which 2) also enable us to maintain perpetual economic growth. After all, having our cake and eating it too is exactly what our leaders are after, and although we struggle to get permaculture projects off the ground, as industry do not see economic incentives for them to assist us to do so, there are clearly very solid industry incentives to redesign the human race in such a way as to avoid dismantling the economic systems that are proving so profitable for them. Indeed, I think we might literally find billions of dollars at our disposal to accomplish these ends. It’s also quite possible that these proposals, which are the first of their kind that I’m aware of, are actually already on the drawing board in the back rooms of Big Industry, and we just need to give them our support.
It might be a hard pill to swallow for some, but I think we might be reaching this point. Instead of GMOs and geo-engineering — where we adjust virtually every creature and system on the planet, to adapt them to fit within our economic context — it might be more cost effective, and more ethical, to just adjust ourselves.
Oh…. I just had one more feature idea — a single trait that could eliminate the need for all the other features mentioned so far…. Perhaps we could just engineer a race with intelligence?Comments (15)