Where Do We Stand with the Earth
What does this article talk about? How can you tie it into the first lecture?
The image taken by Sputnik shows where we are in the universe and how Earth is the
only thing keeping us alive. Shows how we are nothing more than animals living on a
What does the following quote mean? "whereas the planet has been the ground for the
human population as figure; since Sputnik, the planet has become figure and the
satellite surround has become the new ground.... Once it is contained within a human
environment, Nature yields its primacy to Art"
McLuhan invokes the classic “figure-ground” reversal, where faces turn into vases and
back again, or ducks into rabbits and back again. This perceptual shift, as he says, now
means that the Earth is emerging as a human work of art. Before now, human beings
were the creations of the Earth; we are beginning to take over that role partly because
of our increasing power over parts of the biosphere, our ability to affect natural systems,
but more significantly because now that we can grasp the Earth in our mind’s eye, we
increasingly see that we have it in our grasp, period.
What is the distinction between problems and mysteries?
A “problem” is something that is in front of us, placed or thrown in our path to solve.
Different from this is a “mystery”. A mystery is a problem that, as one begins to try and
solve it, starts to involve the solver, begins to implicate the solver, to the point where the
solver is so involved, so woven into the problem that he or she can no longer pretend to
stand aside from it and take a neutral stance. To solve a mystery one must often solve
oneself. Sex is a problem; love is a mystery.
What is the difference between point source and non-point source pollutants?
The distinction between problems and mysteries seems to me to hold quite well for the
evolution of the modern environmental movement, which was characterised until the
last few years with solving problems. These problems, smog, industrial pollution, strip
mining, chemical waste, were of a size and scale that with political will, money and
engineering, they could often be quickly solved, and the impacts reversed. Many of
these were what environmentalists call “point source” pollutants: the place, people,
company, whatever, who were doing these things could be pointed out and stopped. But
beginning in the 1980s and accelerating since then, we have even confronted with
issues and contexts that have involved longer time scales (e.g. climate change),
possible irreversible losses (e.g. loss of species), and problems that could not be
automatically attributed to individual industries or culprits. These were not point source
problems, but non point source problems, where the finger points at everyone, the
entire dynamic processes of modern society, life styles, and perhaps the very burden of
the human presence on the earth. When the finger points at everyone, it points at us,
and moves into the realm of mystery.
What are ontological assaults?