Wednesday 23 August 2017

Pollution redefined - from broad and humanly-evaluated to physico-chemical measurements

The corruption and inversion of the middle-20th century 'back-to-the land'/ arts and crafts/ distributist/ 'ecology' movement into what it is now (i.e. a massive modern state/ bureaucratic/ billionaire-CEO -led excuse for ramping-up total population, monitoring and control, while converting the environment into a built-up and soul-destroying suburbia) can be seen in the redefinition of pollution from something evaluated by individual human beings into a merely physico-chemical measurement.

Pollution used to be broadly understood as including the full range of the remote human perceptions: vision, hearing, and smell. The evaluation was how sensory inputs affected an average, normal, impartial human being.

So, several decades ago, pollution implicitly (and it did not need to be spelt-out) included vile, monstrous and gigantic modern architecture and institutions - yet nowadays the buildings are bigger and more brutal than ever, and the same applies by orders of magnitude to modern institutions, corporations, governments, charities, schools and colleges - all of them vast, depersonalised ant-hills of mindless/ spiteful/ selfish officials either 'following orders' or else lining their own pockets and gratifying their own appetites. The shrinking countryside is sliced with roads and blighted with houses, crammed with people, ever-larger trucks, ever-increasingly studded with gigantic 'wind farms'.

Pollution used to incorporate noise - the ideal was a quieter world. But now the noise of traffic (especially), building works, amplified music, low-flying aircraft is louder than ever. On a typical city street, one must shout to be heard (adding to the pollution). So depraved are we, that most people fill their brains with further noise from their mobile media - recorded music, conversations, anything will do... (Perhaps they are trying to drown out the pervasive noise?)  Anyway, none of this 'counts' as pollution nowadays.

Environmental damage used to include people - great masses, crowds, gatherings, concentrations of people.. But these are now defined as Good: modern Greens promote rallies, protests, and (especially) festivals - and the aim is to get many thousands of people together in one place; preferably shouting, chanting, making noise; and in general behaving as if they were a herd rather than as individuals. (Herds are much, much easier to control than individuals.)

Consider the idea of a polluted river - half a century ago a polluted river was one that was polluted as evaluated by a human being: the water was an unnatural colour, covered by froth, it smelled horrible - it sickened the stomach.

But now the paradigm of modern pollution is Carbon Dioxide! A natural product of all animals and a food for green plants; invisible, having no smell - and we have absolutely no idea of carbon dioxide concentrations unless we are told (whether or not accurately) by scientists working for state bureaucracies... But, wait a minute! Didn't they used to be The Problem?

And how about the monomaniacal obsession of modern environmentalists - Anthropogenic CO2 caused Global Warming? How do we know this is happening? Why, only because The Experts tell us it is happening. And based on their chemical measurements of carbon dioxide 'pollution' and the physical measurements - derived by vast teams of institutionalised technicians and statisticians, using various inputs of 'corrected' data from modern electronic devices, satellites and so forth. But, wait a minute! Didn't that stuff used to be The Problem?

In sum - pollution used to be obvious to everybody; now we are told what 'counts' as pollution and what does not, we are told whether it is getting better or worse - and we have to be told because otherwise pollution (by its modern definition) is imperceptible to human beings.

And the flip-side is that the blatant fact of you and I, as human beings, experiencing ever-increasing industrialisation, artificiality, manipulation and control, invasiveness, massification, brutality, visceral repulsiveness and vileness and the like; well, are these are ignored, trivialised or denied because they fall outside of the officially-defined, mostly chemical - but also physical, measurements.


Kirk Forlatt said...

I'm sitting here reading this, getting ready to dress and leave for work. My job is a soul-killing construct, one that has for some time now kept me tied in emotional/spiritual knots. The ugly, the coarse, and the antiChrist-esque are celebrated, while truth and beauty are mocked and denigrated. And this is within the scope of a profession lauded as one that helps and heals!

All that to say that your posts are encouraging and helpful, Dr. Charlton. More and more, I feel isolated in this world and the temptation to become a bitter old hermit is very strong. I end every day reading Solzhenitsyn, and start every day reading Charlton. In between is a very bleak minefield.Thank you for reminding me (and others, I suspect) that I am not alone, and that others think along the same lines.

Bruce Charlton said...


I am coming to recognise that this isolation is - to some extent - intended; since it all-but prevents us from relying upon any earthly institutions for evaluation and guidance; and strongly encourages us to look within and to God for solid support and encouragement, since that is seldom available from any other source.

(If we are fortunate we may have family and a few close friends - and thank Heaven if we do! - but 'the fundamental problem' still remains for the family/ friend group in relation to everything-else.)

This is undoubtedly a harsh lesson for us, but apparently many of us (certainly myself) ignore any but harsh lessons.

You've made my day by bracketing my blog with Solzhenitsyn! I appreciate the gulf in quality; nonetheless, as well as immersion in perennial deep wisdom, I also realise how valuable it can be to look forward to engaging with something new and unpredicted each day, working from our own level and striving up from it.

Lost Pilgrim said...

Thank you for this insight. This short post explains nicely the horror and triviality of our modern pollution. We are trained to ignore the obviously painful for the infinitesimal or even imaginary.

I used to express it in terms of a diminishing marginal return in fighting pollution but this post makes it clear that it is much more damaging and anti-human than even I imagined.

Bruce Charlton said...

@LP - Thanks. It has been an extraordinary transition over the past 40 years - first corruption, co-option into the mainstream, then inversion. The fact that so few of the leadership have dissented measures their role - most of the 'radical' leadership of the green movement have been showered with prizes, medals, titles, wealth and status in return for their obedience.