Infrastructure and Anthropocentrism

Humans are a product of the interplay of their genetic propensities and surroundings. Before the neolithic revolution, 10,000 years ago, when humans first started settling down to an agricultural way of life, they were hunter-gatherers, moving throughout a region in search of seasonally available food and resources. They fitted themselves into the landscape with only minor modifications of their environment. Once becoming farmers, they worked to transform the land from plains or forest into a regulated growing environment. Humans were still brought face to face with the cyclical nature of life, long-term geological processes, and the effects of climate and weather. Since the industrial revolution, humans have worked towards a built world that attempts to remove the uncertainty of weather, ignores the long-term climate outlook, and sanitizes birth and death to the point of abstraction. Nowhere is this more evident in human-built infrastructure in the industrialized world.

Except for region-wide storms or natural disasters that remind us of our place in the environment, many people in the built-up parts of the world feel that they can largely ignore what is going on outside of their air-conditioned, hermetically sealed buildings. At most, “nature” provides something nice too look at outside of one’s window. This mindset has become entrenched over the last century as people left outdoor jobs for factories and offices. The only time one spent much time outside was during sporting events, parties, or planned camping excursions. It is understandable that the natural world has become “othered” in the anthropological sense, that is, it is treated as different or alien from one’s self. The fact that we can use the phrase “natural world” without jarring most readers is a testament to this condition. There is only the world and any belief that a human being is not a natural part of it is hubris, however unintentionally one came to this conclusion. Putting a raincoat on a dog doesn’t make him any more or less descended from wolves than putting on pants removes you from your species’s seven million year history of evolution as part of this planet’s biomass.

The way in which we shape the world around us plays a paramount role in how we engage with the world. The more we try to remove ourselves from what’s going on “outside,” the less like we are to care about what is happening out there. This would be fine if what is now out there had no effect on what is in here. Infrastructure that shields us overmuch from the world around us, blinds us. We mean to pull back that veil. By picking apart energy generation, food production, raw material acquisition, transportation, communication, and structures, we hope to show the incomparability of where we are now with where we need to be if we, as a species, want to continue to be a part of this world; it is up to humans to decide as the Earth has no stake in our survival. We can either live as part of this world or burn ourselves out. This is the choice we have to make.

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