Gimme those 20.000$ and forget about nature!
June 19, 2003 11:31 AM   Subscribe

Do we need nature? What are the difficult choices that need to be made in politics, economics, society and public policy? And who is right…? Those whose actions (or inactions) seek to increase man's control over nature, or those who seek to reduce man's control? Those who seek to bypass nature, or those who hope to work with it? Those who put a higher value on human development, or those who value the preservation, even the reconstitution of nature?

Wanna answer and win US$20,000? Then enter the Shell Economist international writing competition to encourage future thinking! (warning: bad web design ahead).

I just wonder when we were separated from nature so that we can even think of living without it... oh my! those flat earth economists are unnerving!
posted by samelborp (20 comments total)
Do we need nature?

I'm not fervently religious, but that statement is still blasphemy to me. Idiocy, too.
posted by Shane at 1:04 PM on June 19, 2003

wow. I just read through last year's winning essay—a fine piece of work.
posted by sodalinda at 1:40 PM on June 19, 2003

yeah, that's a typical troll question, but I assume a peer-reviewed article will not start a flame war; they do a better job at explaining what they want here.

the problem that I see is a possible conflict of interests: one of the sponsors is Shell, and one of the judges is from Shell. Nature vs. Oil?

(after reading previous winning papers) if you are planning to participate: do not come forward with some fancy ideas, and do not bother to get your facts right either. It is a journalistic contest, just come up with a contrarian / unheard / "precious" point of view and use it as your story. It is not important it is a particular example that does not apply to most of the people, just be sure the story is nice.
posted by MzB at 1:42 PM on June 19, 2003

No surprise to see The Economist back this since the only thing they hate more than Greens are people in trade unions and anti-globalizers. Shell has long embraced greenwashing with a vengeance, though I suspect even the most clueless sort would obviously view multinationals as not caring about anything but profit taking at all costs, what with Enron, etc.
posted by mark13 at 2:21 PM on June 19, 2003

Anybody got a link to previous years' essays?
posted by goethean at 2:30 PM on June 19, 2003's here.
posted by goethean at 2:35 PM on June 19, 2003

I don't plan on reading the article, but Re: "Do we need nature?", I'm with Shane.

Anyone who takes that question seriously, please leave my planet now.
posted by tomorama at 2:45 PM on June 19, 2003

Shell, huh? I thought the prize would be an Ogoni slave family.
posted by stonerose at 2:46 PM on June 19, 2003

Do we need nature?
I'm not fervently religious, but that statement is still blasphemy to me. Idiocy, too.

If you take time to look closely at nature rather than revering it blindly, you will notice that disease, war, violence, hierarchy, and murder are all part of nature, and can be found easily in our chimpanzee cousins.

The entire history of human agriculture is the story of intensive modifications to nature, creation of unnatural hybrids through genetic manipulation, and reduction of biodiversity. Efforts to eliminate smallpox, malaria, and SARS are planned extinctions.

There are many areas of human life where we are lucky to be able to move beyond our original nature and manipulate the environment to make it less hostile to us. There are other areas where we are lucky to be able to realize that nature itself is a useful value, one of many.

It's a legitimate question to debate where, exactly, the limits lie, rather than inventing some religious absolute of what nature really is, as a way to deny the validity of the question.

Of course, for Shell, this is still a PR exercise.
posted by fuzz at 4:20 PM on June 19, 2003

Do we need nature?
If you mine the land and strip it down so it's flat, have you ruined it for future generations. Think of the famous rock in NH, face of a man that is also on its quarter. It fell apart on its own even though man tried to keep it pasted together. The land will ruin itself through volcanic eruptions in the end. Yet nature is a thing of beauty you don't want to waste it then future generations never see it. But who knows, it may re-invent itself and you didn't reap its resources before they were destroyed. Most of the mountains we see in the US we not originally there.
posted by thomcatspike at 4:49 PM on June 19, 2003

Do we need nature?

Where the fuck does Shell suppose the oil came from? Where do they suppose the oxygen required to burn it comes from? What do they suppose is responsible for removing the resulting carbon monoxide from the air so that they can fucking breathe, let alone burn more oil?

Give a bunch of dickheads a map and a drill and they think they're masters of the fucking earth.
posted by George_Spiggott at 4:59 PM on June 19, 2003

Er, make that "carbon dioxide". Typed kinda fast there.
posted by George_Spiggott at 5:00 PM on June 19, 2003

I think Wendell Berry has already written this essay about 50 times, but I suspect there's a bigger chance of drilling in Arches National Park than him winning.

Maybe I'll regurgitate some of his ideas, cast in an ambivalent amalgam of game theory and other favorite passtimes of neoclassical economists. I could use the cash.
posted by namespan at 5:22 PM on June 19, 2003

Do we need nature...Well, I immediately remembered this movie.
posted by alumshubby at 9:19 PM on June 19, 2003

Aw, nuts...I mean this movie.
posted by alumshubby at 9:19 PM on June 19, 2003

I'd argue the whole question is pointless. We don't live "in" nature, "with" nature, or in any other manner involving some mythical entity known as "nature" whom we are "related" to somehow. We live in an environment. Most of the part of it we live in is controlled, dominated and defined by us. The parts we don't live in are defined by that very fact as well - they are the parts we allow to continue to exist relatively unmodified because to do so is more agreeable for one reason or another than to modify them. Breathable air is no more "natural" than unbreathable air, but it's a damn sight more convenient for us, leading various groups to complain on utilitarian-apocalyptic grounds that various modes of modification must be encouraged or cease lest the Death of Humanity result. Having so defined the debate, the only possible rebuttal that doesn't devolve automatically into caricature - apathy - becomes heresy.
posted by Pseudoephedrine at 8:52 AM on June 20, 2003

Its actually a really interesting question if you take the time to read the information, rather than spouting off about greenwashing, the idiocy of oil companies, etc.
posted by pjgulliver at 9:11 AM on June 20, 2003

I don't know if you see the ads in the US but here in the UK Shell have a series of TV ads in which an articulate and committed environmental scientist of one kind or another is shown doing vital environmental work in some third world, arctic or jungle context and only towards the end is it revealed that they are working for...Shell. Wow! that Shell! The essay competition fits in with this "fossil fuel exploitation with a responsible human face" campaign. Challenging our preconceptions? Or a more subtle form of bullshit PR to combat the increasing effectiveness of the no-logo/eco-warrior/anti-globalisation/anti-capitalist movement?
posted by terrymiles at 1:46 AM on June 21, 2003

the increasing effectiveness of the no-logo/eco-warrior/anti-globalisation/anti-capitalist movement

Can a political agenda that lacks acquaintance with economic reality be effective?
posted by goethean at 9:46 PM on June 29, 2003

Indeed, I was wondering what this "increasing effectiveness" was that terry was referring to... the more those people talk, the less anyone listens to them. They are perhaps increasingly effective at being ignored.
posted by kindall at 10:24 PM on June 29, 2003

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