McKenzie Wark on Fri, 15 Jun 2001 23:14:13 +0200 (CEST)

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[Nettime-bold] Re: <nettime> Planet destroyed; film at 11

I was at the New Orleans zoo a while ago, where there
was a section devoted to endangered species of
*domestic* animals. It seems that agribusiness is
busy breeding chickens and pigs and so forth for
factory farming, and have no use for the hardy, free
range animals which can live outside the factory.

The kids loved these animals, which were mostly
pretty docile. But the poor buggers would have no
chance of surviving in the 'wild'. There hasn't been
a 'wild' for animals like this for thousands of years.
Current domestic animals are far removed from
the wild species from which they came.

This is where the whole problem of what is 'nature'
and what is not gets difficult. I would argue that
humans have created a second nature, a transformed
environment that includes our species, its landscapes,
but also those other species that we coopted into
a shared destiny. Sheep, cows, wheat, rice, cats,
dogs, even our micro-organisms, are part of a
second nature already, and have been for thousands
of years, since the invention of agriculture.

The thing about second nature is that it seems so
'natural'. We grow up with it as normal, as taken
for granted. When something comes along that
appears as a break from it, its tempting to cling
to the naturalness of second nature, and forget
that it is the product of thousands of years of human

I think its possible to argue the case for strict
regulation of GM foods, medicines and organisms
without resort to the fuzzy appeal of 'nature'.
Which, looking at the polls, isn't such a winning
argument in the United States at the moment anyway.

To me, its an issue that can be argued within the
purview of second nature. These technologies need
regulatory scrutiny and democratic control. Key
parts of biological information must not be turned
into intellectual property that can be monopolised
by a few corporations.

But having said that, I'm not convinced that putting
all one's resources into opposing GM is such a wise
idea for the evironmental movement. I take the view
that second nature as it was before GM was already
in serious trouble, on a one-way trip to resource
depletion. If the movement against GM succeeded,
the environment would still be shot to hell and there
would be one less tool for creating a more workable
second nature.

Now, I know not everyone shares this view, but it
seems to me that agreement is possible on a strong
regulatory approach to GM, and perhaps its worth
concentrating on that area of agreement. I don't
expect people to give up on the ideology of 'nature',
nor do i expect them to convince those of us who
think it nothing but an ideology.

McKenzie Wark

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