29 April 2024

CO2 and The Medium

The Medium invisible

We all know about the dangers of global warning, climate change, and of the enormous political and technological effort being undertaken to achieve net zero CO2 emissions by 2050.  Neither those couching the struggle in terms of survival of the human species on planet Earth, nor the deniers of climate change and opponents of measures taken to reduce emissions because they disturb their business models, address the elephant in the room.That is unsurprising, because the elephant is invisible and cannot be pointed to without some trouble. Not even modern science, of whatever kind, that is relied upon as the repository of what we can know at all, can help in making the elephant visible. Another kind of thinking, another cast of mind is required to render the elephant visible.

The elephant is The Medium itself, which is nothing physical. The air we breathe, the physical medium we all share, is invisible to the sense of sight, but not to that of smell, and natural science has long since made the air visible in its physical and chemical theories. It can see and measure CO2 in the atmosphere and causally explain its deleterious warming effects, that need to be counter-acted, come what may. Climate-change deniers, by contrast, are unknowingly slavish devotees of The Medium, to which both the deniers and those struggling for sustainability are oblivious.

The question concerning the medium we share in society, the very medium that mediates sociation, is hardly raised. Theories of inter-subjectivity take the 'inter' to be self-evident, as if it were simply the physical medium. In social theories, the means by which we are mediated with each other and share a world are taken to be language, or exchange, or contract, or trade, or the cash nexus, or means of communication, or digital social media, or trust, or our values, etc. The last can be taken here to be our Western liberal-democratic values, including human rights, that are often regarded as indispensable means mediating our social cohesion.

But means of mediation are not themselves a medium.


You could also say with regard to values that we humans value everything and everyone we encounter, evaluating, valuing, devaluing, esteeming, disesteeming, estimating, misestimating across a broad spectrum from loving dearly through neutral indifference to condemning, despising, reviling, hating. We don't just understand things, we also inevitably evaluate them. In particular, in our daily lives, we mutually esteem or misesteem each other constantly in ongoing interplay in every situation. In this sense, the whole world is valued in one way or another, and such valuing could be called a medium through which we humans are open to the world. Some aspects of the world we evaluate as good for us, and others as bad. Excessive CO2 emissions, for example, we evaluate as bad, as deleterious to our well-being. There is no way of escaping the medium of evaluating and valuing, despite modern science's vain striving to attain value-free objectivity vis-à-vis mere subjective judgement. Valuation could be identified as the missing 'inter' in so-called inter-subjectivity.

 The Medium's inexorable law of movement

As I have said, The Medium is invisible, not only to sense perception, but also to today's mind. It is one kind of medium of valuation, an historically specific and fateful one that has come over us. The Medium has many different looks, forms or faces that appear and disappear as The Medium itself moves through its required phases. Yes, The Medium moves according to its own global law of movement, and at its own, ever-accelerating pace, in a never-ending, fattening circle. Its law of movement may be called valorization. 

In taking hold historically, The Medium leaves its stamp and imposes its forms or faces upon everything and everyone everywhere, not just on the Earth. It taints even the Moon and Mars. It taints and maintains its grip on our mind without our ever noticing it. The Medium has seeped into every single pore of our sociating, more often than not with existentially poisonous effect. It intoxicates humanity on all levels. It impels all the forms of value to move along with it, according to its own inexorable valorizing movement that forever strives for expansion, for more and more. 

We humans, and especially economist humans, call this endless accumulative circular movement 'economic growth', and we worry when this growth slackens and even turns negative, for it seems to be the source of happiness. At the same time, the pace of our lives is dictated by the rate of turnover of The Medium itself, but we remain ignorant of it. There is unrelenting pressure to enhance accumulation by cost-cutting at the expense of all those employed, who live from wage income, and by speeding up the pace of work. We notice that our lives are hectic. The empirical social sciences, such as sociology and psychology, offer superficial explanations and perhaps feeble remedies. At best we have an inkling about The System or The Rat Race or The Competitive Gainful Game. It is experienced as oppressive, brutal and antithetical to our well-being. At the same time, The Medium dissociates, enabling individualized freedom of movement to shape lives through consumption in periods of prosperity, when The Medium is circulating and expanding smoothly. The Medium is thus existentially ambivalent. Our highly prized personal freedom of movement is trumped by the freedom of movement of the valorizing Medium

Nobody speaks of The Medium, even though it rules our lives through its subterranean movement. On the surface we lead our lives wearing the character masks of players in the gainful game into which, behind our backs, The Medium has cast us in set roles. We stubbornly delude ourselves that we remain, collectively, the underlying subjects of our own destiny. We struggle, through a veil of deep ignorance, and assisted by equally clueless economists, financial experts, central bankers, etc., to come to terms with the many anomalies (inflationary pressures, currency collapses, shortages, disruptions, downturns, slumps, crises, etc.) in the surface movement atop The Medium's endless valorization, employing the players for its own freedom of movement. The struggle on the surface assumes, in particular, the form of more or less deformed, more or less corrupt, democratic politics of state power, all the while fighting to maintain our cherished, individualized, personal freedoms, and voting mainly for the party that promises the best personal standard-of-living outcomes in the gainful game.

Further reading: An Invisible Global Social Value

Sustainability? Of what?

On Human Temporality: Recasting Whoness Da Capo,

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