Posted 21 days ago
Kolbert forecasts a story that has been that of human history: there are valuable resources to be found, but it comes at a steep environmental price. That being said, there are always those who will oppose it, or at least caution of the side-effects, but money will push us forwards no matter the cost. Kolbert, and the authors she reviews, are cynical here, believing that there is little to be done once the polymetallic nodules can be effeciently mined.
Kolbert quotes Widder, who is fascinated with the bioluminescent life of the deap sea:
“We believe we see the world as it is,” she writes. “We don’t. We see the world as we need to see it to make our existence possible.”
Our sensory organs have developed for our human-specific environment to help us survive. The alien-like features of bioluminescence make it clear that life will do so in all kind of environments. This is where the modern argument of environmentalism grows weak to me.
I am all for conserving energy, using as little as we need, buying local produce, less plastics, less reliance on oil, etc. But the fact of the matter is that we will need these metals in the deep sea, as Kolbert quotes Gerard barron saying "The reality is that the clean-energy transition is not possible without taking billions of tons of metal from the planet."
Nicolas Niarchos reported on the dubious mining of Cobalt a few issues ago which is directly related to this. The current side-effects of the green revolution are already disturbing.
So what do we do? Do we not mine these metals? Do we try to build a better suply chain with more government oversight. Being that it might "take millions of years for new [seafloor nodules] to form," how do we decide whether or not to go ahead with it?
The simply fact is that countries are going to mine them. Kolbert and the authors she reviews make this clear. The best we can do is "ameliorate" the side-effects. This makes me think of the book American Pragmatism, which reviews the philosophy of "amelioration" largely through an American lens, but which seems to be overtaking much of the world.
I'm not sure what to do with the information that Kolbert has provided. It's good she gave it to us, but it also puts us in a mood of existential anxiety that's hard to get out of.