Nihilism Incorporated: European Civilization and Environmental Destruction

Bungendore: Eco-Logical Press (1993)
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Environmental degradation is the most important complex of problems ever confronted by humanity. Humans are interfering with the world's ecosystems so severely that they are beginning to undermine the conditions for their own continued existence. They are polluting the air, the oceans and the land. They are rapidly exhausting the reserves of minerals and destroying the resources of the world on which civilization depends, while destroying other life forms on a massive scale. At the same time humans are increasingly enclosing themselves in built environments which isolate them and fragment their lives, destroy their health and reduce them to either the dehumanized instruments of military-industrial complexes, or to abject poverty. The problem of the environment is also the problem of over-population, the disproportionate consumption of resources by Western nations and the starvation of those in the Third World who lose out in the struggle for the remainder. If present trends continue the total destruction of civilization is probable within a few hundred years - and the extinction of the human species is a real possibility. This situation also presents the greatest intellectual challenge of the era. It undermines the traditional idea of economic progress - the ultimate evaluative concept and the virtual telos of European civilization. It brings into question the economic, legal, political and ethical institutions of modern societies and the modes of thought on which they are based, including the natural and social sciences and the institutions supporting them. In doing so, it opens up the most fundamental questions about human existence: the nature of knowledge and value, of meaning and rationality, and of the significance of life itself. Confronting the environmental crisis requires a complete review of the way we think of ourselves and our place in the world. This book and its sequel, 'Beyond European Ciivlization: Marxism, Process Philosophy and the Environment', attempt this task.

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Arran Gare
Swinburne University of Technology


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