Philosophy Friday… I warned you! 

This last week’s rather challenging conditions have reminded me that there is nothing like twenty-foot waves to let you know that, as far as nature is concerned, we are just another animal.

For much of the Atlantic voyage, my first ocean, I took it terribly personally that the ocean was being so mean to me. Winds would blow me backwards. Waves would tip my boat this way and that, and occasionally right over. Currents would whisk me off course. These things happened so often that I couldn’t believe it was just bad luck. There seemed to be a malevolent will at work.

I tried to figure out what the ocean was trying to teach me, but eventually I realized that the ocean was not rearranging the laws of physics just for my benefit. It is not a sentient being. It was not trying to teach me anything. It was simply doing what oceans do.

This has been one of my lines of pondering recently – where environmentalism meets morality. Given what we are doing to the planet, do we “deserve” to survive?

My considered opinion is that whether humankind will survive or not is not a moral question. Nature does not recognize right and wrong, deserving and undeserving. Our survival is a simple question of practicality. We are fundamentally changing the ecology of Planet Earth. We evolved to survive and thrive in Environment X, but through our own actions we are turning it into Environment Y. And we will get our just deserts, not in a moral sense but as the inevitable consequence of those changes that we ourselves have wrought.

Darwin introduced us to the concept of “survival of the fittest”. It occurs to me that “fittest” is a usefully ambiguous word. It doesn’t necessarily mean fastest, or strongest, or hardiest. It could be interpreted to mean “those that FIT IN best with the conditions prevalent at the time”, i.e. the species that can co-exist best with other species in the climate and atmospheric composition that prevail on a particular planet at a particular time. If you fit in well, you thrive and endure.

But if the prevailing conditions change, for whatever reason, you probably will not thrive or endure any more.

We like to think that we are special, and to an extent we are, but nonetheless we are still a part of nature, and we need to recognize our interdependence with the animals, vegetables and minerals of the Earth. Nature does not exist solely to serve our needs. We currently labour under the delusion that we can continue exploiting it indefinitely, but this take-take-take relationship cannot last. Nature operates on a give-and-take basis. Ultimately, the balance will redress itself.

And that “balance” can be achieved the easy way (from the human perspective)…. or the hard way.

Other Stuff:

Having to pump out all the lockers every morning is getting a bit old. My sleeping cabin, relatively speaking the driest, safest place on the boat, is filling up with refugee objects from swampy lockers – cookstove, gas canisters, foodstuffs, and so on are temporarily stowed here until things calm down a bit.

Hi via Facebook to Alun Rees (kind lender of vehicle in UK) and Ken Scott (kind lender of vehicle in Oregon). Thanks for the messages of support, and I hope to see you both again later in the year. And possibly your vehicles! 

Hi also via Facebook to Lara Avisov. Great to hear from you. I’d love to meet up when I’m back in SF and we can talk Appley things!

Speaking of Appley things, my iPod has been on best behaviour today. All functions working. At least temporarily. So I have continued to enjoy the company of Jamie Fraser via “Drums of Autumn” by Diana Gabaldon. He and Claire are currently establishing their new home at Fraser’s Ridge in North Carolina in 1768. It’s making me nostalgic for a simpler era – or at least it did, until mention of the outhouse reminded me that the 21st century does have certain benefits – like plumbing!

It’s been too challenging to cook in these conditions, so I’ve been living off Larabars and nuts. Lots of them! Looking forward to some calmer conditions, forecast for a few days from now – and much as I love Larabars, also looking forward to some variation in my diet!

Photo: Conditions and boat currently about as different from this as it is possible to be! Sculling in Leeds.

Quote: Shallow men believe in luck. Strong men believe in cause and effect. (Ralph Waldo Emerson)

Sponsored Miles: Thank you Kenneth Eddings and Aimee Divine for sponsoring some of those missing miles; also thanks to Kenny Runnderduck, Doug Grandt, Jeffrey Blatt, Andrew Loughhead, Leslie Layton, Alexandra Stevens and Bruce Gervais. Rough weather has the advantage of good mileage!