Monday, August 23, 2010

The Control of Nature

I just finished rereading The Control of Nature, by John McPhee, for the umpteenth time last night. I have enjoyed every single piece of his I've read- including things that are seriously out of date, like The Curve of Binding Energy. The Control of Nature tops my list in terms of enjoyability and books I've recommended to others. In it, McPhee deftly explores the difficulties and uncertainties associated with trying to "control" nature. To a degree, this is part of what it means to be human: we shape our environment to fit our needs. But when we try to "control" one of the largest rivers in the world, a voluminous eruption of basalt, or debris shedding off one of the fastest rising and fastest eroding mountain ranges in the the world, only losing would be obvious and clear-cut. What would a "win" look like on anything but a temporary basis? Even if you're not a geologist, if you have an interest in "natural disasters," and the human condition, this is a must-read book. "History shows again and again how Nature points out the folly of men."

I tend to think of Godzilla as purposeful, having intention; my understanding is that in Japanese culture, he/it symbolizes a force of nature. In the latter sense, the above video clip does a fine job of illustrating McPhee's themes. (lyrics here)

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