Guardian Weekly

24th August 2014

Dear gentleperson

Reading George Monbiot’s splendid hymn to deviance (Sick of this market-driven world? 15 August), I went sane. Then I turned to ‘Ready for a virtual reality revolution?’ and promptly went mad again.

Virtual reality itself may be harmless, but the hidden costs of its infrastructure – brutal resource extraction, the energy it guzzles, its disposal in mountains of toxic waste – are hideously real, and displaced onto the biosphere, less privileged humans and the entire future. The market economy George Monbiot so ably confronts is based on the terminal lie that earth’s capacity to service our bloated needs, and absorb our non-virtual excrement, is infinite. The freedom to play in virtual reality, like so many market-driven ploys, is in fact a perversion, since it threatens to destroy all freedom by annihilating the ground of our biospheric well-being.

Our relationship with earth is still infantile, based on exploitation and dominance, on owning everything except our ecocidal underside. Even those of us who claim greenness are still adolescent, pushing wantonly at the boundaries, self-justifying and self-exculpating as we succumb to that must-have gadget, gizmo, carbon-heavy holiday.

How do we shift from a culture rooted in the kind of fundamentalist behaviour I call ‘earthism’, and move into adult interrelationship with the biosphere based on ecozoic integrity, reciprocity and respect? The plain facts of earth are more astounding than any phantasm conjured by donning a ‘Google Cardboard virtual reality headset’. If all the DNA in the perfect body of my newborn grand-daughter were music, it would take a century to play; oak trees get into acorns and back out again; the atoms in my left and right hands come from different stars; humans are midway in size between a galaxy and the smallest known particle – are there then galaxies in the palm of my hand? How do we stop ourselves debauching the miracle that is our only planet?

Annie March

(Not published in GW)


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