Markus Stocker bio photo

Markus Stocker

Between information technology and environmental science with a flair for economics, the clarinet, and the world of soups and salads.

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Jeffrey Tucker of the Ludwig von Mises Institute (LvMI) recently posted a message with a link to the Timelapse—The City Limits video by Dominic Boudreault noting that “it’s a human-built world”. Provocatively, I’m adding here not. Jeffrey’s post has drawn a few comments, including from me.

We probably agree, the video, photography, and music are arguably stunning. Perhaps we also agree that the subjects of the video are equally breathtaking. The nurturing ground of the built world shown in The City Limits is, doubtless, human ingenuity. Nothing like this would exist on Earth as we know it without the human mind. Yet, the “it’s a human-built world” view seems to, perhaps, excessively underscore human exceptionalism, a sentiment that may be driven by the framework of thought underlying the economics promoted by the LvMI.

Consider an ant or termite colony, or a beehive. I don’t think it is clear that, from the perspective of an ant, a termite, or a bee, the constructions that emerge as a result of colony behaviour are less exceptional than, say, New York City as a result of human ingenuity. Just like New York City to individual human beings, the complexity, functioning, and grade of organisation of a termite mound is not understood by any of it’s inhabitants. Would an ant be conscious, it would probably state “it’s an ant-built world”. Think it further and one could conclude that, as primary producers, plants could state “it’s a plant-built world”. After some of my recent courses I could be tempted to conclude that “it’s a soil microorganisms-built world” but I remain sympathetic to the integrative view of a world that is built by the activity of the living and the processes of the non-living.

To contrast The City Limits, and perhaps give some perspective to the “it’s a human-built world”, I suggest The Mountain by a passionate landscape photographer and filmmaker from Norway.

The music to The City Limits—Time by Hans Zimmer (Inception Soundtrack)—and The Mountain—Nuvole Bianche by Ludovico Einaudi—can be found here and here, respectively.

To close on a curious note, The City Limits ends with the non-human built.