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Exploitation, in general


(I first wrote this on January 24, 2002)

Exploitation -- coaction between organisms in which one is benefitted at the expense of the other.

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Life depends on energy. Plants get most of their energy from absorbing sunlight. Herbivores (plant-eating animals) get most of their energy from eating plants. Carnivores (meat-eating animals) get most of their energy from eating other animals.

Humans (tool-using animals) nowadays get most of their energy from so-called "natural" resources, such as oil, coal, methane, and uranium. The food energy that humans ingest today is only a small portion of the total energy used by humans. The most energy-intensive human societies spend only a tiny fraction of their output on food, yet most of their citizens overeat.

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Most animals appear to use hunting & gathering techniques for acquiring their food. However, there are several examples in "the wild" of non-human species engaged in farming, parasitism, and even slavery. There are also many examples of symbiotic relationships, in which various species live off each other, or even inside each other, unable to survive without each other.

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The various liberal social movements of the past 300 years, including democracy, labor unions, abolition, emancipation, feminism, civil rights, socialism, environmentalism, veganism ... all have at their heart an idealistic notion, that living beings should not exploit each other, should not live parasitically off each other, should not own each other ...

Yet, we humans continue to live in hierarchical societies organized upon the foundations of property and exploitation. It doesn't yet appear possible, for those of us who aren't plants, to live without consuming material that either is living, was living, or was produced by another living being.

I suppose that the social movements listed above have made life easier for certain beings who are no longer exploited as much or as often ...

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It is interesting to me that the most exploitative species on the planet, we humans, usually embalm and bury our dead so that no other species may live off us after we die. If we don't embalm our dead, we burn them at such high temperatures that no food value is left to be consumed by another living being ...


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DISCLAIMER: Use of semi-advanced computing technology does not imply an endorsement of Western Industrial Civilization (nor does it imply that I believe this technology was reverse-engineered at Roswell).