How Nature Is Becoming A Simulation

Rock paintings from the Cave of Beasts (Gilf Kebir, Libyan Desert) Estimated 7000 BP

Children love animals. They love nature. And yet this love is twisted to sell commodities, cartoons, clothes, and otherwise a simulation of nature. Children grow up surrounded by stories of the wild and almost no direct experience of it. These simulations are simultaneously killing off the natural world. Every kids book is an epitaph. Every documentary a mausoleum.

At this moment there are more listings for ‘lion’ products on Amazon (over 70,000) than there are lions in the wild (≈20,000). The range of Amazon Prime vans only increases, while the range of lions only decreases. These facts are not unrelated. The lie we tell both children and adults is that we just need to be nicer and ‘more aware’ of animals, and that the problem is a few bad people, usually black poachers or strange Chinese medicine. The truth is that the problem is systemic. The system producing lion toys for children and lion documentaries for adults is the problem. Capitalism has a relentless appetite for land and resources, and as long is it grows, the range of lions and all other creatures will inevitably decline.

We don’t get that these species are already reduced to a ceremonial sliver of existence. They are built to roam the Earth, but that Earth is now bisected by highways and high-tension electric lines. The land, the water, the very air are being sucked away relentlessly by another lifeform, Capital incarnate. The few humans that sells out the rest of life on Earth to these AI climate colonizers are rewarded handsomely with what are ultimately trinkets and toys. Yachts and bad marriages, plaques outside the natural history museum, private islands.

Instead of a nature to live in and inherit, our children get a massive simulation. Lion backpacks. Wolf hats. Tiger cereal. Our children watch Peppa Pig and then eat horrifically caged and enslaved pigs. Capitalism sells both love of animals' souls and brutal greed for their flesh. The hypocrisy is only a commercial break away. It is the carbon-spewing machines which inherit the Earth. Nature itself is rendered in pixels and threads and plastic. It is a death mask more real than life itself. The simulation is brighter, cuddlier, always in higher zoom and center frame. It is a better experience of nature, while nature itself is battered and obliterated.

I always find the way we use nature to sell stuff to children especially morbid.Do lions and tigers get any royalties from all the time their image is stolen? Can they use that to buy land? To exist within this capitalist system that has made property not only private but the sole domain of one species? No, of course no. Maybe you get some tag on the book that some portion of profits is donating the WWE. That the book itself is helping ‘raise awareness’. Of what? We have a bunch of white people writing about African animals, and then a bunch of white ‘naturalists’ flying over to blame the problems on black poachers or ‘overpopulation’. It’s a farcical system, wrapped around a tragedy.The capitalism system kills these animals then sells a simulation of them back to our children, grinning and friendly, for them to cuddle at night.

I think of this as I sit in England, the masters of destroying nature while claiming to love it. People here love their green spaces, their gardens, but that’s also a simulation. This island was once home to vast temperate rainforests, now gardened and groomed into retreat. All the fields of grass are effectively horticultural concrete. All of the carefully tended gardens are just garnish on a diet of massive resource consumption and bloody red meat. People are fastidious about recycling while much of that recycling is just shipped overseas, to pollute the same Earth, just at a distance and at the expense of other people. I think also of Norway, proudly switching to electric cars while depending on fossil fuels for most of its exports. It’s such rich hypocrisy.

Nature exists here—and across the White Empire—as a backdrop to advertising, the hill you climb in that new jeep, that getaway you take in a jet, the cartoon selling plastic toys to your children. Each avatar of nature is worse than an illusion, it’s an assassin. The jeep spews out pollution, the airplane spews out even more, and plastic itself is a petroleum product. It’s all propaganda from a hostile AI—the corporate manifestation of elite greed we call Capitalism—simulating the natural world for marketing purposes, while ‘free markets’ consume and destroy it outright.

We roughly mark human civilization to the point that we started seeing cave drawings of animals, flickering as moving images in the flame-light. What we are really marking is the rise of the simulation, the artificial perception of the world which would consume more and more under its roving and searing eye. We have gone from wearing enameled jewelry of magnificent beasts to digging up their entire habitats to produce metal monsters which move and spew and which are, for all intents and purposes, artificially alive. They certainly naturally kill.

We have gone from telling stories of animals in the dark to spinning up huge farms of servers that render their images, on demand, in high-definition and surround-sound. And those servers take land, take resources, and produce waste. The artificial kills the natural as it reproduces it. It is a dance of death, this simulation of life. We have been dancing since light first flickered off the shadows in a cave, we dance still as light flickers off the screen in our home theatres. Our dancing partner is nearly dead, but we carry the corpse around, quite morbidly. We are a living nightmare, dancing with a dream.