Corporations are considered living organisms and afforded rights accordingly. Their primary directive, like all life, is to increase. Unlike biological organisms, however, their methods are not constrained by a fear of physical suffering or demise. To exist as a corporation is not a matter of life and death in a literal sense. They are as a result, a form of organism that is not directly accountable for its actions. Their compulsion to increase is an appetite without restraint.
As with any feeding arrangement, that which is consumed ends up being part of the consumer. Incorporated that is. The chicken that gets eaten today may be helping perform brain surgery or driving a bus tomorrow, etc. What’s unique to the corporate organism is that the chicken it eats – or more precisely that which produces the chicken – wants to be eaten.
The so-called third world, that produces for very little and consumes relatively little, wants to be on the first world, eating end as well. Since the corporate organism is compelled to increase, it can’t help but oblige. This is surely a self-defeating dynamic. More and more producers will become consumers until eventually there will be no producers left. The organism will starve.
When large organisms and extinction are evoked, we invariably think of dinosaurs. Size was what did them in we’re told, they just got too big for their own good. They too were corporations with enormous appetites. Recently that idea has been revised: a giant asteroid hit the earth instead we’re now told and they all choked to death in the dark. A far more exciting, pyrotechnic, Hollywood- type ending in keeping with today’s need for instant results.
Whichever it was, the fact is, dinosaurs did get very big. They too were corporations with enormous appetites. The question is, did they have anything in common with Walmart and Exxon? Did they consume without restraint? Is it even possible for a biologic organism to get too big for its own good? Since there are no dinosaurs left, maybe elephants are a good place to start. They’re big. They eat a lot. Can they be getting bigger?
The African Elephant, weighs between 4 and 7 tons. In order to sustain that bulk it requires 300 to 500 pounds of food a day. In order to consume that much, it must eat non-stop for 16 to 20 hours. That’s a restraint. There just aren’t enough hours in the day to eat any more. As far as size goes, it’s likely modern Elephants are maxed out.
The biggest mammals on the planet are whales. The Blue Whale, by far the biggest and heaviest, weighs in at around 120 to 170 tons and measures over 80 feet in length. This is comparable to several of the Sauropod dinosaurs such as Brachiosaurs and Apatosaurs. The Blue Whale consumes between 4000 and 6000 pounds of food a day. That’s, between 2 and 3 tons, or 3 to 4% of its body weight. It does this basically by absorbing it like a giant vacuum cleaner. It doesn’t chew the food but strains it through its baleen plates like a sieve. This gives the whale the edge over elephants and dinosaurs since chewing takes time – and energy. It also has the key advantage of not having to deal with gravity in the same way.
With water to support it, the whale doesn’t need the complicated apparatus of legs. Legs require considerable additional fuel to operate, particularly in the case of Sauropods where they have to transport the same kind of tonnage. Elephants suffer from arthritis on that account as well as heart disease so it seems likely jumbo dinosaurs may have had the same problem. Whale sleep patterns are similar to humans and elephants so they too have restraints regarding how long they can spend eating. They probably aren’t getting any bigger either. 160 million years from now things might be different, but given that humans are working hard to make sure a lot of whale species don’t make it to the end of the century, the question is moot.
Which brings us to dinosaurs.
Brachiosaurs and Apatosaurs reached lengths of 80 feet and weighed between 50 and 80 tons. Based on the discovery of 8 and 9 foot long shoulder blades, paleontologists propose that there may have been far larger animals still: 130 feet long possibly. Creatures they refer to as Ultrasauruses, the relative weight of which would be way over 100 tons. These animals had essentially the same diets as modern elephants even though they were ten, twenty, maybe even thirty times bigger.
When we transpose elephant statistics to these kinds of dimensions, we encounter the same kinds of dietary requirements as the Blue Whale. What distinguishes the Blue Wale however is a mouth that is so large it can engulf material equal to its entire body mass. This is far from the case with Sauropods. It’s not the availability of such staggering amounts of food that’s a problem or even the time that it takes to consume it; it’s simply the ability of the animal to incorporate it.
Based on the evidence, it doesn’t seem possible.
If it takes an elephant an entire day to eat a mere 500 pounds, it should take a 50 ton dinosaur twelve and a half-times that long, which is absurd. Unless, that is, it had a head twelve and a half times as big as an elephant’s, or in the case of 130 foot monsters- twenty-five times as big. But it didn’t…
It was smaller.
Dinosaurs and cows have very little in common. The average weight of a Jersey cow is 960 pounds and it eats between 30 and 40 pounds of food a day, which is approximately 3 to 4% of its body weight. Its legs are narrow, its neck is short and it has a small skinny tail. An 80-foot Apatosaurus on the other hand, has enormous legs, a fifteen-foot neck and a twenty-foot tail. A Diplodocus is 88 feet long with a similar configuration. What’s remarkable about them is that despite their size, they both have heads roughly as big as – or as small as – a cow’s.
That’s a restraint:
How can a cow’s head get two and a half tons of leaves or whatever down its throat in a day?
Not surprisingly, dinosaur ‘experts’ are baffled by this question: “It is likely that they ate constantly, pausing only to cool off, drink or to remove parasites.” they say. As the above demonstrates this is hardly an answer. Pausing for anything doesn’t even seem an option. Conceivably dinosaurs were incredibly fuel-efficient. If they ate non-stop like elephants, with the same size intake-mechanism, the body size to fuel size ratio of an 80-ton dinosaur, would have been 130 to 1. In automotive terms: 130 miles to the gallon as opposed to an elephant’s 24.
Which brings us back to Walmart and Exxon.
Corporations also strive to make acquisition and distribution of resources more efficient and economical – with the least possible outlay for the greatest possible return. It’s a dynamic we are all subject to. How a brontosaurus supported itself is anybody’s guess. What distinguishes a corporate organism is that it is not constrained by the size of its mouth. Size is a human preoccupation based on individual significance not overall scale. Ants en masse, far out-size humans. It’s a matter of scope, the scale of the compulsion to consume. It is the appetite of the species, a species in our case that is proliferating unchecked. For that there is most definitely a corporate precedent. Seen as a total organism, the human relationship to the environment is comparable to that of one of the ‘smallest,’ most voracious forms of eater, one that demonstrates the same unrestrained determination to increase.
Cancer consumes as much as it can, for as long as it can until its host – the producer – can no longer provide. Then both die. Cancer, however, is not distracted, as far as we know, by the sense of its own mortality. Above all by the conviction there is purpose beyond the moment. There is no fear of jeopardizing the possibility that in the future everything may be revealed, that everything will be shown to have been worthwhile … entirely for our benefit even. Cancer is concerned with now, with the idea of being. Unlike us, there are no individuals among its ranks worrying over the nature of the dynamic of which they are a part. There are no cancer “Uh oh” moments on the brink of oblivion.
And if there were?
Malcolm Mc Neill’s first project out of art school was a seven-year collaboration with writer William S. Burroughs. His two books about the experience were published at the end of 2012.
His most recent exhibition of paintings was in 2013 in New York.