Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Climate Change Big Picture Conclusion (Part IV)

(Part III is posted after this conclusion. Please scroll down and then come back here.)

by Lawrence Petersen

As we have seen, actions like using led lights and recycling aren’t going to contribute much as global warming accelerates. Where does that leave us? Where does that leave our grandchildren and the rest of a biosphere that has been in place since the extinction of the dinosaurs 65 million years ago?

Some scientists have proposed radical geo-engineering plans to make more immediate reversals in the warming trend. The idea is to use the technology that has gotten us into this problem to solve it with mega projects designed to change the composition of the air, the oceans, or to force the oceans into shifting its currents. Some of these ideas are more far-fetched than others. Most would require a massive worldwide effort. All come with some major known side-effects and many more unknown possible consequences. And do we really think that we can continue to produce and pollute if we just force the Earth to stop reacting?

We as a civilization do not have a good track record in long-term solutions. We tend to apply our energy to the short term symptoms without thinking much of the adverse and lasting effects. For example we try to make less familiar places more comfortable by introducing foreign species of plants and animals. Then we try to control these invasive life-forms by introducing their enemies which in turn become invasive themselves. We dam up rivers for their power and water and find we have killed all the fish. We create cheap and useful materials only to find that the pollution they cause is destroying the environment we need to live in so we can enjoy our technology.

We have brought ourselves to the point where we think we cannot live without technology. And we probably can’t, as our huge population is completely and artificially supported by technology. Worse, technology has become about having things that allow us, not just to survive, but to rise above others. We believe that those with the most things will live longer and will be less likely to be sick, victimized or unhappy. But we are finding that more things bring more problems. And we have not discovered that truth quickly enough.

How can it be that people have been around for more than a million years, but we just found out how much we wanted to change everything and got the ability to do it in the last ten thousand? I think an outside observer would see that we are not very good at limiting ourselves to things that have proven good for all of us. We are not very good and holding large concepts in the common consciousness. Finally, we are just not as smart as we think we are. 

Alfred Allen Bartlett. Atomic bomb scientist.

Large groups of people mostly seem to work toward what they think is good for themselves at the expense of others while being blind to the fact that we all have to live on the same planet together and share the consequences of our actions. Our lack of this ability in the context of our ability for destruction is staggering. There will be no respite from the damage we do until we can change this one fact about our nature and we can only change our own individual natures, not that of others. All of our history has been about neglecting the inevitable arrival of the long term. The long term is here. We don't seem to be able to face this as a group. Can we face it as individuals?

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