You probably read the report in Reuters or The Age. The giant Wikins ice shelf in Antarctica is about to disappear. Scientists are agreed, global warming is the cause. Scientists are agreed, human beings are the cause of global warming. This requires commentary. Most of you are not going to like it.
But first an image. Imagine a human race so focused on achieving their so-called “manifest destiny” that they just recently noticed that they were standing calf-deep in their own doo-doo. As far as the nose can smell.
Thesis one. Our belief that we are so good at solving problems that we can overcome any obstacle to achieve any goal we want has led to this environmental crisis. Tame and harness rather than flow and live with is the “broken thermostat” approach to managing the temperature of the planet. Our belief that we actually understand these planetary ecosystems enough to regulate them is part of the problem. We fail to appreciate that the earth is actually bigger and more permanent than we are.
Thesis two. At this point, we cannot, no matter what we do, save ourselves from environmental catastrophe. It is too late. Nor could we necessarily have done any better job in forseeing this crisis.
We have too many people who do not care about the earth.
Well, first of all, we have too many people. Even if we achieved zero population growth, we have too many people. Yet I kid you not, the surest way to be glared at at a cocktail party, church meeting or community gathering (in 95% of cases) is to bring up the topic of population control. Not only that, but by the time that the horrible, serious consequences of global warming really start to bear down on us, people will be so panic-stricken that we won’t be able to herd them into any kind of reasonable response. Those motivated by greed will still simply try to acquire as much as they can for as long as they can.
But beyond that, these too many people do not care enough about the earth. Enjoying a beautiful sunset, listening to a bird sing, and giving a $25 check to the Sierra Club is not, believe me, caring about the earth. I’m sorry people, but you have collectively blown it. You could have learned something by studying cultures, for example, some Native Americans, who seek to live in harmony with existing forces. But even that would not have been enough. What is needed here is a radical revision of our understanding of our relationship to earth. What we need now is leaders asking about every single policy decision, what is the likely effect of this on global warming, on envirnomental conservation. AND changing practices that impact them negatively.
However, we are so in the grips of the idea of growing the economy, growing the population, opening new markets elsewhere, discovering new resources to be consumed, that we simply cannot get there from here. We can’t do it. It is the very idea that growth alone will solve economic and environmental problems that blocks our evolution to a sustainable approach to living.
Never mind. The earth abideth forever. I’m not saying there will be no survivors. But I am saying there will be far fewer survivors, and the suffering will be great. This is not to say that people won’t ever be able to enjoy life in the future. It is saying that we have no idea of what this might look like, even 100 years out.