One of the great things about not being religious is that you do not hold on to ridiculous notions of eternity or control or think that somehow you and your species are the alpha and omega of the universe holding a more privileged position vis-a-vis other creatures who share this planet with you. In a way it is liberating.
Sustainability and environmental protection are important. We need to keep the environment safe and clean so that people don’t get sick drinking the water, eating the food and breathing the air.
We need to protect habitat to maintain biodiversity of both flora and fauna and because for the very simple reason that we share this planet with other creatures who have just as much of a right to be here and exist, as we do (if one can call existing a right or entitlement. I guess the idea is that once you do exist, you oughtta stay).
I believe in engaging in a host of environmental protection activities, especially in the from of government regulations, in order to keep this planet and its inhabitants, safe and healthy. But that is just about where it ends or should end.
It is imperative to realize that while there are things than can be changed, stopped, improved and restored, there are certain things that cannot and that ultimately there are limits to control. This is where climate change comes in.
This is not an argument for inaction when it comes to CO2 emissions, this is an argument for relinquishing control when it comes to climate change and this absurd notion that we can somehow control the Earth’s climate.
The reality is that the Earth’s climate changes. That’s what it’s been doing since its inception six billion years ago and that is what it will continue to do until its end, probably a few billion years from now when the Sun eventually goes supernova. That is the reality and no amount of cap and trading or energy saving light bulbs are going to change that.
Planet Earth also doesn’t care we are here and have cities and houses and economies and civilizations and just things that may be compromised in the face of warming temperatures or a changing climate in general.
The only thing it does require us to do is adapt – which we must do at this point. That’s what evolution is: adaptation; and if you don’t adapt, then you go the way of the dinosaur. Simple as that.
Fact is, the extent to which our entire economy and existence as an industrialized species depends on fossil fuels, it will be next to impossible to move away from fossil fuels entirely and thus in any meaningful way and meaningful is the only way we could, theoretically, avert this.
While the mechanisms for climate change (man-made or not) are not fully understood, in order for us to see a meaningful drop in the Earth’s temperatures as a result of us having pumped excessive amounts of CO2 into the atmosphere, we have to – as a species – start to drastically change the way we do things – which means no more fossil fuels. Period. Yet, I simply do not see that happening – especially with India and China that pump a substantial amount of CO2 into the atmosphere and have no plans on changing their output as fossil fuels are needed for their development.
We have reached the point of no return with respect to being able to actually change things and thus avert global warming some thirty years ago. Maybe in the 70s, if we had really curbed our greenhouse gas (ghg) emissions as a species, we could have prevented the Earth’s climate from heating up. Jimmy Carter did set such a movement into motion that was immediately halted by Reagan when he took office in the early 80s.
Right now, it is too late. Energy saving light bulbs, a few solar panels, planting trees, driving hybrids and turning off the lights will not avert global climate change. Don’t kid yourselves. Those are just token actions to make people feel like they are doing something about it but it does not lead to real, meaningful ghg reductions.
Important to note that while “something is better than nothing” may work well with a lot of other issues, with respect to climate change, it does not work because climate change is an all-or-nothing deal. The atmosphere knows no state lines and geopolitical jurisdictions. It is one interconnected entity and either everyone stops using fossil fuels or no one. It cannot be that just half a dozen nations curb their ghg usage while everyone else keeps going on with business as usual.
Piecemeal policies aimed at slowly reducing ghg do not work either. You have to do something now, immediately, drastically and collectively or else the inevitable will just be at your door. A4% reduction by 2020 (which is what US’s commitment is right now) is not going to lead to reduced global temperatures either. I mean really? A 4% reduction? Who is the government kidding with this?
What we are doing now is sort of like a car going 90 MPH towards a cliff and hitting the breaks two feet before the edge. Too little, too late.
Control is an Illusion
It is foolish to hold on to illusions of control and eternity. This Earth goes through cycles and climate changes. Global warming will not destroy Earth, it will be just fine. Only that its inhabitants have to adapt just like it’s always been. Again, we humans do not hold a more privileged position vis a vis other creatures who have ever lived or who will ever live on this Earth. And i mean what – do people really think this whole human kind and civilization thing is going to last forever? The arrogance of our species is quite staggering.
We, as a species, will have our extinction event at some point. That is a certainty. Maybe this is it.. Who knows. At any rate, it is not something we can control.
Remember dinosaurs roamed this Earth for 135 million years before they became extinct. Human beings have been around for what, less than a million – most of it not even in the present form as homo sapiens.
Let’s focus our efforts on things that we can change, such as the lining of cans being laced with Bisphenol-A (BPA) and the number of chemicals released into our food and water supplies each year having rendered cancer an epidemic. What do I care that this planet’s temperature will be 7 degrees hotter several decades after I am dead?
What about your kids, you ask. They will adapt. I have no more control over their future regarding anything that may happen to them and the world they live in anymore than I, or anyone of us, have control over this planet’s changing climate.
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As a species, humans have come a long way. We have learned to control a host of things – from DNA to matrimony. We have had more success than any other animal controlling life. We create it artificially, we clone it, we mimic it with computers. Yet we still don’t know what it is that makes it tick. What keeps life lunging forward, desperately screaming for survival.
Sometimes wisdom lies in knowing what the limits are on the things you can control and know. Maybe there are some things we’ll never know and be able to control. And maybe the key is to know what those things are and to leave them alone.