On climate and opinion

Posted on December 2nd, 2009 by george.
Categories: environment, society, space, technology.

There’s a lot of buzz lately about the so-called “Climategate,” with so much dispute and contention that the wiki article has been locked.  Some say environmentalism has become ideology and should be regarded as a religion.  Lines are drawn, people choose sides, the issue polarizes and progress grinds to a halt as we all stand around fiddling while Rome burns.  I recently sent an email to a friend who tweeted about it, and she encouraged me to share my thoughts with the wider public.  The following are excerpts from my side of our conversation, with a few additions.

Global warming, climate change, pollution, environmental destruction, species extinction…these are all tough things to swallow, especially when we humans decide to acknowledge our responsibility as the dominant species and custodians of this planet.  It can be difficult to parse out just how responsible we are.  We’re learning, after all.  We don’t have a perfect overview of the situation, but I think the clues point in a general direction.  Our emerging global awareness helps highlight that at a population of around seven billion, we’ve reached the point where the sum our actions, for better or worse, has a measurable effect on the life support system we call Earth.

I don’t get into the debate, and I try to find common ground with everyone.  Surely there are things we can all agree on, and surely the solutions will be manifold, not singular.  It is still an issue of science for me, and I think everyone needs to stop choking the air with uninformed opinions and politically-rooted (and ultimately self-serving) diatribes.  The bottom line is obvious:  we need to reduce our impact on the incredibly complex, wonderful, and naturally-occuring systems of the Earth, all of which are vital to our continued existence and prosperity.  The solutions are easy to state, but hard for those profiting from the status quo to concede.  Don’t dump trash and hydrocarbons into the air and sea.  Use the sun and sun-powered natural phenomena to generate electricity.  Reduce packaging and the frivolous use of plastic.  Design, redesign and grow cities around the pedestrian.  Make goods, including electronics, easy to disassemble and recyclable.  Eliminate wanton and senseless consumption and destruction.  Align ourselves with the seemingly hard to appreciate yet demonstrably priceless processes that recycle our oxygen and water and provide a temperature- and pressure-controlled, radiation shielded, food-bearing wonderland.  One simply has to tick off the list of challenges and costs in supporting a continuous human presence in low earth orbit to make it plainly obvious that it is beyond our ability to do what the Earth does for all of us.  We may be able to keep a dozen humans alive for a limited time and with a constant resupply in a precarious perch overlooking our little blue marble, but good luck doing that for the entire human race without the inestimable gift of our biosphere.

We can’t just blame corporations, think that clears our consciences, and go on contributing to the demand that drives global exploitation.  We also cannot set up entities whose sole reason for being is profit at the expense of all else.  “Else” in this case being the welfare of Earth and humanity, whose fates are inextricable.  There must be balance.  Profit is not bad if earned within a responsible framework.  Unbridled, irresponsible profit that cuts corners, pollutes and exists only for the benefit of a mighty few is unsustainable, and will eventually crumble.  We cannot continue to treat Earth’s resources as infinite and free and expect life to go on exactly as it is in perpetuity.

Meanwhile, there are a million other things to tackle, like the health, welfare and education of BILLIONS of our brothers and sisters.  The Earth is going to warm up; we’ve already done it.  That goose is cooked.  It’ll be a shame to see some of my favorite islands and coastlines swallowed up, but we’ll adapt.  We’re going to be forced to, and no amount of blathering in the high school hallways that our media has become is going to make a whit of difference about it, except insofar as it influences people to change their habits in manageable ways.  The sum total of our lifestyle choices has an undeniable globlal effect.  There’s only so much we can do as individuals…but that’s exactly what we should do, and all that can be asked of us.

On this and all topics, people need to be open to discussion, truly listen to each other, examine the facts, and most importantly be willing to change their minds.  All too often ego trumps logic, and for some unfathomable reason, people think that admitting you were wrong, even partially, is a bad thing.  On the contrary, it shows that you are willing to assimilate new information and to refine your viewpoint, bringing it closer to the actual truth!  Truth, life, faith, they are all journeys of refinement.  In manufacturing and economics they call it “continuous improvement.”  In the Baha’i Faith we call it drawing nearer to God.  We need to let go of the idea that as a single human being, we can be “right.”  Only God has the claim of ultimate Truth, as the Source.  All human understanding is limited by definition, thus are our opinions, including mine.  No one should be proud of their opinion; our responsibility is to interact with each other with the utmost humility and love and to be ever-learning, ever-growing, ever-improving.

Think of it this way:  what would you rather be?  A feather, light and airy, devoid of any solidity, blowing about on the winds of public opinion and at the mercy of novelty?  A rock, staunch and unmovable, stuck in the mud, powerless to move or progress but proud of your crusty and outdated sediment, gathering moss and refusing to interact, offering nothing but blunt, cold, and hard opinion?  Or a blade of grass, firmly rooted in historical precedent but flexible, drawing upon the rich soil of previous human accomplishment and the guidance of the Almighty, able to bend in the breeze of new information and the breath of confirmation, soak up the rain of divine blessings and technological progress, and grow through the animating energy of the Sun?

This excerpt from The Epistle to the Son of the Wolf, which Lorenia read to me this morning, says it better than I ever could.

Every man of discernment, while walking upon the earth, feeleth indeed abashed, inasmuch as he is fully aware that the thing which is the source of his prosperity, his wealth, his might, his exaltation, his advancement and power is, as ordained by God, the very earth which is trodden beneath the feet of all men.

1 comment.

Sholeh

Comment on December 2nd, 2009.

Thanks for posting, I’m glad you did. People are far too willing to take sides, which doesn’t fix the problems. Arguments do us no good. Being “right” doesn’t create solutions. :-)

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