Archive for September, 2014

Why the Global Warming Protests Matter

September 26, 2014

I’ve been having a very interesting conversation via email with a gentleman who doesn’t share my concern with the effects of climate change. AS a result of the conversation, I condensed my own concerns into a reply; I thought they were worthy of republication here. Herewith my reply to David:

One thing I can’t agree with, your implicit assumption that our economic/political/social climate will continue on much as it has to this point. Purveyors of fossil energy will continue to buy politicians, people will protest, but ineffectually, change will continue to happen but not have significant effects.
I think at some point we’ll understand that our survival is a species is in question.
The basic problem is that we’ve outbred our habitat. We’ve managed to come up with enough technology and science to hold back mass starvation for a time, but in my view that solution is ever-more precarious. Despite science, we still depend on nature; we’ve substituted agriculture for hunting/gathering, herding for hunting, greenhouses for natural growing seasons, aquaculture for fishing, even hydroponics…but none of them, even in concert, can feed seven billion people. Those cereal grains I mentioned in an earlier post, the ones that feed a species, grow outdoors, and if the rains don’t come the crops will fail. If the rains do come, so do insects and weeds, the plants that compete with the ones we are seeking. Poisoning the insects also poisons bees needed for pollination (natural systems are just that, systems; disrupting them has side effects, rarely beneficial, and usually long term). Using natural systems as aids works better long-term, but isn’t economically competitive; that’s why small farms with horses/cows/goats/sheep lose out to factory farms with chemical fertilizers and tractors.
And because of our fascination with personal economics and profit, we as a species opt for short term gain instead of choosing long term stability.
Warming of the planet is one aspect of what we’ve done; we’ve also poisoned the land, occasionally short term but then there’s Chernobyl and the as-yet-undefined Japanese nuclear disaster. There are huge pools of spilled oil residue that yet remain in the Gulf of Mexico, islands of floating trash the size of Texas, subtle shifts in ocean chemistry/temperature that are destroying coral reefs (nurseries for entire ecosystems), poisoning of the land by metal residues from mining and industrial operations, tons of nuclear waste that we can’t dispose of safely and that continue to grow in size, atmospheric changes in addition to land and water changes, accelerating rates of species extinction…
We don’t know the extent yet of what we as a species have done, but much of what we see isn’t promising. Indeed, it’s at least troubling, and may have reached alarming.
The people who protest global warming may not know everything I’ve listed, but I suspect they have a visceral understanding. It’s why they hope to force action.
And those are only our failings when dealing with nature. What about the things we as a species do to each other? The East has tried collectivism while the West celebrates entrepreneurship and capitalism. As a result, we’re all managing to screw part of our population, a kind of Darwinian selection driven this time not by nature but by our own competitive instinct. Just consider: in this richest of nations, arguably most advanced of major nations, homelessness is endemic, as is hunger. War goes on constantly, virtually world-wide, even if it simmers at a low level rather than flaming up; people fight over the scraps rather than attempting to work out sharing.
People know.
They understand that the day we join the dinosaurs is approaching, and that by our own actions we bring it ever closer.