Caring For The Earth And Its People
THERE ARE MANY REASONS to take the broadest view possible with the most serious problems. History includes all the experiences that shape our attitudes, but in particular I think two things are the most important: what we have inherted from our evolutionary past that lingers in us, certainly to different degrees individual by individual, but it seems impossible that we do not have in us behavoir patterns inherted from hunter gatherer tribes and, before them from primates.
The second is how our educational systems have evolved and I consider education to include schooling, religion, the media we are exposed to, the books we read and the examples of those elements in society we come in contact with. In other words, everything that can shape our thinking patterns.
CLIMATE CHANGE IS IN A CERTAIN SENSE an assessment, person by person, of the effect of all these experiences on our attitudes, beliefs and actions, or lack thereof.
One way to look at this (and scientists are inclined to do this) is to look at the extremes of people active in our society so their persons are exposed to us. At this moment two names come to mind. These may or may not be the best examples but they are two that I have been exposed to recently and who have a degree of presence in public life. Obviously one would be Donald Trump and I believe his character is sufficiently well known not to require a great deal of explanation. However, to set the stage for a comparison I would include the following: one is the habit of creating the reality he needs at any given time or situation. Two would be the utter lack of compassion, the ability to put himself in anothers shoes.
THE OTHER PERSON IS Niel DeGrasse Tyson, a physicist who is passionate about science and communicates beautifully. Tyson sees things as they are and intelligently and compassionately and from these positions extends his thinking. Trump is as ignorant of reality as one can be and still function and all he does is try to build his non-existant ego by, if necessary, begging for compliments. CLICK HERE to view some of Dr. Tyson's videos on YOU-TUBE. I particularly recommend the first one, though there are many other really excellent one's.
Tyson passionately pleads for an understanding of climate change. Trump calls it a hoax perpertrated on us by China. Trump is in a position (and for that matter has already made the decisions) to destroy the Earth and I belive his actions will accomplish that.
THERE HAVE BEEN for some time just two courses of action that could have ameliorated or, if done soon enough, stopped the calamity of global warming. Both would require a commitment of the industrialized world on the order of that of World War II including some multiple of the Manhattan Project. The goals would have been to surpress most emissions as soon as posssible and then to build a very large system of negative emissions. This is what would have required R&D on the order of that of the Manhattan project to build the first atomic bomb. It is, of course, not possible to say it is too late, for unexpected developments are always possible. However, I would bet on it being too late.
Of course the course of action we are taking is head-in-the sand obstructionism by the Trump Administration.
Concurrently, it does not apppear that neither China or Europe understands the depth and urgency of the situation to respond appropriately.
How calamitous will be the outcome is not possible to predict but the estimates I read of what future generatations will have to spend to have a n inhabitable earth run into the hundreds of trillions of dollars. In other words, evey spared dollar not necessary for food, shelter and clothing will go toward migigation of one kind or another.
The first part of this web site was devoted to extending our understanding of who we are and what the Earth means to us. The second part to the nature of climate change. This part aoo has to deal with attitudes.It would be completely appropriate to stop here, but I have already written several other sections that elaborate on this theme and so will review and include these.
1. The disconnect caused by the very long time frame and gobal distances that evolution from hunter-gatherer tribes did not prepare us for.
2. The role of true "deniers" who present counter arguments usually based on local or short term weather events.
3. The absence of a world-wide unique and traumatic weather event, something that would elicit a "terrorism" effect and increase focus and belief.
4. A climate control plan of sufficient scope and depth and well presented that would give "believers" something to rally around.
5. The dasdardly behavior of the current US leadership that, no matter how crazy, manages to stoke doubt.However, if any problem deserves study from this perspective it is what has been referred to as the denialism of climate change. Indeed James F. A. Traniello & Theo C. M. Bakker in an on-line editorial commented strongly on the effect a "post truth" society has had on denialism.
James F. A. Traniellol & Theo C. M. Bakker's e-mail essay summarizes the situation.
"Like all scientists, behavioral ecologists are frustrated and distressed by the deconstruction of factual evidence and the falsehoods and hoaxes that have virtually become every-day occurrences. Although the study of climate change has been the target of most high-profile assaults, skepticism is not restricted to atmospheric science or limited to specific research agendas. Online journalists attempt to throw truth and reality into question and undermine all science by challenging the peer review process. This attack on how ideas are critically evaluated, how data are validated, and the nature of proof is insidious."
"What should behavioral ecologists do in the present social environment of denialism? How should we respond to science “losing its relevance as a source of truth” (Makri 2017) The answer is that we should preach what we practice in a unified voice that is loud and clear. The study of adaptive behavior and its evolutionary history has deep meaning and global significance. We should persuasively state our case at every opportunity and create novel platforms to engage the public."
I think that the more widespread a societial problem or form of thinking the more likely it is a product of evolution and is therefore genetic in origin. A simple example that relates to the attitudes toward climate change relates to concepts of space and time.
IN A HUNTER-GATHERER society the concepts of time-spans exceeding a geration or two or distances exceeding those over which a tribe might migrate would be progressively harder to grasp or relate to the greater they become.
Accordingly, something that is 100 years in the future seems of little concern in comparison to the problems and events of day-to-day living. If that is combined with the demolition of evidence-based thinking, the lack of science training the result is a kind of mental paralysis.
As I have discussed in other parts of this web site, the destruction of our planet in relation to the whole of creation is a tragedy I cannot fathom. The lack of broad thinking (i.e. thinking that combines science, philosophy, the arts, and the appreciation of conscious life) is missing.
ALTHOUGH OUR ORIGIN in the grand singularity is fairly widely known, its implications of who we are as a species along with the lack of explanation (despite stunning advances in brain research) of consciousness and sentience, in the context of the extraordinary discoveries of cosmology, is incomprehensible.
An interestng, although very short, comment by Robert Wright in his book The Evolution of God which all along implies the non-existance of god, ends with a brief qualification that he might be missing something. A similar conundrum happened in watching Jim Holt give a TED talk on his book that is subtitled "Why is There Something Rather than Nothing?" receiving nervous laughter from the audience.
DESPITE PERCEPTION of ourselves as an "advanced society" in fact we are on the order of three thousand years old, a split second of what might be possible if we do not destroy ourselves and perhaps leave time for several generations of "enlightenment." In our college curricula broardly based courses do not exist to my knowledge and so do not provide for an examination of the thesis that we are in reality a primitive society unable to unite a discussion of a wide disparity of ideas.
The picture that currently is stuck in my mind is that of life in a kayak proceeding calmly and quitely over a beautiful lake with the kayakers fully aware of voracious water creatures existing in clumps throughout the journey. Everyone is safe, but no one ever looks down for fear of seeing these creatures, and without concern enjoys a safe passasge.
I suppose the answer is along the line of we are comfortable and happy and simply don't want to know. A bit like the US just prior to 12/7/41. To awaken to climate change we don't need another big storm but rather a new kind of storm, one of a kind we had never imagined before and that simply shakes us to our foundations, the consequence being that we have an immediacey of the feeling of the end of our existance. The result hopefully would be millions marching on the capital demanding action. Something that might be described as a near-death experience. Even 50" of rain and the promise of sea level rise do not have sufficient shock value. Or perhaps, despite the need to go to war, there is no enemy in site so our emminent demise strikes us as no more than a rumor.