Caring For The Earth And Its People
Answering the Unanswerable
The climate of the earth is for mankind the center of everything in that it is the environment within which humanity has come to exist. Humanity, I believe, is the reason the universe exists. If there was no humanity no one would know the universe was here. It would be like Schroedinger's cat, there would be no one to open the box to see if the cat was alive.
From what we know of the universe, humanity is the highest form of life and it requires not just any climate, but one like the one we have. And that climate requires a large number of components and conditions to be the right climate: a sun and moon all of the right size and in the right place. They in turn require all the elements that take us back to the beginning and so to the big bang.
Of course there is no proof for this so it must be regarded as a postulate. It is not a conjecture because that would mean it was expected to be provable in one way or another, and of course this postulate is not. If there were a proof it would be a circular one in that sentenience would be proven at least partially by more sentience. But such mental gymnastics gets us nowhere so we will just let it be.
Once you enter this world of cosmology some rather stunning things turn up and I suggest clicking on the "The Real Beginning" above. There is an animated time line as well as the latest cosmic background radiation plot. Now we come to the biggest question. There must be something about humanity that makes it so important and that, I believe, is sentience.
Sentience is not a word you hear every day. Its definition from Wikipedia is: "Sentience is the capacity to feel, perceive or experience subjectively. Eighteenth-century philosophers used the concept to distinguish the ability to think from the ability to feel. In modern Western philosophy, sentience is the ability to experience sensations." In my view, sentience in combination with consciousness and intelligence constitute Life (with the capital L).
In physics there is a line that goes backward in time to the big bang, when space and time began. It is called the time-line of the universe. It follows the laws of physics for 13.75 billion years all the way back to 10-44 seconds after the big bang, before which our laws of physics are invalid. Once it begins it continues inexorably to us, and therefore to the three components of life, which in turn require our climate which in turn requires everything else.
I prefer to think about sentience because it is what we think about least. It begins with two small upside down images on our retinas. The brain then constructs the "reality" we experience. This reality is so much a part of our experience that we hardly think about it but it is how we experience the world. From those two images we construct a three dimensional space that can change very rapidly as we move. It renders texture, position, color. From this image we instinctinvly know what something is made of, how it will feel if we touch it and so forth. This from two tiny images.
I call my photograph collection The Hidden World of the Nearby and this fits perfectly for it iis as nearby as you can get yet we have no comprehension as to how it is created. Hearing is similarly miraculous in that the sound of a symphone comes from the tiny movements of our two very small ear drums.
The next issue is somewhat of a strange one and that is how good is our sentience.
It obviously begins quite limited when we are born and depending on all our experiences and something about the quality of mind that our inheritence gave us, and perhaps some indefinable qualtitiy such as character or the particular brilliance of our minds.
I come to this conclusion by asking myself what is the best of my life, the peak experiences. This is what I have concluded. It's proof is only that I cannot think of anything better. But I can think of experiences of utter horror, and I believe those must exist even if we don't experience them or like them but the provide the darkness against which joy casts itss light. I know how well I play Chopin by listening to others play Chopin. Joy requires, I believe an anti-joy. If life had no ups and downs, we could not recognize joy although I can conceive of a life that is just joy or more joy and never any sadness.
So climate comes to occupy a central position because it is the womb in which we experience our lives, and the present tragedy is that we have not given it the attention it needs, to the point that it could exterminate us.
Click for the Wiki take on sentience: WIKI/SENTIENCE
Once the big bang went off and our physics took over from the big bang's physics, the time line of the universe just rolled along and here we are. (If the argument of god or evolution createing humanity is an issue, I simply say that god created the universe, not just the earth so god created evolution so the debate is moot.)
So what is the point of all this? A sort of joke among scientists is that there are hard problems and easy problmes. Going to the moon, detecting the Higgs boson or gravity waves are easy problems because we know the "path." The steps on the path may be a bitch, but we know what the steps are and what it will take to do them. And we have done them.
There are three hard problems that interest me: consciousness, intelligence and sentience. All these depend on a zillion axons, dendrites and such in the brain doing their thing and we can watch them doing it. But there it stops.
My favorite is sentience. Whatever you are doing at this moment your eyes have two small images on your two retinas. From those images your brain creates a "picture," that is you "see" something. The hard part is how you get from brain parts to the visual experience that you are having. (No, there isn't a little guy with a projector inside your head.)
To my knowledge there is no known path from brain cells to the picture. The picture is the experience which we call sentience. Whether we will ever figure it out we will have to wait and see.
In combination with consciousness we experience the world. It is, to my mind, the miracle of human existence and it started in the big bang and one of the wonders is our brains have been able to figure that out and the steps in between.
Sentience is life. It is how we experience and it is the peak accomplishment of the universe. It is joy, saddness, horror, ecstacy, happiness, and all the other things that happen to us. And, I submit, that is why the universe exists, so we can experience experience and thus experience the universe. In order to do that our bodies need a suitable planet and climate. We have the planet and so far we have had the climate but we are doing a great job of screwing it up. Which leaves us with the questions of how and why. Maybe more thinking will be useful and maybe not.
Below is a record of how I have experienced our earth, from 1977 until 2002.
Click the two little arrows in the lower right and you will get a full-screen view.