Without naming names here is my take on politics that I alluded to in my last post on the subject of carbon level trends in the atmosphere. Actually, this post touches on human psychology, and is also a mix of philosophy and science delving into the nature of mankind when it comes to taking care of the environment. The biggest mistake those fighting in the climate arena have made trying to persuade the whole of humanity to go green is not knowing how people would react or respond to “inconvenient truths.” It was not enough to simply have facts on their side to win arguments. I started to ask the question why didn’t the human race coalesce behind tackling the climate problem back in the 1990s around the time of the Kyoto Treaty ratification when the science behind the greenhouse effect due to carbon pollution had become solid? Why did some people balk at solutions while others gladly accepted what needed to be done to avert the climate crisis? Perhaps human nature itself will eventually doom homo sapiens to extinction if not due to nuclear proliferation, climate change. I sincerely hope not.
During the 1990s the climate issue had not become totally politicized. Members of both major parties in the U.S. recognized the problem, and were more than willing to sign off on Kyoto. At the time, though, big oil and coal interests started to recognize the threat, monetarily, to their profit margins. If only they had started to diversify then to green energy, we would not be in such a mess going into the 2020s. I began to see article after article about how the tobacco industry obfuscated the science that clearly indicated that cigarette smoking was a health problem by 1970. Clearly where money and profit was involved, threatened business and industry would fight science.
Most people know what happened to the indigenous people of Easter Island. The Rapa Nui, or Polynesian people who made their way to the very remote island around 1,000 CE constructed numerous stone Moai, or the famous statues there. Human activity, the introduction of the Polynesian rat, and overpopulation led to deforestation and severely cut available food. Remaining natives had become cannibalistic by the time Easter Island was discovered by Europeans in 1722. It appears that religion was one of the motivating factors behind the Rapa Nui’s decline. The natives built Moai, which required the downing of trees to transport then erect the obelisks. The Rapa Nui were probably too primitive to know why they were declining well before the encountered Europeans; and thus, could not prevent their downfall. We can, if collectively as a species, we have the will.
The Earth, just like Easter Island, cosmologically, is very remote, and although very large by human standards, finite. Our planet is located on the outer edge of our own galaxy with the nearest star, Alpha Centauri, located about four light years away. Barring some future discover, inconceivable in our time, making interstellar travel possible well within the lifespan of one man, humans will be confined to our planet and solar system for eons to come. We don’t have eons of time to deal with the climate crisis.
Perhaps our possible, eventual extinction is rooted in our DNA itself. While growing up in grade school science classes I witnessed what happens to a couple of fruit flies contained in a jar and grew ant colonies, which were confined to small, rectangular containers. The ants and flies would rapidly propagate and within a span of a few days have a maximum population. A couple more days later all the fruit flies and ants would be dead having used up all the oxygen and food in their closed containers, and contaminating their environs with waste. The fruit flies and ants were also too primitive, like the Rapa Nui, to prevent their demise. Surly having attained this level of civilization we are better than fruit flies in a jar.
Perhaps greed will lead to our doom, and that facet of man is also part of our DNA. Homo Sapiens nearest relative in the animal kingdom are monkeys. Some species of monkeys actually exhibit the human trait of greed. There are various renditions of the children’s story of “The Greedy Monkey”. On the Today Show an experiment showed this trait here: http://www.bing.com/videos/search?q=monkeys+and+greed&view=detail&mid=F1A58C34067B93CBD241F1A58C34067B93CBD241&FORM=VIRE
It’s funny to see these monkeys rejecting cucumber bits for more delicious treats such as grapes in the Today Show video. When I see this picture of an ape carrying too much fruit, I also get the picture in my head of a greedy oil executive only thinking about next quarter’s prophets. At least this female ape might be carrying fruit for her children. I doubt that the oil executive is thinking that much about their progeny. So as humans, are we rejecting less profitable and hard to convert to green energy for more tasty coal, oil, and gas in the short term, even though that green energy is much better for us? Of course!
During my adulthood, I have also come to realize that there will always be two facets of society, which throughout history have been diametrically opposed to one another. Those who can be classified as conservatives are constantly trying to prevent progressives or liberals from changing society, mainly for the better. Just ask, if you could, Galileo. I saw a great article behind the science of why some people don’t believe many scientists here: http://www.motherjones.com/politics/2011/03/denial-science-chris-mooney As bloggers and scientists fighting to right the ship on climate change, we must always keep in mind that there are large segments of the population that don’t think like we do, and strive not to be dismissive of “the other” in a democratic society.
And finally, if you are reading this, Stephen Hawking, or from the grave, Carl Sagan, I would posit a thought no one that I know of has written, but does have cosmic ramifications. Yes, I am going “way out there” perhaps where no climate scientist has gone before… pun intended.😩 I am not a great sage, and this paragraph is just a thought experiment or food for thought. What if beings like us who are carbon based and reside on planets in the goldilocks zone of what we would consider to be habitable can’t sustain their species, let alone civilization, because of carbon pollution? What if beings like ourselves after billions of years of evolution finally develop civilizations, but soon thereafter discover fossil fuels to get most of their energy needs? Like us they are greedy, and have some human, conservative facets. After discovering fire the next logical step would be the burning of coal, so these beings would use fossil fuels before they ever thought to develop solar or wind power. A couple of centuries after their industrial revolutions conservative facets of their society may prevent the total switch to green energy before it is too late. So, all over the universe civilizations developed by carbon based beings may be like candles, which light for a time then go out due to ruining their environment. Hopefully a few, including ours, would have made the switch in time. Maybe this is one reason why we haven’t been able to discover other civilizations amongst the stars… an exceptionally scary thought…thousands of Earth-like civilizations trapped like fruit flies in a jar.
We will come back down to Earth and get expert opinions on how much carbon concentrations in the atmosphere would have to rise to bring down civilization as we know it on subsequent posts.
The Climate Guy