There was once a period of time on this planet that was perfect for growth and prosperity for the human race. For over ten thousand years, the earth’s temperature hovered around a relatively narrow band. The climate was relatively stable. This stability allowed people to reasonably predict when it was good to grow food, and how much needed to be stored until the next growing season. This allowed humans to settle and invest in agriculture. This led to civilization. Seemingly infinite resources promoted an ideology of endless growth. Endless growth resulted in a massive population explosion and the creation of a global village. It is what has allowed the human race to set up shop on nearly every corner of planet earth. As the cradle of humanity, earth was as close to Eden as reality and human nature allowed. Continue reading
Category Archives: Climate Change
In September of 2013, I wrote a blog post in which I labeled Syria as the proverbial canary in the coal mine with respect to global warming. Here we are, almost exactly two years later, and I see that Syria continues in that canary role; this time with the mass migration of people seeking escape from what has become an untenable situation.
Ten years ago, the world witnessed the devastation caused by hurricane Katrina and the mass migration of as many as a million people looking to escape the storm, many of whom became refugees in their own country as a result of literally having nowhere to return. With Syria today we are witnessing the mass migration of millions of people seeking to flee a civil war in which global warming arguably played a role. So what can be learned from these events? Continue reading
Actually, it’s not. The evidence is irrefutable at this point that global warming is being caused primarily by human manipulation of the environment. But does it matter? Despite increasingly dire predictions by scientists and international organizations—and recent evidence that events are progressing even faster than predicted—our world leaders have shown little to no zeal for scaling back the burning of fossil fuels that is pushing global warming towards a civilization-destroying catastrophe. Indeed, it may as well be caused by cosmic rays for all they seem to care. Continue reading
Through the wonders of TiVo, I have been getting caught up on Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey, Neil deGrasse Tyson’s phenomenal reboot of Carl Sagan’s original Cosmos television series. Highly recommended!
That being said, the season finale ends with a pull-back from the Earth as seen from space, with a voice-over from Carl Sagan as he quotes from his book Pale Blue Dot: A Vision of the Human Future in Space. And as I watched the camera pull back and the Earth slowly recede to a tiny, pale blue dot in sync with Sagan’s eloquent ruminations about life on our lonely little world, my ears caught a sentence that literally made the hair stand up on the back of my neck:
“Like it or not, for the moment the Earth is where we make our stand.”
Now that the impending attack on Syria for the alleged use of chemical weapons on its people has somewhat been defused, perhaps now would be a good time for a serious discussion on what drove the country, long thought to be one of the most stable of Arab region, into bloody civil war.
Let’s do a little thought experiment. Let’s say the government decides to listen to the world’s climate scientists and begins to aggressively pursue policies designed to reduce the amount of CO2 produced each year. And, let’s say that, by the end of the century, we find out that the climate scientists were completely wrong. What would be the downsides? Cleaner air, cleaner water, perhaps the end of starvation as we learn to feed ourselves more efficiently and sustainably? Doesn’t seem to be a bad outcome to me.
However, let’s say that the government continues to listen to the deniers, and continues with business as usual. And let’s say that the climate scientists were correct, after all. What would be the downsides? Mass extinction of a significant portion of the biosphere, unimaginable misery, and the death of literally billions of people.
So, who would you rather back, even if they are wrong?
One way to view our lonely little world is as a remote, isolated island with a finite sustainable carrying capacity. Like any large island, some items – such as food and water – are endlessly regenerable when utilized within limits, and some items – such as metals located in the ground and fuel supplies – are either gone forever when expended, or extremely difficult to replenish. Within the confines of the island, the sustainable standard of living will obviously be determined by the number of people living on it. And the future of the island’s population will obviously depend on how wisely it allocates its resources.