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A climate change denier left this message in response to my essay, But there is no need for despair:
nice try bob, but the world isn’t going to end like you think but you didn’t notice in this chart with the ice cubes it starts at 16k and ends at 3k with in those years. when it hits 0 its not the clock that just stops and hell brakes loose we have already been though 13k and not much has changed from then believe it or not 3k will not melting will not cause temperatures to rise 40-50 degrees. globle warming is a myth its been proven look it up they have been trying to prove it for years and scientists are starting to notice. even though Methane is more potent it will still have only a little or no change on are atmosphere
I know my editing friends will wince, and not at the content, but I’ll merely address Anthony’s message.
First, my essay is basically about equanimity: the practice of contentment in the face of anything and everything. It advocates an attitude that staves off despair, even when the worst happens. Sadly, the evidence bears me out, not Anthony, but that’s all right. We can face it with peace in our hearts. We can do our best to work for a miracle; to delay the inevitable and to lessen its effects. We can compassionately aid those who are worse affected than we are at this moment. We can build the seed of a sane society, in the hope that, if some humans survive, they can learn from us and construct a better new world.
Second, as I said in that essay and in many other places, climate change is not a problem as such, only the most serious symptom of the disease. This disease is a global culture of greed and conflict, a culture that is destroying us because its inevitable consequence is economic growth. Enough is never enough, but people, and their derivatives such as multinational corporations, want (they think need) more without limit.
And there are limits. We have exceeded them. Since 2008, humanity has used more resources in a year than could be provided by 1.5 planets, but we only have one. We have been mining the future, and guess what. The many problems of our current world are directly due to people in the past mining their future, which is our life, now. They have stolen from us, and we continue to steal from our children.
OK, Anthony, you are sure climate change is not a problem. Let us accept this for the moment, for the sake of argument, and let us look at some of the other symptoms of a crazy society.
The sixth great extinction event of this planet is the second worst. The most recent report is only accessible to subscribers to Science, but here is a description: “Since 1500, more than 320 terrestrial vertebrates have become extinct. Populations of the remaining species show a 25 percent average decline in abundance. The situation is similarly dire for invertebrate animal life. And while previous extinctions have been driven by natural planetary transformations or catastrophic asteroid strikes, the current die-off can be associated to human activity, a situation that the lead author Rodolfo Dirzo, a professor of biology at Stanford, designates an era of ‘Anthropocene defaunation’.”
In fact, a 2010 study, which combined data from over 100 biologists around the world, found that 20% of all currently existing vertebrate species are threatened with extinction. “Multiple factors have contributed to the demise, including logging, agricultural land conversion, over-exploitation, population growth, pollution and the impact of invasive alien species.” They could have added urbanisation, huge levels of pesticides and other carcinogens in the environment, ocean acidification, and monoculture.
An independent, similarly comprehensive report states that, by coincidence, 20% of plant species are also threatened. The authors state: “We cannot sit back and watch plant species disappear — plants are the basis of all life on earth, providing clean air, water, food and fuel. All animal and bird life depends on them, and so do we.”
This is the point. So what if we lose the lesser red-footed tree frog of the Amazon, or Leadbeater’s possum in Australia, or if beetles are killing the forests of western North America?
One of my cliches is, “We are a part of nature, not apart from Her.” We are destroying the web of life on this planet, and this is a form of suicide. Chief Seattle is supposed to have said, “When all the trees have been cut down, when all the animals have been hunted, when all the waters are polluted, when all the air is unsafe to breathe, only then will you discover you cannot eat money.”
This leads me to the third consequence of cultural insanity, the global financial system, which is also a monster that is devouring itself. The system collapsed in 2007-2008. The Economist explains, “The collapse of Lehman Brothers, a sprawling global bank, in September 2008 almost brought down the world’s financial system. It took huge taxpayer-financed bail-outs to shore up the industry. Even so, the ensuing credit crunch turned what was already a nasty downturn into the worst recession in 80 years. Massive monetary and fiscal stimulus prevented a buddy-can-you-spare-a-dime depression, but the recovery remains feeble compared with previous post-war upturns. GDP is still below its pre-crisis peak in many rich countries, especially in Europe, where the financial crisis has evolved into the euro crisis. The effects of the crash are still rippling through the world economy.”
Those taxpayer funded bailouts were actually the Emperor’s new clothes. Governments simply printed money, or more exactly, extra zeros were added to certain numbers in certain computers, without anything to back them up. But it was convenient for everyone to act as if that money had meaning. As long as you are willing to trade your goods or services for my money, it has value. So, we all pretend that it does. But the global debt exceeds the value of all the goods and services that can be provided.
Millions are suffering, now, because of the greed and criminal negligence of the “1%” who are robbing everyone. Only one country did the right thing: thanks to the “pots and pans revolution,” Iceland jailed the financiers and bankers responsible for mismanagement. However, the same sharks in other countries still run the global economy — and are running it into the ground. There are many well-argued, evidence-based predictions of a global financial collapse of a severity never before seen, including The Death of Money by James Rickards.
If — when — that happens, it will probably lead to the critical situation I focused on in my essay: no food in the supermarkets, no fuel at the petrol stations, no electricity in the grid, in so many places at once that no one can help others. This will lead to violence, social disintegration, destruction on such a scale that many communities may never recover. A global economic collapse will not be the end of humanity, but may well be the end of global civilisation. Certainly, it will cause immense suffering to most people, even including the “1%” responsible for the problem.
War is the fourth symptom of greed and conflict. Currently, there are two looked on as major threats: The “Islamic State” (a real misnomer) in Iraq and Syria, and the Ukrainian crisis. Both could still present us with unpleasant surprises. Down the track, there will be more, because war is an inherent aspect of currently dominant cultures. (There have been past cultures where conflict amounted to the shouting of insults, and perhaps a spear in a leg, but groups fighting each other is foreign to some hunter-gatherer societies).
War is a major source of suffering. What’s worse, it increasingly strikes the innocent. Civilian casualties outnumber the death of combatants many times over.
Modern warfare uses up obscenely large amounts of resources. An essay in the Guardian states that global military spending in 2012 was $1.75 trillion (about 40% of this by the USA). In contrast, “the costs of reducing mortality rates by two-thirds, improving maternal health as well as combating Aids, malaria and other major diseases, are estimated to be $60 billion.” This is one-twenty-ninth of the cost of armed forces. To quote further, “The estimated total cost of achieving the six of the UN’s millennium development goals related to poverty, education and health — eradicating hunger, universal primary education, child mortality reduction, disease prevention — is $120 billion annually in additional resources, a fraction of what is spent every year on militaries.”
And the environmental damage wars cause is horrendous.
The cold war is over… sort of. The mentality that led to it, and the dangers it encompassed, are still with us. A nuclear war could still happen.
There are other serious symptoms, but I feel I’ve made my point.
So, Anthony, we have many dangers directly caused by the insane global culture, even if we ignore climate change. To understand how such dangers (and climate change) work, please read my essay How to predict disaster. As insurance companies know, risk is not a continuous process, but follows a logic called a “Markov process.” During the Cuban missile crisis, we teetered on the edge of global extinction. If the Ebola virus mutates so it can be spread by small droplets in the air, we will be facing the risk of the death of billions of people, and this risk is a Markov process. So, do read that essay.
Even if you choose not to believe in climate change, even if you choose to dismiss all I’ve written here, there is still the question of happiness. Is the average Joe or Mary happy? Are people satisfied with the world they live in?
If people were content with what they have, they would stop buying. Only a small proportion of people love their means of livelihood (I am lucky to be among them). So, if workers stopped buying, they would no longer be under pressure to continue as wage slaves. Therefore, consumer society is fuelled by structural dissatisfaction. I describe this mechanism in detail in my essay How to change the world.
So, even if you reject all of my arguments that humanity is in great danger, you should still ask the question, “Is business as usual good for me, the people I love, and humanity at large? Could we build a better world in which the vast majority of people are content with their lives?”
When thinking about this, consider that the overdeveloped countries have epidemics of depression, anxiety, suicide, alcohol and other drug addiction, problem gambling, senseless violence… all symptoms of people pushed beyond their ability to cope.
The cultural change needed to reduce such pressures is exactly what’s needed to reduce the risk of major catastrophe from the dangers I have described. So, whether I am having a paranoid fantasy, imagining the dangers, or am right on the ball, it is more than worthwhile to change from a crazy culture to a sane one. And it is possible.
OK, let’s return to the start: climate change.
I have studied futurology (predictions based on current trends) since 1972, and have kept up with the field. I have had email exchanges with some of the planet’s top climate scientists, and have sufficient knowledge to read published articles on the subject. I do not know of any climatologists who agree with your claim that “globle warming is a myth its been proven.” (Really, I can’t stand it: you mean “global warming is a myth, as has been proven.”)
If you send me links to scientific studies that back your claim, I will publish your letter on my blog. If they are powerful enough, and well enough conducted, I will change my mind and thank you. But I feel perfectly safe that there is no such evidence.
If you go through the various predictions I made in January, 2012, you will see that many of them have actually occurred. I stick by my timeline.
Have a good life, even if, like humanity’s, it’s a short one,