What People think of Climate Disruption — 8 Comments

  1. Very good point, special k! I still remember the advice in some documentary: Act as if your action matters! The interesting thing is that if most people act that way, our individual actions will matter.

  2. When traveling to other cultures, there seems to be a greater awareness of our temporary inhabitance of this planet. People are more mindful. When I start feeling anxious and very worried about our massive consumption, I act out of fear. That is the danger of using religion to motivate people…the fear factor. Instead, our behaviors should be about hope, empowerment, and recognizing how small matters make a big differnece.
    What I does matter…
    When we mminimize the individual committment, things start to feel hopeless. And then it is easy to say “we’re not worth it.”

  3. You mention that as humans we understand our long-term actions. If we understand them shouldn’t this mean that we need to minimize the negative consequences of our actions?

    For example, underlying the financial mess lies (among other things) an extreme focus on short-term benefits, screw long-term consequences. That house of cards came tumbling down on all of us (sadly, least on the people who had the largest short-term benefits…). We’re not talking about huge sacrifices here either. Recycling doesn’t take a lot of work, yes, some effort is involved but not a lot. And as I pointed out before, scaling down our (over-)consumption will very likely also have a large effect on our own experience: Life improves when you get off the work-spend-work more treadmill…

  4. I can’t tell you how satisfying it is to see your response – that is exactly my question. That is EXACTLY what I am asking. I find that religious people for example (and please pardon me in advance for stereotyping half the world) seem to have a notion that humans are somehow special and “above” the regular world. I hold this view in some regards too. For example, humans are at the top of the food chain. We are also the only animal who definitely understands their own mortality. Most animals live in the present and don’t understand long-term actions. Humans generally are aware that we are all going to die someday and that we also pursue interests that are not geared only for survival (for example, art, philosophy, and debating). So I do understand that humans are “special” in that regard.

    I guess what I find interesting is that as an atheist I am trying to not place special “human-centrist” values on certain things. The universe just is what it is, misery and all. I totally understand that trying to help out poor people, or not being cruel to animals is totally a worthy cause (in my opinion anyway). For example, I have a cat. The idea of abusing it is just repulsive to me and when I see stories on the news about people mistreating animals I am outraged. But why? I think (and this is just me learning) that it is because it is the process of life now that is “sacred” and should be celebrated. So I can totally get behind recycling or using the expensive light bulbs or whatever environmentalists want if it were to help out NOW. Example: On 60 minutes I saw a report where Chinese people are working in these horrible garbage pits, mining the precious metals out of discarded computer equipment. It was disgusting and these people are getting really sick because the world is dumping their toxic garbage in the poor regions of the planet. OK, that I can get behind. I always take my computer garbage to the recyclers because I don’t want to be the guy that kills some Chinese dude working in one of these horrible places. But other recycling I am not so sure – the idea that I sacrifice now to save some person who is not born yet (and may never be) is not something that I am totally behind.

    I’m not saying I’m right though, and I welcome everyone’s opinion!! Great blog as usual.

  5. I think you’re bringing up some interesting issues: What obligation, if any, do we have to people who are alive today but live thousands of miles away? What obligation, if any, do we have to people who will be alive in the future? These are ethical issues and I probably need to read someone like Peter Singer to answer these. I think, though, that ultimately, it boils down to being interconnected with everything: What you do, affects someone else and vice versa. It might not be a direct effect but we are not living in individual bubbles. But I don’t find this answer completely satisfactory, so I’d like to ponder it some more (and maybe some others will chime in as well).

    Now, the other issue that you’re raising is equally intriguing: Why should we worry about humans becoming extinct? (At least that’s how I read your last paragraph). Honestly, I often feel that way: Why should I bang my head against the wall to get people to recycle, for example? Maybe we as a species are just too stupid to survive long term, so if we dig our own grave, so be it. The species that will survive are probably better off then. I think in part it is the knowledge that we could save ourselves that makes this option so difficult to accept. If you know how to build a bridge across a river to avoid drowning while crossing it, you have the material, you just don’t feel like building it, it would be a tragedy not to build the bridge. And I think that’s what most of us environmentalists are facing: We’re trying to prevent a tragedy. As a side note: We’re not trying to “save the planet.” We’re trying to save ourselves. The planet will survive (unless we blow it up with nuclear bombs). It’s our species that will become extinct. And I guess from the first part of your argument, the question here really boils down to: So what? Let me throw in another question, then: Is it arrogant of us to think that we’re just oh so wonderful that we desperately need saving?

  6. First of all, I love how your blog brings up points and I find your audience (and you) to be quite well spoken, so I appreciate the forum to discuss such matters. And I’m not saying I’m right, I am honestly asking for your opinions (even if they are in direct opposition – hey I want to learn).

    I would disagree with the contention that crises are happening now that affect my personal life. Maybe I am not as enlightened. I welcome you and your readers pointing out specific examples of how your life is directly affected by a lack of recycling or global warming. Maybe I get some smog once in a while. I can understand that. My quality of life goes down a little bit I guess. But the trade off is that I get to drive my huge SUV 5 yards to the convenience store. I mean, in theory, gas prices go up, but alot of that was due to speculation last summer, not actual inventories falling (because we are not really running out of gas for another 100-200 years). Wild tigers may go extinct in Africa, but I don’t see how that changes my life in any way in Canada. I can still see a tiger in a zoo, and most people go their whole lives without ever seeing wild animals in the wild. If an ice bridge collapses in the Antarticta, I don’t see how that affects my life 5,000 miles away. I’m not saying it doesn’t—I am asking how it does.

    For what it’s worth, I am a complete Atheist, and I believe that global warming is real. But I don’t understand the values that people are placing on the “bad” things that are happening. It is definitely sad that many beautiful animals are going extinct, but animals have been going extinct for millions of years, way before humans came along. I don’t know why it’s “natural” for animals to go extinct but somehow when humans are involved it’s “not natural”. Everything humans do are natural, as we are on animal on the planet just like all the other animals.

  7. The problem with your argument is that your timeframe is wrong. Climate disruption is having effects now. It is not something that will happen in the future. Ice bridges are collapsing. Weather is changing. Genocidal crises are exaggerated by climate change.

    Also, there’s a pretty direct link between overconsumption, overwork, and climate disruption. If we can create sustainable lifestyles, this would very likely mean that we would work less. So, we’re not doing this for future generations. We’re doing this for ourselves.

  8. I am very interested in hearing your opinion on this. Here’s my argument, for the sake of argument, and I welcome any responses.

    Let’s assume that global warming is totally caused by humans. I want that out of the equation. So that’s a fact for this argument.

    Let’s assume that we can go hog wild and use up all the oil and burn all the tires and it’s smokestack central for the next 100 years. After that, we are totally doomed – ecosystems are destroyed, massive famine, etc. Again, not disputing any of that for the sake of argument.

    My question: Why would the humans in present day be obligated to help out those that don’t exist yet? In other words, the suggestion with global warming is that if we do not curb our emissions now, we are going to damage the Earth in the future.

    If that is true, then are we not putting future generations ahead of our own, or giving them a “right” to exist in a clean world. If that is true, then aren’t we saying that people who don’t exist yet have rights? And if that is true, aren’t we obligated to not ever use condoms or birth control. One step further: aren’t we obligated to keep having babies? Since not having babies means we are robbing a life from the future?

    On the flip side, the biggest factor contributing to global warming is population- specifically population increase. So if we curb population increase, or actually manage to decrease the world population, are we not robbing future generations of life?

    But if we crank out babies like crazy, we will most likely destroy the quality of life for everyone.

    So the question is – are we not saying that we need to reduce our emissions enough to make life OK for future generations, but we cannot have too many people on the planet in the future or it will wreck life for everyone in the future.

    So the goal is to maximize the available happiness of a certain number of future people, the number of which we do not know. Who are we to make that decision?

    If all of this sounds crazy, maybe it is because I am not explaining it very well. But basically the whole idea of conserving energy to help out a future generation that does not exist yet needs some more scrutiny.

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