This is a comment by Dan on the post “Warming Up To Global Warming“.
I think that I’m coming from mostly the same place and therefore discussing this proves worthwhile.
1. ‘I don’t think global warming is the earth’s most pressing concern’
I’d argue that global warming is the earth’s MOST pressing concern. It might not be our country’s most pressing concern, it might not even be humanity’s most pressing concern, but it is more likely than anything, barring a nuclear holocaust, to damage the ability of our planet to support human life both in the short and long term. And if the only thing more destructive is literally nuclear war, then I think it’s a rather pressing concern.
2. ‘Yet, until the global population plateaus and declines, our carbon footprint is no worse than the nuclear waste, eradicated species, and decimated forests that are already trashing our planet.’
Global warming contributes to like, two and a half of the things you mentioned after it! (I’m giving it a ½ for nuclear waste because I think the global warming scare pushes people into using nuclear power instead of trying sustainable methods). Our carbon footprint causes deforestation and extinction. We can’t solve those problems without addressing it.
3. ‘[O]ur core problem is that more than seven billion people live here, and half of them are hungry or starving. The problem is that our resources are insanely mismanaged, or else simply wasted. The problem—if there even needs to be another problem—is that we are all competing for money, energy, and power, and when I make a dollar, you lose a dollar. When my company thrives, yours goes bankrupt. When my country wins the war, yours is bombed to shit. And at any moment, some crazy tyrant could just blow up the world with nuclear weapons, in a matter of hours, just for fun. That’s the core problem.’
This statement confuses me. None of these things are core problems. Some of them (starvation) are symptoms of others. One of them (waste) approaches a core problem with the structure of western society. As for the competition thing, well that’s just a product of capitalism. I mean, obviously we’re all competing for money, energy, and power. We all want those things. Show me a country or person willing to forgo living with electricity for the next year. I don’t really think there are any.
What it seems to me you are expressing frustration with, and please correct me if I’m wrong, is the inherent competitive nature of our society. Instead of building one that encourages sustainable living, long term planning, and raising everyone to a similarly high standard of living, we’ve built one that encourages people to exploit each other to get ahead. As this society globalized, we found that the earth does produce a limited number of resources, and therefore life is a zero sum game.
4. ‘If global warming exists, we humans will gradually adjust our lifestyles. It’ll be awful and unhealthy, but the Earth can adapt.’
I find this attitude present in many people’s minds and I think it’s a dangerous one. I think, when the crisis comes to a head, it won’t be a matter of humans gradually adjusting to new way of life. It’ll be a lot of people dying terribly. The way that global warming kills is through natural disasters, by increasing their severity and frequency. So, for example, crops will fail in certain parts of the world for years on end. It won’t be ‘global warming’ it’ll be ‘drought’ and yet, millions will still starve. Global warming will manifest as extreme drought, or monsoons, or huge hurricanes, or earthquakes. And people will starve, or drown, or be crushed. And it will probably be poor people unable to buy what they need or leave where they are. And slowly, the parts of the world where humans can profitably live will shrink.
So humans will adapt. Of course we will. We’ll just build new cities in new places. And we will adjust. And that adjustment will be paved overwhelmingly with the blood of the poorest people on this planet.
If we care about those people, if we want to “end starvation” then we have no choice but to address global warming. If we don’t care, then we don’t’ need to address it or change the way we live. Simple.
Okay, here ends my rant.
I like the overall message of this article. I think it’s important for any movement, especially one globally focused like the environmental movement, to avoid getting hung up on WHY people do things. We’re looking for change of action, not drastic change of attitude.
Photo credit: Flickr / _sarchi