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mankind’s folly September 18, 2006

Posted by Brad Richert in politics, science.

“This civilization is the work of man, who high-handedly and ignorant of the true workings of Nature, has created a world without meaning or foundation, which now threatens to destroy him, for through his behavior and his activities, he, who should be her master, has disturbed Nature’s inherent unity.” -Viktor Schauberger

What will our ignorance cost us in the end? Will our dreams of big houses and fast cars be worth it? Will the tyranny of other men be our main concern? Capitalism, for all of its wonders, sacrifices our planet, our poor, and our happiness in the name of the allowance for the American dream. The warning signs are here.

Jame Hansen, the head of NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies told America last Wednesday that the planet has a ten year window to divert major catastrophic changes in the climate. He estimates that if we continue this rate of carbon dioxide emission growth, the planet will rise by 2°C to 3°C (3.6°F to 7.2°F). Results: Manhattan will be sunk and 50% of species would become extinct. This is nothing new. Yet the New York Times back in April released a poll asking American’s what their main concern was. While 27% of Americans are concerned with the War in Iraq, only 2% are mainly concerned with the environment. Check out the rest of the poll:

    1. War In Iraq: 27
    2. Economy and Jobs: 13
    3. Immigration: 7
    4. Terrorism: 6
    5. Health Care: 5
    6. President Bush: 4
    7. Gas/heating oil crisis: 4
    8. Poverty/homelessness: 4
    9. Education: 3
    10. Moral/Family values: 2
    11. Environment: 2
    12. Budget deficit/national debt: 2

President Bush as blatantly stated that the reasoning for pulling out of Kyoto was because of the economic hardships it would bring to Americans. Yet Americans are footing the bill for an illegal war that does not concern their daily lives at a cost of $246,000,000 per day. Economists Joseph Stiglitz and Linda Bilms (former assistant secretary of commerce) have estimated that staying in Iraq for another four years will cost the nation $1,000,000,000,000 (yes, that is one trillion dollars). So, how much of that will matter when Ground Zero is under water? Where will that one trillion dollars have gone? What effect would this climate have on our economy? What will American’s think of immigration when they are the ones wanting to head south? Will nature be the new terrorist? Would George Bush apologize to James Hansen for editing his report on global warming?

The sick thing is, when we were destroying the planet it was because it was not immediate, it was for our future generations to worry about. Now it is on our doorstep and we still do not care. I would rather drive my Hummer.

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1. Rob V. - September 18, 2006

Maybe the reason so many Americans aren’t concerned about global warming is because they remember the threat of global cooling and a new ice age just thirty years ago. (link)

Your enthusiasm is admirable, but you have to realize that we’ve only been measuring temperature for a few hundred years, so we have no idea how the planet (or the solar system) goes through cycles on their own. The thought that WE are warming the planet flies in the face of thousands (or hundreds of thousands, who knows?)of volcanic eruptions since we came around the scene. And that’s just one example.

I just don’t think we’re as powerful as you think we are.

PS: That “10-Year Window” article? Doesn’t it logically assume that if we are in fact causing the warming that we can stop it? Then how come at some point we won’t be able to? To me that means we’re NOT causing it.

2. brad richert - September 18, 2006

My questioning is not so much the validity of the science, because I am not a scientist. I am not afraid to admit that. My fear is that most people do not even care enough to take the step of education and immediately think they know everything. My questioning is the fact that we are too lazy to care. All I can do is educate myself, and believe a certain outcome. Everyone is definitely entitled to their belief. But what is the harm in attempting to understand what is going on. I will, however, take the scientific research of an accomplished scientist over the “I think” statement of a blogger, no offence, I would expect the same which is why I always cite all of my sources. The fear of science that Christians have development is quite unfortunate.

3. Rob V. - September 18, 2006

Certainly question and be informed, no qualms against that! And we can all be a little too lazy to care about a lot of things, that much is true!

You are right somewhat about Christians who “fear” science, but I for one believe that science is wonderful tool that we can use to scratch the surface of understaning the universe God created. The developments of science don’t refute, they only further solidify the Truths of the Bible, as far as I can see. The only thing that always bothers me about secular scientists is how they expect Christians to explain it all using the Bible when they still haven’t explained it all with science. We don’t know how God did everything EXACTLY, but neither does science!

PS – No offense taken. =)

4. khalidmir - September 18, 2006

I think the reason why we aren’t concerned about the future of the planet because we tend to think of nature exclusively in terms of costs/benefits , as so much “dead matter”.

Also, the stage of capitalism we’re in doesn’t favour thinking about the future and so i think Brad is on to something here..i.e do we think fo the future per se?

so, either the costs of changing our lifestyles are thought to be too much or we don’t have an accurate idea of future benefits/costs . But for me , irrespective of the scientific evidence, i think one of the key points is that we have-for some time now-thought of nature ONLY as a resource. We , too, have become ‘human capital’.

5. brad richert - September 18, 2006

Good comments. I’ve recently heard about some businesses (both large and small) that have formed environmental pacts, realizing that the costs for them in the long term greatly outweigh the costs for implementing environmentally-friendly processes (whatever they may be). Adbusters, as fervently biased as it may be, also called to my attention to “True Cost Economics” which takes into account the cost to the environment in all products — often tripling the cost that we currently pay.

I think that the major problem is with our “current” political situation that concentrates on short-term gain. I say “current” with many reservations because I highly doubt there has ever been a political situation that does actually concentrate on long-term goals. I use environmentalism as an example in this post, but the same could be said for education, social programs, or anything else that has tangible short-term costs with ambiguous long-term gains.

6. khalidmir - September 19, 2006

Brad, I don’t know about political systems ahvin a long-term goal but i think we can certainly point to a change in mentality engendered by the different stages of capitalism: the first stage: an emphasisi on production, investment, accumulation and , therefore, thinking of the future (this is the stage of ‘sobriety’, restraint). But the contradiction in capitalism is that it also emphasises instantaneity, living for the moment, current consumption. this is what Tawney would call the ‘divine recklessness’ aspect of cpaitalism (see Daniel Bell’s interesting ‘Cultural contradictions of cpaitalism).

As for political systems , is it not true that we have moved away from the old, classical idea of ‘virtue’ -the republican ideal-to one of the market? In many ways, the exapnasion of the market has meant the decline of the public realm-and part of that decline can be seen in the inability to see beyond one’s own private interests.

But I think the most important thing here-andI’m only repaeating what th great jewish philosopher Hans Jonas said, is that our very ‘concept’ of nature is impoverished. We live in a gnostic age and do not see any intrinsic relation between nature and ourselves. In such circumstances, it is questionable why we should care for her future.

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