Tag Archives: wisdom

Digression: Global Warming

The Dangers of Climate Change
The Dangers of Climate Change

A few days ago, I received two relatively recent articles that highlight for me the risks of global warming: Warning from the past: Future global warming could be even warmer (2016 predictions on potential temperature rise) and Mass extinction forecast with 6°C temperature rise (2013 predictions of the impact on species).

I get a lot of information about global warming on a weekly basis; I’ve been doing so since sometime in 2009. I remember sitting in a lecture hall listening to a speaker talk about global warming when the speaker mentioned the impact on permafrost (permanently frozen ground in the Arctic regions). Recall that I have degrees in physics and biophysics (with a lot of maths and chemistry), and that I have worked in the Arctic — I know a little about permafrost! My PhD dissertation explores the relationships of acedia and global warming — I know how resistant we humans are to changing our patterns. At that moment, I got it! If we do not quickly manage global warming, we will go extinct. Not maybe — will! Simple physics; simple biology. I am not interested in “doom and gloom” — but I am very pragmatic when it comes to risk management.

Since that time I have been following the reports of the consequences of global warming, and the attempts to assess the risks. Every major report has said: “The previous report underestimated the risks. It is worse than we thought!” (The actual wording varied; the message was the same.)

First, the current CO2 level as of 2016 July 10 is 405.59 ppm, with the average June level of 406.81, both figures up ~4 ppm over the same dates of 2015, and overall ~125 ppm above pre-industrial levels of ~275 ppm. Even with maximal effort, the levels will still rise somewhat simply due to delays in the feedback systems. Notice where this puts us on the following chart (summarized from Six Degrees: Our Future On A Hotter Planet): between 2°C and 3°C.

SixDegrees

All of this is bad news. Anything about 2°C risks uncertain run-away feedback mechanisms that could well destroy our civilization for thousands of years, if not simply that of human extinction. A very good summary is available as “A degree by degree explanation of what will happen when the earth warms.” It is not good news.

As I am sure people are aware, our international governments have struggled with reaching agreement on how to respond to global warming, and last fall in Paris finally reached a non-binding agreement to limit planetary warming to under 2°C (a commitment, but not a guarantee). And global warming is only one of the issues.

In Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed, Diamond notes:

People often ask, “What is the single most important environmental-population problem facing the world today?” A flip answer would be, “The single most important problem is our misguided focus on identifying the single most important problem!” . . .  We have to solve them all.

          [B]ecause we are rapidly advancing along this non-sustaining course, the world’s environmental problems will get resolved, in one way or another, within the lifetimes of the children and young adults alive today. The only question is whether they will become resolved in pleasant ways of our own choice, or in unpleasant ways not of our choice, such as warfare, genocide, starvation, disease epidemics, and collapses of societies. (p. 498)

I don’t like these scenarios.

Community in a mature culture? (Part 2)

How could we be satisfied in a mature culture?
How could we be satisfied in a mature culture?

We are now the most important species on this planet, dominant in our capability to sustain it, or to destroy it. Up to this point in time, our “civilization” has been that of domination, and essentially unlimited growth. If we want to survive and thrive as a species, we have no choice but to learn cooperation and sustainability — this is the fundamental basis of a mature culture.

For me, this means:

  • We must have a sustainable population, likely 1.5 – 2 billion, certainly less than 2 billion people (my personal sense is that of about 1 billion). Currently we have more than 7 billion; how we are to reduce in number is unclear, and if we do not have clarity, it will likely be bloody.
    • Our technological skill is of major advantage in high-speed communication and sustainable energy management; but we must temper the ways in which it leads to competition and consumerism.
    • We must be sustainable. That means that there will be no such thing as garbage — all goods and end-products must be recycled. Our environmental impact must be minimal.
      • We must give up our orientation to “growth.” It is likely that there will no such thing as “for profit;” everything we do will be “non-profit,” sustainable and resilient.
  • Our current civilization is orientated to newness, almost in an addictive fashion — we call it boredom. We must learn the joys associated with the growth of wisdom; this in itself provides a deep satisfaction and exhilaration of living.
    • Ross and Herman (both mentioned in the last post) note the intense gratification that comes to being open to the present moment in the quest for truth.
  • We are designed for living in small groups, somewhere in the of range 50 – 200 people. We name such groups villages.
    • It is in these small groups that, optimally, we practice the first three of Herman’s characteristics: the pursuit of self-knowledge, face-to-face discussion, and direct democracy in action.
      • It is in the interaction of villages that the larger narrative emerges.
    • We are both competitive and cooperative by nature.
      • We must learn the skills of non-interference. We must learn how to manage our anger when our cherished beliefs are challenged by the diversity of a global village, both within our small groups and in our interactions with other groups.
      • My personal skill is that I know how to do this, and how to coach others in the processes necessary for this to occur.

I suggest that the central aptitude in all this will be that of personal self-care. If I as an individual am unable to take care of myself, I am unable to gift to others in an effective long-term fashion. The predominant skills will be those of mindfulness and journal-writing, skills that are slowly developing in our current culture.

In my next post, I will expand these characteristics into aspects of daily living.

Your thoughts?

To be continued.