Saturday, 27 March 2010
First of all global warming is a myth. However not in the sense that it's not true. I think we have all reasons to believe that it is true if only we do not engage in some sort of conspiracy theory involving the omnipotent global network of greedy scientists who invented it. It's a myth in the sense that it plays the pivotal role in the modern Eco-cult. It clearly bears a resemblance to religion, in all its waiting for apocalypses, collective and individual guilt and redemption through ritual recycling, monitoring your carbon footprint and donations to save polar bears. I would suggest that to some extent it fills the void of religion in modern secular world. Only instead of God there is a Planet. And there is no reason for laugh, because the facts on which the myth is based upon are true. Our planet is in danger!
Well, not the planet probably. The planet will survive whatever we do. We can't kill the “Mother Earth” because “Mother Earth” is a piece of rock and mud flying in the vast empty universe and “Mother Earth” doesn't give a shit about the creatures inhabiting it. It has seen dinosaurs come and go and it has seen other great extinctions of species and after each of them the life blossomed again. We have no reason whatsoever to believe that it will be somehow different after us. However we certainly are capable to make it very inhospitable place for the survival of polar bears and tigers, and a lot of other life forms including ourselves. And we are on the track of doing it. Maybe I'm too sentimental, but I find it somewhat sad.
To be honest I don't believe that we are capable to save tigers and polar bears outside the zoo's for a very long period of time, if the human population continues to grow. There is no sign that it will stop to grow in near future. I can only hope that as it continues to grow we will be able to escape major military conflicts involving weapons of mass destruction. There is very little ground for such hope, but all sorts of miracles happen from time to time, and I can just hope that this one will do. However lets go back to the global warming and the mythology surrounding it.
Conspiracy of the stupid
Lets imagine that all this stuff is invented by a bunch of scientists who just want all the money that now flows to their institutes and universities and their pockets. That there is some sort of such conspiracy. Wow it would be the biggest and probably most meaningless conspiracy the world has ever seen. Because all the money and power actually is on the other side. I mean those multinational corporations with all their funds and influence on the governments that grab hundreds of billions in profits from fossil fuel. And imagine the scientific community - most of those poor (by the standards of corporate world) guys hate each other, or at least they are constantly competing, arguing, everybody hopes to find a new theory, everybody wants to shoot to fame. Can somebody honestly think that none of them would defect from such conspiracy, especially if there are these people out there in the business who can and almost certainly are willing to pay them 100 or 1000 times more if they could come up with some reliable evidence that will make a global warming a myth? It's ridiculous.
Conspiracy theories are invented by people who are stupid or too lazy to try to see the whole picture. In fact conspiracy theories serve the system, by marginalizing the opposition, by shifting the attitude from real problems and possible actions to the imaginary realm of conspiracies of reptile-humanoids or Jewish-masons or greedy scientists or whatever.
I'm not saying that all scientists are always absolutely honest or that some sort of shift in the paradigm is impossible in the future or that theories can't be overturned. However by now the absolutely overwhelming majority of scientific community says that there is enough evidence to say that the global warming is caused by humans, or at least more likely it is caused by humans. If so, and we don't really have anybody else to ask for the opinion, we must do something about it. If they are wrong in the end of the day, we don't lose that much, if they are right, which is very likely, we can lose everything if we don't listen. Simple like that. Of course there are people who think that the sole fact of snow still falling or occasional recounting of polar bears overturns all the theories. They even sometimes call it logic, but so far, when reading such materials, I have seen only sad examples of limitless human stupidity and ignorance.
So what can we do? Almost nothing. Well, we can of course switch off the lights on the earth hour, we can watch our carbon footprints on individual level constantly and that sort of things. The sad reality is that it won't do the job. What we need is first of all the political will of those in power all around the world to take very serious measures. However, as we have seen in Copenhagen it's not happening. That's logical. The economy of the whole planet is so heavily dependent on fossil fuel, that even small measures mean some sort of sacrifice. The simple logic of economics says that the one who is sacrificing something is loser. Nobody wants to lose. OK, the good thing is that some of the major economies and politically most powerful countries (even America finally) are now ready to talk, but the whole thing is taking so long. It took 12 years from Kyoto to Copenhagen. Kyoto ended with hope, which quickly evaporated. Than came Copenhagen which ended in disaster. Gloomy? Are we back to where we were before Kyoto? I don't think so because there certainly are many things that many countries do to try to cut carbon emissions, however nobody can afford to go too far without risking to lose its economical and subsequently its political influence. So everybody, even the most politically committed countries must stay in the race, as long as others do the same. It's really a vicious circle and it's leading nowhere. The time is running against us.
There is another aspect also. To effectively cut the temperature rising we need to agree to leave some of the fossil fuel reserves in the ground forever. I think it's nearly impossible for any government on the planet to come to such level of political commitment, to agree to stop pumping it's own oil from the ground. I simply don't believe that it can work in foreseeable future, which is the timescale in which we need to take the action. With the oil resources getting scarcer and prices rising everybody will be interested to pump as much as he can. Why not? The one who is pumping will get all of the economical benefits from the pumping, while costs will be shared by the whole planet. Maybe there is some sort of solution to this. I hope. But what other countries will do if somebody refuses to stop pumping. Nuke them? It's hardly an ecological solution. Besides everybody will need this oil.
Just when the ice cap on the North Pole melted for the first time in history - a very alarming sign that we are burning too much fossil fuel, Canada and Russia send their battleships to the North Pole to claim the oil reserves there for themselves. I know, I know there was probably a whole set of reasons for them to do such thing. But if we distance ourselves from everything else and just look at it from the climate perspective, it's funny. Isn't it? If I would make a movie from extraterrestrial perspective I would include this as a piece of very dark humor.
Actually the only hope and solution for the planet in the long run, is to find a new technology to solve the energy problem as soon as possible. Something that is cheaper or at least not considerably more expensive than fossil fuel. Something that is effective enough and Eco friendly at the same time They are working on this for years, but so far there is nothing on the horizon. That's maybe much more alarming than disaster in Copenhagen itself, which we needed so badly exactly because there is no alternatives so far.
Back to the Future
Finally back to the Earth hour and why did I say in the beginning that global warming is a myth. Don't get me wrong. I'm not trying to say that it is something irrational. Global warming is something real and we must approach it rationally, and there is a clear and rational message in Earth hour. First of all to show the governments, corporations and to each other that we do care. Secondly to remind ourselves that we must care. Also maybe it will help to somebody to realize that he or she is really consuming too much, that we can can stay alive for a while without the electricity and all these gadgets that we are so much depending upon. Maybe even have a good time while doing it.
One more time I will say don't get me wrong and don't take me too seriously either, because I'm not a specialist, merely curious about such things and just having a good time right now. However if we look closely at the Earth hour, we must notice that it's also a ritual in a way. In a way it works also on a deeply irrational level. There is a theory in anthropology, that humans actually have very hard times when they have to negotiate their social contract rationally by the means of language. We simply don't like it. Language is a system of symbols, digital medium and as the means of communication it bears in itself immense possibilities of deceit and lies.
Ritual is a physical act. It's an analogue channel of communication and it's hard to fake. During the ritual strong bonds and very high level of mutual trust are established within the community. Researchers argue that only because of this level of trust established during the ritual, something like the human language could possibly evolve. Ritual in a way creates another superior reality in the minds of participants. In this reality our contract is sealed and through it the spoken words become credible source of information. Thus allows some scientists even to speculate that first word ever spoken by early humans actually was “God”, or something like that. Moreover when such contract was established and language evolved it allowed individuals to engage in cooperation and to be altruistic at levels never seen in the nature before. Which in turn brought us to the very top of the ecological pyramid, exactly where we are now.
It seems to me very tempting to suggest that Earth hour is becoming a ritual way for us humans to negotiate new social contract. Something that we badly need faced with consequences of our own technological growth. Only this time instead of something supernatural like “God”, there is “Planet” or “Future” or “Responsibility” or something like that in the center of this superior reality which we are creating. I find it rather fascinating to find the old irrational mechanisms of thinking, that created religions, to be involved to help us to convince ourselves in credibility of the most rational and scientific discourse. Maybe more precisely would be to say that probably language and logic are falling short to mobilize us and convince us that it is necessary to make some sacrifices.
It's not a Religion
I understand that real decisions will be made in the corridors and cabinets of governments and they will be negotiated through language. There is still a long way to go. However don't underestimate the ancient and irrational ways of how society is organized either. I was visiting Northern Ireland as a tourist recently. Don't tell me they didn't try to negotiate peace during these 30 years of conflict. They tried hard, however it was on the streets, in the pubs and during the sectarian parades when history really took it's turns. OK that's a very extreme example, but ask political campaigners and they'll tell you many weird things about the human nature. The same works in the political rallies and other gatherings, and we all know that most of the elections even in our XXI century are won by conquering peoples hearts, rather than minds.
The fact that governments are so involved with the Earth hour is even more amazing. It really becomes a ritual involving all levels of society. I mean those guys in the governments need it as much as we ordinary people do, if not more, because it will be them who will be negotiating. Of course they will be rationally counting pros and cons, but somewhere deep in their minds the other reality also will start to establish itself. Something that will make any fruitful negotiations possible. I'm afraid that otherwise we might be doomed. The amazing thing that I see in it is that it's not a manipulation from outside this time, it's rather something that is almost self organizing from within the society. Sure there was some guys who came up with the idea first, but tens of thousands of ideas are coming up every day and most of them are dying instantly.
At least I hope. I mean most of the politicians are whores, you can't do anything about it. That's nature. However they are also humans. (maybe most of the humans are whores and they are just the mirror of society. I don't know.) If it was possible for the ancient selfish apes to make a contract it must be possible for us. We even have some advantages. It's really not us and them. Just us. Even politicians do understand it.
OK. I will say one more time. I'm not trying to be clever. I have neither qualification nor knowledge to make a big deal out my scribblings. It's just my literary vision of things at the current moment. I'm also not suggesting that we don't need rational discussions. We need them. Badly! At all possible levels in politics and life and especially about the climate change. I'm not trying to say in any way that climate change is religion. It is a science and there is nothing really religious about the ritual apart from the psychological mechanism involved and it is exactly the rational argument undermining the whole thing, that makes it so powerful.
Weird, especially for me, but with the cool head I'm choosing to take the part in Saturdays ritual by sacrificing one hour of my electricity consumption on the altar of Planet.
(I hate to read that last sentence, actually.)
PS. I hope there will be happy end.
PSS. No not the end. Eternal evolution of our species :)