A Short Manifesto For Life
Global Warming and Personal Goals
The warming/no-warming argument is about who loses the argument. Boring. A more interesting question is, how can we all win?
Rather than figure out ways to fit everybody on the planet for a hair shirt (a political impossibility), or how to wring out the last drop of resources before we are forced to do what we ought to do now, how can we spend our time discovering ways of living that are attractive and also restore nature? Can we design environmentally friendly options that are also fun?
I worry that we are pursuing the opposite pair of options: painful and unpopular, combined with unwitting environmental devastation. Large scale solar and wind and biofuel seem to be going that way. We are driven by fear to flee the cities, and spread a larger pollution footprint over remote nature. We start wars over old resources, rather than pursue increasingly elegant closed material cycles. We should compete for efficiency and freed materials, rather than adding to the burdens we have to manage.
There are many options, and they begin with love and knowledge, not with fear and misunderstanding. Are we so inept that we can't make environmental harmonies that are pleasant as well?
As a technologist, I look at sustainability a different way than most. I would be thrilled to develop techniques and devices so "sustainably" valuable that they are still in use a million years from now. Durable in the sense of lasting a long time, with infrequent repair or replacement. But also durable in the sense of remaining desirable, and not using up the world as feedstock, and not leaving a growing pile of noxious effluent.
A difficult problem, but one is more likely to find such elegant inventions if primed to look for them. It has been "too late to prevent doom" for at least 170 years (the oft quoted Jevons predicted Britain would run out of coal in 1840), but societies that focus on doom, find it. If we focus on a healthy world we can find that too.
I don't focus on "global warming", because that would be the inevitable result of thinking that way. I focus on actions, large and small, which can make things better for my living global neighbors, human or otherwise, now and in the distant future. Very few of my non-human neighbors care about what I think about them, or my status relative to other human beings. Only a few other species have pecking orders, and only a dozen of the domesticated ones that connect to ours. The vast majority of lifeforms are more concerned about maximizing descendents into the far future. They need habitat, food, and energy, not human status games.
If I can find ways to make their quest into my quest, for example by capturing more solar output and creating habitat for life, then I am helping other lifeforms accomplish their goals. Humans may be an essential part of the ultra-long-term survival of earth life, as the solar output slowly increases over the eons. As Lovelock suggests, we are Gaia's global information network, we can use our intelligence to accomplish needful tasks for all living things.
It is time we accepted that as our destiny and responsibility, and started learning how to fulfil it. Our current roles as brief waypoints on the path from ore deposit to landfill are not compatible with million year goals and billion year imaginations.
So, you can have your little battles over who is top of the heap. To observers from the far future, ALL the combatants in our short-term dominance games will appear backwards-thinking savages. I'm often trapped by those same games myself, but escape is possible, and worth the effort, and a lot of fun if done right.
Keith, I resonate! I find thinking about possibility and imagining the future we want inspires me to proactive action. Inspiration brings out the life in me in a powerfully generative way that leaves all options open. Focusing on doomsday scenarios limits options to a few desperate responses ... too reactive for me! --Brandon