Is climate change the best thing to happen to civilisation rather than the worst?
In the Guardian, Damian Carrington suggests, rather belatedly, that we need a new economic model to stave off climate change (Climate change demands we re-engineer the world economy now). I don’t think there’s a hope in hell of this happening, and now I’m not even sure if mitigation would be the best thing in the long run. The rather fatalistic analysis presented here is also a contributory factor to the lack of posts recently, since I’m no longer certain there is anything worth saying about climate change that I haven’t already said, or that fighting to keep this civilisation going is actually worth the effort in the long run.
Surely by now it must be apparent to you, as I think it is to Monbiot, that mitigation simply will not happen. The chance to achieve the 2 degree limit disappeared like so much polar ice as the new millennium was ushered in, and no amount of good intentions will bring that about now, so I do wonder why environmental writers still keep plugging away at a cause as hopeless as an appeal to a denier’s rationality.
The societal effects of anthropogenic climate change can be extrapolated in the same way as we can for the physical effects of warming on the ecosystem. Let’s consider where all this is really going.
Early on in the thread, a poster made the usual (and baffling) reference to population, and how it’s never discussed – baffling because it gets a mention in every thread. What that poster failed to understand is that mentioning population growth and the pressure it puts on the environment is not the same as coming up with a viable solution that doesn’t involve culling the brown people preferentially, as Dorlomin pointed out. In other words, there isn’t really a solution to over-population, except the one that we clearly cannot bring ourselves to effect – intelligent cooperation.
Here we are then, all of us aboard the good ship Earth, and just like the oil tankers it is our inertia, both literal and colloquial, that will keep us on our current course and drive us to destruction, because in the same way that a tanker continues for 20 miles even after the engines are thrown into reverse, our so-called civilisation appears certain to plunge on regardless, no matter how many warnings we get, or how hard we step on the brakes even when some of us heed that warning.
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I read somewhere that there have been 69 previous empires, all of them consigned to history. It is both predictable and perhaps inevitable that this latest empire, of electricity and global greed, will fall. Over the last year, I have come to believe that between the stupidity and venal self-interest of so many in the developed world, and the desire to emulate our stupidity and venality by the developing nations, there is no possibility at all that we can forestall the inevitable collapse of consumer-driven capitalism.
We are, collectively, too short sighted, too lazy and complacent, too ignorant and selfish, to do anything meaningful about the problems heading our way, and those problems are monumental, combining three intractable issues in one hammer-blow: population, AGW and peak oil. It’s three killer punches delivered, like a good boxer, in a deadly and pretty knockout combination.
And now I suspect that this is, in fact, the natural order of things. As civilisations come and go, so nature plays its part in aiding or hindering those species that cannot find some balance with their surroundings. I started by mentioning that nobody has a viable solution to over-population. People don’t have a solution, but nature does, by a self-regulating process which we are now invoking through our foolishness. Lovelock was broadly correct when he suggested that the Earth’s ecosystems will, under stress, balance themselves. Nature cares not at all for the alleged primacy and intelligence of mankind. The population problem will be solved, by us, for we are about to cull ourselves.
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The premise of this article is that we need to devise and adopt some other economic model in order to alleviate the poverty of some 2 billion people, a model that doesn’t require those 2 billion to burn more fossil fuels to bring their standard of living up to something like that which we demand for ourselves. It wll never happen, and I think you know that all too well, which does suggest your good intentions in writing this piece will lead only where most good intentions take us.
This civilisation cannot change itself, cannot remodel its aims and desires, because we’ve spend several hundred years plotting a course we are now doomed irrevocably to follow to its logical conclusion. History says that conclusion will be violent, disruptive, destructive and extraordinarily painful. Our only hope, on a very distant horizon, is that by sweeping away the debris of a culture built on greed and inequity, those who follow will finally learn something from history, and build something better and more sustainable.
The coming apocalypse cannot be avoided. It seems quite inevitable, but the strange thing is that I am fast becoming convinced that it will be, in the end, a good thing for those who survive. I, along with several billion others, just won’t be one of them, and I guess we’re all the collateral damage of capitalism.