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Are humans worth saving?

January 17, 2010

People ask if there is much worth saving from the ravages of climate change – you know, let’s rid the earth of the infestation type of thing. Are there any redeeming features about mankind; are any of us really worth saving? I must state adamantly that there are, and I would start with the rednecks, the me and mine crowd, the demagogues and the fearful, and especially the deniers. Despite all the heat, for the most part these are not bad people, and when we deal with each other in terms of exclusively black or white hats, we demean the variety and scope of human endeavour. Can we blame people for their failure to understand a world growing more complex, that changes ever faster while we yearn for stability? And can we not find enough charity to understand that, driven by the fear that always colours that we do not understand, people will turn to religion, to superstition, seeking to blame ‘the other’ whether it be black people, immigrants, authorities, governments, Jews, Muslims, the left and right, each other. This much I understand and have great sympathy for, although I have no notion how to ameliorate such visceral and disturbing currents except through radically improved education.

But it isn’t just people that are worth saving. It is our very culture – the world culture – of art and creativity and science and development. My intermittent reading of history makes me proud of our stunning achievements and I hold in the greatest regard all the wonderful things we have accomplished thus far. My fear is that, as the empire of industrial civilisation comes to its inevitable end (invoked by myriad causes), we will fall backwards and lose ground. I have never believed we will lose everything, but much will be lost, forgotten or abandoned, and this I greatly regret. I have likened the advent of the oil-driven empire to a rocket booster, a one-shot acceleration that has now all but burned out. It will be heartbreaking to discover we went in a stupid circle because nobody gave any though to navigation, paying attention only to how fast we could go.

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