Monday, May 07, 2007

The Greater Scheme of Things

Okay we're really beginning to get the Global Warming thing. Even Harpo can now say it without noticeably wincing too much. So, if GW has reached the political "tipping point" at which Big Oil, Big Coal, Big Right, and the looney denialists are at last defanged, neutered and put back in their cages atop a bed of fresh newspaper, the solutions should be just around the corner, right? We've come to our senses in time to save mankind, right? Well don't count on it.

Stopping the slide before the earth heats up another 2 degrees celsius is the key to avoiding the worst impacts that could be wrought by global warming. If we could achieve that, and that's still a huge "if", we won't be able to actually reverse global warming if only because "we" will be long gone and pretty much forgotten by the time any reversal can be achieved.

Human experience teaches us to think in terms of our children, grandchildren, perhaps even great-grandchildren. Beyond that third generation it really becomes hypothetical and obscure. And yet it will fall to these generations beyond our contemplation to finally undo the damage we and the handful of generations that preceded us have visited upon our planet.

The challenge isn't merely generational, it's almost millenial in scope. Now think about that for a minute. It means that mankind is going to have to achieve a common purpose that prevails across ethnic, cultural, religious, political, geographic and economic lines that is sustained on a scale of many centuries at least. This question is for the patio furniture and the Reno holiday package: When in the course of recorded history has mankind pulled off such a feat?

Full points if you guessed "never." Our planet has never witnessed this measure of co-operative cohesiveness, if only because mankind has never faced such a universal and gargantuan peril.

The good news is that we have conceived objectives that will arrest the slide, more or less. However that is the easy part. The hard part is going to be implementing these policies on a global scale.

What do we do with China and India, both of which seem determined to re-enact the coal-fueled, Industrial Revolution of two centuries past that led to the dillema we face at this moment? Both of these states must be made to understand that the window of opportunity for this type of industrialization is now closed. They missed out, too bad. Can't be helped. Sorry, so very sorry but that's life.

That's a hard line to pitch and, if we're going to attempt it, we absolutely have to show ourselves repentent for our own sins, the very ones that have created the mess that means countries like India and China simply can't follow suit. "Do as I say, not as I do," won't cut it. At the very least we'll have to be able to argue, "Do as I say, not as I did." We can't keep doing and not expect them to do also. To some extent, we have to atone.

We're going to have to devise new models - political, social and economic - that are robust enough to weather the strains and challenges they'll have to endure and that can be universally accepted. It would take a Supreme Deity to conjure up anything genuinely uniform to meet these needs. Ain't gonna happen. The best we can hope for is a basic structure of agreed, binding and enforceable, core principles to enable all nations and all peoples to co-operate while retaining as much of their individuality as possible.

Maybe we'll need to devise a new set of Commandments, this time for world leaders:

Thou shalt not foul the air
Thou shalt not corrupt the water or lay barren the earth
Thou shalt not inflict environmental degradation on others
Thou shalt not shirk responsibility for injuries caused others
Thou shalt not take so much as to deprive others of the essentials of life
In all things between and among states, all shall act equitably

This sounds fantastic and it is or would be if such a thing could be achieved. Is it unrealistic? It certainly seems so but what is the alternative?


Jay said...

It will be a monumental task if we can pull it off. I have always maintained that if we can reverse climate change then we have achieved world peace. It will take everyone, everywhere to worl on this.

janfromthebruce said...

This is true, which means we need to get out of Afghanistan now. Why are we putting valuable resources there, not mention how much 'war-mongering' devastates the environment and is a huge contributor to green house gas emissions.
It just makes no sense, to cry out about Kyoto on the one hand, but on the other say, we need to keep emitting all those gases in the undeveloping world.

The Mound of Sound said...

Interesting thought linking military adventurism with the environment. Brings back the whole controversy of contamination left behind by depleted uranium "conventional" weapons.