Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Facing Down Conflict: Humanity's Quest For A Future Beyond The Climate Crisis

One doesn’t have to be an ardent news follower to notice the increasing sense of disquiet around the world in a range of countries from Turkey, Brazil, Israel, India, again in Egypt and student protests erupting in Chile, or the thousands braving “torrents of typhoon rains” in Hong Kong to protest Beijing-backed leadership.

The trend is your friend until it ends, as they say in the City. The trouble is, the trend may not be close to ending but rather be seen as the portentous renderings of a world becoming more stressed for a number of reasons.

Goldman Sachs estimates that over the past decade 500 million people from Brazil, Russia, India and China have entered the middle-class category bracket based on income levels. They predict that a further 800 million will be added to that over the next decade. A link between emerging economies entering the middle-class, the empowerment attained by the use of social media and greater demand for social freedoms is strongly suggested. If this is the case then we can certainly expect a growing disquiet in the unfolding future, as old ideologies are challenged by an increasingly secular youth with the speed and flexibility of social media to outpace and outwit state influenced, or over-conservative media outlets.

Add to this the accelerating changes in our planetary climate system putting the squeeze on agriculture, water supplies, and threatening vulnerable towns and cities. The potential for conflict is a growing spectre.

Despite holding the concepts of "strategy" or "planning" with a great deal of reverence, we seem to be incapable of developing them, even when we sense danger is on the way. A good example was the inability of the allies to to accept that Hitler would become aggressive, despite watching him arm the country to the hilt. Another example is the irrational optimism that people felt in the run up to the credit crunch in 2008. We all knew that debt was bad. Our grandparents always told us that. Many experts pointed out the risks, but hubris entered the fray and no sooner had the British Chancellor (& future Prime Minister), Gordon Brown, announced an end to “boom and bust”, we all went bust!

So here we are again. I can turn on any one of my internet connected devices and view daily generated satellite images of the rapid collapse of the Arctic sea ice. I can watch the intensifying droughts engulfing the Western states of the US, I can watch the surface of the Greenland Ice Sheet turn to slush in a matter of days, with accelerated carving of gigantic icebergs that increase sea-levels. We watch open mouthed in despair as towns and cities in Northern Europe, Indonesia, Central America, North America, Canada, Australia, UK and so on and so forth, are deluged or battered by fierce storms that were previously unseen in living memory, at least, that was before the recent one that was meant to be “once in a lifetime”.

Despite all this destruction, upheaval and threat to our civilisation, we do nothing. Instead we wait patiently for our turn to play dice in the climate casino.

Given the serious threat posed by climate disruption, the impacts of which will have an enormous impact on ours and our children’s lives, and is widely accepted by 98% climate scientists, we would do well to have a plan. Of course, up until now, no two leaders seem to be able to agree on anything credible that embraces the science and takes real preventative action. Even President Obama in his groundbreaking climate address last week may have difficulty getting through his proposals that many describe as “a good start”. i find myself asking: why is this?

The Biologist, Naturalist, Theorist, Author and Harvard Professor, Edward O. Wilson, presented his theory in a piece titled ‘Is Humanity Suicidal’ that appeared in the New York Times Magazine in 1993. Here he identified some uncomfortable truths about humanity, some of which I have reproduced below for this article:

Darwin’s Dice May Have Rolled Badly for Earth:

Humanity is a carnivorous primate species.

Humanity has hereditary traits that enhance our destructive impact on our environment.

Humanity is tribal, aggressively territorial, demanding space beyond minimal requirements, and driven by selfish sexual drives.

The Selfish Human

Humanity is genetically programmed to be adverse to cooperation, especially beyond the family and tribal levels. More