What if we cannot make it? A less optimistic view on climate change
I strongly believe in people. Once I had to sleep in a hostel for a few months in a shared room. Then I was short on money. One day one of my roommates asks me a favour: could I borrow him about half of the money I had available? He didn't know how much that was for me at the time. I did. I was about to reject him, when I remember to have thought: "I want to trust humanity". I am happy of having done that. I have been lucky multiple times with humanity. That makes my optimism founded on (personal) statistics.
I have an issue with my society though. In the words of Simon Wardley: "Most competitors have poor situational awareness". Well, he was writing about companies, but I think that is fitting for people and their environment too. The tragedy of the commons stems from a lack of situational awareness: if we were to know that cutting more than 8 of our 10 trees available condemns us all to death, but weren't aware of the trees left by our neighbours and we needed their wood, we would have little chances of survival.
What if we had already cut the 9th tree?
The fact I don't hear this discussed on the newspaper worries me. When I read headlines like "Germany is flooded", it still sounds like we are seeing the first signs of climate change in action. My aim is not to have more catastrophic news, but to start a discussion about what is the role of people on this planet.
I guess if I were a gardener and my garden mostly died of a sickness, I would spend my energies into facilitate its regeneration. In my previous example, we would be behaving more like a sickness than a gardener. We cut 9 trees out of 10, so we are condemned: what shall we invest our little time left into?
That is not a rhetorical question. This question is to define what is important for us as a species. Given we have lost everything already, what are we left to do with our lives?
This is not (just) a philosophical question either, because it seems pretty actual. I share the view that we are relying on technology too much to solve our sustainability issue (with a few documentaries I watched recently). There the point made is that solar, wind and biomass are viable only if we burn coal, gas and oil: how could we maintain or build one of those huge wind turbines relying on renewable energy that produce intermittently (producing batteries also rely heavily on fossil fuel...)?
The principle convinces me more than the facts: technology is just a tool we develop for our aim. When we aimed to hunt animals we developed knives and arcs. When we wanted to move faster we developed horse riding and engines. When we wanted to keep living with high energy consumption, we made up solar panels, wind turbines and biomass (a.k.a., burning trees).
If we lack situational awareness, we could create a technology that does not help us. Simply because we don't know what is the problem.
Let me be concrete. Years ago I decided to improve my finances. The driving idea was to give myself the economical tools to make a difference in sustainable living (I am slowly getting there I hope). I looked around for options to do that. The majority of Internet results pointed me to investments. Now I read Pinocchio and I am familiar with the risks of planting money. I am not referring to the dividends of the stock market (although Graham makes a similar point about speculating in The intelligent investor), rather at their effects on the planet I live. If my super safe index fund will invest in the companies that deteriorate this world, I am destroying the world by trying to improve my finances. So what then? In my case I gave credit to the alternative view: improve situational awareness. I worked on making visible where I was spending my earnings. Then I drastically reduced those expenses that were both causing nasty effects to others and&or unneeded. This approach works for me.
The problem is still what are those finances I want to improve for? I would say that even before being at the 9th tree, my aim should be to make impossible to cut the 8th tree. My aim should be to make my resources inextinguishable. As for my ledger, or I earn more or I decrease spending. Do both at the same time and we are on the right path to have a place and wealth we can share with others.
I get vibes that we, instead, are starting to cut the 9th tree blind to our problem. We are sort of thinking: "I feel this is maybe the last tree, but if I cut it I can make this tool to make this tree's wood last longer". I mean take the Covid-19 pandemic as an example: we have seen nature flourish for the lack of human intervention, and we have been craving to be back on a plane to go for holidays. Or better still, take the examples of the billionaires competing to commercialize space. Are we planning to abandon our garden? Are we identifying ourselves as galactic parasites? I thought parasitic aliens were evil in movies.
I would find it romantic if we both perished or survived while attempting to restore our wrong doings. It would be ideal to become the guardians of Earth because we can. "With Great Power Comes Great Responsibility", remember? We have an intellect, we are alive and so we depend on the balance of our ecosystem. We became so many that our hosting ecosystem depends on us too. In theory we check all the boxes to satisfy our hanger and grow the planet to a new splendor of life. They are the same boxes that we check for destroying our existence on it.
So say it is too late. Say that there is just a tomorrow, but not a day after. What is going to be your last day about?
I wish your answer brings hope to everyone and peace of mind to yourself.