All posts by lauba

Still Lookin’ Out for #1

Photo was taken from in-class lecture slides – Peter Clark [Data from SSP database (IIASA), CDIAC/GCP]
In his paper, “A World They Don’t Deserve,” Allen Thompson clearly concludes that the current generation that controls climate policy has failed, will fail, and can conceivably do nothing but fail to consciously act with the best interest of the human future in mind. He makes it clear for an ethical and physical need to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, yet argues that there is little evidence to suggest that this will happen, largely based on the capitalist mindset that drives a materialistic perspective. He further argues that the current generation’s land-use policies continue to drive the current climate crisis, a problem which is also linked largely to a capitalist perspective of resources. Ultimately, Thompson points to human greed, a reoccurring theme throughout the past few weeks – as the root of the problem; a problem he seems to say “we” will not change, largely due to the narcissistic philosophy shared by the current dominant generation.

While these points are largely true and disheartening, what is most disheartening is the ethical debate offered throughout the paper of whether we should give up, rollover, and simply forfeit to climate change and try to improve the lives of future generations in other aspects of life be it cancer research, or literally doing nothing because of the Non-Identity Problem, or invest in social institutions as a form of apology to future generations.

First, the argument that cancer research may better benefit future generations RATHER THAN climate change mitigations is honestly quite appalling. It suggests that we can continue to make conditions worse for some while making some conditions slightly better for all. By this, I mean that climate change will ultimately impact certain communities more than others, such as southern countries, coastal cities, impoverished communities, and minorities (such as indigenous groups). Cancer research will help only those impacted, and not to be too morbid, but it’s only going to keep more of us around to further the effects of climate crisis (not that I don’t value cancer research, just not INSTEAD of climate change mitigation).

Secondly, the Non-Identity Problem is not something that really has a place in the climate crisis. This isn’t some philosophical debate. The effects may be uncertain, but the baseline for the disaster is comprehensible enough to propose this argument is to devalue the lives of all future generations. This argument is an interesting philosophical idea, but not here, not now, and not one that will hold any ground later.

Finally, an apology is good if it holds true to what Thompson proposes as the third element of a good apology: “restitution, actions in an attempt to rectify or compensate for the transgression.” Social institutions are not adequate restitution. If you can go as far as considering an apocalyptic scenario in a hypothetical playout of a climate change scenario (no matter how theoretical), you can’t possibly suggest social institutions as adequate compensation for climate destruction.

The problems outlines are too grave, and it is clear that the understanding of these problems is quite solid. To propose such inaction followed by such a soft apology feels like an insult to the future and a way to justify inaction in order to continue the “aim to lead good [life].” Start looking out for the future, not always the self.

Dead or alive

Image by JonHee Yoon from NY Times article, “The Earth Is Just as Alive as You Are”

To say that geology is a study of non-life or the inert would be the same as qualifying the geologic science as the study of the current state of the planet, thus viewing the planet as a static system. 

Even from an elementary level, school curriculums teach the basics of the geologic rock cycle. This process started with heat and the formation of the first minerals and igneous rocks, and over billions of years has decayed into cycles of heating and cooling. Heat from the earth’s core radiates outward, bringing energy to matter, so much so it becomes liquid. This liquid heats and cools, convecting and bringing heart to the plastics above (core and mantle processes). These material cool at varying rates depending of their properties, and this forum unique solids (Bowens mineral series). This underlying heart allows large masses of these soils top move, colliding in to one another (plate tectonics). These collisions are capable of forces strong enough to build the highest mountains, where matter, once to hot to solidify, now reaches high enough into the atmosphere to store the coldest regions of the solid surface (mountain belts and metamorphic rocks). These landscapes bring energy of their own in the forum of potential energy. Here, erosive forces create sedimentary rocks. This new form of the same matter is transported to the lowest reaches of the surface, where the heat created from the same matter gives rise to more tectonic activity, returning the matter to whence it came. 

Without this internal heat, there would be no new rock formation, no liquid core to create a protective magnetic field, no covective mantel to give rise to plate tectonics, minimal mountain building, minimal terrain alteration, no dynamic earth systems, no life. The heat that makes this cycle all possible is derived from small particles of a deceist start, drawn back together by the gravitational fabric we can barely observe.

To see ourselves – as humans – as independent of interstellar and geologic processes is to view the universe as a static and dead system; and yet we see ourselves as the life (the one true light in this world). This is the mindset that Lynn White argued was fostered by religion, a mindset that encouraged individuals to view all external things as tools to the self, resources to exploit, an earth made for us. If this same mindset is now being used to link geology and racial exploitation (and thus a dive into an unconscious anthropocene), it is likely that neither is the root cause of the other, but rather our narcissistic and greedy nature/tendencies that are at fault. 

It seems that neither geology or religion have given rise to the mindset which has guided us as a species to exploit, but rather our is our nature – as collectives – to desire to conquer all things. Human nature is responsible for the possessive properties and interpretations of religion, the extractive curiosities that infiltrate geologic science, the urge to dominate all things and people deemed different; human nature was destined to give rise to the anthropocene. If we apply our character defining mindset to anthropogenically driven disasters, there is yet hope that we are self aware.

A Power struggle with the He and i

I’ve spent the last few days trying to figure out how I feel about this topic and where I wanted to go with this post, and all I have found is more confusion. While I do have some thoughts I would like to share, they all feel jumbled and misguided, and thus I’m excited to listen and participate in discussions about these two texts, however I feel slightly uncomfortable and unqualified sharing opinions. 

I grew up in a Jewish household, where somewhere along the way I adopted the notion that all other religions are based on money, greed, and power, and that I was to steer clear of these for the sake of my spirituality and physical safety. Looking back on this, I can see that a lot of the views that I once carried were passed down from people who had spent much of their lives in fear of other cultures and religions. For context, my family comes from both Israel and Poland, has a rich Jewish history, and has multiple individuals who are either killed in our fought in WWII. As I grew older, I maintained the view that many religions, Christianity in particular are based on greed, power, and money, however I have done everything I could to remove myself from a feeling of superiority, or that other belief systems were wrong. I no longer associate with any religious faith, but I do not have anything against those who choose to follow a religion of their choosing, for as written by Papa Francesco “respect must also be shown for the various cultural riches of different peoples, their art and poetry, their interior life and spirituality” if we are to act in unity to make the right choices as a human race.

Coming from my background, I have unintentionally seen most religions as constructs which attempt to control various aspects of the world around us, notably other people and wealth. While this mindset created by such shortcomings of many organized religions has been easier to spot in politics, I hadn’t thought about this in The context of our collective approach to anthropogenically driven climate change.

While I understand these examples are not representative of all people and expressions of Catholicism, I would like to point to things such as the Crusades, the opulence of the Vatican and local churches, repeated diaspora due to religious persecution, the worship of gold, partial and at times prejudice views toward other religions, (most of these have to do with the “establishment” or Church rather than the context of biblical writings), etc.

To a less aware outside observer such as myself, the Catholic Church has always seemed to be plagued by an unending power struggle. As Papa Francesco reminds, “we are not God. The earth was here before us and it has been given to us.” A gift is not something to be conquered, rather to be cherished and used in good health. I feel that the aforementioned characterization of the Church comes from those who have misunderstood and, in turn, misused it’s powers, when in reality the true intent of this religion is to spread love for people and the world around us. That said, it seems that many misunderstandings come from two interpretation of love: one being to care for, replenish, and understand the world around us, and the other being to benefit from yet be grateful for. These two interpretations have far different outcomes when applied to our interactions with our environment. While some may choose to love through profit, a future is only sustainable when love is shown through awareness, care, and giving back. The importance of this understanding with respect to all other religions, individuals, and ecosystems cannot be overstated moving into the future.