All posts by riceemi

The climate crisis: adaptation or mitigation?

In the essay “Radical Hope for Living Well in a Warmer World,” Allen Thompson discusses the impacts that the inevitable warming of our planet will have on our culture. He claims that consumerism is not likely to survive as our culture changes in response to our changing environment. Furthermore, he considers how future generations will have to develop “new environmental virtues suited to a new world environment” (Thompson 2). 

Much of the essay seems to be based on the assumption that there is little we can do now to mitigate the crisis of climate change, rather, we should shift our focus to the issue of adaptation. In the last chapter, “Technology and the Ghost Dance”, Thompson argues that it’s too late to reasonably place hope in developing a technological solution to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. He discusses different forms of alternative energy and their feasibility in producing the amount of sustainable energy we need globally. He claims that although the sun continuously delivers far more energy than we could ever use, it’s unreasonable to think that we could come up with the technology to harness that energy within a short enough time frame to mitigate the climate crisis. 

However, I disagree with Thompson’s sentiment that finding a technological solution to the climate crisis, specifically in the form of alternative energy, is just a pipe dream, or as Thompson put it a “ghost dance”. If the sun continuously delivers eight hundred terawatts of energy to the earth, and it’s just a matter of harnessing thirty of those, then to me the obvious solution is to fund the development of technology that will harness the sun’s energy. Solar technology is already improving rapidly, even though we don’t provide energy research the funding it deserves. Before we effectively give up on facing the issue at hand by discussing adaptation to global warming, shouldn’t we first put our resources into attempting to develop a technological solution to the issue? It may not be feasible, but if there is even a chance that it is, then to me it seems logical to explore this possibility before it’s too late.

Anthropocene: a human issue?

Kathryn Yusoff offers an interesting and eye-opening perspective in her book “A Billion Black Anthropocenes or None.” She argues that the field of geology erases its history of racism by normalizing the historical mistreatment of minority groups. Particularly, the framing of the Anthropocene epoch as a “‘new’ condition that forgets its histories of oppression and dispossession” serves to further this historical erasure (Yusoff 15). The term “Anthropocene” itself, the root of which is “Anthropos” or “human” implies that all humans are at fault. This framing of the issue both “fails to name the masters of broken earths” and “fails to grabble with the inheritance of violent dispossession of indigenous land” (Yusoff 13). Yusoff claims that this nomenclature “neatly erases histories of racism that were incubated through the regulatory structure of geologic relations” (Yusoff 14).  By framing the Anthropocene as a “human” issue, geologists fail to acknowledge the historical racism that is inseparable from the issue.

Furthermore, Yusoff argues that the aforementioned historical racism is inseparable from the climate crisis. She claims that the cultural notion of separateness from our environment that now fuels the climate crisis was born of the incorrect separation of “human” and “inhuman”, which began when slaves were labeled as inhuman to justify them being treated as such (Yusoff 16).

She claims that we cannot move forward in facing the climate crisis without acknowledging the reality of its history. While some may feel that her ideas are too esoteric to be useful in the face of the impending emergency at hand, I feel that it’s not only possible but important to acknowledge the past while simultaneously facing the issue of the present. What matters currently is that we, as humans, are faced with a common problem–whether it was caused by all humans or just some. Working together to solve it requires facing the harsh reality of where we are and how we arrived there. Only then can we move beyond the issues of the past and look to the future.