One of my favorite environmental quotes is from George Carlin. It’s rather long but he sums it up saying “The planet isn’t going anywhere. WE are!”. The debate between the “Gaian” and “Promethean” approaches to fixing our current problems is certainly an interesting one. As I was reading the paper by Thiele, I kept going back and forth on which side I agreed with more. It was only after reading the paper that I realized the whole point was to talk about the polarity of the two points and how to work together. By picking a “side” I am just putting myself in a position to oppose the other. The paper makes clear that the problem is not solvable without cooperation from both views.
The Gaians who talk about diseases being good or rejecting modern medicine turn me away just as much as the uber-technocratic Prometheans who want to think their way out of every problem without actually solving any. These viewpoints are in obvious contrast, but not everything about the two are. I loved the part about the Gaian perspective where they talked about nature always batting last. Climate change doesn’t really matter to the Earth. The world will adapt and there will be new life that takes the place of the old. I also resonated with the idea of holding those responsible for our current crisis to account. It would be all too easy to forget the reasons we got into this mess, and to let the oil and gas companies off the hook for lying to us for decades.
This being said the Prometheans make some sound points. Geoengineering is a last-ditch effort to do what no one else seems willing to do. We have been told for how many years now that emissions need to be reduced by this much, and what has happened? Well, we banned plastic straws for those plastic cups you still drink. And the CEOs of Shell, Exon, and BP bathe themselves in the blood money of dehydrating children, so I’d say we’ve done pretty poorly overall. Humanity is unique to the Earth, this much is true. Turtles didn’t build the car, raccoons didn’t split the atom, we did. For crying out loud we launched a person into space, a couple times at that. Humanity IS in a unique position to make changes to the Earth, but as the Gaians point out, humility is key. This, I think, is one common ground we can all agree on. All who strive to fix the environment want to live and see a better world for our children.