This week’s reading is an article titled “Geoengineering and sustainability”, written by Leslie Paul Thiele, and while it has a very boring title it is a very interesting piece. It focuses on how far we should ethically go to attempt to fix the environment. There are two differing ideologies: the Gaian perspective and the Promethean perspective. The Gaian perspective is centered around the idea that we are a species that has evolved from the dirt of this earth just like every other species, so we don’t morally have the right to deploy power over the entire planet to the extent that some people are proposing. Essentially, they want to keep Earth as the holder of power and are against geoengineering. The Promethean perspective is pro-geoengineering and view it as a rightful technological evolution that we should take. They think that geoengineering is the best quipped solution to effectively addressing climate change.
Personally, I think that I am very much in favor of the Gaian perspective if you couldn’t pick that up already. I hadn’t thought about the actual moral qualms with effecting the planet to the extent that geoengineering would. I don’t fully disagree with the Promethean perspective considering that I want to be open to solutions to climate change, but I think that the Earth deserves respect. I am starting to view humans with an ecological perspective in the sense that I want to think of us as a species that, while very unique, are apart of a diverse environment full of unique species. We have already literally paved our way on this planet and have built stone into the sky and it seems like there is no way to go back. But I don’t think that we necessarily need to go forward. Technological progress, to me, has very little relevance to quality of life. We don’t need to go forward and to take control over every aspect of this planet. Also, once we do it, there is no going back. It’s not like we have shown that as a species we have enough self control to do this once and then not start to exploit it.
Overall, we are not gods. We are humans, and I think we should act like it. I am against playing god.
While reading this week’s passage I was at first really conflicted on which side made the better argument. However, after having heard a lecture, in one of my classes, from the Director of the EPA’s Pacific Ecological Systems Division, something stood out to me while reading. The Gaian perspective tells us that we must respect Earth and that nature knows best. On the flip side, the Promethean perspective tells us that we can use technology to our benefit and reverse climate change. However, during the recent lecture, Dr. Thornhill said that in the field of Ecology, very few things are solvable, the best we can do is to manage the problems as best as we can. With that being said, I think both perspectives move towards that reality, but I personally don’t think that geoengineering is the best way to move forward.
I do understand that something must be done about our current ecological crisis, however I think that, like many things in human history, geoengineering might be a short term goal that doesn’t take into account the long term outcomes. If we can understand what the long term effects of geoengineering will be I think that is a much more positive thing. And even if geoengineering had no long term effects, technology as it is currently performs dismally. The world’s largest carbon capture plant, captures 4,000 tons of carbon out of the environment every year, which sounds super impressive, until it only captures 3 seconds worth of human CO2 emissions. It just isn’t feasible. I think this is an example of how humans are trying to find a cure to climate change rather than doing our best to manage the problem.
Maybe I’m wrong on this, but I just don’t believe that geoengineering is the path forward. I believe that first and foremost, we must end fossil fuels. I think that if the U.S, North America, and the whole World is serious about mitigating the effects of climate change, fossil fuels have got to go. Next, I think political action is the 2nd most important solution to ease the effects of the current crisis. I think that if we start implementing laws that ban the use of fossil fuels and industries that cause a lot of pollution, it can help ease the role our country has played in the climate crisis. I also think that having tax deductions or incentives for everyone to switch to electric vehicles is very important. Lastly, applying these policies worldwide is almost worthy of being the most important. Because if only 1 country out of ~200 worldwide are taking measures to curb climate change, then what is the point? Mitigating the effects of climate change will be a worldwide effort and only will work as long as the world as a whole is willing to work together.
There are two main schools of thought who have opinions on Geoengineering: the Gaians and Prometheans. The Gaians are anti geoengineering. They do not like when man acts upon nature. A common quote Gaians cite is “Mother Nature always strikes Last.” Nature and the environment are always right in the eyes of the Gaians. Gaians are against the utilization of SRM, mainly due to the fact they are completely against unintended consequences. They believe that humanity should alter the planet’s course, and nature should always be the deciding factor. Geoengineering has the possibility of being harmful to our environment even though it is being done to prevent climate change.
Prometheans wish to apply technology to solve anything. Promethean scientists wish to do more research before deploying geoengineering. They still keep it as an option because they need to determine the negative effects. Prometheans believe humans have always altered the environment and should continue to do so. They make decisions after taking note of the possible consequences. Humans are the alphas. We decide what to do with the Earth, and we should be properly fulfilling our roles of protecting nature.
Sustainability is the key that will bring Gaians and Prometheans together. The concept of putting the environment first is appealing to both of them. Evolution should continue to happen. Nature is dynamic. So according to the “Thiele” document, conservation must be dynamic. Uniting over sustainability can lead to the ideological differences of Gaians and Prometheans to be removed. SRM is similar to a natural process, so it is conceivable that some Gaians would support it.Prometheans might not support SRM due to the fact it is very risky and will want to use alternate methods.
Geoengineering could help save the environment or continue the downward spiral of multiple ecological systems. Humanity and subgroups such as Gaians and Prometheans should come together to make decisions to save the environment.