The debate over climate change is one of those strange human things. In a logical or analytic sense, there really shouldn’t be such an argument. If you see danger up ahead, you would naturally take action to avoid it, right?
Not so simple when dealing with humans.
Let’s take humanity out of equation. Once you do that it doesn’t matter which way the temperature goes on the Earth, or on any other planet. Planets don’t care either way. If you talk to the sun, it’s just pissed off it didn’t achieve black hole status and that it now has to wait another ten or so billion Earth years before it gets another crack at it.
Now add the world of biology. Living things go with the flow, adapting, evolving and surviving. Again care factor, zero.
With humans there does exist a care factor. The argument on one side worries that climate change, particularly from global warming could leave our planet looking like either Venus or Mars, (Giedi Prime or Hoth would be my worst case scenarios). They believe this could lead to the extinction of the human race. The other side labels this as pure alarmism, and worry this is just a sinister ploy by governments to introduce just another tax. Yep, they are worried about taxation.
For me it all boils down to choice. What kind of future world does this current society want for itself? Do we want to end up like devolved Morlocks, or like the simplistic and bland Eloi (the George Pal variety)?
Whatever human species inherits the earth, they will no doubt claim that they are on the correct human path. The Über-Morlock in the 2002 version of The Time Machine was (or will be) justified in believing his race is the rightful progression in human evolution. There was a hint of self-loathing in Jeremy Iron’s delivery but in reality any Über-Morlock will be totally comfortable with who and what they are. Everybody has the ingrained belief that their ‘kind’ is the best ‘kind’, pretty much the basis of what racism is. And there is no reason to believe that racism will vanish or be bred out of a future generation.
So we really should not be racist against Morlocks, it’s just how things end up.
How does this relate to climate change? Well, climate plays a major and defining role in a planet’s biosphere; life depends on it, and when it changes, life must endeavor to adapt or perish. Humans or even trans-humans are not immune to this.
A good depiction of how the near future could pan out for humanity is depicted in ‘The World of the Future – Future Cities (1979)’.
One depicts a green suburb, with healthy looking bike riders, blue sky, rail transport and those are electric cars.
The other is a drab polluted nightmare of a city. Fossil fuel burning jets and trucks, dark cloudy sulfuric sky, acid rain, and people wearing breathing masks.
Which would you choose?
This prediction was made in the 70’s when such scenarios were real and happening in some cities. Today? Beijing comes to mind straight away. And its citizens think this is normal existence. If the pro-carbon technocrats, who peddle the notion that carbon dioxide is good for you and healthy for the planet, continue to have their way then Beijing-style pollution could become normal city-life everywhere if citizens continue to tolerate it. And when something like this becomes normal, it becomes in fact normal in all it’s definition and there is no going back.
A thousand years ago living by the beach was viewed with disdain; erosion, corrosion, my God. These days seafront anything has become the most prized commodity of all. Once upon a time being fat was desirable, now anorexia rules. Back then if you had tanned skin you were considered a peasant, today it means you can afford time to go to the beach and frolic. Dorks and hairless nerds currently rule the world when back in the 80’s it was the jocks and hairy Conans. Try giving a dweeb a wedgie today, the hot chick holding his hand would disapprove. Even the definition of what constitutes being a man or a woman has shifted and morphed in just a few decades.
Things change over time, perceptions evolve and sometimes devolve.
Call it Transhumanism, or guided evolution, our decisions today will impact mankind’s future and will either have a desired effect or it will not. Have in mind that whatever the outcome, the generations that inherit these outcomes won’t care if it was intended or not, just the same way we care whether our ancestors would approve of our way of life. Would they?
Futureman – Would we approve?
Spaceman, once humanity enters the ‘real’ space age and adapts to living in artificial space-orbit cubicles, with every luxury afforded to them, the motivation to live on terrestrial planets would become totally redundant. So even terra-forming planets would be pointless endeavours. And once human become genetically adapted to weightlessness the idea of stepping on to a dirty, heavy planet with untamed weather would be horrifying.
Homogeneous Man, I remember reading a short story, about a space traveler dreaming of alien sex because humanity had become so bland. ‘Schwartz Between the Galaxies” by Robert Silverberg’ Every human looks the same, no nationalities, no racial difference, no cultural differences. That’s ‘globalization’ for you. Mono-ethnicity. How long before every single person looks the same. Same hair, same skin, same eyes, same everything. No ethnic diversity whatsoever. Much like the Eloi. Exciting stuff.
Underground Man, well if the climate become intolerable we move underground, and maybe develop nocturnal abilities. The no need for eyes would save on the cost to provide energy for lighting. Maybe this lifestyle will change our diets also. Just like the Morlocks who have turned to cannibalism for their daily sustenance.
Transgenetic Man, now that we can custom bake babies, how will all this pan out. Will fashion designer geneticists become the major industry players? Catwalk modelling for the latest genetic look. What happens when you get caught out with last season’s blue skin.
Generation Dumb, there are studies out claiming that humanity has grown stupider over the centuries. Going by anecdotal evidence, I tend to agree. So if this trend continues, Stupidworld might just become a reality.
Psychotic Man, and if we keep dosing up our kids with psycho-suppressants we could end up with an ‘insane in the brain’ society. Ask Phillip K. Dick. He sort of knew what he was talking about in Clans of the Alphane Moon. If insanity can be the new sanity, the sanity we consider right now as ‘normal’ just might not be considered normal at all by future humans. Get it? No?
Sex Free Man, Changes to nutrition and lifestyle could be forced upon us by an extreme environmental and economic situation. Overpopulation, plus access to drugs and genetic engineering could compel radical changes in human physiology and sexuality. Testosterone and other chemical levels could change. Androgyny may be what we end up with, or as described in ‘The Forever War’ by Joe Halderman, homosexuality may become the norm for a millennium or two.
Fascist Man, Harsher economic conditions necessitate harsher governments. If climate change means anything, it means loss of food security, which usually means war. Wars don’t only cost resources, they cost citizens their freedoms. Totalitarianism relies on human insecurities, it thrives on it.
Animals and plants don’t have a choice. They deal with planetary events through a lengthy process called natural selection and migration. Some species survive, some do not.
Humans on the other hand, have a more immediate capability to overcome things like climate change. It’s about choice. It’s about controlling our destiny. Disciples of denialism claim that climate change is happening naturally anyway and that we should all live like Morlocks. There is a reason why denialism exists. Already we are seeing a change in the human condition. For thousands of years it stood as a priority for each individual to plan for the future, whether it be for your own immediate descendants, or for the next generation as a whole. Only in the last hundred years has this changed. It took just one generation to squander the birth right of future generations. Debt is today considered a normal deal. Let’s borrow from the future. Ten years, twenty years, fifty, a hundred. Let’s force future generations to pay for the ‘now’.
This ‘now’ generation currently roaming the earth understands little about planning. They’d rather shell out a thousand bucks a year to fixate their eyes on an iPhone screen yet bulk at the mere thought of paying the same amount for cleaner energy. They hear the words ‘carbon tax’ and they freak out. Sure, half of ‘generation now’ jumps up and down over the perils of climate change, they even protest a little against the 1% (the occupy movement). But the days of real revolution are long gone. Anger has been steadily bred out of humanity. The pissed off mobs that periodically overthrew aristocracies don’t exist anymore. We live in democracies yet most voters believe that their vote is meaningless.
My favourite metaphor is that of the boiling frog. The story goes that if the frog is placed in cold water that is slowly heated up, the frog would not notice the change in temperature, remain in the water and die. This has been proven false by modern science. Frogs do notice the rising temperature no matter how slowly it rises, and jump the hell out. Humans on the other hand, do understand, somewhere deep within their homo-sapien skulls, that climate change is occurring and that it is most likely a bad thing, yet jumping out of the danger is not an option. Humans were once born with a unique ability to choose their fate, an awesome survival mechanism, yet somehow this ability has been eroded away in one giant evolutionary step backwards.
Luckily, Futureman won’t blame us for the consequences of our inaction. They’ll be happy with the kind of people they are and with the existence they live. Our opinions of them simply won’t matter at all.
But, if Futureman, a hundred thousand years from now, encounters another climate change event, (e.g. an ice age), they will no doubt blame us for burning up all the available hydrocarbons.